Hicks of Northern England

Here are some interesting facts about certain cities and towns that have Premiership clubs:

The London borough of Newham, where West Ham play, is the most ethnically diverse area of Britain.

There are no black communities in Stoke-on-Trent, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Hull, Sunderland, and Wigan.

99% of Wigan’s population is white. Hull and Sunderland are not far behind with populations that are approximately 98% white.

The north-west towns of Blackburn, Burnley and Bolton have large Pakistani communities. Over 20% of Blackburn’s population is Pakistani. Yet, 99% of it’s season ticket holders are white.

Blackburn’s population is only 105,000. Wigan has a population of 81,000

Burnley has the smallest population, only 73,500 and is only 12 miles away from Blackburn.

What these small towns have in common is clear. They have small populations that are about as ethnically diverse as Hitler’s Germany. They have high unemployment rates, high teenage pregnancies, and high drug use. The result is an increase in white trash getting high and procreating.

This sounds like the Hicks in South Carolina or Alabama. It’s not far off.

In the eyes of the Stoke, Blackburn and Hull fans, clubs like Arsenal represent everthing that they are not and never will be: ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan, urban, modern, properous and foreign. The last point is important. If you support a team like Hull, then you have to accept that your team is never going to win anything – unless it’s a promotion play-off.

In fact, supporters of teams like Stoke and Hull will endure more disappointment than success. Every season they face a battle to stay in the Premiership. Eventually, however, they will go down and disappear like Bradford City. It’s the reason why their supporters take a bigger interest in the English national team than any of the fans from the top four clubs. Supporting England gives them a superiority complex that Hull or Stoke never can. Success is far more likely to be achieved with England than any Wigan or Blackburn.

So when a club like Arsenal employ mainly foreign players and coaches, supporters from clubs like Stoke are resentful. After all, Arsenal are an English club, yet contribute nothing to the English national team.

But this xenophobia isn’t just related to certain English fans, it’s widespread among English coaches. Fabio Cappello and Sven Goran Eriksson are secretly despised by English coaches like Sam Allardyce. In the eyes of Allardyce, the England job should be for an Englishman not a foreigner. England is the home of football and beer. Italy is the home of pasta and opera.

So why is Arsenal the target for this English xenophobia and not say Chelsea, a fellow London club that has a foreign owner, coach and just as many foreign players?

The answer: Arsene Wenger.

Wenger epitomizes everything that coaches like Alladyce are not: sophistication, style, multi-linguist, international and educated. Wenger was the first foreign Premiership manager. He revolutionized English football with sports science, continental coaching methods, diets, communication, training facilities and foreign players. Because of Wenger, Arsenal will always be the founder of change in the way Premiership clubs, think, act and play. But not everyone likes change.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan says he will never appoint a foreign manager. He hates the foreign influence on the Premiership, stating that it has brought an increase in diving. However, the biggest xenophobes are the managers at clubs like Stoke. Tony Pullis thinks that his coaching methods are just as good as fellow foreign managers.

Pullis has never coached or studied abroad. His experience is with lower league teams like Bristol Rovers. He has never coached a team that has played in any European competition, only English teams that fight relegation. He knows that he will never coach a top four club. Those jobs rarely come around and when they do, they go to foreign coaches. That fact hurts him.

So when Arsenal play teams like Bolton, Blackburn, Stoke, or Hull there are certain factors you have to remember. They employ managers like Phil Brown, who like to play traditional English football – long ball, in-your-face, no time to settle, kick and rush. They pick big, burly, physical players like Ryan Shawcross to score goals from set-pieces or crosses. They play for a draw, stating that they are fighting relegation even though it’s September.

All of their managers are English, born and raised in these small, white, northern hick towns.

They hate Arsene Wenger. It’s why they try so hard to beat Arsenal more than any other club.

Wenger represents everything they know they can never be or will be. Wenger represents change. He is a pioneer. He is Arsenal. Without him Arsenal are nothing.

The Negatives need to remember that.

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How Do You Measure Progress?

Progress, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is:

• an expedition, journey, or march through a region
• a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal) : advance
• gradual betterment ; especially : the progressive development of humankind
• in progress : going on : occuring

However the word is interpreted there seems to be a divide between the forward-looking Arsenal supporter who understands that great teams are not built over night and the one who feels the club must win at all cost. The Wenger model that I often speak about is a work in progress. The ‘win now’ types neglect the fact that a sustainable plan is an absolute must. They long for big money buys in the transfer market, popular star names, and to be like Chelsea and United – successful even if with a precarious plan. Success is not just in winning a trophy now but in building a base for multiple titles.

The weight of fan expectation and Arsenal’s own success (under Wenger) have helped undermine the current project. Add the strength of the other “big four” clubs and it is understandable that fans are frustrated. The forward motion and development of the club are clear to see but fans only care about trophies. At least the short-sided ones do. The balanced view of a supporter accepts that it is a journey we’ve embarked on.

While the signs of progress are evident i.e. CL football next term yet again, reaching the last four in Europe without our best team/players, the healthy financial figures that Emirates Stadium was built for, we can and will do better. There was joy and laughter under the bright sunshine yesterday as we defeated Stoke rather easily but it only served to remind us that we went missing or just couldn’t get it done in matches when it mattered most. Timely goals were an issue in 2007-08 and remained so this term. Suggestions that the manager should leave elevated the matter to crisis proportions yet if you listen carefully to what he says, you will feel that he’s not leaving Arsenal. In past seasons when we’ve won, his remarks about contract negotiations and his future in general have been far more cryptic and non-committal. This time around he has said enough to clearly suggest that he will not leave the job. He’s been far more open. Maybe due to the obvious need to get things right or just that (as I believe) this is the only club for him. Regardless, there’s room for major improvement even if not via major changes to the squad.

And he knows it.

My measure for progress next term will be if our season is extended to this month’s two remaining finals – CL and FA Cup – and obviously by winning the damn league.