By the time you read this it is possible that Jamie Vardy may have been announced as the second major signing of the summer. If so it will be an almost Fergusonian transfer. Buying the star striker of a top four rival, spending big to cover a temporary injury problem on a player with only a couple of years left in the tank. Aggressive, positive and short term. Well, possibly – that is one interpretation.
Of course Vardy might simply prove to be this summer’s Higuaín. A steaming heap of click baiting baloney providing social media know alls and bloggers like me the opportunity to spout ill informed bollocks about something which was never going to happen in the first place.
I’ll be up front with you; I don’t give a hoot either way. Similarly the Suarez transfer never interested me in the slightest quite simply because it never happened and never came close to happening. It was as worthwhile a use of our time and attention as a discussion on whether or not the earth is flat.
I no longer get angry when people follow up on the journalist’s daydreams and discuss them in all earnest – after all like the flat earthers they do no one else any real harm. They’re entertaining a fantasy which engages and amuses them. So what? The real transfers happen in due course and all the stupid pointless arguments and debates about the hallucinatory targets and fees evaporate like the hot air they always were.
So it isn’t the existence of the Vardy rumours which interests me. It isn’t even the moral debate which signing such a player, even in merely hypothetical terms, has provoked among my friends and other contacts. What made me prick up my ears was a conversation with my wife, a person with less interest in football than I have in macramé, as we traversed the car park of our local Lidl.
I’d outlined the problems people were having stomaching the thought of cheering on a man who has proven to be of dubious moral fibre. ‘But you can’t control that’, she said, ‘you have no say in the players you support. Someone else hires them, someone else picks them. In any case they change every year until after a while the entire team has altered and yet still you support it. Heck the manager and coaches change, the kit and the badge change and even the stadium can change, and still you support it.’
Then came the sixty four thousand dollar question. ‘What exactly do you support? If The Arsenal is like some huge, complex Trigger’s broom, what is it you are actually throwing your weight behind?’ My mouth opened and closed a few times as I absently stowed a half dozen bags of cut price and highly tasty groceries into the trusty Hyundai Matrix.
We can kid ourselves it’s the ethical nature of the club and quietly overlook the scandal of allowing people to work in and around the stadium on match days for less than a decent living wage. We can point to our players’ avoiding the tabloid excesses of those from other clubs as if they were saints rather than simply well drilled and controlled. We can dislike the politics of someone from Leicester City and assume none of the current or past squad are raving right wingers in favour of politicians who’s sole aim is the destruction of all that is decent in our society.
We can make a big deal of Arsène Wenger’s decency, the unquestioned statesmanlike dignity with which he manages our club, but then what if someone like Jose Mourinho was appointed in his stead? We wouldn’t stop supporting would we? We’d perform like moral contortionists, make our excuses and go on cheering for the team.
We stand on feet of clay and I suggest we have no option but to find shoes to fit them. It’s distasteful sometimes but what can we do? The only option is to support someone else and good luck finding another team any better or more consistent with your moral stance. I suppose one could just give up following the sport at all, but where would be the fun in that?
So what did I conclude in the supermarket car park? What exactly do I support? If not the players, manager, owners, stadium, crest or shirt then what? In the end I decided all I was left with was the name. It seems that I support The Arsenal. And like my marriage I do so for better or for worse.