The Day Arsenal Don't Need You

The condensation from the air conditioning tediously dripped onto my head, cramped leg room had my knees aching, and staring at the traffic passing through the rain on the bleak M1 might have been enough for many football fans to think, why do we do it? I had lost patience folding, halving and trying to read my scrunched newspaper, so there was enough time to consider why I was sitting in the cheapest coach available for hire? Well, the 50 or so travelling fans had paid for it, and most likely this was all that could be afforded. Despite the threat of Deep vein thrombosis, the comforting feeling was knowing that it was the fans coach, the fans team, and most importantly, this was the fans club.
The Dagenham & Redbridge away supporters coach had a pirate copy of Inception for entertainment, or ‘Interceptor’ as the club’s lovely travel organiser Joan kept calling it. When Ellen Page turned the world upside down in one of her dreams, the Mensa section of the coach pointed out that “the bleedin’ street’s the wrong way up and no tiles or cars are even fallin’ off”. Not only did Dagenham Dave hold the right to question Christopher Nolan’s insolence towards gravity, but he also holds the same right to question the club if so wishes. After all, it is his. To Dagenham, gate money is the most important source of income, and without it, the “pub team from Essex” tag sung by the fans on match days might actually become a reality.
How do Arsenal compare? In many ways they can’t. While Fly Emirates brings in millions of pounds for Arsenal, Dagenham have to wait until some pie ‘n’ mash eating old gal dies before profiting from sponsors West & Coe Funeral Directors. Arsenal though has always professed a loyalty to spend by their primary means before anything else, which Arsene Wenger sees as gate money and merchandising. Of course this is not on the same meagre scale as Dagenham, but given what is around them and the temptation to dip into coffers (not that of ticket sales and kit sales) Arsenal do a good job.
The point is that sometimes Arsenal’s lack of investment in new players makes you want to punch walls, yet we should still take pride in knowing that the money the club does spend is that of the fans. Be satisfied knowing that Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny were funded by you and not the petro-dollars of somebody like Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who, if we’re being truthful, does not need the Manchester City fans to keep his club running. Put bluntly, City do not rely on the people taking up seats every match-day, and if nobody came to watch, well the club could continue spending in different ways and probably wouldn’t worry about sales being down on half-time Bovrils. The same goes for all the other freeloaders of the Premiership.
Arriving at Hillsborough on Saturday to the customary two finger salute aimed at the Dagenham fans coach put things into perspective. Through graft, The Daggers have climbed to League One from being in the second tier of Non-League football just 10 years ago, when I might add Sheffield Wednesday were a Premier League side. The Owls chants of “WORST SUPPORT WE’VE EVER SEEN” didn’t matter to Dagenham’s 400 travelling faithful because this was their club, and it was their die-hard support over the years that had given them the day out, police escorts and all. Greetings of ‘up yours’ hardly mattered. “WE PAY YOUR BENEFITS” they chanted back.
Arsenal fans are not afraid of mixing it with the big boys or seeing the club throw money at players if they are good enough. It’s concerning that the season starts this weekend and we haven’t addressed the frailties of the goalkeeper situation or invested in another centre-back, an area Arsenal are thread-bare, given how they enjoy to incur injuries in all the key positions. At the same time, scepticism surrounds the actions of American shareholder Stan Kroenke. The thought of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov getting his chubby fingers on the control switch makes the red half of north London shudder. Arsenal fans want success, but they want to achieve it with dignity.
So for those travelling to Liverpool on Sunday grumbling about condition of the squad, know that at least it is your squad. If they lose, and if Arsenal still can’t win a trophy this season (fancy some free bets on that happening?) at least it is your club who is losing. Surely that’s better than not being needed at all? Dagenham and Arsenal are worlds apart, but there was a common theme they shared as English football kicked-off last weekend: knowing as a fan you’re important to the cause.
Our hosts on Sunday can hardly say the same given the current situation at Anfield. The Kop was forgotten by two American owners completely out for themselves and the risk of a similar benefactor taking over remians. Ownership and fan share have been the theme on Arsenalinsider these past two days, and so I’ll add this: Winning and losing football matches, bagging cups and medals is irrelevant, when, the day you’re not even needed as a football fan rolls around.

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