Probably the most important move of Arsenal’s recent transfer window was the ejection of Ruth – Arsenal’s longest-serving player, signed during the timid Autumn of the Gazidis-Wenger reign.
Ruth was on a fat, comfortable salary, somehow always first on the team-sheet sub-list, despite not living up to expectations. Ruth was happy to swap shirts with opposing players. On the pitch. Before half-time. A social media wizard, popular with the fans who celebrated every 4th-Place Trophy, Ruth quickly became representative of the modern Arsenal player: talented – sure – but easily bossed, singled out by opposition defenders, scorned by cundits for being lightweight, never delivering in “big games”.
Ruth was good. But not good enough to be great. A cruiser, a coaster. An almoster.
Ruth wasn’t just a player, though. Ruth negotiated contracts and transfers, guided by the motto “If Anyone Can Do It, Then Ruth Possibly Can Too.”
For a long time, Ruth took credit for signings that were – essentially – fortuitous. Big name players made redundant by transfer activity between actual Champion Clubs. Ruth was the mongrel under the King’s table, who occasionally nabbed a dropped treat and scurried off to enjoy it in the corner before it was reclaimed by the big dogs.
Don’t blame Ruth, though.
Ruth was an employee. Employee Of The Decade, actually. Delivering the exact, bland, greige, comfortable numbers that Arsenal’s owners demanded. Ruth was like the perfect TV babysitter – keeping the infant mind-numbingly happy while the parents could focus on bigger things. Ruth was Prozac. Ruth was Valium.
Ruth made everything OK. Just. OK.
And then came Arteta, with his eagle-eyes, his silky tongue and his otter hair…
People wondered if a virgin manager – barely older than the star player with whom he’d shared the pitch – would be able to rescue such a ‘big’ club from what looked like an unrecoverable nosedive into obscurity.
The first thing he did was lay down the law. He decreed a list of Non-Negotiables, and then set about enforcing it. It was basically The Arsenal Way or the highway. No one, no thing, was bigger than the club. End. Of.
So, when Ruth stepped out of line he was sent to train with the U-23s. When Ruth’s arrogance spilled onto the pitch, Ruth got Delilah-ed. When Ruth’s social media machine started nipping at the Club’s heels, Ruth got side-lined, left-behind. Sent packing.
Now Ruth’s contract is up. Ruth is gone.
And the new Ruth-less Arsenal – with the help of their seemingly re-invested owners – can finally start doing what Actual Big Clubs do: take what they want, from who they want, when they want – and start competing for Proper Prizes.
Let’s hope Ruth never comes back, the insidious, romplacent little runt.
I was eleven-and-a-half. My family had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa. All the kids on my street supported United or Liverpool, because of their Southern African goalkeeper connections: Bailey for United and Grobbelaar for ‘Pool. Problem was: I didn’t like the colour red – so when FA Cup Final day came around in 1979, I supported the team in yellow, even though their name sounded like “Asshole”. At the final whistle, I had bragging rights and a team that had won my heart.
Then I discovered that the Gunners also wore red. Luckily, I remained loyal, and the Arsenal has kicked my heart around ever since… (apart from a few lost years in the ’90s and early ’00s, when I was busy doing grownup things as a composer in Hollywood).
Abandoned invinciblog.com to launch this site with 1 Nil Down 2 One Up blogfather Dave Seager – and we have used this platform to help launch the writing careers of a number of amazing Arsenal bloggers.