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Arsenal: Faith, Reason and Football

cwnjyfjw8aa5xtiI hadn’t been back for some thirty years, but as I walked down the streets from the station I felt a familiar quickening of the pulse, a nagging mixture of fear and excitement that took me right back to the first time I made that journey, when still a small boy on my way to winter nets at the County Ground. I’d known then there was nowhere else I wanted to be, and I’d already written my future. County debut, county cap, playing for England. “Simples” as they say. And for the next ten years or so some of that at least came true, and Hove and that ground became just about my all. It loomed large in all I did, all I thought I was – and I was saddened beyond words when the dream faded. So I was chuffed to bits with my invitation to a past players’ reunion: drinks and lunch and do you remembers with a bit of Sussex v Derbyshire thrown in: what more could a poor boy want?

But seeing the ground again after so long came as a shock: it was tiny – or at least nowhere as huge as I remembered. And this got me thinking, because although I’d heard plenty of people tell me that their first school seemed small when they went back to visit, I’d always assumed it was because they were only children then, and as they’d grown so the school had shrunk, or at least seemed to shrink. A physical repositioning if you like, perspective inevitably shifted as the magic barriers of three, four and five feet fell behind. But this was something else: I hadn’t suddenly shot up in my late thirties, and I rather doubt if any shrinkage of the ground had taken place. But there had to be something to explain it, and I think it goes something like this. When something is important to us, like a job, school or hobby, it assumes a much greater significance than anything else in our life, and so takes up a disproportionate amount of space in our minds. When we move on, and other things replace it, some shrinkage inevitably happens: the proportions are altered and we see it as it always truly was – we no longer let our emotional state dictate dimension. Everything is relative I’m told, but I also like the way the human mind can bend time and space.

And I wonder if this is the problem for football fans when their club decides to move stadium? Does the ground that they remember from their youth still loom large in their minds, dwarfing the current stadium, however contrary to the physical reality that is? Will West Ham fans forever feel Upton Park as bigger than the London Stadium? Will City supporters remember Maine Road as somehow larger than the Etihad? Is Highbury greater than the Emirates for Gooners of a certain age? I think perhaps it might be – and there is something else too that I realised while talking to some of the game’s greats who had come to that lunch. The modern player just doesn’t compare to the heroes of an earlier age. As the Derbyshire attack laboured to dismiss fragile Sussex batters it was impossible to forget Khan and Le Roux, Wessels and Miandad, Dexter and Snow. Surely they would have been doing better? That is certainly how it seemed as one glass led to another, and I am equally sure that the footballing heroes of an earlier time are accorded the same rose-tinted privileges as the Tollington pints bolster the memory of those frustrated by Giroud’s failure to penetrate the two banks of five so irritatingly parked across the North Bank box. Thierry would find a way, Dennis would break the deadlock, Charlie would be flat on his back waiting for the plaudits.

And yet, of course, they wouldn’t – or at least not all of the time. Even the Invincibles spluttered and stuttered to disappointing draws, and I saw enough human frailty in those cricketers I mentioned to know that although at times they were brilliant, all too often they missed straight ones or bowled unaccountably short and wide. They too were compared unfavourably to their forebears, and perhaps that is the fate of us all – to never quite match up to what went before. And yet, and yet, the irresistible march of progress suggests that new generations frequently outdo the exploits of previous ones. Olympic records fall, coaching methods improve, players look after themselves properly, and I am as sure as I can be about anything that the bar in all sport is being raised all the time. Yes, the greats of the past would thrive if they could travel to the future, but they’d probably have to find new ways of playing to do so. As my children point out to me, the world I grew up in was black and white, and it seems to me that just about everything is better now than when I was a child – except, of course, my ability to have a child’s eye wonder at all that I see, and the energy and optimism to make of the moment something special.

