There's only four teams involved in football's top honours these days, so what's it like to win silverware every season? This is the blog of one football fan who decided to, fully and unconditionally, do the unthinkable and change the football team he supported to spend one season at the top... AND NOW HE'S DOING A SIMILAR THING FOR EURO 2008 WITH A MATE BECAUSE THE SEASON'S FINISHED AND THEY'RE BOTH BORED

Archives for: November 2007, 30

Arsenal fans: "We hate being one of The Big Four"

30/11/07

THE SILLY SEASON: FEATURE

So, walking into a boozer alone to meet a group of seven Arsenal nuts was probably one of my more brave/stupid moments…

But it was well worth it - this experiment would be pointless if I didn’t try to immerse myself as much as possible in the Gooner culture. It’s not easy, you know… You have to kind of break a few social taboos and invite yourself to places without being asked first. I’m not entirely sure whether they want me there; whether they mind; if they actually think it’s quite funny, or if they’re just waiting for us all to be walking down a dark alley late on Tuesday night after an away match at Middlesbrough where I’ll be, you know, taken out of the equation…

Anyway, they’ve been very accomodating so far. “We’re a broad church", said one on the way to the Wigan match. And, as is the case for any fan over the age of 21, they fondly remember Norwich City’s mid-’90s UEFA cup ("Jerry Goss!” “Bayern Munich!") run, “because it was such a small club punching above it’s weight - and they beat Bayern Munich away".

Which brings me to my first point about supporting Arsenal. If half of football’s appeal is the phenomenon of triumphing against the odds, or the element of surprise, then surely the majority of an Arsenal fan’s season is quite boring. I was excited about the Wigan game because I was meeting people I’ve never met and I was watching Arsenal, but the fixture itself seemed (and was) a non-contest.
“It’s never boring mate, even if it’s a game you expect to win. I always worry about whoever we play. The tension is notched up for games like Man Utd and Spurs, but we never take games for granted. And we never take the feeling of winning for granted. You do get people that think we should be beating everyone we play 5-0, but they are more your newer fans.”


A member of The Family sports a ‘Che Grimandi’ T-shirt for the Wigan match

So what about these ‘newer fans’. What does that mean exactly? It seems there are two different types of supporter involved with Arsenal from what The Family are saying. The lot I’m hanging around in the pub with have been watching Arsenal since the late ’70s/early ’80s. Like fans of every club, they’ve lived through the dark times.
“It’s all different now,” they say. “We love being one of the most successful clubs, but we would never have been in this position if it wasn’t for Wenger. What we mean by the newer fans are people who support the club for the wrong reason. We feel like we’ve been forgotten a little bit by the club. Maybe not on purpose, but the atmosphere is lacking these days in the ground. They put the most vocal Arsenal fans at the opposite end of the ground from the away fans, and it’s hard to get season tickets that are near each other. We don’t want to cause any trouble or anything, but banter between home and away fans, or just between your mates was always part of the occasion.”

Do you not care that football just isn’t fair anymore? The Big Four have ruined everything. No one else will win anything, ever again. “We hate that name… The Big Four. And the gap that opened up is a problem – it’s not like we don’t recognise that and don’t care. What can you do? If I had a choice between the Arsenal now and the Arsenal of a less dominant time, I’d choose the older Arsenal.”

More on The Family’s feelings as we go on. I understand completely where these boys are coming from, but I was reasonably happy with the atmosphere at Ashburton Grove, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to be great. I’ve experienced far worse… Old Trafford.

Here’s nine seconds of a famous old Arsenal standard…

THE SILLY SEASON TV

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Match prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal

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The Silly Season

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