The Farewell and The Future

The farewell is only to one thing: The 2008-2009 Premier League Season.

I won’t get into a season review just yet, but I’ve reached a point where I myself need a break from football. Just for a few weeks of course, and the summer comes at a good time. I’ve been mentally drained, but I’m optimistic (not blindly) about where this team is headed.

Tomorrow, we play Stoke City. They have managed to solidly confirm their place in the Premier League next year. They’ve basically decided to take a Pass/Fail grade on their campaign, and that’s what they’ve achieved, a Pass grade. They beat us at the Britannia, and so we do have some motivation there if we needed. That’s relatively minor to the real emotion I expect to see from the fans tomorrow.

Our last home game of the season must be a platform for our fans to support both our manager and our players. In the past two weeks, the papers have been slaughtering our fans (quite rightly, if you ask me). That’s not to say there aren’t amazing Arsenal fans, because there clearly are. But it’s been well deserved, and like players and managers who are challenged throughout the year, we have been challenged as a group. I’ve rarely seen fans be the subject of such talk, and frankly I’m glad there’s some criticism leveled straight at our fans. It is up to us to show them that we don’t deserve these labels.

So, it is on the fans at the Emirates to show Arsene how much he is appreciated. The chants will be deafening, and he will chalk up a huge smile before going to work on the next season. Let’s give the players some deserved applause. I’m not going to single any of them out, but we’ve gone through a lot of adversity this season.

Meanwhile, last night at the Emirates, the Future was on display once again. There were 33,000 fans in attendance. I think it should have been a sold out crowd, considering that tickets were only 5 pounds and it was a Friday night. Regardless, our youth team showed once again why they are ace. Afterwards, Jack Wilshere said, “I think any of us can break into the first team because we are all that good.” This squad has played together for years. They have heart, they have drive, they have the talent, and they have a bright future. And for the people who say it’s just another trophyless season, well on Tuesday, that may no longer be correct.

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The Lessons of Leeds United and Fiorentina

When a powerful club disintegrates, the result is usually conflict, consecutive relegations, or even administration. Top international players are sold, season ticket sales dramatically fall, and transfer funds suddenly disappear.

A case example is Leeds United. Champions of England three times, runners-up five times, European Cup finalists in 1975 and Champions League semi-finalists in 2001. Leeds have more accolades and honors that I haven’t mentioned, but who cares about a club that went into administration in 2007 and were relegated to Division One. No one.

Football is a business and thus holds little sympathy for clubs who are poorly managed.

There are other clubs like Leeds of course. Back to back European Cup winners Nottingham Forest are the only European Cup winners to have been relegated to the third tier of English football. In three seasons, 1984, 1985, and 1986, three times English champions Wolves were relegated from the First to the Fourth Division. Wolves were bankrupt, with very low attendances and three sides of their decaying stadium condemned. This was a result of the club being sucked dry by the infamous owners the Bhatti brothers.

The message is clear. The most important factor for any club is how it is managed off the pitch. In June 2002, Italian club Fiorentina ceased to exist. They had accumulated debts of $50 million, were relegated to Serie B, and went into judicially controlled administration. This resulted in Fiorentina being refused a place in Serie B for the start of the 2002/03 season and they were forced to close.

No fan wants their club to be a Leeds or a Fiorentina. But the reality is that more clubs will follow their path.

Arsenal will not be one of them. That’s because they’re one of the best financially run clubs in the world.

However, The Negatives think otherwise. They claim that Wenger should spend more. Myles Palmer claims that for an extra 200,000 pounds Arsenal could have bought Alonso from Liverpool. These people are like men who can’t be bothered to wear a condom on a one night stand. They want the short-term glory. The FA Cup, another shag to their list, a major signing or a hot dumb bimbo for the night. Their short-term glory is debt, high interest loans, an STD, or baby that they never want to see.

Arsenal fans are in a civil war. You are either with us “The Wenger Knows Brigade” or you are with “The Negatives.”

The Negatives don’t have a long-term plan. They would like an all English Arsenal team, but are incensed when Wenger doesn’t buy the Spanish midfielder Alonso. They hate Wenger for promoting youth, yet they will be proudly watching Arsenal academy players in the FA Youth final tomorrow. They want Wenger out but have no idea about a replacement or the chaos that his departure would bring.

