What’s it like being an Arsenal fan?

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June 7, 2013 by backofthenetjl

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In the next of the series ‘ what’s it like being a …. fan?’, Arsenal fan Thomas Munson tells us what it’s like to support the Gunners.

My personal experience as an Arsenal fan has certainly been a mixed bag. Growing up and living in Highbury in the 1990s and at the turn of the millennium was really something quite special. I was privileged enough to see not one but two double winning parades on my door step. But supporting Arsenal in Highbury & Islington was not a choice, it was a way of life. Arsenal takes priority over everything, not only is it impossible to plan anything on a matchday because of the traffic spreading miles throughout north London but it monopolises conversation for the days after.

I grew up with Arsenal being one of the best teams in the country and watching arguably the best Premier League team of all time, although then I did not realise it, I was immensely lucky to be part of that community at that time. I recall going into the local post office with my Grandmother, after we had sealed the double, and hearing we had won the FA Cup again. I thought to myself, “We win the FA Cup thing a lot don’t we.”.

One theme that has always been strong throughout generations is the idolisation of the manager. The famous Spanish journalist, Vazquez Montalban, once said that in this present world, when war seems unthinkable, that “the club manager takes the place of those Gods whose role it was once to make order out of chaos”. Those words never hold more true than when talking about Arsenal; from George Graham and Arsene Wenger to Bertie Mee and his double winning heroics. Perhaps differently from other clubs where, in Montalban’s words, the player has “taken the role of the previous local Napoleons” while at Arsenal the manager takes the plaudits for success. They do not just become icons at the club, but icons heralded by the whole community, even the few who do not follow football.

However, the success of the 90s and 00s as come at a price to the fans and Arsene Wenger himself. Inside all Arsenal fans there are the incomprehensible levels of expectation which used to be fed by the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp. Deep within every fan still expects them to walk onto the pitch, so when the current squad fail to play like the invisibles it hurts twice as much. The Arsenal team of 1998-2005 were a tough act to follow so it is understandable that Arsenal fans will air their dissatisfaction at the likes of Gervinho and Chamakh playing for the club on social network sites and talkSPORT.

Arsenal have cruelly teased us ever since with missed title challenges and Wembley defeats, we have felt robbed on many occasions. Eduardo’s leg break against Birmingham undoubtedly cost us the league in 07/08. We had a higher points total at that point in 07/08 than we had had at the same point in 03/04, are best ever league season. Gooners have a constant “what if?” following us to every matchday. The greatest “what if?” in modern times was the 2006 Champions League final defeat. What if Jens Lehman had not got sent off? What if Henry had not blundered THAT one on one? Henry will remain an Arsenal legend for the rest of his life, his 229 goals immortalised in his statue at the Emirates, incidentally, when Henry returned to Arsenal on loan he became the first player to play in a stadium that had a statue of themselves in. However, as spoilt as this sounds, there is also a sense of failure that surrounds him as much as I love him. In the biggest moment in Arsenal’s history, the Champions League final, the moment when we needed Henry work his French magic, he let us down. It was one of his worst performances in an Arsenal shirt and I, along with many other Arsenal fans, will never forget that.

But like family, you cannot choose your football club, and I am proud, honoured and privileged to support Arsenal, THE Arsenal. Through the good times and the bad times. Perhaps we are in the ‘bad times’ now but I know that Arsenal will again bring a smile to its 100 million worldwide fans once again and when they do it will done with the class Arsenal football club have always conducted themselves with.

Follow Tom on twitter: @LeCanonniers
Follow me on twitter: @DisguisedPass

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