But is also seems to me that Football, and in particular The Arsenal (for that is the club that has chosen me in later life) offer me the chance to become properly childlike once more for brief moments of time. Coleridge spoke of the willing suspension of disbelief, and this (for me, Glen) is the whole point of football and my enjoyment of it each match day. I could adopt a weary cynicism, reflect the game not worth stopping for, hector a few well-worn phrases and know the current cast of crooks and tarts are not fit to wear the shirt. But what on earth would be the point of that? Why make myself miserable each week, when I could be doing something better? So what I choose to do is to Peter Pan it, and see the team as I used to see my earliest heroes back in the 60s. Each time we play I enjoy the terrible nervousness that they will let themselves down and force me to explain to all and sundry how good they really are. I get caught up in it all once the whistle starts. I wear the shirt, and hold the scarf (ridiculous in a Berkshire suburban home, but there you are). I even make a mug of Bovril at half-time, which I enjoy every bit as little as ever I did on the terraces all those years ago. And I know too that thousands of real 10 and 11 year olds think that Mesut Ozil and Alexis are the stuff of legend, and that one day they will shake their heads at the stars of 2040 and reflect that they are just not the same. Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever, as some dismal prog rockers had it, but it is the on-going dance to the music of time that is so special and allows the terrible sadness of our little life seem sometimes not quite so sad. One day we won’t be able to watch at all, so why not gather our rosettes (whatever happened to them, by the way?) while we may and enjoy the sumptuous feast that our fragile heroes attempt to provide each time they pull on the famous red and white. Let the coaches and those who are paid to at least not make things worse deal with realism – but let me be young and easy in the mercy of time’s means – or at least for 90 minutes each week. Its not just London that is calling, but a brief oasis free from care and worry. Like out near neighbours, it is the gift that keeps on giving, and I, for one, am truly thankful still to be allowed a sense of life’s feast.

 

That exceptional writing was brought to you by our man @foreverheady 

About anicoll5

Arsenal supporter, 59, Dad, harmless and humourless, political militant moderate, school governor and worker bee

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138 comments on “Arsenal: Faith, Reason and Football

  1. “Santi is still out. He’s not even out in training yet so I don’t know when he’ll be back”

    “Hector is out for about four weeks. He was injured in the last 10 seconds against Spurs.”

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  2. Alexis will be assessed tomorrow morning to decide if he will be included in the squad or not

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  3. On a second less bleary eyed viewing I finally managed to interpret the commentary above. Took a little effort but still much more useful and interesting then the average petty plundit.

    I’ll be setting up the Arsenal player and syncing to the broadcast if possible on Saturday. That or the mute button!

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  4. I see the safe standing thing has been all over the media in the last few days, so I have a few questions on it that some of you may be able to answer

    is rail seating actually just seating with standing rails for each seat

    if so – then stadium capacity will not increase

    and of course – prices will not lower, all rail seating will do is allow those that want to stand to do so.

    or am I missing something about rail standing, as I see many claims that it will lower prices, it will increase capacity and so clubs will be not only able to offset the cost of bringing it in, but would make profit on it.

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  5. fins the quotes were from the official arsenal twitter

    the press call was live on player, and it was so clear that the journos wanted to make the Man Utd v Arsenal game nothing more than jose v Arsene. and on that subject, wenger was asked if he would shake jose hand, and i really loved his reply

    it went something like this

    “of course I will, I respect……………….the traditions the PL value so much”

    I do love how subtle Wenger can be in his responses, especially when the media are trying to get him to say certain things to fit the line the are running with

    Liked by 3 people

  6. the journos also brought up ticket prices, and of course stated that “Arsenal once again have the highest priced season ticket prices”, so Wenger pointed out to them that Arsenal’s average ticket price was not out of line with other clubs, Arsenal fans get more games on their season ticket than some of those we are being compared to. Our season ticket included BPL, CL, and domestic cup games, some other clubs only include BPL. Wenger also pointed out that AFC have frozen ticket prices for a number of years now

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  7. Arsène, just make sure you wipe your hand after shaking old MounUres…Old Toilet is an unhygienic place.

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  8. The seats in standing areas are considerably smaller allowing greater capacity. Also the number of seats in a stadium, in other words is making less and less difference year on year. The amount of corporate packages and boxes make a much bigger difference as does commercial income and TV money. So when your talking about safe standing it’s purely about atmosphere nothing else.

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  9. so with Bellerin out injured, the boo boys have already turned on Jenkinson, another one of those players who they have deemed not good enough for Arsenal, isn’t it lucky for them no such criteria is used on supporters or they would long have been deemed unworthy of Arsenal

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think the model for ‘safe standing’ is apparently Celtic, who after 5 years have received the Scottish Government approval, on a provisional basis.

    As I understand that system, the standing is not the same as it was pre-Hillsborough where everyone jostled cheek by jowl, but each fan now will stand in a little area of his/her own in front of metal rows and a tiny metal seat.

    It’s hard to visualise, but a similar system already works in Germany and elsewhere, and their fans (some of them) seem to find it acceptable.

    Eduardo. Can I offer a piece of advice? Worrying all the time about what others are doing or thinking, as at 12:41, is giving their views too much credence – just ignore them, or you are unintentionally extending their audience.