Some people think that hooliganism is dying. Take me to Nevada Smiths on a day when I have lost my house, job, wife and car. Show me a Negative and you will see if hooliganism is dead.

We are after all in a midst of a recession, so that day may not be far off.

REDaction Takes Action

End of Season Finale

In light of recent press coverage saying that the majority of Arsenal fans want Arsene Wenger kicked out of the club, we’ve decided to lead a march of solidarity in support of Mr Wenger. We want to send the message out to the press that the concensus among fans is not only that he should stay but also that he’s one of the few managers in the football league that’s earned the right to walk away. To think of Arsene Wenger being fired by the board is sickening yet it seems that this view has turned from a minority opinion to what we all want (thanks to the press following the shareholders’ meeting).

If you want to join us in a march of solidarity for Arsene Wenger and show the world that not only are we grateful for what he’s done for us but also that we have faith in him, please join us for a special march from The Rocket at 3:15pm before the Stoke kick off. If you don’t drink at The Rocket, no problem! We’ll be congregating around the roundabout in front of the Armoury (aka The Bear roundabout) at 3:30pm to sing songs in support of our gaffer, Le Boss.

The above is taken directly from the REDaction website – http://www.redaction.org.uk/front.html.

I cannot think of a place I’d rather be more than at The Rocket at 3:15pm GMT (+1) on Saturday.

Gutted to Tears Pt. II

It’s been four days since United were crowned EPL Champions. I’ve rebounded fairly well from the trauma of watching The Red Scum add another title to their collection. I remember a mate saying that he couldn’t understand why Taggart was bringing Giggs into the game. It’s simple, Giggs hates Arsenal so much that he had to be part of the affair. He more than any other United player represents the hatred between our clubs. Believe me, it’s mutual.

He’s the new Teddy Sheringham.

My mate couldn’t stomach that United continued to go forward in the 80th minute. I told him to accept it. It’s their right to do so.

These things have a way of leveling themselves. Sometimes cruelly.

What annoyed me most is how fearless they’ve been against us. We were determined Saturday but in the two previous (CL) games we were tame. No drive! That must be addressed.

Playing against United is as serious as it gets.

Could this new detente between Taggart and Arsene be diluting the acrimony between the two clubs? Are we witnessing a thawing of relations? Funk that! I don’t want to be friends with United. I don’t want to share warm moments with Giggs, Neville, Anderson, Ronaldo, Evra, etc. not one of them.

I hope Barcelona thrash them. Fock this England vs. Spain tripe people are spewing. It’s good vs. evil as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s to a blaugrana fiesta. United can stick their title up their bum 18 times.

Arsenal

A Defense From Another

Amen.

But it only takes one look at the first comment made by a reader to indicate just how delusional people can be.

Jack Hobbs

In the summer of 2005, Liverpool and Arsenal were in a tug of war over Jack Hobbs, a 16 year old English defender who played for Lincoln City. Hobbs had just become the youngest player to represent Lincoln, when he played three minutes as a substitute in a League Two match against Bristol Rovers.

Shortly after his debut, Hobbs agreed a development contract with Liam Brady, Arsenal’s Academy Director, as clubs cannot sign players on professional contracts until they are 17. However, the deal was never completed because Arsenal refused to accept a sell-on clause demanded by Lincoln as part of the six figure compensation package.

Hobbs instead signed for Liverpool in a transfer reported to be in the region of 400,000 – 750,000 pounds.

Hobbs had a good start to his Liverpool career. He was made captain of the reserves and was a member of Liverpool’s 2006 FA Youth cup winning team. However, he only made five appearences for the 1st team, three of which were as a substitute. After mixed reviews, he was loaned out to Scunthorpe where he only made nine appearences in the 2007-08 season.

Last July, Liverpool loaned Hobbs out to then League One side Leicester City, eventually selling him to The Foxes for an undisclosed fee. As part of the transfer, Lincoln gained 200,000 pounds due to the 25% sell-on clause from their deal with Liverpool.

Hobbs made the PFA League One Team of the Year, while on loan at Leicester, an accolade that Arsenal striker Jay Simpson won when he was on loan at Millwall last season. It’s an important award for the player when his agent is negotiating a new contract. For the selling club, like Liverpool, the award is useful when negotiating a transfer fee and this is my main point.

