“On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day…”. It may almost seem disrespectful on Friday to be writing about Arsenal and if we allow our memories to recall the terrible happenings of the First World War we can quickly envisage how in November 1916 so many fellow Gunners gave their lives in service to their country. The clothes they wore; the songs they sung; the lifestyles they lived – all so different one hundred years on but quite a few of those soldiers enjoyed their time supporting Woolwich Arsenal in Plumstead until 1913 or The Arsenal until the outbreak of War. The pre-match tribute before the AFC/THFC game to two players – one from The Arsenal and one from THFC – was part of that umbilical cord that provides a permanent link with past Arsenal fans who have come together to support our Club.
The tribute was so well done – the silence was emotional and the Last Post triggered instant respect from all present for the terrible sacrifice made by so many fans over so many years in pursuit of service and dedication. Well done to Ivan Gazidis and his team – they performed the Remembrance to perfection. I actually preferred that Clattenberg allowed us a few more moments of silence after the bugler has completed his playing. The silence of 60,000 was so special.
Now onto present matters – Football gives us ups and downs in a season and today I sense we are all a little down. We drew against THFC when we needed to win. We lost the opportunity to go top and instead fell to fourth place. Not for the first time we missed a chance. THFC played well – they have good players and a good manager. They are more solid than for many years. Yes, they should have pipped us for second place but they have stayed together and are determined to win the League. But so are we. We are determined and at the same time we are frustrated. We were not good enough to win. A draw was a fair result and THFC players left the pitch in better spirit than AFC players.
The fans are the same. Prior to the game we were doing well and THFC were faltering not to say tottering. Spurs fans really thought we were going to eat them alive but we know not to predict, not to assume. Derbies are Derbies and THFC were infused with a determination to take at least a draw. We were good. We played well. We kept at it. We panicked for the penalty and we could have conceded another just as we could have scored another.
But we wanted to make this match a Statement. We wanted assert ourselves over our closest rivals and we wanted to go into first place. We drew – we did not win. We went fourth – not first. So we are down. Just down – not out. There are rumoured injuries to Bellerin and Alexis and it is November. For some, bad news is an opportunity to come out with all the usual moans about Arsene. Bat them away like you do an irritating fly. Instead continue to believe. We have been playing well. We are unbeaten the Premier League since the opening day. Xhaka and Mustaphi have added some competitive steel. The problem is the lack of matches and the intervention of the internationals. Matches in different competitions come so quickly. There is much to discuss; incidents to review; points to accumulate; cup progress to enjoy and then – nothing for two weeks. No opportunity to erase the memory of the home draw against THFC so it hangs around like an upset stomach. There is no quick fix – no bicarbonate of soda. We just have to wait another week for the game at Old Trafford.
Social media is quiet; the press is quiet; we are quiet. It really is down time and then Trump won to add to the clouds hovering above and India are accumulating runs. But two late wickets today for our bowlers injected spirit into our players and in the same AFC will come again. There is talent and determination and we remain competitive so nil desperandum. Stay strong. Let’s see what the future brings against PSG and Southampton in the League Cup and Man U in the League.
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Let me conclude with a dip into the past. I had thought of recounting the first sending-off I witnessed on 30 January 1954 but bearing in mind the WW1 context I saw recently a photo taken in April 1948 at a home game v Chelsea which showed the only three living players of Woolwich Arsenal’s first professional team of 1891 – Bill Julian, Gavin Crawford and John McBean. Elderly men they may be but they are watching the match with all the intensity of seasoned pros. We won the League that season of 1947-48 but lost that day to CFC 0-2. Interesting bit of history but the Club grew in the 1890s because of military re-armament triggered more by the French than by the Germans. The Arsenal Armament factory grew in numbers – the numbers of employees increased and the football team recruited more players. How ironic that today – the 11 November and the poppies and Remembrance Sunday – we become aware that it was the manufacture of the weapons of war that played an important part in the late 19th Century development of our football team.
History and Arsenal – hand in hand
I tweet daily @arsenalcircular – come on board
My name is Graham Perry and I have been a lifelong Arsenal supporter since 1952 when I saw the ten men in red shirts hold out heroically until the 84th minute at Wembley.
The Arsenal thing was confirmed by a meeting with Alex James during Easter 1953. As with most of us it is a family thing with my father always waxing eloquent about the Chapman years.
I am married with four children and five grandchildren. I have been a solicitor in a legal aid practice and have just stepped down after 13 years as an Immigration Judge.
Arsenal is in the blood. The goals and the excitement matter but so does the Community thing and sharing Arsenal with friends and family over so many years.
Want nothing more than to see Wenger hold aloft the Premier League Trophy again.