On Sunday, Johnny Greenwood (@Johnny_G86) wrote a tremendous article for PA, describing how his views on Arsenal have changed over the last year. I thought it was quite a brave article as it always takes guts to ‘fess up to this kind of sea-change in one’s outlook.
I went through something similar in the first year or so at the Emirates as we, despite being told by the club that we had funds available, were seemingly unable to replace the likes of Patrick Viera, in particular, and in reality, the bulk of not just one of the best team’s Arsenal had assembled, but, as history may yet judge, one of the best teams ANY club has put together. Ever.
For my own part, I’d finally got my first season ticket when the Emirates opened, having been in a 7 year long queue prior to that. What rotten, miserable timing that the squad appeared to start its relative decline at that exact point! 2006-07 was, of course, pre-Twitter, so my main source of information back then was chat amongst other fans and articles in newspapers and other media.
Strangely, the global credit crunch towards the end of the decade helped me to better appreciate the club’s predicament though by this time I was routinely reading A Cultured Left Foot (though not commenting until later). But ACLF had two great strengths when it came to challenging my own temporary frustrations with the club. Yogi’s extraordinary, well-informed and brilliantly crafted, daily posts were supplemented by comments from a really knowledgeable ‘crew’ who’s passion for the club was matched by the quality of their written insights. Many of those ‘greats’ are, happily, still today posting here on PA and ACLF.
The impact on waverers such as myself – and more recently Johnny – are one reason I still read blogs and follow Twitter. My own use of Twitter is highly selective – I don’t follow many and I’m not followed by many but the quality of those I do interact with makes it a worthwhile ‘exercise’, both entertaining and generally just good fun. I don’t have a huge amount of spare time to contribute to PA or other blogs – but, deep down, I think there are plenty around who do a better job than I could, in any case. Actually, not that deep down!
Social Media is often cited as being the platform for much negativity and ignorance towards the club which, of course, it is. But it doesn’t HAVE to be. When stalwarts like George fight the good fight on Twitter, set up their own blog sites and provide an alternative perspective – a challenge, even – to people like myself and Jonny then the activities of all us looking to support the club in this way can be seen to be anything but a lost cause.
Time and again I hear of new fans being drawn to the club in the last 8 years despite the absence of silverware. Quelle surprise! What’s that all about?! It’s happening because they are being exposed to an alternative to the shameful negative media narrative and ignorance of some fans and coming to their own conclusions.
On Twitter I deliberately follow a couple of out-and-out ‘doomer’ accounts just to read what’s going through the minds of such people. Of course, not all those critical of the club are foul-mouthed half-wits and whilst I can’t say, definitively, such people are always ‘wrong’ in what they write, it’s interesting how often their views – often, their bile – is finding expression through the regurgitation of half-truths and myths. When challenged, some are surprisingly fragile and choose to ‘block’ or ‘unfollow’ you. Others punctuate their exchanges with the use of appalling language and surprising levels of aggression which make one wonder if there is something else affecting them in their lives which is finding expression in their anti-Arsenal commentary.
They are universally claiming to be ‘real’ fans but they sound anything but.
What’s THAT all about?!! I have no idea for sure, I suspect it could be several things. I wonder if there is a degree of disenfranchisement amongst some who are now priced out of the game and were never able to replicate that sense of belonging to the club which they enjoyed during the Highbury years. Others, doubtless are simply shallow glory-hunters. Some, I suspect, are very angry indeed that despite their very best and noisiest predictions, the club has simply failed to collapse and, in fact, appears if anything alarmingly close to actually thriving, once again.
The ultimate bad decade at the office, for such followers.
I think the majority of these now dwindling bands of critical fans will fade away and ultimately rediscover the faith now the club is finally better able to compete with the biggest clubs on the world stage. As the evidence reveals itself as to the reasons behind the club’s actions over the last ten years or so, more and more observers are beginning to recognise the scale of the achievement of the club and this is very much a chapter in our history that is finally drawing to a close.
The reconciliation of the fan base is just one very welcome aspect of the next chapter that awaits us over the coming months and years.
I for one look forward to the day when my footballing ‘arguments’ are once again with fans of other clubs rather than with those occupying the polar opposites of my own. Sure, they’ll always be debate about football and different blogs will cater for those different ways of following the club.
But the almost ‘existential’ nature of the debate surrounding Arsenal will, eventually, be a thing of the past and, for this observer and lifelong fan, can’t come a day too soon.