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Let Down

Let Down

I've always maintained that I try not to become too enraptured with Arsenal players as people. My cynicism insulates me against hero worship. When I was about sixteen, a lad broke into the first team from the ranks at Highbury. He played at left back just like I did, I instantly warmed to Ashley Cole, having his name emblazoned on the back of my shirt and furiously defending him against assertions that he couldn't defend. One of the smuggest moments of my life came in September 2004. I arrived back at University following Euro 2004 and my housemate who I had debated the subject with relentlessly simply admitted, 'you were right, that boy can defend.' Months later, well, we all know what happened. From January 2005, I refused to sing his name or cheer when it was called out over the PA. Hence my complete lack of exasperation when his tell all autobiography came out, I could not have cared less, I was already done with the himand anything that hastened his exit was fine with me. I still remember stories from 2001 when Cole emerged about his £4,000 a week wages and the level headed youngster's happiness with his Renault Clio.

Money turns people into arseholes very, very quickly. I promised myself that I wouldn't let it happen again. Of course I sing the player's names and give them my support. But I see them as organs of the football club I support, they are there for me, not vice versa. Now I have absolutely no axe to grind with players who want to leave, I realise that the players are not supporters as I am and if they see an opportunity to leave for different shores, that is entirely up to them, regardless of whether I concur with their motives. For instance, Mathieu Flamini went to a big club for a big salary. How many of us would eschew that opportunity out of loyalty to our present employers? However, there are ways of conduting oneself.

Last night I was privileged enough to be invited to the AISA End of Season Gala Dinner at Ashburton Grove (I'll use the 'E' word when said company start paying me royalties). Guests at the dinner were Eddie Kelly, Oleg Luzhny, Ray Parlour, Perry Groves and Kenny Samson. Listening to each of them speak (except the Horse, who had to gallop off intothe sunset for a flight to Italy) about our football club made me realise a few things. Firstly, how antiquated a concept loyalty has become in the modern game. Eddie Kelly said that being made Arsenal captain for a short period meant more to him than scoring in the 1971 Cup Final, the Double or Anderlecht. It's an obvious statement to make and even I roll my eyes when people roll out that old chestnut. But listening to these players speak about Arsenal Football Club with a fervour and passion many years after their playing careers have ended, to the point that they will come and speak to us plebs, so desperate are they to maintain their affiliation with the club. It got me thinking, and inevitably talking about Alex Hleb.

Hleb has polarised the opinions of Arsenal fans for three years. As you are probably aware, I have been a serial defender of his. A fantastic player, the kind who has always given me value for money as a spectator. It has now emerged that he wants to leave. Fair enough, each to their own. The supporters have treated him shabbily at times, he is kicked relentlessly by the league's brute defenders and at 27, is probably at last chance saloon with respects to enjoying another league at the top level. But like I say, there are ways of conducting oneself. Hleb, by hiding behind his agent like an infant clutching his father's leg, has behaved appallingly, albeit through the medium of his agent.

His decision to meet with Inter for an ice cream the night before a huge match at the San Siro smacked of disrespect. In fact, the circumstances around his three match ban, also, 'smacks' of disprespect if you'll excuse the pun. His agent's threat to invoke the Webster Clause, his assertion that Hleb found life in London 'too noisy' both beggars belief. Where did Hleb think London was? I'll bet my bollocks to a barn dance Hleb doesn't move to a team stationed in a remote fishing village. His agent (Skilepski is it? Fuck knows, frankly I don't find the parasite important enough to look his name up) has recently piped up again, gushing with verbal ejaculation at Real Madrid's apparent interest. Having been to both Madrid and Milan (coincidentally to watch Alex Hleb and his teammates to play football) I can assure you the solace and tranquility you seek cannot be found there mate.

