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Monday 15 October 2007

Rien Ne Va Plus

With yet another interminable interruption to our Premiership campaign (just as it’s coming nicely to the boil), I was hoping this weekend’s International fare might fuel my weekly column. Although with the Boys in Green’s Euro 2008 challenge petering out, with their dismal goalless draw against the Gerries at Croke Park and with the disappointing reality of a third successive qualification failure, compounded by England’s progress in the rugby, it occurs to me that perhaps the less said, the better, as far as Irish Examiner readers are concerned.

I’m unsure if any Arsenal players have succumbed to injury while on International duty thus far, but in truth apart from Jens Lehmann’s sadly all too uneventful evening in Dublin and Eduardo notching yet another strike for Croatia, there was very little of note in any of the games across the globe to arouse Gooner interest. If Robbie Keane has been left contemplating whether he might have done better, surely it’s small beer compared to Alexander Hleb’s embarrassment. I’m certain Hleb won’t be showing his face in Belarus, after suffering a home defeat to Luxembourg. Apparently it’s 12 long years since this tiny state last savoured success!

Personally I’ve rarely enjoyed watching rugby, especially since the modern game seems to have developed into a tedious, long-range kicking contest. However compared to the excitement enjoyed by those Philistine egg-chasing aficionados, proof positive that us fans of proper football were on to a loser this past weekend, came when I stayed up late on Sunday night, only to see Brazil’s samba soccer stars play out another boring scoreless draw in Bogota.

In fact from an Arsenal point of view, it was perhaps our keeper’s post match interview on Saturday, which most tweaked my interest. I looked up from my keyboard and cranked up the volume when I heard loopy Lehmann claim that since he hasn’t been seen on the bench following his couple of calamitous boo-boos back in August, obviously he hasn’t been dropped, but has been unfit these past couple of months. I’m unsure whether Jens is deluded, or he actually believes us to be sufficiently stupid to swallow his face-saving codswallop.

Whatever the case, our arrogant goal minder is going to feel a bit foolish if Arsène continues to keep faith with Almunia. Thus I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Jens again returns to the club with the sort of tenuous tendon strain that could keep him out of contention right up until the goalkeeping cock-up that might gift the German an opportunity to get his foot back in the first-team door. This would at least spare Lehmann from throwing his toys out of the pram, because he’s such an unhappy bunny playing second fiddle.

Meanwhile the dearth of Arsenal related doings on the pitch does provide a timely opportunity to delve into the increasingly muddy corporate waters, with the Arsenal’s annual AGM this Thursday. Friday night’s Evening Standard magazine included an interesting article about the latest predator to target the Gunners. With the mind-boggling billions of so many of these oligarchs having such dubious provenance, apparently a PR firm has been advising many of them to acquire a football club, as the easiest means of gaining social and commercial acceptance.

Even if only half the rumours currently doing the rounds about Alisher Uzmanov are believable, Yank businessman Stan Kroenke sounds positively saintly by comparison and it’s easy to understand why this n’er do well feels the need to legitimise his assets, with the Uzbek’s efforts to usurp such a prestigious chunk of Britain’s sporting establishment. When it comes to the relatively nouveau riche world of football club ownership, they don’t come much more establishment than the Arsenal, with its pre-war “Bank of England” reputation.

And who can blame him, when he gazes enviously at the high-society world his old Ruski sparring partner now inhabits. Abramovich has been welcomed with open arms, by those who’s noses are stuck so far up in the air, that they can’t possibly smell the rank odour of roubles, imbued with the amoralistic stench of blood, sweat & tears, upon which much of this fortune must have been built.

Personally I feel a little bit peeved. OK so I really wouldn’t have expected to be party to his latest tack, a charm offensive of a press junket on a private jet to Moscow, plus accommodation at the 5-star Kempinski, just so he could assure the British media that he has no intention of bidding for the club. At least not for the moment, which by implication, might only mean until the lockdown agreement of the other major shareholders, expires in a few months time? However my over-sensitive ego was more than a little piqued on discovering that my Gooner’s Diary blog didn’t merit the attention given by his legal muscle, to many of the other references on the Internet concerning the grievous allegations of Britain’s former Uzbek ambassador.

Mind you perhaps I should be pleased that I continue to fly below Schillings’ radar (Uzmanov’s extremely high-powered brief), as their threats appear to have put the willies up plenty of others. To the extent that one service provider switched off the server that also happens to host the blog of Tory candidate for London Mayor, the bumptious Boris Johnson (although many would proffer a pat on the back for this particular public service!).

Meanwhile it must be pointed out that while we sit atop the Premiership pile, raking in the moolah from all our corporate and Club Level facilities (an astonishing £3million per match more than Man U!), we’re extremely fortunate to be able to take the moral high ground, when it comes to such undesirable investors. If we were in Spurs’ shoes, scrabbling to extricate ourselves out of the relegation mire, or Man City’s, with a massive fan base who’d all happily sell their soul to the devil for a long awaited sniff of silverware and an opportunity to have one over on their neighbours, we’d probably be rushing just as quickly to bag a sugar-daddy all of our own and to blow his millions, intent on keeping up with the Jones’ and not giving a monkey’s about the money’s unscrupulous origins.

