Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday November 30 2006
Those of you who expect/ require a full report, my sincere apologies. Because that is not what I am going to provide. There are incidents inside football grounds at times which force you to reconsider your perspective. For example, I rarely come away from White Hart Lane from North London derbies feeling anything other than despair at the lamentable scenes outside the turnstiles. Last night is one such occasion when I am entirely impervious to the result. The abject performance, the reptitive mistakes, the shoddy team selection and the manager's lame excuses are not the reason for my dejected demeanour.
Arsenal began the game in an appalling fashion, how a side who has lost their last two away matches can be so complacent is beyond me. The travelling support began in great voice, a 5,000 strong contingent yelling with gusto, a remarkable atmosphere. But then something occurred that could colour my opinion of my fellow supporters forever more. With ALL eleven players manifesting an air of utter apathy, young Alex Song committed a desperate foul on the edge of the area. What followed is quite sickening. A large section of the travelling 'support' (I use that term with a very liberal abandon) began heckling and booing Alex Song. #We want Cesc Fabregas# came the furious cry. Minutes later, Song carried the ball through midfield and tried to release Henry, a slide rule pass that narrowly missed the target. A large section of those in the Putney End (I will spare them the dignity of calling them Arsenal fans) had identified their target. An even louder booing campaign began and he was jeered loudly and lucidly thereafter.
Lehmann, Hoyte, Toure, Senderos, Flamini, Hleb, Gilberto, Rosicky, van Persie and Henry were all in dire form. Yet these so-called 'supporters' used a 19 year old boy playing his third ever league game and appointed him scapegoat in chief. Following the quite brilliant consolation from RVP, Henry pulled Song aside and had a word in his ear. Arsene Wenger deserves complete castigation for buckling and pulling him off at half time, a career probably lies in tatters as his coach crumbled under the populist vote and 'gave the people what they wanted.' On came Cesc Fabregas to the appeased cries of #We've got Cesc Fabregas.# Brilliant. What inspired us to bother to create a song for Cesc? His masterful show in the Bernebeu? No. His dismantlement of Patrick Vieira? No. A show of cruel one upmanship against our youngest player? You bet. Needless to say the meat does not taste quite as sweet when you see how it's been made.
The second half passed before my eyes like a melodramatic soap opera. I felt no connection with it. When Henry's goal was disallowed I did not see the flag, yet I did not celebrate the 'goal' anyway, just as I did not show a flicker of recognition for Robin van Persie's amazing free kick. In fact the only time I opened my mouth thereafter was to barrack my own supporters. Every time Henry or Fabregas or RVP or whoever gave the ball away, I invited them to boo, you know, for consitency's sake. I was very aware that people sitting directly behind and directly in front were party to the ignorance and I let them know about it. (If you booed Alex Song then you're a ****). The idiots behind were the first to tire of my antics. I will simply provide the dialogue for your delectation.
Idiot#1: 'You must be the only person in this ground who rates that boy, mate.'
LD: 'I didn't say anything about rating him mate, how does booing him help?'
At which point my accomplist, the esteemed Lord Lowe oppined, 'You never go mate that's why. Were you at Everton or West Brom when he played well?'
Idiot#2 'Well did you pay £170 for a ticket at the Bernebeu?'
LD: 'Didn't have to mate, I'm on the away scheme, so I got a legit ticket without lining the pockets of some dirty tout.'
At this point, the sheepish look on his features told me the dialogue was over.
Half way through the second half the **** in front of me piped up, after yet another verbal invitation to boo the offending ball waster,
Idiot, 'Will you ******* shut up mate, you sound like a bloody broken record. Give it a rest.'
Idiot's idiot mate, 'It's not us that subbed him, the manager did that.'
LD: 'And what do you think informed his decision to do that mate? If you don't like my comments, don't boo our players.'
Anyways, with tensions fractured I may have pushed it too far in injury time, when the idiot in front of me again piped up with, 'Great, Chelsea and Man Utd are winning, woopdy doo.' When I offered him a further invitation, i.e sod off and support one of the aforementioned, I felt sure I would be met with physical retribution. Fortunately, idiot did not try and thump me one as I had feared. The first time I've come close to a fight at a football ground, and it was with one of my fellow supporters. Grand.
Needless to say, the final whistle sounded and the player's trudged off without acknowledging the away support. Contrarily to my article on Monday, I am completely behind the players on this one, though I fear this was habit rather than trailblazing protest. One noteworthy snub did appear though. At Craven Cottage the tunnel is situauted on the other side of the pitch to the bench, so the players have to walk past us. As Theo jogged to the bench he did not respond to the cries of his name- the first time he has not acknowledged the support. So far this season, what we have largely been able to muster in terms of support has constituted 'shooooot', homophobic chants against a former player and anti semitic garbage against Spurs fans. All of those facts annoy me, but I can live with them because they are based in ignorance as opposed to malice against Judaism or homosexuality. But barracking the youngest and most inexperienced member of a side playing dreadfully is unacceptable. I hope Alex Song leaves Arsenal and makes himself into a world beater elsewhere. If he was to score a goal to knock us out of Europe, then the universe would only be delivering sweet, sugary justice that would turn to acid in the mouths of the idiots.
It's funny, second behind football (a distant second) in my list of passions is music, it's the greatest healer. On my way into work this morning, the random function on my i-pod threw out a song called 'There By The Grace of God' by the Manic Street Preachers. The rousing chorus, 'With grace we shall suffer and with grace we shall recover.' Well Arsenal fans have a way to go to mask this appalling fall from grace. Victory Through Harmony? My arse. LD.
Date:Thursday November 30 2006
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