ARSENAL CIRCULAR 170
We need a break from the Wenger IN Wenger OUT. The arguments have been well rehearsed and repeated and I have made my own views clear on Twitter @arsenalcircular so I thought it useful to reflect on past highs and lows and how they were handled.
But “context is everything”. Today times are so different. In 1953-54 the beginning of our 17 Years In The Doldrums there was only one match on TV – the Cup Final. Eventually England v Scotland as well but that was it. It made the Cup Final such a special event. We all knew the tubby man in the white suit who stirred us to conclude the pre-match Sing-In with Abide With Me. TV coverage began early in the day with recordings of past Finals, then a visit to the two teams who stayed in the Brent Bridge close to the North Circular or the Hendon Hall on the A1. Then live film of the fans gathering with scarves and rattles and rosettes and gradually the atmosphere began to develop. But there were no First Division games at all and if you wanted to see Cup Ties you could go to the local Odeon/Gaumont and catch snatches of black and white film of replays.
So no matches on TV. Radio?. No local radio. No Grandstand on TV. No goal by goal updates. In fact most matches ended at 4.40 and there was a Jazz Interlude before Eamon Andrews with Leonard Martin and James Alexander Gordon gave us the football results. The intonation of the announcer meant that you knew when he had announced the score for the home team whether the result was a home win, a draw or an away win. You could tell.
But I digress – 1953-54 was beginning of 17 years of non-achievement – 12th, 9th, 5th, 5th, 12th, 3rd (George Swindin’s first season as manager), 13th, 11th, 10th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 7th, 9th, 4th, 12th, and then 1st in 1970-71. There were a few moans and Billy Wright caught some flak in 1966 but just two top four positions in 17 years. No phone-ins. No tweets. No social media. No TV coverage until Match of the Day in 1964. All quite different from today.
Managers took some criticism but even in those days the newspapers were more sedate. Murdoch bought the Daily Herald around 1964 but it was quite a few years until “Fan Fury” type headlines first made an appearance. We had had a great 1930’s and after the WW2 we won the First Division title in 1948 and 1953 with an FA Cup win in 1950 but then the barren years, the grey years, the anonymous years.
Ticket prices are higher today. Bovril and a Hot Dog was a modest cost and we were all more local than today so cost of travel was less. But they were years of nil achievement. Eventually things turned around. Bertie Mee whose appointment was greeted with derision turned us into Cup Winners and League Champions and then Neill and Howe until George G arrived in 1986 and restored our spirits. But during this barren period there were no banners, no case of managers getting roughed up at train stations or protest marches to the ground. So as I said before there was some frustration with Billy Wright but football was changing. Tribal loyalties had come into play and fan violence inside and outside grounds was increasing.
Actually a comparison of performance, league positions, fan responses means little because so much has changed. Whether its Sky, tv coverage, Fancy Dan wages for top players or whatever football is so different. Now the media play with our heads; they stoke up resentments; stir a crisis into a confrontation and fans have become more belligerent. Fired by paying higher prices and seeing inadequate achievement intolerance and anger has taken centre stage. So be it.
We still want to win every match and try for a Top Four place. We have a semi-final tomorrow week and we have to await developments on the pitch and in the Boardroom. People know I stand behind Wenger and I have made my position clear but the key thing is to get behind the players. They may be high earners but I sense they are intimidated by the animosity. You can boo or you can cheer. Boo and the players’ frail confidence – regardless of what they earn – will be further damaged. Cheer them on and things could go our way. We all have to make our individual decisions but hoping we lose in the belief it will chase Wenger out of Arsenal is misplaced.
Still – each to their own.
Further reading: A fantastic article exploring the history of football on TV [Editor]