No really. I don't give a f***.
I've just come back from the pub, where I watched Arsenal give up a 2-1 half-time lead to lose to man Utd. 2-4. Ouch. Not only that, but any chance of retaining the title, for the first time since the thirties, just evaporated, along with our lead. On the face of it I should be inconsolable. But I'm not. I don't actually give a f***. And I'm editing this piece the morning after, hangover slowly fading and though the pain was fresh again when I awoke I've dealt with it again. I can smile.
Why? Is it because I've stopped caring about Arsenal, am I no longer a fan? Not on your life. Tonight hurt like buggery. I hate those Manc w***ers with a passion, I'd love to see Ferguson's face when we give them the battering they deserve. It can't come too soon.
So why have I still got a smile on my face? why am I not checking out the medicine cupboard to see if we've got enough paracetamol to make calling an ambulance an option? Why am I not knotting a hangman's noose and climbing up on a strategically placed bucket?
Well its difficult to say really, though I hope there are others out there that understand.
Once upon a time there was a team that was the best in the world. Bar none. Undisputably. I'm not talking about Arsenal last season, or any other season under Arsene Wenger. Way back in the thirties, long, long, long before I was born there was a team that was the greatest football team in the world. They couldn't really prove it, as there were no UEFA Cups and Champions Leagues to play in. But England was the home of football, and a team there became the first to dominate an era. It was us. Arsenal.
You doubt me that we were once the best in the world? Don't take my word for it then, take the word of a football legend. Growing up in Hungary the team that set the standard for Ferenc Puskas, the team he looked up to, was Arsenal. Yes, thats the Ferenc Puskas that was the driving force of the all conquering Real Madrid of the fifties. One of the greatest players the world has ever seen, the lynchpin of one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen. An Arsenal fan. Once upon a time we were, really, the greatest football team the world had ever seen.
Is this important? Well yes, and no. Obviously there a plenty of fans out there that can't claim their club was once the best in the world, in fact there are plenty out there that can't claim anything much about their club, no silverware, no status, maybe the occasional derby win, but they're still fans. For me it's just a comfort, that long befpore anyone was bleating on about trebles we were the team that inspired the world.
Of course, the second world war put an end to that. As well as the holocaust and the destruction of a large portion of Europe we can add the 61 Sp#rs double, Liverpool in the eighties and ManUre in the nineties to the list of Hitlers sins. It could all have been so different.
In comparison with the atrocities of the second world war Arsenal's misfortune is, of course, slightly less that a minor footnote. But all the same, the world was ours, and the man in the black shirt robbed us.
Since then its been much of the same. We've stood before the prospect of dominance before, and thrown it away: after 1971 the team crumbled and was broken up, and twenty years later the young lions of the George Graham era were allowed to drink away their potential while the team was eventually reduced to mediocrity by the defensive tactics and purchases of Graham himself.
That we stand where we are today is largely thanks to Wenger. We are a club with a 38,500 capacity stadium, with a tradition that while rich doesn't translate easily into Far Eastern shirt sales. That we can even think about competing with the money machine of ManUre, or the bottomless pit of Roubles of Chelsea is something of a small miracle. That we can compete and hope to win is far beyond that. That we can compete and occasionally win is unbelievable. That we can can compete and sometimes win in style, setting records and going unbeaten is surely an act of God.
We have been punching far above our weight for some time now. The standard of our team is far beyond what anyone could realistically expect or hope for. We are hugely ambitious, our manager and board want to build on our successes to bring the club into the true European elite. But its not something thats going to happen overnight, no matter how good our team is on the pitch.
We lost tonight. Shit happens. It was probably the match of the season that I most wanted us to win, maybe after the Old Trafford fixture but probably even above Sp*rs. It had all the passion of a true derby. And we fucked it up, on the pitch we are better than we showed. And so?
Fuck it, you win some you lose some. We lost this one. Do I give a f***? No. Sure, I'd love us to spank the Mancs senseless, but I'd like that even if we were playing for tenth place.
Would I like to win the league? Well of course I would. I'd be on cloud nine for a month. Will I collapse, crying like a baby, screaming for Wenger to buy twelve new players I've seen on Championship Manager and sack the peices of shit that were on the picth tonight? No. There is a place for criticism, of manager, team and club. But marry that criticism to the ridiculously overblown expectations of many of our fans (including many who should know better by now, I'm not just talking about new fans and gloryhunters) and you end up with the manic wailing and gnashing of teeth that we see after every dropped point. This season we haven't ever drawn a match, we've merely lost 2-2. And for every goal conceded we've nailed some poor player to a tree. "Not good enough for Arsenal". You what? Did I hear that right? Not good enough for us, despite being good enough last season? Or despite the fact that what they really mean is that the player isn't good enough for the team they'd like Arsenal to be, the Arsenal of their dreams, based on fantasies of Chelsea-like wealth and world domination that would make George Dubya blush.
When it comes down to it the silverware is just an occasional bonus. Seeing players like Henry and Bergkamp is just a bonus. Playing in the Premiership and Champions League is just a bonus. May Bergkamp make us thankful for what we have already recieved. Its on nights like this that I realise how glad I am to be a Gooner.