For all it’s supposed evils, fraping, grooming, cyber bullying, and those Nigerian millions I still have yet to receive, the internet is actually a fairly splendid virtual world. A parallel reality where another me can frolic free from the restraints of his earthbound self and all the baggage that sorry sack of disappointments carries about with him. I have many more Arsenal supporting friends here in this intriguing web than I ever had growing up in the three dimensional wide world. In fact I have more friends and enemies here full stop.
I’ve often wondered what might happen should someone discover a portal between universes and somehow allow our virtual selves to come crashing through into the what we laughingly think of as the ‘real world’. Like on the Simpsons when they went all 3D. Would it rupture the fabric of space time and allow evil creatures from a dark nether world to enter the cosmos wreaking devastation and misery on all they encountered? Or would we go for a stroll through the Georgian city of Bath and have a pleasant evening in a pub on the banks of the Avon?
Gladly I can report that it was the latter and the slavering hordes of what Pratchett called the Dungeon Dimensions are still safely occupied with pushing Brexit leaflets through our letter boxes. Just at the point in the season when we need every talisman, every charm and good luck gesture we can get, Mike and Kelly have flown in from the good ol’ U S of A to put their shoulders to the wheel, to heave on the rope and generally cheer the boys down the home straight.
In a selfless move reminiscent of the arrival of the humble GI in 1942 our friends from across the pond have given up the comforts of their big cars, cheap ‘gasoline’ and a waffle house every two hundred yards to pitch in and lend their voices to the Arsenal chorus. Back in the dark days of the forties our visitors were issued with Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. This pamphlet was filled with useful tips such as “Never criticize the King or Queen,” and “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.” It left the reader with the following exhortation “It is always impolite to criticize your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.”
Now I don’t know if Mike and Kelly have a similarly helpful guide to getting on with the natives or whether they are just naturally affable, open and instantly likeable people but either way I think there might be a message in that last line for us today. I’m thinking less that it would be impolite to criticise our hosts today. If you have a particular axe to grind with West Ham then have at it – football is, if nothing else, an opportunity to blow off steam and release the pressure of the humdrum with a little pantomime baiting of our opponents. I was thinking more of the second part. The stupidity of dividing our own side.
More than ever it is crucial that all fans, wherever they sit on the spectrum of Arsenal support, come together and get behind the boys in red and white. Or yellow and blue. You take my point. Time wasted biting each others ankles would surely be better spent linking arms and marching together. Wouldn’t it be a revelation if the message the players received online, in the stadium and on the radio from now on was one hundred percent supportive? Even just for these last remaining matches. There’s nothing we can do about Leicester’s quite astonishing levels of fitness, form and finishing but we can help our chaps keep their heads up as they bully off for the final chukka.
As far as today’s match and more importantly today’s opponents are concerned, the first thought that sprang to mind as I ground the beans for my morning brew was – it has been a long time coming. In fact I hadn’t had a coffee for nearly twenty four hours. Similarly our rematch with the season’s first opponents has been waiting for an inordinate period. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but then they also say the best bloggers avoid using clichés. Avoid them like the plague in fact.
Should we exact our chilled retribution for the opening day shock we will move within one point of our noisy neighbours and keep alight the slender flame of hope that Ranieri’s supermen might accidentally pick up some kryptonite between now and the middle of May. If they should falter, and it would need to be more of a collapse than a stumble at this late stage in the day, we need to be right up there with them. For my part I prefer to focus on that which is achievable and leave the wilder betting to those with more money to burn. I’m looking at Spurs and a late, late St Totts as our more likely goal. If Mr Van Gaal can pull off a shock for us at the Lane then second place will, with the right result today, be ours for the taking.
I have to be honest with you that last sentence contains too many ifs and buts for my liking. The truth is as boring as Arsène’s mantra about taking it one game at a time. There is no point in gazing at the tea leaves of the fixture list and trying to predict results in this most unpredictable of seasons. The simple fact is that the ‘big three’ have made a bollocks of the whole thing and left the door wide open for any other team who could put a long enough run together. Leicester and Spurs have seized that chance. Of the ‘big three’ Arsenal have been clearly the most successful, eclipsing Chelsea and remaining resolutely ahead of Man City despite the gargantuan gap in spending power between us and both of them. We just haven’t been sufficiently consistent since August and at the moment have to suck it up and get on with the job in hand.
That we have friends willing to travel day and night across oceans and time zones just to lend their voices to the cause warms my cockles and fills me with renewed hope. Stronger together? You betcha. Victory through harmony? You should hear these guys sing! So come on then, wherever you are, whatever you think of the manager, owner and players, let’s put our differences whether real or imagined to one side and lift the team over the obstacles that lie ahead. Starting today, let’s all do our bit to put right the wrong inflicted on us last August, let us, to quote from one of Kelly’s favourite books, “Cry aloud, spare not, and lift up thy voice like a trumpet ”