More Rocky – with slightly amended dates but with no removal of references to Lord Bendtner, catastrophic displays against Burnley and his pink boots! Enjoy.
One thing a new season should bring with it is a clean slate. Before a single player – sorry, ball – has been kicked in the 2018/19 season, every squad member can be a potential hero, every new signing can be the final piece of the jigsaw, every limb and sinew can be strong enough to last a whole campaign without breaking down.
And in that spirit of optimism, I want to humbly make a proposition to the players who will wear our beautiful red and white next year.
Like all supporters, I have strong views about the relative merits of our squad, about who should play where and how they should play, but I do not presume to usurp the role of the manager and coaches. That’s their job. My job is to be a supporter, and it’s in that context that I want to make my proposal:
“Dear Arsenal Players
As representatives of Arsenal FC you are the inheritors of a long and splendid tradition and every time you walk onto the pitch you carry with you the hopes and dreams of a vast community of supporters, from small children to centenarians.
But whether you were scooped up by our scouting network straight from the creche, or whether you are newly arrived among us in a whirlwind of press frenzy and feverish expectation, you need to know about The Rules.
Not just any rules, but The Seven Rules of Being an Arsenal Player.
The Rules were once known by heart by every Arsenal player and they hung on the wall of the home dressing room at Highbury in a metal frame made out of old shell casings from the Woolwich Arsenal.
Somehow, during the move from Highbury to Ashburton Grove The Rules went astray. There are various rumours about what happened to them: that they were lifted by George Graham when he popped in for ‘one last look’ at the old place; that a Sp*ds supporting construction worker grabbed them with the intention of taking them as a trophy to N17, only to find that he couldn’t part with them and now keeps them in a shrine at his smelly one-bedroom flat in T*ttenham where at nights, on his own, he secretly dresses in red and white and watches old videos of the 1971 and 1989 seasons; there’s even a story that a spectral Herbert Chapman took them into the ether with him, ready to return when we are at our most daunted and our enemies are crowding all around.
Whatever the truth we can only hope the original document will one day be found again. But for the time being, you players ought to know what was written on it: a list of Rules based on your responsibilities as players to us, the fans. Here they are:
1. Always Salute the Travelling Support
When we lost at Blackburn in the penultimate game of the 2009/10 season, I heard that only two of our players went over to show their appreciation to the thousands of fans who had made that Godawful journey to the arse end of nowhere on a Bank Holiday Monday. If true, that’s a disgrace. Most supporters earn less in a year than you earn in a week and they forego holidays, new cars and all manner of comforts to support Arsenal. Even if we have lost, even if we have performed dreadfully, there is no excuse for not saluting the travelling fans at the end of a game.
2. Always Salute the Home Support
I know it sounds obvious, but the home fans also deserve your appreciation. I have been at many games at the Grove where the result or performance has not been as we would have wished and half of you have trudged down the tunnel without even a backward glance at the supporters. You may be feeling disappointed, or even embarrassed at your own performance, but believe me, we will still appreciate it if you face us and acknowledge our support. You will be applauded off no matter how badly you have played.
3. Keep Your Agent Under Control
Agents are an unwanted but apparently necessary evil of the modern game. If you have to have one, try and remember that they work for you. So even if you are looking to move away from our beloved club, you should do so in private and not in public. Allowing your agent to tart you around Europe via the back pages of the red tops like some old slapper shows no respect for us, the fans, or your team mates who may be adversely affected by the publicity.
4. Play Up, Play Up for the Arsenal
We understand that your fortunes on the field will vary, that some days it won’t go for you, that you’ll be carrying an injury or you’ll be struggling in an unfamiliar position or your touch will have mysteriously vanished. That’s OK. We also know that on other days you’ll be a world beater and we sincerely hope there will be more of those ones. But what we can’t forgive is NOT TRYING. Even if you’re having the biggest stinker of a game of your career, we’ll forgive you if you are trying your hardest. Just look at how we applauded Nicki Bendtner during his performance against Burnley, when he missed seven open goals. We didn’t mind because we knew he was still trying and not hiding.
5. Respect the Club and Its Traditions
Do not give interviews saying that one day you might like to play at a ‘bigger’ club: you are already at the world’s biggest club. Do not kiss the badge then angle for a move elsewhere. When you refer to the club in public, refer to it as The Arsenal: that will immediately tell us fans that you know and respect our traditions. If you happen to leave, always speak respectfully of your former home (for evidence of how to do this, look to the words of Henry, Pires, Bergkamp). Do that and you will always be welcomed back.
6. Know That The Club Is Bigger Than You
We live in a footballing age of colossal wages and colossal egos. And as a player surrounded by yes-men and hangers-on it is easy to become self-obsessed. But if you just open your mind you will find it even more rewarding to recognise that you are a part of a great historical project. Take comfort in the fact that you are an actor in a story that also includes Cliff Bastin, Alex James, Ted Drake, Jack Kelsey, Charlie George, Bob Wilson, Liam Brady, Malcolm Macdonald, Ian Wright, Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and others too numerous to mention. Embrace that heritage and the heritage will embrace you long after you have hung up your luminous pink boots.
7. Know Your Enemy
You’re a professional. You have to treat every game as it comes, the next game is always the most important etc etc . But never forget that for we supporters, playing the muppets from up the Seven Sisters Road is always something special. That’s the game where, more than any other, you really do have to put heart and soul on the line. For more than a decade we have kept them firmly in their place. Now, after our first PL defeat in such a long time, they are sniffing around us like jackals around a distracted lion. Next season it’s your duty to put them back in their place. Nothing less will do.
Follow these rules and you will help to rebuild a contract between players and supporters, one that has been cracked and creaking these last few years. You still have our support, but, let’s be honest, the relationship has been shaky at times and on both sides we have been guilty of behaving less well than we should.
But if you keep this simple charter close to your heart, you will truly feel the atmosphere change and you will experience a virtuous circle of mutual support and success.
2018/2019 is a fresh start. Let us rediscover the love.”
Written by RockyLives