I’ve been a Gooner for over 50 years, I really began supporting Arsenal off the back of losing two League Cup finals, 1968 & 1969, so you can see as a child I was not in it for the Glory, and to this day nothing has changed. The Glory is a happy by product of when things go very well for Arsenal, but supporting a club is about far more than just the glory days. If it wasn’t none of us would stick with any club for very long. And we would certainly have jumped ship during the hard times, hard times such as the one we currently find ourselves in. For me this is just another one of those poor runs for the club, I’ve seen it all before, in fact I’ve seen it much worse.
The 76 and 77 seasons were dire, yes we never really fell into the bottom 3 relegation places, but we just barely stayed above them as we hovered near them all season long. It was really a case of there being a enough clubs worse than us. Of course we had the belief in “We Are THE ARSENAL” and we don’t get relegated. The football was dire, the pitches were dire, it was only 5 years earlier that we had won the Double and followed that up with a great run the European Cup, only narrowly failing to the great Ajax side. Now when I look back I feel that if we could have won it that year our whole history would have changed. We may very well have done what Liverpool went on to do in the 70’s and early 80’s, instead our brilliant young team and squad that won the double in 71 was broke up very quickly, and was replaced by journey men and kids, some who were just not up to it, but we had solace in the emergence of a brilliant young Irish kid with a left peg that made dreams come true, the great Liam Chippy Brady.
Much like now we were in the aftermath of having let go a Title winning manager, in Bertie Mee, the first Manager I’d know in my time as a supporter. The search for his ideal replacement was very much like what we seen now in the search for a suitable replacement for Wenger, and if truth be told it’s the very same search we’ve seen after every manager or head coach we’ve had in those 50+ years, and if we delve into the History of Arsenal, it’s the same search we’ve had all but once in our entire time in existence. Herbert Chapman is the only truly big name manager we’ve ever appointed.
Let me explain what I mean by that. Here is what I’ve seen from Mee to Emery.
To replace Mee Arsenal went for Real Madrid’s Miljan Miljanic, as our Chairman, Denis Hillwood wanted to go big, make Arsenal a super power not only in England but in Europe too, but somehow when that deal went tits up we ended up with Terry Neill, who had been having a rough time in charge of Spurs.
When Neill’s time was up we went for Bobby Robson but he was only a year in the England job and would not leave it. So Don Howe became our manger. Howe actually resigned when he found out David Dein was in talks with Terry Venables who was Head Coach at Barcelona at the time, and when that deal was not done we went for Alex Ferguson, but that deal broke down because he was Managing Scotland at the World Cup and we were not prepared to wait till it was over so we ended up hiring George Graham from second division Millwall.
When Graham was drummed out after the FA banned him for a year, once again Bobby Robson was a target, but he was undergoing treatment for Cancer at the time, and had just won the league with Porto, so talks did not go anywhere and so once more we went for a manger from the lower leagues, in Bruce Rioch who had just weeks earlier won promotion with Bolton.
A year in and Rioch was replaced, by Arsene Wenger, or Arsene Who as the media dubbed him. He had won the title in France with Monaco, but he was sacked by them and then ended up out in Japan, which is where we brought him from. After Arsene we were linked with all sorts, but hired the unattached Unai Emery, who despite winning the treble in France his failure to advance in the CL seen him drummed out of PSG.
So what can we expect in our search for a new Head Coach, well lots and lots of names to be linked, one or maybe two Coaches with the highest reputations, and then for us to hire some lesser know or to appoint from within or a former Arsenal player, so for me it is far more likely that we hire Freddie or Arteta, or Vieira or even Henry, than we are to hire Allegri, or Simone or the like.
Anyway, back to the football, well its poor by the standards of the best of Graham or Wenger eras, but its bloody fantastic compared to most of what we saw in the 76 and 77 seasons And on the subject of what we saw back then. Well if you were not a match goer, you only saw the goals or at best a five to ten minute highlight reel on Match of the Day, or my favorite, the Big Match which was shown Lunchtime on a Sunday. In my region here it was UTV, but they took the LWT version, so it meant Arsenal got lots of exposure. I seen so little of the Arsenal that even just a few minutes even in defeat was bloody great, it was something to look forward to. I read everything and anything concerning Arsenal, I bought the like of Shoot and Match and Football Monthly just to get any mention of Arsenal. All very innocent stuff, there was no doubting my support, no matter how results went, you see Results was only part of being an Arsenal supporter. For me it still is, although in a different way, maybe a more adult way, after all I was a kid then but those days are a distant memory. But despite Arsenal having a different place in my priorities now, and meaning something a little different, it’s still my Arsenal, I’m still a Gooner, and I know from experience that our current run of form, and that is what it is, a run of form, is not set in stone, and it too shall pass, and better times will come again, and go again, and come again and so on and so forth for as long as I or any of you support The Arsenal.