Hmmmm….been a tough season so far, hasn’t it? It has for me at least. Although to be fair, this is my first real season as a football supporter. Let me explain.
When I was younger, I was never really into football. I mean I played for a kid’s team when I was like 7-10 or something but none of my school friends went with me so I lost interest. At that time my dad wasn’t really around (wipe your tears) but I remember when I was like 11 he took me to watch Southampton vs. Barnsley, I think? It was at the DELL. I loved it, but all I really remember of it is some big bloke sitting next to me shouting “short ones don’t work” at the saints taking a corner. Oh and I shook Kevin Davies hand. Anyway, when I went to high-school, I was in a constant search for who I was, as is everyone growing up I’m sure. I became friends with someone in my form and he was an Arsenal fan. This was the year 2000. He would tell me stories, I’d collect the merlin stickers and bring them in “for swaps”. Although id watch football with him I knew my heart wasn’t in it at that time. In 2001 I met new friends who were skateboarders, we would hang out at school and smoke and generally be “outsiders” we imagined football fans all to be dickheads, either popular rude-boys who would try to take the piss out of us at school, or drunk aggressive “men” that beat their wives and are just sad about their failed lives.
I’m 24 now, and I finally understand. I get it. I get the whole thing. I feel it myself, let me tell you how I got there.
During the summer of 2012 it was hot, I was tanned and everything looked wonderful. Me and my friends would buy some beers, go to the beach and play arse or one touch. The Euros were also about to start. Me and 2 mates decided to watch every single game. We thought it would be funny or something. I didn’t expect to be drawn in but boy was I!
We watched everything from the Poland VS Greece opener, to the domination Spain achieved of the final. So that was it, 3 weeks of constant international football and then nothing…
So what’s a man to do? Well, I knew I needed more. I needed that “let’s go down the pub and watch a game”; that “let’s talk about the result and the game till we’re blue in the face”. I needed to find my own team. How was I meant to do this? I had no idea. How does one find a team? Obviously they follow their dad’s favoured team, but my dad never really had one, and if he did I’d of still chose something different. No I would have to work harder to find my team. I decided that I would pick a team on quality of play and “personality of club” (I do believe each club has a personality). I did not want to be a glory hunter either. I never liked United, although I do respect Alex Fergusons achievements. I didn’t really want to support a northern team, as I live in Sussex I needed one closer to home. Which manager could I respect? Then the obvious finally dawned on me. Wenger. A man that took The Arsenal to “invincibility” a man that I could respect, that taught his team to play attacking football. This was the club for me. It’s strange how life works, how I discovered them again. “All roads lead to Arsenal”. So that was it, decision made and now it begins.
I started to read all transfer gossip about players coming in and going out, bye RVP, I didn’t know him whilst he played for us so ok. I never could imagine how much I could hate to see someone hugging Alex Ferguson after scoring a penalty
Then the games began, 0-0 against Sunderland, riiiighhht…..well it’s a season opener so it’s ok, then 0-0 against stoke. This wasn’t what I was hoping for. Where were the goals I’d promised myself? The following weekend I was away on a course. I was looking for a stream online on the Sunday and a guy who was also there was wanting to watch it, he was from Liverpool. We did them 2-0! To see how upset he was and how happy I was, that 2 goals were scored by 2 people that had joined the same time as I had, this is what it was all about. Somehow I felt something that I hadn’t before. I felt that I could listen to his moaning and stand up for Arsenal. They weren’t “cheaters” I told him that, I told him Reina wasn’t all to blame and that we were good! I liked it, I really did.
This season I have had a baptism of fire. I have seen us destroy teams, like Southampton at home. I have seen bizarre-o games like Reading away (capital one cup). I have seen how bad we can play, but I have also seen how determined we are. I have learnt, read and listened to anything I can about Arsenal. I have listened to podcasts back dated to 2008. I feel like I’m caught up. Although I have much to learn I feel part of the community. And before anyone says it, I am not a rich middle class fan. I have bitten my nails down and hidden behind cushions just as much as anyone this season.
I wish I could have witnessed Henry score against Tottenham at Highbury. I love listening to him talk about that place, and I am only sorry I never got to go, but the Arsenal is my future and I plan to see my first game at the Emirates for the Emirates cup, this summer.
I was not born as an Arsenal fan but I have a very sneaky suspicion I will die one.
Tom Hond (@tbhond88