I remember the day we beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to earn our place in the 1979 FA Cup Final.
As an impoverished student at the time (well, alright, I’d spent my grant on alcohol) I couldn’t afford to go to the semi final at Villa Park and had to rely on radio coverage. Goals from Alan Sunderland and Frank Stapleton were enough to get us to Wembley.
When the radio commentator said the final whistle had gone I was a walking bundle of clichés: over the moon, cock-a-hoop, on cloud nine, walking on air, happy as Larry when Larry has just won the lottery and landed a date with Joanna Lumley (it was the 1970s, remember)…
But my reaction wasn’t unusual. Every single Arsenal supporter – and I really mean EVERY Arsenal supporter – was absolutely thrilled that we had made it to the Cup Final.
In those days before email and mobile phones we called each other up, met in pubs to celebrate and generally annoyed the hell out of anyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to be a Gunner.
The fact that we had beaten lowly, relegation-battling Wolves to get to the final didn’t come into it. Nor that our league form that season was average at best (we ended up finishing seventh).
The point was, we had landed a big day out at Wembley and the chance to claim silverware and glory.
The only emotion throughout N5 and the Arsenal supporting world was one of joy.
You can probably see where I am going with this.
After the drama of our penalty shoot-out victory over Wigan on Saturday most of the Arsenal community shared a similar feeling of joy.
But a significant minority of people who call themselves Arsenal fans were not delighted. In fact they were as undelighted as a man who inadvertently steps in doggie doodoo… only to realise he forgot to put on his shoes and socks that morning.
They grudgingly acknowledged that it was a good thing to be in the FA Cup final, but what they really wanted to talk about was the fact that (a) our performance in the semi final had been awful or (b) it was “only Wigan” and we should have rolled over them without a problem or (c) that the FA Cup isn’t really a “top rank” trophy like the league title or the European Champions League or (d) “it’s a disaster because now it means Wenger will probably stay”.
Without getting into the merits of points A, B, C and D, surely what is important is that we have a Cup Final to look forward to and a real chance to win our first trophy for nine years?
How anyone who self-identifies as an Arsenal supporter cannot find joy in that fact is completely and utterly beyond me.
But it may not be beyond the explanation of psychology.
Joylessness is a recognised indicator and symptom of depression. It literally means the inability to experience joy in situations where you would normally expect to do so.
For example, someone who normally loves beautiful scenery would, when in a joyless state, be left completely unmoved by a particularly stunning vista. Their mind may even tell them that it is a stunning vista and that they should be feeling overjoyed to look on it, but their soul is not touched by that joy.
Even people suffering from mild depression will often experience the phenomenon.
The sad conclusion of this train of thought is that a section of the Arsenal fan base is clinically depressed. They have become so accustomed to negative thought patterns that when something unequivocally positive happens they just can’t feel it.
The rest of us should not be angry with them: we should feel sorry for them.
Fortunately, there are some very well proven treatments for mild depression. They include exercise, eating whole grain food and meditating. So if you know a fellow fan who has been sullen and unresponsive since we defeated Wigan, why don’t you suggest they do the following: put on a pair of trainers; jog to Greggs; buy a whole grain sandwich; silently contemplate it for twenty minutes; then scoff it.
I guarantee if they do all of the above, before the last bite has slipped down their gullet they’ll leap into the air and break into a rendition of: “Wemberley, Wemberley, we’re the famous Arsenal and we’re going to Wemberley…”
And if that doesn’t work, just give them a hug.
* Despite missing out on the 1979 semi-final, I managed to get to Wembley for the final against Manchester United thanks to a United supporting friend from Dublin. It was the Liam Brady final and it produced memories I treasure to this day. Now we have another chance for more great Cup Final memories. How can anyone not be excited by that?