Imagine it’s the first home game of the season and, as the Arsenal players emerge from the tunnel wearing the world’s best football kit, all the camera lenses are trained on one man.
That man is Robin van Persie – our “want-away Dutchman” who stayed after all. He may even be wearing the captain’s armband.
How will you react?
I know the writing appears to be on the wall regarding van Persie’s departure, but graffiti is temporary by nature and there is still time to change the script.
Perhaps an extra £20k a week, or an extra year on the contract extension, or the signing of his countryman Ibrahim Affelay or a combination of all three will have swayed Robin’s heart (or at least his wallet).
Or perhaps Arsenal’s management – the nine stone weakling of the transfer market – will have magically transformed into the bully who kicks sand in people’s faces and forced RvP to honour his final year, with no pay rise and the loss of the captaincy.
Either way, it raises a question that every Arsenal supporter will need to consider: do I give van Persie the unquestioned support I gave him previously? Do I refuse to applaud him and leave it at that? Do I boo his traitorous, greedy arse?
One thing is clear: if he stays things won’t be the way they were before.
Our relationship will be like a marriage where one party has had an affair and then returned to the marital home.
You can make it work, you can resume the semblance of normality, but really something magical has gone and will never be replaced. Maybe it’s trust, maybe it’s love, but it has gone.
The different potential scenarios surrounding Robin’s non-departure obviously have a bearing on how supporters would react to him.
The more positive option is relatively straightforward:
If he signs a three/four year extension and apologises for his silly comment about the direction of the club (he could say he was down in the dumps after Holland’s woeful showing at the Euros) I suspect most people will welcome him back with open arms despite the sense of having been betrayed.
The choruses of “he scores when he wants” may be sung with a bit less gusto, but if the goals start going in the volume will increase and, in time, his sins will be forgiven. Or at least forgotten. It worked for the granny botherer at Old Trafford after his flirtation with a move to Middle Eastlands.
But if Robin is made to stay against his will (or reluctantly agrees to see out his final year), what then?
Football support is an emotional business and we, the fans, are invariably the ones whose hearts get bruised.
So the temptation will be to let a Reluctant Robin know how we feel about his treachery – perhaps by booing him, by just not cheering him or not “showing the love”.
For me, despite the hurt feelings, it’s all quite simple. If he is wearing the Arsenal colours and is trying his best then he gets my support.
Not just because booing your own players is counter-productive (it will hardly motivate them to play better, it’s an encouragement to the opposition and provides even more fuel to the spiteful Arsenal haters among the national media).
But because it’s the mature thing to do.
Much as we would like the players to share our passion and our one-love faithfulness to the Arsenal, the fact is they don’t.
Hardly any of the current first team squad grew up as Arsenal supporters. Most didn’t even grow up in the UK, let alone the hallowed ground of N5. They are professionals who may form a fond attachment to their employers, but whose ultimate loyalty is to themselves.
They are well-paid freelancers who can take their skills elsewhere when they are out of contract and a better offer (or what they perceive to be a better offer) comes along.
To expect different is to hanker after a bygone age when footballers were part of the fabric of their community. And even in those days it was hardly unheard of for players to move on for cash or glory (Liam Brady was only 24 when he decamped for Italy).
We may be disappointed when a valued player decides to leave, we may feel they are ungrateful to the club, the manager and the fans. But they are just exercising their rights as an employee.
They are not us and we are not them. They can transfer their loyalties, we can’t and, probably, we should not expect them to. To accept this state of affairs is to find peace in the maelstrom of affection, betrayal and disappointment.
If Robin takes the field in an Arsenal shirt again he will get my 100% support – and he should get yours too.