For the die-hard north London Spurs’ fan, the above name conjures up a myriad of emotions.
Let’s be honest here, like teams in blue in Manchester, Liverpool, and to a lesser extent, Bristol, we have all lived in the shadow of a large, red oppressor for far too long to be funny. Personally, I hail from an era when the two north London behemoths were of similar size and fortune, only for a [now castigated] Frenchman to arrive and turn our respective styles on their heads. Believe me, that has hurt over the years; deeply; a period in our history which I never thought would ever end. Now, and in light of the current reversal of power between the two, it is difficult to write objectively without the spectre of Wright, Vieira, Henry and co. reminding of all of the recurring nightmares of our recent past. But I will. And I’ll enjoy the long-awaited exorcism.
It was written in to nineties’ and noughties’ history that ‘The Woolwich Nomads’ regularly finished 25-30 points clear of their local rivals, a two or three goal reverse at Highbury, then, very nearly a diplomatic result. It was also a time when we, the ex-flamboyant ones, were attracting some of the most hapless and hopeless players ever seen in a lilywhite shirt, some so bad I still can’t believe our scouts saw anything in them. Those were times when the mere thought of Tottenham Hotspur in Europe, let alone on a regular basis, would have been met with a barrage of laughter; laughter that has recently been returned back down the Seven Sisters Road after a twenty-year wait for the Tottenham faithful. And faithful we have remained, where other fans may well have flaked away.
From an outsider’s perspective, Arsenal are a club living a civil War. Worse still, they are suffering from an overwhelming percentage of ‘new’ fans; those who jumped aboard the SS Arsenal when football ‘launched’ in 1992; those perfectly depicted on the now defunct ‘Fast Show’, and when the team were successful. ‘New’ fan has different expectations to the old die-hards. ‘New’ fan has been convinced that winning is everything and that nothing else matters. ‘New’ fan dives in front of an ArsenalFanTV microphone whenever opportunity presents itself. ‘New’ fan tells me to my face that Man. United are his ‘real’ rivals – until his teams’ demise, when he wants to be my enemy again!
I have loved football since I could walk, a true obsessive. My own connection with the game was via playing, watching, consuming every nuance and snippet of news, minus a devotion to FIFA games, or boasting that I was a better person for supporting a team that won everything in sight. Now, I have media ‘experts’ telling me to change my connection with a game that has been my life; that winning is paramount; that when my team is not winning, I am a lesser person. This is why people simply cannot take their team losing anymore. Thanks for the wisdom, Mr Durham. I’ll try to learn the lesson from on high while you try your frantic best to morph in to a watered down version of Howard Stern. I’ll carry on supporting, travelling, meeting with mates, while you spread the omni-present anger and frustration that sells your show!
Yet perspective is needed. Arsenal’s demise is to a ‘lowly’ sixth place, whereas Spurs’ slipped down to ‘mid-table obscurity’, and even the old Second Division! In essence, Arsenal, for twenty-odd years at least, have been weaned on a long-term, ridiculous expectation, which is now biting them firmly on their extensive, expensive backsides. Logically, no team has ever dominated football for longer than a handful of years, but the latest red recruits seem to see success as their birthright, whereas West Ham, Tottenham, even Chelsea fans have more of a hold on reality, all having visited football’s graveyard. Meanwhile, I am almost wallowing in their moans, groans and irrationalities as much as enjoying the wizardry being created at my beloved Lane by Merlinio Pochettino. I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself.
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