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Slating Arsenal fans over Wenger is a bit rich

OPINION: Gunners supporters have been billed as ungrateful villains after heckling their struggling manager – but they’ve paid dearly to express their discontent

03 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

WHEN Arsene Wenger first announced he was leaving Arsenal, the reaction from the loyalists to anybody who has dared ever to question him was accusatory: Happy now? As if the heckling from the stands had somehow driven a pensioner from his retirement home bed and left him rough sleeping under the arches.

In reality, he was being paid many millions of pounds and, unlike most people looking for work after being made redundant at 68, he’ll be OK.

We’ve been told by pundits and supporters of other clubs that the heckling was cruel, and that Arsenal fans had treated the old sage badly for two reasons: 1. The success of the halcyon days had too quickly been forgotten, and 2. You don’t know how lucky you are, you won the FA Cup last year.

It’s worth remembering that most of the pundits we see on television have been telling a nationwide audience for many, many years that something needs to change at Arsenal, scoffing at the club’s timid defence or bemoaning the lack of a central midfield general.

And yet when Arsenal fans express the same sentiment in the form of heckling and a few boos, an ancient tradition which EVERY club has experienced when results and performances have been faltering, they are billed as ungrateful villains. Then there is the “don’t know you’re born” aspect, often from supporters of clubs who have simultaneously spent the best part of the decade tittering at Arsenal’s end-of-season folds. It’s quite a pivot to spend each week guffawing at Arsenal fans, and then insist supporters of every other club would kill to be in their shoes.

Often overlooked remains the fact Arsenal has the most expensive matchday ticket in the league. Take a couple of offspring and you are looking at a £200 day out, which repeats itself every fortnight if you want to follow the team regularly. When people say they have been priced out of north London, maybe they can include Arsenal in that. I know someone who works in a supermarket for a salary just above a local newspaper journalist, and spends all his money on tickets, home and away. Question his spending habits, but also understand his despair.

In front of him, and us, are inconsistent players collecting astronomical salaries. The trade-off only works because fans have the right to indulge in that traditional, if crude, practice of heckling. It’s part of the panto. With the matter resolved and a spirit of renewal now in place, the clouds have lifted, the boos are gone – and we do not have to erase Wenger’s achievements in his farewell.

Without guilt or hypocrisy, we can salute him as an invincible and revolutionary with the enduringly true adage that all good things come to an end.


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