Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 13 2009
I wanted to keep this piece separate, largely because I want to keep the match report as an objective account on the game. Arsenal`s unrivalled ability to completely go to pieces psychologically when in strong positions in matches will get its own treatment, as well as out schizophrenic defending. (I also won`t avoid the fact that I Iost out on twenty quid today in happier circumstances!) But the celebration that accompanied Adebayor`s goal must be addressed. I`ll admit I am not in the greatest mood, in the last forty eight hours I`ve seen a man rush in to my work reception and stab himself eleven times with a screwdriver and on my way home this evening there were two shootings in Brixton just as my bus home happened to be driving through the area. I suppose in perspective, Adebayor`s brainless actions are small fry. Yet still I am overcome with anger.
I will admit to Arsenal having previous here, I never liked the fact that Henry got so involved with opposing fans and I have often been chided for criticising his infamous celebration against Spurs a few years back. Many have implored me to lighten up, but those that did so were not in the line of fire. My season ticket seat at Highbury was on the Clock End barrier next to the away supporters, Henry`s celebration that day inflamed a lot of people within striking distance of me and my mother and we largely spent what should have been a time of celebration anxiously looking left. Likewise Gary Neville celebrated a goal scored in front of 73,000 United fans by turning and running towards 3,000 Liverpool fans. Actions such as those inflame already bruised moods and cause a genuine security concern, which the likes of Neville, Henry and Adebayor will never know about as they are ushered away from grounds in bulletproof, chauffeur driven limos. Adebayor was always going to stick from the Arsenal fans today; the fact that he is too deluded to understand why says more about him as a character than it does us a set of fans. Toure was given a warm round of applause and had his name sung, a gesture he acknowledged with typical humility and gratitude before refocusing on the game at hand. In many ways, it was inevitable Adebayor would score, the booing and the chants of "We`ve got Arshavin, fuck Adebayor" were always going to be a bit self defeating. It`s amusing that Adebayor has spent the last week eulogising his love for his new fans, yet when he scored he pointedly ignored every single one of them and raced eighty yards to the people he professed to have forgotten about. I can only condemn those that threw objects at him, bottles, coins and even seats made their way onto the pitch. Whilst not negating the responsibility of those who did so, the reaction was incredibly obvious and one the player knew he was going to provoke. The melee in the front rows of the lower tier lasted a long time and it is to the eternal credit of the City stewards that they stopped any Arsenal fans getting onto the pitch. I can only tell you that had a few successfully negotiated the barrier, Adebayor wouldn`t be walking for a little while. If he has any humility-and he hasn`t, this much is true- he`ll thank those stewards warmly. I doubt the stewards will afford him much affection for the difficulty he created in their afternoon. I would have understood a finger to the lips on the way back to the centre circle or a cock of the ear. That would have been fair enough really. Teddy Sheringham took a lot of stick from Arsenal fans over the years and always responded with humour and wit. (Like the time he mimicked lifting the European Cup in front of us in the 1999 Charity Shield).
Adebayor`s reaction was totally irresponsible and it is my belief that incitement to riot is an arrestable offence under UK Law. Goading already obviously disappointed people is not an excusable reaction from a man paid vast, vast sums of money to behave in a professional manner on a football pitch. His actions endangered everybody in the away section and injuries were clearly visible. Despite the fact that a man was quite clearly being treated pitch side having been hurt, Adebayor again turned to the away fans and sarcastically applauded at the final whistle. He tried to make his way over to us again, despite the fact that people were clearly in distress, exacerbating a powder keg he had created and further inflaming the situation and endangering spectator safety. The referee had to usher him away. One cannot use the excuse of emotion on that occasion, he had not just taken leave of his senses having scored a well taken and crucial goal, he had seen the trouble and injury his first brainwave had bought, yet he went ahead and did it again anyway. That leaves the realms of irresponsible and becomes just plain malicious.
Meanwhile, we supporters then have to go outside and co mingle; with tempers frayed and emotions at boiling point. Emmanuel Adebayor got a police escort back to his Cheshire mansion. Fortunately, there was no trouble outside and the police did an excellent job in ensuring no flashpoints could occur in a potentially combustible situation. I`m sure the Manchester Police will also not thank Adebayor for the extra work his moral arrogance gave them this afternoon. If Adebayor was a human being with the moral aptitude and self awareness to demonstrate contrition, he would apologise to the police and the stewards today. But evidence of Adebayor`s increasing delusion have been plain to see for quite some time now and I scarcely believe his thoughts have meandered away from himself in the last twelve months now. Adebayor has also ensured that the return fixture will require extra security planning. Amazingly, Manchester City attempted to stoke the fires further by ludicrously and triumphantly announcing Adebayor as man of the match. Even if that ridiculous assertion were somewhere approaching true and not just a childish attempt at a lame wind up (remember those Tevez posters?), they should have shown enough awareness of the situation in the away end to keep it schtum rather than pouring kerosene onto the flames. Robin van Persie made his feelings clear as he came over to acknowledge the away support, pointing clearly at Adebayor- stood ten yards behind him- and mouthing "wanker" a good few times. Childish of him perhaps but it actually cooled some tempers around me to see that someone else recognised it.
Most people will condemn the reaction of the Arsenal fans and I can understand that in a way. But it`s very easy to make distant observations at times like this. There`s something more explosive when you`re in the ground, the grinding disappointment of seeing your team concede a goal which will lose them an important game, despair at the appalling marking of your defenders, the realisation that a player and a man you have no time for has dealt that bitter blow and 43,000 opposing fans turning and letting you know about it. It`s not nice, but we`re all grown ups, we`ve all enjoyed the reverse situation (I know I let a few Chelsea fans know about it when Gallas scored against them eighteen months ago) and you`ve little choice but to swallow it. However, with all of the above picking away at you, the sight of a fully grown man running towards you to rub your nose in it tests even the mildest temper. That doesn`t mean you have license to throw things and behave like an idiot, but it doesn`t take the brightest brain to work out that otherwise decent men can snap. Footballers as deluded as Adebayor have absolutely no idea how uncomfortable such over the top reactions make these situations for spectators. Adebayor ran towards us with full police and steward protection, it`s akin to teasing caged lions at the zoo. The Arsenal fans that idiotically tried to run towards him to return the gesture were not granted the same liberty and privilege Adebayor enjoyed. I`d liken it to punching someone whose hands are bound behind their back. Adebayor`s ultimate stupidity is that he has taken a lot of the focus from the fact that he scored a crucial goal in a massive victory for his team. Players really need to begin to engage their brains slightly and understand the sorts of dangers they put people in when they act so hatefully. Perhaps if Adebayor had been made to travel home via public transport minutes after the match he would think twice before doing this again. Banter between players and supporters is a fantastic part of watching live football and should not diminish, but there are lines of what is acceptable and Adebayor hatefully ran a good eighty yards over that line and skidded on his knees on the other side, much as Henry did in 2002 against Spurs. Cock an ear or put a finger to lips by all means, but inciting incidences such as this on not one, but two occasions, is incredibly sad and desperate. If I were Mark Hughes I would be having quiet words as this sort of attitude will garner more retribution than it will awards. It`s also a great shame that, as a result of his actions, Toure wasn`t allowed to venture over to the Arsenal fans at the final whistle. It is perhaps ironic that, if I remember correctly, it was he who pulled Adebayor away after his goal celebration. As for the City fans, you have every right to enjoy your victory today and lord it over us. We`re all big boys here. But for the long term, Iwill ask you one favour. Return to this page in twelve months time and tell us what you think of Adebayor then. The match report will follow tomorrow.LD.
Date:Sunday September 13 2009
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