“Football is a matter of life and death – No, it’s more important…” – Bill Shankly
We love football. We love our teams. We love our goalscorers who bring us glory.
We go to bed checking the web for new developments at AFC and wake to see if there have been any overnight updates..
We celebrate goals and embrace our heroes. We concede goals and scorn our defenders.
We go with friends and shout and laugh and cheer any success on the field. We complain and criticise.
We stand, we sit, we check the team and check the substitutes
We talk about it during the week, we listen to radio programmes and scan the media for comment.
We talk about it at work, at home, with our children, with our friends.
It touches the community, it embraces strangers, it makes more of us than the individuals we are.
It makes us partisan, one sided, bigoted, unpleasant
It also makes us fair minded, aware of injuries to opponents, ready to recognise we cannot always win.
It gives us hopes and dreams and moments of sheer exhilaration.
But it is not Life and Death.
When we read and watch and listen to the information bursting out of the media we also recoil in horror.
We are people before we are football fans.
We are mothers and fathers, we are grandparents, young ones, school kids.
We are friends and cousins and people with deep feelings for unknown victims.
We are aware of lives cut short, youngsters who will never have the chance to grow and develop and flourish and themselves become parents.
It is in this important sense that Shankly got it wrong and if he was at Heysal or in Manchester he would readily accept because Shankly was a man of the people.
And we are people and when an event like the bomb at the Manchester Arena we know it is not a time for football for team selection or team transfers or argument about the manager or the tactics for the Final.
It is a time for quiet and respect and introspection and thoughts of the people who went to the Arena like we go to the Emirates.
Saturday will come – Wembley beckons and our chance to enjoy the Final.
But that is for Friday and Saturday not today
While death and pictures of death dominant our thoughts and the media we can take a break and think of other people’s misery and not our own upcoming joys.
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.