Never Forget

In the 1996-97 season, the following clubs all played in the EPL:

Nottingham Forest
Coventry City
Southampton
Derby County
Leeds United
Leicester City
Wimbledon
Sheffield Wednesday

Today, the two factions that make up the club once known as Wimbledon FC – MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon – are split between Coca-Cola League 1 and Conference South divisions respectively.

Leeds United and Leicester City compete in the Coca-Cola League 1 division as well while Forest, Coventry, Southampton, Derby, and Wednesday are all one step below the EPL in The Coca-Cola Championship.

Since the ’96-97 season, the aforementioned clubs have flirted with the EPL or have never returned after relegation. Leeds made it as far as the Champions League semi final in 2001 before financial disaster, and Southampton played an FA Cup final, losing to Arsenal in 2003. Meanwhile, Arsenal have had continued stability and success with Arsene Wenger. Under Wenger Arsenal have never finished outside a UEFA Champions League place, have won three league titles, and four FA Cups. Not bad!

Of course there have been years when the manager himself would tell you that we should have done better in any given competition but overall he can look at a fine body of work.

Yesterday’s victory over Manchester City was the first match in which the previously injured Adebayor and Cesc featured for some time. Both were keys to the victory that put us six points clear of Aston Villa. It’s notable that the latest round of internationals deprived us of Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Abou Diaby – all players who’d been in good to outstanding form of late.

And they say we have no depth!

After a poor start to the season, we are now in control of finishing fourth at minimum. We can finish the season strongly and end up with not just qualification for next season’s Champions League but also winning two major trophies. A situation that many doubted we’d be anywhere near. Some even dared to suggest that we’d begun our own descent down the divisions. Folly!

Winning a cup double certainly won’t be a simple task but it’ll be a whole lot easier than Leeds finding their way back to Europe’s premier club competition. It’ll be far easier than ex European Cup winners Nottingham Forest finding their way back to prominence. It’ll even be easier to stomach not winning anything at all this season than being broken-hearted supporters of a club that goes the way of Wimbledon FC.

Regardless of what The Negatives try to convince you, we find ourselves with stability, depth, and ambition as we look forward to Villarreal in the ¼ finals of the one competition that we all covet as Arsenal fans. We prepare for another stab at the elusive title that Mr. Wenger feels the club deserve and that purists feel would cement his legacy as a truly great manager.

With or without it, Arsene Wenger is great. We owe the man a huge debt of gratitude. We should never forget that.

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