Date:Tuesday April 12 2011
If the Arsenal team has taken some stick over recent weeks then so have Arsenal supporters. As journalists have seized on the disaffected and malcontents among gooner support on the internet, which manifested in angry exchanges at the Emirates after the Blackburn game, they were able to paint a picture of 'civil war' among supporters. The scuffles at the Emirates were relatively minor and built on the greater body of supporters insisting that protesters get behind the team.
The AST's announcement that they were 'considerably disappointed' with recent results, superficially at least, isn't unreasonable except that it was the wrong time for a body that prides itself on its regular direct contacts with the clubs executives in which case such a public announcement didn't serve any purpose anyway. Other than to encourage Peter Hill-Wood into an even more injudicious statement denouncing them as 'silly' and 'stupid' prompting the PR department to issue a correction explaining that emotions are running high.
In his robust press conference prior to the Blackpool game Wenger told reporters not to hide behind the 5% of supporters that air their grievances over the internet suggesting that a great many more were able to retain some perspective over what we were doing but were less vocal in doing so.
But supporters are able to raise their game and play a key role in the whole gooner experience so I thought it was worth highlighting some of the good times when the brotherhood of gooners showed just how united in a common cause they could be.
May 23rd 1998: Arsenal had won the double before and George Grahams team had its share of civic receptions in the decade before this but there was a special air about this celebration as Wengers successful double winning side paraded through the Islington streets to the reception at the town hall. We`d earned grudging respect for the professionalism in which we'd won trophies in the past but this was different. There was more than a fair amount of admiration in the way we`d won this time. Typified perhaps in the 'that sums it all up' commentary as Adams scored the final goal from a chipped through ball from centre back Steve Bould playing in midfield in the game against Everton that sealed the title. Awesome Arsenal we were and somehow the manner in which we won was echoed in the crowds that flocked to the streets. The carnival atmosphere wasn't just about us winning trophies. For the first time in an age it was as much about how we won. There are various guesstimates of the numbers there that day, the BBC puts it at 300,000 which is as good as any I suppose, there was certainly a heck of a lot of people there. As a shirt sleeved Arsene stood in the sunshine on the town hall balcony and looked out in awe over the vast ocean of red and white he memorably said 'Now I can see why Highbury isn't big enough for us'. An observation that gave realisation to the thought. 8 years later it was to see the club into a brand new stadium that was still far too small to house more than a small portion of those there that day.
April 15th 2009: When Robert Pires left Arsenal a few seasons earlier to take the option of a longer contract at Villareal it somehow left supporters feeling that an opportunity was missed to pay due respect for the importance of his contribution to the achievements while he was with us. The CL draw against Villareal and the knowledge that he was in the team provided supporters with the chance to redress that and if anything the passage of time added to the passion with which the ovations were delivered. Many stayed on long after the game and in unison sang his name along with chest swelling renditions of 'you'll always be a gooner'. Pires felt the love that night and long after careers are ended those individual moments will be cherished as much if not more than the collective triumphs of trophies.
February 16th 2011: There is something about being underdogs that galvanises support in a way that goes missing the greater the expectations are for a team. Drawn against Barcelona, purportedly and believably the best club side in the world, the risk of a hammering was as palpable as it is rare for Arsenal. Somehow that gave a voice to supporters missing in other supposedly easier games in which support was just as necessary but just not seen as such. Against Barcelona it wasn't a night in which supporters only sang when we were winning. It seemed as though the support was needed. The strength of that support was there throughout the game and even when we were a goal down the crowd were still with the team. Ultimately the team and importantly the supporters got their reward. Robin van Persie was in no doubt that the win owed as much to the support as their own efforts saying at the time 'It wasn`t just us. It was the fans as well. The fans were unbelievable'. Arsene added 'When we suffered sometimes tonight the fans were very positive and behind the team and played an exceptional part in it as well'
Of course there are many more other glory nights for supporters than just these illustrations and I am sure many of you will have other memories equally as worthy of mention. But as much as complacency can be a handicap for the team so it can be for supporters too. It's all interdependent and players and supporters should always expect to get out of it what they can put into it.
Date:Tuesday April 12 2011
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