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Monday 9 March 2009

You'll Never Walk Alone

There was a marvelous moment immediately after our second goal against Owen Coyle’s Clarets on Sunday, when Eduardo stood looking up at the replays on the big screen, admiring his own footwork. It was perfectly understandable, as his side-foot volley was indeed a thing of beauty. In fact all three goals were works of art, but then they were bound to leave us salivating, considering how starved us poor, spoiled Gooners have been of such high-class entertainment on home turf of late.

I know it was only West Brom, but for those of us who were fortunate to have made the trip to the Hawthorns in midweek, it felt as if the Gunners had started to rediscover the dynamism and the energy, that’s been on the missing list for much of our lacklustre season so far. Nevertheless we badly needed to demonstrate this in a home game, because otherwise one might’ve begun to believe that the Arsenal actually benefit from playing away, liberated by the knowledge that every mistake is not going to be met with the collective groans of 60,000 demanding Gooners.

Then again, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I find away games somewhat liberating. I certainly look forward to them more, in recent times, knowing that I will be surrounded by the sort of staunch awayday faithful who might continue to turn the air blue, agonising under their breath, but who appreciate that they have a part to play in getting behind the team and audibly expressing their support for the entire ninety, come what may. By contrast, despite the fact that Sunday’s encounter was the most enjoyable home game since Cardiff’s capitulation in the last round, we exited our place to the tune of the Burnley fans’ “3-0 and you still don’t sing” taunts.

It feels to me as if far too many amongst our home fans have become so accustomed to giving vent to their frustrations, that this has become their default status. Sure there are pockets of steadfast support, like the Red Action “singing section” in the North-West corner. But the immense proportions of our impressive looking stadium seem to prevent their chants emanating out and so the volume waxes and wanes, rarely ever reaching the sort of roof-raising magnitude that would lend our home games that inspirational, hair-raising atmosphere, craved by fans and players alike.

With hindsight the club might have done better to allocate the section of seats directly in front of the media to the Red Action mob, as these currently appear to be occupied by the most fickle of the Gooner faithful, resulting in the sort of regular reports which are fast earning Arsenal fans an unwanted reputation as being the Premiership’s quickest to turn on our team. It would be a shame to deny our friends from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road their one and only table-topping opportunity.

Much kudos to BBC radio for their revival of revamped versions of “Galton & Simpson’s Half Hour” comedies, starting on Saturday with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It’s as funny and as poignant today, as it was 30 years ago. There’s a line where Frank Skinner (playing the Brian Glover role) tells the other passengers on his Wembley bound train “We’re not just spectators, we’re complimentary ingredients in the same pudding. Us and the team. We’re the yeast that makes them rise to the occasion. We’re the spur, the whip, the following wind, which billows out the sails of the mighty galleon”.

Quite frankly I find it depressing to think that I might be destined to a future where, instead of my season ticket offering me fortnightly opportunities to bellow the mighty Gunners on to further glory, I more frequently find myself sitting there wanting to scream at the whinging blowhards to put a sock in it!

Meanwhile it was great to be back on the sofa on Sunday night, eagerly awaiting the highlights, after several weeks in which the dearth of entertainment has seen an ignominious slide down the MOTD pecking order. It was more like watching “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” or some weird and wonderful dream, seeing Alex Song produce the precision pass, to put the ball on a plate for Eduardo’s volley and then follow this up with his artistic backheel, in the balletic build-up to Eboué’s goal. Surely this wasn’t the same prosaic Song who’s been passing the responsibility on all season, with his penchant for laying the ball off sideways and backwards?

Theo Walcott’s return was a major fillip because we’ve sorely missed the our little Road Runner’s scintillating pace and the resulting buzz of anticipation every time he receives the ball. Hopefully he’s back in the nick of time to leave Roma’s defence trailing in his wake in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. Mind you, if the disconcerting list of Roman “don’t dos” that arrived with the tickets were all to be heeded, most Gooners wouldn’t dare step out of their hotel room for fear of upsetting the Ultras!

Now if only Theo could acquire some of the composure shown by Carlos Vela, in lifting the ball over Burnley’s lump of a keeper, he’d be the complete package. However with “Shava” finding his feet and beginning to pull the strings and with Fabregas, Adebayor and Rosicky still to be added to the mix, the Gunners are suddenly back to looking like a match for anyone, while Villa’s recent falter has put a completely different complexion on the race to finish in the top four.

Sadly with Hull still between us and a semi-final berth, we were denied that Wembley buzz on Sunday. Myself I’m all for keeping Wembley special, but I guess they’ve got to pay for the place somehow and not yet having had the privilege, I’m not about to moan about being that bit closer to our first opportunity to see the Arsenal tread the remodelled version of the hallowed turf.

Personally I would’ve preferred Man Utd as potential semi-final opponents, purely for the pleasure of being the team to put the kibosh on their prospects of monopolizing all this season’s silverware. Moreover with Essien coming back for the Blues, Chelsea are likely to prove a much stiffer test than the team we beat at the Bridge.

However, with serious European business either side of any potential domestic Cup derby, I’ve faith we’ll still have bigger fish to fry. Some pundits (and Mourihno) would have you believe that Inter’s 0-0 in Milan was a more worrisome result than our single goal win against Roma. The more they write the Gunners off, the more I begin to wonder if, instead of this campaign offering a test of our loyalty, ultimately the greater challenge will be the assault upon the depth of Gooner pockets. It’s ironic to think that we’re all sitting here praying for the sort of success that will end with us joining Utd fans in the queues for a second mortgage!
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Anonymous said...

god, ur boring. full of cliche,s. wouldnt want to sit beside u at a match

Anonymous said...