    Just a thought.

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  11. If people want to stand fair enough – I’m agnostic. Not sure how Celtic works – presumably you’ll be allocated a section of rail and told to stand still ?

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  12. anicoll5, if I have read HenryB correctly, under no circumstances, have a seat behind him! Lol

    Use a periscope.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. spurs u23’s v Arsenal u23’s kick off at noon today

    Arsenal FC ‏@Arsenal 13m13 minutes ago
    #AFCU23 to play Spurs: Macey, Debuchy, Bielik, Sheaf, M. Bola, Bennacer, Zelalem, Nelson, Hinds, Willock, Mavididi

    Welcome back, Mathieu 👊

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  14. James Edward O’Brien ‏@jameseobrien 12h12 hours ago
    Interesting game coming up arsenal fans behind the team and WOBs backing Mourinho

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Arsenal subs – Johnson, Dragomir, Nketiah, J Dasilva, Keto (GK).

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  16. jenkinson and maitland-niles not in the u23 squad today, would expect jenkinson to start v man utd, and maybe for amn to be a sub.

    debuchy playing his first game of the season after injury. Sheaf continuing in his new CB role.

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  17. just realized that spurs training ground is called Hotspur Way, it sounds like something you’d find in a child’s comic.

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  18. It is named after a child’s comic. Harry Hotspur who was named after a real war hero was a comic character around at the time of the spuds birth. The tiny tots stole the name against the wishes of the Hotspur family. So not only are they from Middlesex but not even their name is their own.

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  19. I knew a Spud who reckoned they were named after after Sir Henry Percy (Henry IV part 1) and his decedents that lived in the area. Always nice to learn something new everyday!

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  20. PL2 HT: Spurs 0-0 Arsenal

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  21. Debuchy fired Arsenal u23’s into the lead away to spurs u23’s, then spurs had a man sent off for a bad challenge on Zelalem. Mavididi put AFC 2-0 up in stoppage time, from a penalty, after Chris Willock was brought down.

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  22. Arsenal Fixture News ‏@AFCFixtureNews 11m11 minutes ago
    Full Time

    Totts U23’s 0

    The mighty Arsenal 2
    Four yellows and a red card for spurs says it all.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. TBN Sport ‏@TBNSport 56m56 minutes ago
    NEWS IN VIEW: Most disrespectful man in football complains about how little respect he gets

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I rarely cuss or use swear words, but that Mourhino interview has brought out the worst in me – so stand by.

    He is a fucking, self pitying cunt of the first order, moaning about Wenger having the respect of all the media (not entirely true) and that he has none [totally true] despite him having won the Premiership 18 months ago and Wenger winning it !8 years ago [the lying, mathematically challenged shit – it was only 12 years ago].

    He forgot to mention that he himself is so awfully lacking in any human grace that he gets sacked from almost every club he has managed every two or three seasons, because he is a shifty cunt.

    The guy is an abysmal excuse for a man, with his eye gouging, lying personality and the sooner Manure sack him – and they will, sooner or later – the better!

    He should just do us all a favour and fuck off!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. HenryB you are on a roll… LOL

    I could never stand Jose M from the beginning… too condescending and rude and has not done much to improve that till date.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. well will any journo, even one, actually write a piece explaining to Jose why the respectful Arsene Wenger, gets more respect, than the disrespectful Jose Mourinho. Will any of them have the guts to write a list of all the major shows of disrespect JS has done over the years. For God’s sake, while asking for respect, he takes digs at Wenger. The man is really obsessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. what is your favorite memory of arsenal v man utd games.

    mine is the alan sunderland winner in the 1979 fa cup final. I remember my roars of delight awoke my Dad from a snooze, and he thought I had gone mad. The only Arsenal goal that has made me roar so loudly since was Michael Thomas at Anfield in 89.

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  28. Daniel Geey ‏@FootballLaw Nov 13
    The average first-team wage at Old Trafford apparently equates to basic pay of £110,962 a week.

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  29. Wasn’t Harry Hotspur accused by his King of treason* and killed in battle with the Royal Gunners before his body/corpse was put up on display?

    *something to do with being a shameless diving clogger…

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Jose deserves the respect of the average eye gouger …….surely

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Dear All,

    Umm, having calmed down – a bit – I would like to apologise for my inappropriate vocabulary when talking about Mourhino, yesterday. (Not the content – but the words used.)

    I would particularly apologise to any female feminine bloggers, or readers, and promise to strive to avoid any future outbursts.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Great post

    Like

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