terribly long ago, a friend and I were discussing sports movies; Or at least,
movies that feature a healthy dose of sports in them. She brought up the movie
Fever Pitch and started talking about how much she loved it, which made me
smile a bit…until I quickly realised she was talking about the pointless 2004
remake that was about baseball.
I told her all about the Arsenal-centric, Colin
Firth version but the conversation made me realize that I hadn’t seen the
original Fever Pitch movie in 10 years or more.
I remember enjoying the movie when I first saw
it years ago, when I watched on a date with a pretty girl. It is loosely based
on the fantastic book of the same name by Nick Hornby but as far as date movies
go, it was a good one. I was happy that the movie featured my beloved Arsenal
while my date appreciated the romantic-comedy aspects of the story line.
And so, since I hadn’t seen it in quite some
time, I watched it again the other night. And I enjoyed it again…right up
until the final third of the movie where Firth’s protagonist – Paul – begins to
grow increasingly frustrated because Arsenal aren’t doing well and he thinks
they’ve blown their chance to win the league for the first time in 18 years. It
all comes to a head in the scene where Paul is at home watching the famous 1989
season-ending game against Liverpool with his friend Steve (played by Mark
Strong) – Paul’s thoughts spiraling ever more negatively during the course of the
game. And I’m sure you know how it all ends, but in case you don’t, Spoiler
Alert: First Alan Smith scores, then Michael Thomas scores, Arsenal win the
league and the now overjoyed Paul gets the girl.
And I’m sure that scene and that game are meant
to be metaphors that mirror both the plot of the movie and life in general:
things go well, then things go badly, then something amazing happens and things
go well again. Except that during that scene in the move, because of the
negativity, all I wanted to do was punch Colin Firth’s Paul in his handsome
But then I thought about it a little more and
began to realise how I would have behaved had I been an Arsenal fan back then
(my introduction to Arsenal didn’t come until two summers later, but that’s a
story for another time). My reactions would have likely been much worse than
the ones that Paul has in the movie. And Paul was facing 10 years without a
major trophy (though there was a League Cup in 1987) and 18 years without a
league title. Almost makes eight years not seem so bad.
But it’s not like I can claim any moral high
ground even now. I have to admit that during the last eight years I have more
foul-mouthed outbursts when Arsenal aren’t playing well than I care to admit.
I’ve even Tweeted sarcastic comments during games and probably will again if we
somehow go 1-0 down to the likes of Stoke City. And I will admit that I once
asked a friend, during the poor start to the 2011-12 campaign, whether or not
the game had passed Arsène Wenger by and if it was time for him to move on.
Would I like to have won a trophy or six in the
last eight years? Of course I would. Do I think that many Arsenal fans, myself
included, were a bit spoiled by the run from 1998-2005? Probably yes. But to
hear some Arsenal supporters talk, you’d think that we had barely avoided
relegation during the last eight years.
In reality, as recently as the 2010-11 season
we were challenging for the Premier League title and were in a Cup final. As we
all know, we unfortunately came up short in that League Cup and it undoubtedly
had an effect on the end of the season.
But still, after 28 games (and after that
League Cup defeat) in the spring of 2011 we were in second place, trailing
Manchester United by just three points. In their 29th game, they suffered a
loss and we could have drawn level on points with a win. And who knows how the
season would have finished if that had happened. Instead, we drew with West
Bromwich Albion, followed that up with another draw against Blackburn Rovers and
found ourselves four points adrift. Even still, we could have made another run
at the title. But in the span of a week – from April 17-24 – we drew twice and
lost once and that was all she wrote. We eventually finished in fourth place,
though I don’t think that tells the whole story of that season.
Even in 2010, we were in the mix late in the
season. After 31 games, we were just two points off the title chase but slumped
to two wins, three losses and two ties in our final seven games to finish a
disappointing third. In many ways, the conclusions of the 2010 and 2011 seasons
were opposites of how the last two seasons ended.
I could go back even a little farther…In
2008, we finished just four points behind the champions. In 2007, we were in
another Cup final. Maybe 2012 and 2013 weren’t great overall seasons but to
think that we have somehow been non-competitive over the last eight years would
be, in my mind, purposefully obtuse.
The simple truth is that Arsenal have always
had periods of boom and bust. We won league titles in 1989 and 1991 but from
then until 1998 we won just one trophy, the League Cup in 1993. Before that, we
went eight years without a trophy, winning the FA Cup in 1979 and then nothing
until that 1987 League Cup. And the old timers among us might remember that
Arsenal won the first division title (and subsequent Charity Shield) in 1953
but didn’t win a single trophy after that until claiming the 1970 Fairs Cup.
Imagine if Twitter and blogs had existed back in the 50’s and 60’s.
I am not breaking any new ground by saying that
I feel like we are headed in the right direction and that we will be back to
our winning ways soon…there are Gooners far more positive than me saying it
every day. And I am thankful for them in part because they remind me to be
hopeful. In the meantime, I will continue to support the club from afar to the
best of my ability and I hope everyone else does the same.
And to those of you fortunate enough to attend
games in person… sing! Sing until you can’t sing anymore. You may know this
already but those of you inside the stadium are the vanguard. You set the tone
for the rest of us around the world.
After all, Arsenal are a club in every sense of
the word and we are all in this together.
Philip is an Arsenal supporter actively trying
to avoid adulthood in New Orleans. He writes an Arsenal blog at
WrongFootPele.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @WrongFootPele.