Annoymous 8.01 I would rather sit next to someone that gets behind the team, than most of the twats that go to the Emirates these days. Good blog!!

The Law said...

Your comments about our home fans are absolutely spot on man! I was absolutely livid. What kind of "supporters" charge out of their seats 5 minutes to the end of a half?

Is this what we have been reduced to? That even the ex-Sp*rs player who was commenting on the game expressed sympathy for our players because of what they have to endure at the hands of their own fans?!

I know Highbury was called a library, but the Emirates is a graveyard. These people who pack our stadiums every week are literally killing their own club. And they don't even realise it!

Fine Whine said...

This is the one blog i wait for everyweek for the last 2 years, because Bernard speaks for the real fans. I've never been to a game as i can never afford to pay 500eu just to get a match ticket from Ireland. I have supported arsenal for 30 years and this is where i here the real voice of the fans.


Anonymous said...

I sit just behind our dugout and some of the abuse that our so called fans shout at their own players is shocking. Add the fact that people would rather boo than sing, a woman who sits near us texting the abuse line every time someone swears and stewards who are looking to chuck people out at any given moment has made this my least enjoyable season so far in 20years of going. All to play for now though...

Bern said...

Your kind support very much appreciated. In fact, while mercifully I don't have an ego which needs massaging, I cannot lie that I don't get a little miffed about the absence of comments most weeks. If only because, after tapping away at the keyboard for hours, it's extremely gratifying to know that my humble efforts haven't been in vain,

Then again, I now know that all I need do is coat myself off in future to generate some support :-)

BTW "Fine Whine" if ever you fancy a pilgrimage, will be happy to try and find you some face value tickets.

And for Anonymous's info, unless you suffer from Tinnitus you need not worry about sitting beside me, as the only time I open my "boring" gob during games is to holler my support for the Gunners.

We sit almost directly opposite the media section in the lower tier and it does get my goat when they so regularly report on the fans in front of them throwing their toys out of the pram, especially on those occasions when the reaction of the Gooners in these seats is not truly representative of the crowd as a whole.

Nevertheless I've been going to recent games with a young Gooner from the US, who was blown away by the atmosphere he experienced in Cardiff (after I'd encouraged him to take in an away match if he wanted a real taste of what football is all about).

But I've no doubt that the home games he's attended have been nothing like the image he had in his head of watching the Arsenal play live. Feeling so privileged to be there (compared to how blasé I've become over the years), he's downright incredulous at how so many of those around us are so quick to get on the player's backs.

Doubtless I'm able to tune the twats out and with comms from my terrace tranny in one ear I completely missed a comment at the Sunderland game which so incensed my Yank pal that he jumped up to have a pop at the tosser responsible, who promptly responded by telling "the Septic" that he didn't know what he was talking about.

At the time I was too focused on the game to take it all in and if anything I was concerned he was starting a barney with someone I could end up sitting with until the end of my days. It wasn't until we were leaving that I enquired as to the details and if I'm honest, I was more than a little embarrassed that I'd left it to my guest to open his gob, when it was revealed that this neanderthal had barked out a comment, directed at one of our own, about him being better off flipping burgers.

My pal had suggested that his remarks must've been intended for benefit of those around him, as the player concerned was at the other end of the pitch at the time. But even if he'd been in earshot,, this racist remark was hardly going to encourage him to want to perform for the benefit of bigoted Gooners like this numbskull!

I can't recall if it was Manny Eboué or Alex Song who was the target of his abuse but I really wish I'd taken the opportunity to remind him of his remarks on Sunday, after Eboué's goal (but then as the sports ed of the Examiner reminded me, when I teased him about how he was going to reconcile Eboué's goal with all his recent criticism, even a clock has to be right twice a day!) or Alex's MOTM peformance

Nuff Love

Fine Whine said...

I think the reason that people don't leave messages is that they couldn't be arsed setting up the account. I had actually written many messages before but then was put off by the account process. It's funny but it's true.

I would love to take up any offer of help to get tickets at face value as it really is an impediement for me to go.

As long as i'm in the section of fans who sing rather than rant, and also that stay till the end rather than leave early so they can make it home to watch the highlights. I don't understand these people.

Wrighty7 said...


Keep up the good work on the site mate.

I don't often leave comments as I have my own blog but I do enjoy reading yours.

Bern said...

Thanks folks.

I actually turned off "word verification" and checked the box in the settings to allow anyone to comment (including Anonymous) in my efforts to ensure that it is as easy as possible to add a comment, just to try and provoke a little debate.

Although I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't a little envious of those who's blog posts seem to provoke hundreds of remarks. Not thatI need so many but it would be great to have confirmation every now and again that my humble efforts aren't in vain

"Fine Whine"- my email is at the bottom of my posts if you want to get in touch. Face value tickets at our place aren't that hard to find nowadays but being able to pick and choose your pitch is another matter all togather and in truth it's more a case of having to be grateful for anything that gets offered to you.

In truth, the only way of guaranteeing a good atmosphere is to take in an away game. But then with the Away Match Ticket scheme, tickets amongst the Arsenal fans are that much harder to obtain and so you're best bet would be a not so glamorous awayday, with an unattractive KO (eg. Blackburn, Boro at 5.30 on a Saturday eve)


Anonymous said...

great blog bernard. i read it every week and always enjoy the pictures you paint of your trips to the game. i dont normally contribute on any blog but i would just like to add my name (although its anon!!!) to those who enjoy your musings.