Players like Jack Hobbs are signed for two reasons:

1) They could turn out to be the next John Terry; or
2) If not, you can then sell them and make a profit.

Jay Simpson probably will not make it at Arsenal but the Gunners will make a profit if they decide to sell him. That money will then be reinvested into Arsenal’s academy and scouting network.

The buying and selling of very young players is a good source of income for the top clubs. Arsenal have sold Jeremie Aliadiere, David Bentley, Mathew Upson, Justin Hoyte for million pound sales. While, Manchester United have sold Kieran Richardson, Nicky Butt, Jonathan Spector, and Giuseppe Rossi for similar amounts. Chelsea have sold zero.

Arsenal’s forte has always been to buy young players (Vieira, Song, Toure, Ramsey, Walcott) or to pry youth players (Fabregas, Anelka, Djourou, Bendtner) from other clubs around the world. Jack Wilshire and Kieran Gibbs are the first home grown players that Arsenal have produced since Ashley Cole made his debut in 1999.

The emergence of home grown English players is not a volte-face by Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager has always stated that he would love to promote English players from the academy to the first team. English players are more likely to stay with the club and ignore the lure of more money from the top clubs abroad.

English capped players traditionally do not like moving abroad. They have a hit and miss record at foreign clubs. For every success abroad, like Kevin Keegan, David Beckham, Glen Hoddle, Chris Waddle or Ray Wilkins, there are numerous failures: Michael Owen, Ian Rush, Luther Blisset, Des Walker, Jimmy Greaves and Paul Gascoigne.

But Arsenal is not an English club. It’s a continental club that represents London that’s why players like Toure and Eduardo like playing for Arsenal. It’s why London born players fit in so well because they have grown up in a cosmopolitan culture. Northern English players like Francis Jeffers have not and thus fail at clubs like Arsenal.

Do you think that Wayne Rooney would fit in at Barcelona? Hell no.

Yes it’s true, players like Steve Bould and Lee Dixon are northerners and they were a success at Arsenal. However, they were signed in a bygone era. The late 1980’s were totally different and more English than today. It was pre-Premiership, pre-SKY, pre-Champions League, pre-Bosman etc. English clubs were still banned from European football when Dixon and Bould joined Arsenal. Comparing George Graham’s era to the Wenger era is like comparing security at airports to that of pre 9-11 and post 9-11.

Northern English players, in general, do not fare well at Arsenal.

Jack Hobbs would have been a failure at Arsenal.

Back in the summer of 2005, The Negatives moaned about Wenger’s failure to sign Hobbs. A missed opportunity they cried. I say two things:

They’d never heard of Jack Hobbs before Arsenal’s interest in him. Instead, they jumped on the media bandwagon denouncing Wenger for not signing English players.

Now they want to replace Wenger because this season was another year without winning the FA cup or Carling Cup – sorry I meant Premiership and Champions League.

Replace Wenger with who? With an English manager? Tony Adams? Alan Curbishley? Steve McClaren?

Your havin’ a laugh!

Gutted to Tears Pt. 1

The seconds ticked away agonizingly. United fans sang louder and louder. We played a good game but it wasn’t good enough – the common theme to many people for this season. We crossed into injury time. I was still hopeful of snatching it. I wanted to ruin their day if not their season.

It wasn’t meant to be.

I watched the screen with no more hatred than usual for either Taggart or United fans. I had Arsenal on my mind. I have Arsenal on my mind. Arsenal is always on my mind.

For a moment I felt numb. Save the liquid emotion welling up in my eyes, I was a statue of flesh, bone, blood, and anguish. Making my way out of the pub was nothing short of painful. They rejoiced. I receded.

The only solace I have today is that millions of United supporters are battling massive hangovers as I type. But as stated previously, I have Arsenal to think about. My club is paramount.

On my way home I saw a familiar face in an Arsenal top. He looked down and was looking down and I felt down. I shouted to him to keep his head up, that we’ll be back next season. We’ll be back more determined, hungrier, wiser, better equipped, fitter, stronger, more focused. Another difficult season ends but let’s be clear, we have a group of young players who will improve. People forget that not winning when you’re young doesn’t mean that you are shit and will never do. It means that you perhaps haven’t mastered your craft or that someone else is better at the moment.

Arsenal