In spite of being repeatedly called a ‘rag‘, and much much worse, on the basis of a post in which I suggested that Samir Nasri might not be absolutely necessary to Roberto Mancini’s on-pitch plans at Manchester City (although he played well enough yesterday – see, I’m big enough to admit when I might be wrong, but City fans are still dicks in my experience), I am not a United but an Arsenal fan.
I am not a ‘proper’ Arsenal fan. I am not a ‘dyed-in-the-wool’, heart on sleeve (badge tattooed on buttock) supporter. Instead, I am the sort of fan who can explain why I follow Arsenal. In fact, I’ve done so elsewhere so I’m going to leave it there. Pick it up if you’re interested.
I am, then, a typical Arsenal fan.
That is not to say that Arsenal don’t have ‘proper’ fans. They do. There was one in the pub that I was in yeaterday. He had on an Arsenal training top, that’s how big a fan he is – he’s behind the players even on the training pitch.
He is a proper fan, but this isn’t about him, he’ll be fine, and I was pretty put out too.
He’ll be fine because, unlike me and thousands like me, he has no good reason for supporting Arsenal. He just does. Arsenal have a normal number of such fans. They also have a completely disproportionate number of fans like me.
We have loads of reasons to support Arsenal.
Or rather we had loads of reasons. Those are becoming less persuasive and, even worse, just less.
Arsenal, whether deliberately or otherwise, in the late nineties, bought fans like me.
In 1996 football, for various reasons having to do with Tony Blair, The Lightening Seeds and all-seated stadia, became an acceptable middle-class pursuit. In the same year, Arsenal brought Arsene Wenger in from Japan. As well as making hugely significant and lasting improvements to English football as a whole, by introducing healthy eating, fitness training and Patrick Vieira, ‘Le Proffeseur’ (as the English media, with their characteristic blend of flattery and mockery, named him) seduced for his new club a hugely disproportionate section of football’s newly converted followers.
Wenger’s first successful Arsenal team was a microcosm of the new Brittania sought by politicians and intellectuals alike at the end of the decade. It was a very obvious marriage of traditional English values, exemplified by the (in)famous back five, and continental sophistication, inherent in Denis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars and Emanuel Petit’s ponytail. Patrick Vieira managed to encapsulate this marriage entirely within himself. This marriage, this spectacle, this symphony, was all overseen by a wiry bespectacled foreigner who had to all intents and purposes had never played the game. It was an intellectual’s (or in this case an eleven year olds) wet dream, and we went for it big style.
The honeymoon period was a pleasure and then, when that was running out, he changed it. None of us cared too much about the English stuff – that was for ‘real fans’, people who gave a shit whether England did well at the World Cup or not, to worry about – so we didn’t worry when it went. Especially since it was replaced by Thierry Henry and the greatest EPL team of all time (what do you mean football is older than that?). They cemented our devotion.
And then, just as that was passing, we were built a temple.
This was the next logical step; what’s the good of seducing the yuppy if you can’t get any money of him?
Check back tomorrow for a long, painful and personal answer to this question and please don’t be unkind below the line – we’re all upset.