Mercifully it appears that we Gooners can afford to get on our high horse and at a time when so many of our most august sporting institutions have become nothing short of grubby casino chips, to be gambled on the corporate roulette wheel by a motley collection of billionaires (many with similarly shady reputations), wouldn’t it be bloomin’ marvellous if the Arsenal were able to finally shout “rien ne va plus”.

Myself I would love to see the Gunners call a halt to this recent trend of greedy vultures gorging themselves on the beautiful games greatest assets, by producing some sort of proposal that wasn’t just exclusive to the club’s major shareholders, but which included the many Arsenal fans who’ve bought single shares as an emotional, rather than a financial investment.

It’s probably totally impractical and I very much doubt it would hold legal water, but it would send out such a powerful statement that our beloved club is not for sale, at any price, if every single shareholder was to sign a pledge to retain their shares for a period of five years.

Mind you, in saying that, my own financial predicament is such that if I was being offered ten grand, or a 400% profit on a share I bought only a couple of years back, I might find the offer impossible to resist. However by and large, our shareholders are an affluent lot and if such a proposal proved effective, this display of their commitment to the club might well put Usmanov off. I imagine he was seriously irked by the suggestion from the old-Etonians on the Arsenal board that his money wasn’t good enough for them and it seems to me that his reaction since, has been a display of his determination to defeat them at absolutely any cost.

However if it begins to dawn on him that unlike Abramovich, he won’t be welcomed by the Gooner hoi polloi, as a knight on a white charger, he might well change his mind, especially if there’s a suggestion that he might have to be patient for a good few years yet in order to realise his ambitions. Hopefully he might turn his attentions elsewhere, perhaps towards our North London neighbours, preferring a battle he can actually win, as Spurs certainly aren’t in a position to put up much resistance to his unlimited advances?

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Anonymous said...

why not change the banner? it's not like it's impressive.... in fact, its a reason to skip the site..

Bern said...

So skip it. Why should it matter to me, if you don't like the banner? You don't judge the quality of a book by it's cover and if you do, then that says everything about you.

The piper can call the tune when it comes to my weekly column in the Irish Examiner, as they pay for this privilege, whereas the beauty of a blog is the fact that it allows one total editorial discretion, as no one can tell me what to do because they aren't paying a red cent to read it

My banner isn't intended to impress, it's just a selection of pictures that I happen to like and which are intended to represent the fact my opinions aren't formed from my armchair but from following the Gunners all over the country and the continent. That's all, nothing more, nothing less

Sadly they might be a little dated, but this is merely a reflection of the fact that in recent times the opportunites we Gooners get to rub shoulders with our heroes on our travels are extremely few and far between, as unfortunately these days a locked gate mentality prevails, which is intended to ensure the fans don't get anywhere near the players. Personally speaking I feel this is a great pity, but it is perhaps just a reflection of modern society and the fact that there are so many loonies out there who are likely to impose upon the players, to the point where it's unfair on them.

I might well get around to changing the banner at some point in the future when I get bored of this particular selection from my collection of snaps and I can be bothered (have the time!) to faff around with my template but until such time, the best thing I can suggest if it bothers you so much, then don't come back, as there are literally thousands of other Arsenal blogs out there without annoying banners, or with far more impressive banners to keep you busy, without taking offence at my humble efforts

Anonymous said...

I like the banner!! And i like your posts, a bit long but in the end, it makes a good read.

Keep it up

Anonymous said...

Can you just say what you wanna say - I fall half asleeep midway through those long stories where you have to figure the conclusion yourself ...

Gooner for 60 years said...

Keep up the good work Bernard....and there's nothing wrong with your masthead.

Anonymous said...

prolly some united fans with nothing better to do such as wanting to change the banner. fools.

Anonymous said...

Your banner (unique and personal)and writing style are what identifies your blog from the general morass.

Keep it up.

Stuff the idiots who have short attention spans.

They can go and read sun headlines, I think there's a faint chance they might manage to get their heads around some of those.


Anonymous said...

Nothing eventful for Arsenal during International week? How about looking wider than Europe - Togo out of the ANC i.e. Adebayor stays in London come January. Seems fairly significant to me.

Bern said...

That's great news that we don't lose Adebayor for the African Nations, thanks a million for pointing it out, as you're 100 per cent correct, since it never would've occured to me otherwise

Now all we need is for the same fate to befall the Ivory Coast (or are they already qualified?).

All comments both positive and negative, are very much appreciated, as it's extremely gratifying to know that my humble efforts are not a waste of time, especially when I'm dead on my feet at work all day Monday, after staying up all night to get a piece finished.

Would hope to have something to say this Thursday after the AGM, until then

Anonymous said...

don't let those turkeys pull you down. keep writing.