I am not alone in my conclusion that this season now ending has been the most miserable in recent times to be a Gooner.
But I doubt that my reason for being so miserable is the same as most. Allow me to explain…
I used to love being a Gooner. Rocking up to the turnstiles in miserable weather (was it ever sunny in the 80s?); having to battle through aggressive opposition fans in Arsenal station; the smell of those greasy burgers and most of all smoke; crammed in on the North Bank where I couldn’t see a bloody thing and didn’t care; counting the mysterious stains and holes from ciggies on my clothes on the way home; singing without irony about how awesome players like Martin Hayes and Tony Woodcock were; having a genuine rivalry with Them from up the road, and genuinely having no idea in August where we’d be in May.
OK – I was young, but my joy and pleasure of being a Gooner survived not only my transition into adulthood but also the ups and downs of the Graham years and the bizarre Rioch interlude.
Then came Arsène Wenger and suddenly the fun was doubled (get it?) and, while our early forays into the Champions League were far from smooth, by 2004-6 supporting The Arsenal wasn’t just fun, it was exhilarating and an absolute privilege.
I got my first season ticket when we moved to the Emirates and, for the first 5 or 6 years, had a great deal of fun attending games, getting to know my neighbours and sharing a lot of craic with them – win, lose or draw.
I’ve always been a glass half full supporter – giving every player the benefit of the doubt, always believing we could come back to win and highlighting the good things. I even made up a chant for Philippe Senderos (he’s Swiss. He’s bald. He’s awesome and he’s called Senderos! Senderos!)
I used to point out that the atmosphere at Highbury/Emirates was so much nicer than at WHL (where I attended frequently, my ex-in-laws having season tickets there), as 90% of our songs were in support of our team, whereas 90% of theirs were negative about the opposition (even when it wasn’t Arsenal).
I was part of an email group with a bunch of miserable sods who always saw the negative, but our arguments were all friendly, and we would always hug and laugh when we met in the railway tunnel on Hornsey Road after the match.
But in the past few seasons all the fun of supporting Arsenal has been sucked away.
Now you can’t cheer the manager in the ground – when was the last time you heard “Arsène, give us a wave” at the Emirates; every match – win, lose or draw – is accompanied by a protest, banners or even a ridiculous plane banner (“Out means out”? Lol!); and you can’t say anything positive or optimistic either in the ground or on social media without being shouted at and told you are a puppet or a Wenger rent boy or similar.
As for the atmosphere at home games – well I know They used to talk about the Highbury Library, but that was always rubbish. But there’s no denying the lack of passion in the stands now.
Why can’t fans simply be just that – fans? People who sing the club’s name, the players’ names AND the manager’s name, wating them to win every match, but loving them none the less for their foibles and weaknesses?
Why spend a fortune following your club, then suck all the fun out of doing so?