How to be a happy Gooner, despite not winning any silverware for seven years and counting!
About twenty years ago, I read for the first time, the well-known ‘Management’ bestseller ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ by Stephen Covey. The one bit I still remember clearly from Covey’s book is ‘Habit two’: ‘Begin with the end in mind’. He asks his readers to imagine their own funeral: who they would like to attend and what they would like the key people in their life – partner, son/daughter, best friend and best colleague/boss, etc – to say about them. Once readers have envisaged what these dear-to-them-people ideally should say at their funeral, Covey instructs his readers to turn the content of these imaginary speeches into their personal, lifelong objectives.
For a long time, I thought this was very powerful, until I spoke about this to a good friend of mine, who had an instant and very potent response: ‘what really matters is what you think about yourself’. And she was right, of course.
By now, you will be asking: but what has this got to do with football, with Arsenal, for heaven’s sake! Well, I would like you to think for a moment about what really matters with regards to your and my beloved Arsenal.
Let’s return to Covey’s slightly macabre idea of envisaging your own funeral, but this time, to the period just before your future death (hopefully very, very far away!).
You have some time left, and are not in too much pain and still very lucid by brain, so there is time to reflect on your life, and even some time to reminisce about Arsenal. Your lifelong, best Gooner mate is with you as well.
What will be your finest memories about Arsenal? What will you choose to talk about with your mate? And what will you choose to watch again?
One thing I am pretty sure about is, you will not be looking very long at statistics of how many cups we have won in our history, or even during the time you were alive, or where we are positioned in the all time league of best clubs in the UK and Europe. I am also pretty sure that you will not be looking very long, if at all, at a picture of the Arsenal trophy cabinet, however impressive it is.
As time is of the essence, you will want to make sure you’ll use it well and talk about YOUR memories, YOUR experiences that really matter, and not about objects, or facts and figures.
And there are plenty of good memories for us Gooners!
I am sure, come that time, we will be talking about the best cup final games and key title-clinching matches, but also about individual performances of sheer brilliance, about some of the best footballers that have played at Highbury and Ashburton Grove. There will also be fond memories about certain matches, which by themselves might not have led to winning silverware, but were simply a joy to experience. On top of all of that, there will be the many wonderful personal memories, often of an insignificant nature to most other Gooners.
Although I am pretty sure other periods will generate more fond memories, the recent trophy-less period of 2005-2012 will still play a key part during the final review of our time supporting Arsenal.
I bet, our home-win against Barcelona, and in particular the goals by RvP and Arshavin last season, will always remain engraved in our brains. The same goes for Fabregas’ goal, Arsenal’s second, against Milan in 2008, and Arsenal’s heroic performance with 10 men against Barcelona, in the CL final of 2006, and in particular Sol Campbell’s bullet header. And what about RvP’s phenomenal record goal scoring year in 2011, and the 2011-2012 season – epitomised by his wonder goals against Everton (home) and Liverpool (away)? And there is plenty more for us to reminisce about of from this trophy-less era!
It is also the period in which we moved to our new, 60,000+ capacity stadium, back in 2006, and in which we played some of the best ever football to have been played on UK soil. And yet, we did not win any silverware.
In the end, it is experiences and memories that matter most because objects cannot compete with experiences! It is those memories of experiences that are really important, not the number of trophies we have won. Of course, the very best memories are created by phenomenal football that leads to winning trophies, but the latter is not a necessity for us to enjoy our football. And the really good thing is that Arsenal has achieved that too, and more than once!
We don’t need to listen to the press, rival fans and, unfortunately, fellow Gooners and teasing partners, about not having won any silverware recently. What others say and think is not important, what is important is to remember the beauty and joy from the games Arsenal have played recently, because that’s what really matters in the end – that’s what we will remember more than anything else long term.
We should also not get stressed too much about winning something in the near future. Arsenal should aim for winning as much as possible, and use its resources as clever and efficient as possible to achieve this. But it might not work out, as there are – luckily, to a certain extent – no guarantees in football. Seven lean years might not be followed by seven fat ones, but seven more lean years instead.
I personally believe the ‘fat years’ are around the corner, as Arsenal has all the basics in place for a period of prolonged success, despite the enormous competition we are facing as a result of the cash-for-cups oil barons littering the football horizon.
But whatever happens, it will still be the mighty Arsenal, playing in a World-class stadium, playing World-class football, under the guidance of a World-class manager, who is the most loyal to playing the beautiful game of all managers. On the way, Arsenal will be creating many more immortal footie experiences and memories. Hopefully, it will lead to us winning silverware again, but if it doesn’t, it really is not the end of the world.
But why wait till the very last days of our lives to realise this? Let’s take a deep breath and realise how good it is to be a Gooner, right now, right here.
Well, at least that’s what I will be trying to tell myself, next time I feel a mini-bout of melancholy coming over me, when realising again we have not won anything for seven years and counting.