Published in Goonersphere.
The once vibrant setting had lost its colour, and now the stark greys dominated his eyeline. Listless noises filtered to his ears, but he paid no heed.
Hands stuffed in pockets to shield from the unforgiving wind that buffeted around his surroundings, his body language was not solely due to the harsh weather though.
He had been warned by his friends that this was a destructive relationship, that it had been doomed for years. Blindness goes hand in hand gleefully with love though, and he had blundered on, ignorant of the perilous path he was taking.
He had invested his life into this hazardous duopoly, and the scars had begun to show. The hurt that currently enveloped him had transformed recently from the all-encompassing misery of years gone by, into something akin to the numbness you receive at the dentist.
Were they aware of the pain they had caused? Why did he continue to plough on when on the horizon was the very real threat of sorrow?
He lifted his head and sighed.
It hadn’t been all bad. The very nature of his bind was down to the memories which he clasped to him. The adoration he exuded toward his beloved had bloomed in the perfect storm. Technicolour snapshots of happier times was the matinee which played through his mind when his brain sought escapism, and it normally was the ideal medicine which he was always keen to sup from.
Right now though, in the aftermath of another blowup, another stumble in the relationship, the montage of bliss did nothing to avert his mind from the darkest of clouds which would soon overrule all in his mind.
The rocky terrain which his faith in their liaison now sat on was down to the series of moments his partner had disappointed him. They say it is the hope that kills you, and he had hoped it would change, but the destructive behavioural pattern had shown no sign of changing, until recently.
He had puffed his chest out and goaded the very friends who had denounced his affections. A few weeks ago, the relationship had been in the rudest of health. It appeared to the majority, even his doubting pals, that the habitual mistakes that had blighted their friends partner had been erased.
That seemed so long ago as he stood in the same spot he had done for the past half an hour. He had ruminated on every second of the latest calamity, and as painful as it was, it had also served as an awakening.
The fact that he would go into work and be the butt of the jokes, and be castigated for never learning, and how every weekend carried the ominous threat of ruination. It was the epitome of being a supporter.
The very word means ‘to support.’ Through the good times he had enjoyed, it was easy to declare your love for your chosen team. It was in recent years though, that had defined exactly what it meant to be a fan, a Gooner. If he even entertained the idea of cutting the ties which linked him and the club every time they struggled, then the ties weren’t strong enough to begin with.
He had angry thoughts and things he would like to change about the dynamic of the team, but he would never, ever stop supporting the club.
They may be the root cause of many a lost weekend, arguments and pain, but when you choose a club, it is for life. There are some who wish ill on the very club they claim they support, but isn’t that an oxymoron, he pondered?
He could never even begin to think of hoping for a bad result, it just didn’t fit. He would go on and continue in the same vein of the last twenty or so years. He would look forward to next week and a victory.
A lady in a hi-viz jacket approached him, and said that the stadium was closing. He nodded and made his way down the concrete stairs.
Next week may conceal another bout of anguish, but it also held the very tangible possibility of redemption, and the moment the ball hits the net from an Arsenal player – those seconds that your stomach lurches into your throat and you lose all sensibilities as you bounce around like a loon – were what makes these instances of gloom worth it.
He left the stadium with a little bit of hope again.
You’ve really struck a chord with this very well written article, it captures totally the agonies and ecstasies’ of my past 67 years as a Gooner.
Always good to start on a high and on a high I was as I’d chosen them from the two teams who were to contest the FA Cup Final, the other team then became ‘our’ opponents in the 1950 climax to the season – Liverpool. The men in yellow gave me an immediate reward with a 2-0 victory. The die was cast, the loyalty born.
It wasn’t to long before that loyalty was tested as our return to Wembley in 1952 was a defeat and the feet of Newcastle Utd. On this occasion I was not on the terraces but dedicatedly listening to every move on our radio at home. The injury to Wally Barnes in the first half (no substitutes in those days) hardened my resolve to urge ‘my’ team on only for them to suffer a goal from the opposition in the last 10 minutes – and by a foreigner to boot (reflecting the flavour of those times). I believe George Robledo (the scorer) to be the first overseas player to score in an FA Cup Final.
My feelings over the following days fluctuated between despair, dejection and anger – why had Wally suffered his misfortune, how could we hang on so long and the succumb so near the end and really annoyed at the ribbings I received for being an Arsenal supporter. My ribbings were delivered from all angles as I was born and bred in Manchester so the jibes came at home, at school and the community at large.
However the end of the following season produced another high as we took out the league championship (First Division in those days). I was to find out that enjoying success wasn’t all wine and roses as a copped a couple of bloody noses for my gloating.
Once again the wallowing in glory was short lived and my loyalties were severely tested over the following 17 years, a far bleaker period then ever suffered subsequently. For many of those seasons I was travelling to most away games and several home games as well. In fact most games were ‘away’ games for me. My ‘home’ games were those against Utd., City and Bolton.
The next high was the ultimate high – the 1971 double of League and Cup, wow what a feeling, we could beat anybody now. As seemed to typical of Arsenal in those days success was immediately followed by the downwards ride on the other side of the hill – another Cup Final loss, this one against everyone’s pet hate team Leeds Utd. How bitter was that pill.
Then the classic Arsenal period – the Cup Final trilogy, one win spliced by two losses. The win was a classic though. I witnessed it in a local Working Men’s Club surrounded by Utd. supporters. Oh the absolute extreme of glory when the move from Brady to Rix to Sunderland was executed in the dying seconds. How high can you get without the aid of chemicals.
I would warrant that many of your readers would have joined me in the journey through the George Graham era through to Arsene Wenger, a period littered with many, many highs and many frustrations.
The end of last season ended with another high – 3 highs in four years, yet the pleasure was tainted by dissatisfaction borne by expectation of even greater success in other endeavours.
The disappointment these days seems to cut deeper which I feel is directly proportional to the hype that exists in the modern game. Like in everything else around us change is inevitable, the names in the programme are different, the stadium is different and the finance is most definitely different.
The one thing that remains the same are the words of your final sentence, hopefully all Gooners felt the same as the filed out of Wembley Stadium or as they switched TV channels. I know I felt it as I left the ANZ Olympic Stadium in Sydney last month.
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This is quite excellent! The bonds are still strong!
I just wish we could play either Chelsea, Utd. or Liverpool at Wembley every week, that would be a cause for real optimism!
Thanks for the compliment.
Just like Blackpool rock the Arsenal goes through me from top to toe.
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