Now comes Hleb's agent's veiled threat, 'Alex doesn't know if he can carry on playing to the same level at Arsenal.' Hleb meanwhile, maintains a cowardly hush. Well that's really nice isn't it? Let me leave or I'll deliberatly play badly. I do not understand why Hleb cannot be man enough to tell the manager he wants to leave, why all the cowardly threats? Hleb has willingly cast himself as a worthless chimp, while his agent merrily grinds the organ. As somebody who has defended Hleb against the naysayers for some time, I feel a bit stupid now. I still rate Hleb's abilities as a footballer, but as a person? He strikes me as a spineless creep. I feel incredibly let down by his actions, or lack thereof, he has disrespected his manager and willingly smeared his own reputation. It will be a shame to lose the player, but quite frankly, Alex, I don't really give a shit what you do now.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday May 25 2008
Time: 1:53PM


LD. Great article, your right players have a right to choose where they play and if they want to leave then let them go. Its the way they go about it, show the fans some respect and dont treat us as idiots.
25/05/2008 14:21:00
Fully agreed with you LD. I don't know if you remember this, but during the Euro qualifiers, there was some controversy or something in the Belarussian squad. They were complaining that there were "two rules" -- one for the squad and one for the Hleb brothers, who wouldn't ride on the team bus, wouldn't stay at the same hotels, etc. etc. At the time I ignored it and laughed it off (wearing the Arsenal blinkers of course, 'how could an Arsenal player be bad'?). But now that you see his behaviour in this off season, you can see why his fellow national teammates think he's a w^nker as well.
25/05/2008 14:25:00
"It will be a shame to lose the player, but quite frankly, Alex, I don't really give a ***** what you do now." Amen to that. And btw, his likely replacement Nasri sounds like another "level-headed young man". lol
Lou the Gunneress
25/05/2008 14:31:00
I feel much the same way having trumpeted Hlebs qualities amongst my own group of doubting gooners when all around were not just critical of him but according him much the same venom reserved for Song previously and Eboue currently. But to use the parlance of the current commoditisation of football Hleb and the other players are 'sub-brands' of our favoured brand. To use Hlebs own taste buds as a metaphor I might prefer Pistachio, Rum 'n' Raisin, Mint Choc or Vanilla at different times - but it's ice cream I really like.
25/05/2008 14:32:00
Totally agree with you LD.. there is no loyalty among players somehow.. Alex Hleb was a player I liked - great skill and great player when he wants to be... but his reasons for leaving Arsenal are rubbish.. if he wants to go to a club where he feels he can win things, he should say so.. he's been awful in terms of behaviour and Arsene Wenger must be left disappointed yet again this month. Let him go.. but we need numbers in this squad and I sincerely hope that Wenger makes signings this summer.. perhaps 3-4.
25/05/2008 14:33:00
NO arguements from me Tim. One of the best manipulators of the ball in the world goes all Ashley on us. It's a crying shame, but he means nothing to me now. Let's see what the boy Nasri can do (If we eventually sign him)
25/05/2008 14:36:00
He has been our most important player over the last few years whose form has coincided with our successes...only recently he had been singing Wenger's praises, I honestly think the Eduardo incident is driving his decision...
Anon 1
25/05/2008 14:59:00
He's good, his skills are amazing, but "our most important player over the last few years" he's NOT. I actually think it's easier to replace Hleb than Flamini, with someone who'd shoot and score more and younger too. Isn't Arsene doing just that already? That's softening the (actually not soo big) blow for me.
Lou the Gunneress
25/05/2008 15:06:00
The thing is, Hleb's agent came over all threatening with the Webster clause, but underestimated Wenger's razor sharp legal acumen. As soon as Wenger exposed the problems of invoking it, he instantly came out with noises about Hleb feeling uncomfortable in London. Why the excuses? Just say you want to leave.
Little Dutch
25/05/2008 15:07:00
Lou the Gunneress...he is/was vital...look at his performances in our 3 biggest games this season...the two games against liverpool..there was the penalty, the assist for Diaby, the two sitters he made for Ade against liverpool and united..The combination of Cesc, Hleb and Rosicky(when fit) or Flamini was the main reason why we've been able to go to places like Milan, United, Liverpool and Chelsea and dominate...this transfer is gutting
Anon 1
25/05/2008 15:16:00
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