Apologies to Mark for the exceedingly late publication of this article which somehow slipped through the net.
Bizarrely, due to circumstances beyond my control, I ended up listening to last night’s match on the radio (Bayern v Arsenal), whilst getting the opinions of those Twitter Gooners I trust, as opposed to just the meanderings of Alan Green and Lawro! It was quite surreal and took me back to being a 15 year old, jumping up and down on my bed as I realised that yes, Paul Vaessen had just scored to help Arsenal become the only English team to have ever beaten Juve in their own backyard.
Pertaining to, or
characteristic of a hero or heroine.
An act or instance of failing
or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: The campaign was a failure.
There are positives to be taken from the game certainly; the defence performed well with Corporal Jenkinson and Gibbs particularly to the fore with their ability to get up and down. Kos showed what I believe, which is that he is a better natural defender than our current skipper and Fabianksi at least showed that there is an option to Chesney! The main thing is that a clean sheet in Bayern is something even the Invincibles could not manage, so there should be definite benefits in terms of our confidence levels as we now start our 10 Cup Final games run. The biggest positive to me is the fact that it made the trip far more palatable for the travelling Gooners who had invested their hard earned cash in the journey long before our tame surrender at THOF. Once more they did us proud and having been to Munich for the football I am sure that it meant they had an even better night in the Augustiner Beer Keller!
That said, let’s not forget that this is the same manager and a lot of the same players who contrived to lose this tie in the first leg at home. A manager who has seen a virtually full strength team lose to a side in the 4th division, and at home to a struggling Championship team, now despatched from the cup by Millwall!
Which brings me to the real question. Does some Middle East consortium from the UAE or Qatar really want to buy AFC and if so, what do the fans think? Well, the opinions on the veracity of the story vary from pie in the sky to having been discussed for some time. Peter HW says Arsenal have heard nothing. Well 3 things Pete, You wouldn’t tell us if you had as we are just an inconvenient but necessary evil don’t forget (well how could you after thanking us so nicely for our interest in the affairs of the club). Second, what on earth would it have to do with you anyway as you are a token ‘old Etonian’ figurehead and lastly, I’m not sure you really know what day it is unless you are reading it from the top of the Daily Star, your favourite mouthpiece to the fans.
For arguments sake I am going to assume there is genuine interest. Reasons being that AFC is the biggest sleeping giant in Europe; Huge brand, massive global fanbase, history and tradition, playing in the most watched league in the world, respected manager, excellent training facilities and even better stadium. Lastly, we are based in one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities. Basically, we are the hot girl in your last year at school, when at the prom (school disco in my day) everyone wanted to chat up; in essence, we are Megan Fox in Transformers!
So, no surprise that we are one of the major attractions for anyone looking to become a player in world football and that is certainly what seems to be the case with the Qataris or the Saudis. Throw in rumours of Usmanov, owner of the world’s largest steel company and the amount of building work going on in the area and you can see how allegiances can be formed.
The rumoured bid was a great share price for Stan to be offered. I think the shares are approx. 16k at present, so 20k is a great offer, meaning he could walk away with almost half a billion dollar profit on what he has paid for his shares. Why does Stan want to keep us in his portfolio? What is he gaining at the moment? There is no glory, only pain. Yes he can sit in his ivory tower and not care about what the fans say, but he will find that English football fans will be a little different to disgruntled US sports fans. I’m no expert, but I am not aware that any of his US teams are exactly tearing it up with bulging trophy cabinets, so while he may be an ideal proponent of ‘self sustainability’ which the AFC board and AW love, has everyone forgotten that we are a football club and first and foremost should be the results on the pitch. Whilst we were all aware that the stadium move would mean austerity measures and AW has done a great job in keeping us in the top pack of clubs during that period, we are now supposed to have entered the land of milk and honey promised to us by the board, which could only be achieved by the move!
So there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this situation. “We don’t want to sell our soul to the highest bidder” some fans shout, “We don’t want to be like Chelsea or Citeh” etc etc etc. Well hold on a minute, we sold our soul to the highest bidder in the 80’s, when PHW sold his shares for what was then a huge profit to David Dein, Hill-Wood thinking that Double D was mad to be investing in football. Dein then sold some of his shares to Danny Fiszman. The proposed saviour of our club every time his name gets mentioned then got Koenke involved, who rapidly distanced himself from Dein as soon as he realised that if he wanted to stay friendly with Fiszman it was the necessary thing to do. Dein then sells out to Usmanov and the last play was Danny Fiszman selling to Stan.
A lot of what our club stands for in terms of tradition comes from the 1930’s, when we were the most successful club in the country and strangely enough were nicknamed ‘The Bank of England’ club, due to the fact we had a few bob and spent it on players and infrastructure. So in effect this has been going on for years, anyone with enough money has been buying our shares. All out of some altruistic ideal of what is good for AFC? Hardly. Every seller made a huge profit on what they had originally paid. Altruism would be to give the shares to a fan’s group, but there’s no money in that is there? There is always a big deal made out of the fact that they don’t get dividends. Well excuse me, but I think that I could do without some annual interest being paid if I was assured of an extremely healthy return at the end of my investment and Stan refused to say that this was not an option he would look to use in the future. Yet our board has our best interests at heart according to many. That must explain the season ticket price rises and the inflexibility around payments, the pricing for food and beverages inside the stadium, the sale of our best players and worst of all, their continued inactivity when it comes to getting the manager to do what needs to be done in terms of recruitment. The last few seasons of inactivity from all concerned has to be a worry. I might not buy into the whole 8 years without a trophy line peddled by the media and the more fundamentalist arm of the AWOB, but I do not buy the argument about waiting 17 years between 53 and 70 for a trophy being any kind of argument to keep sitting on our hands either!
One thing that puzzles me, why do people use Chelsea as an example of how this will be the end of the world as we know it? They were a two bob club before Roman arrived and despite the trophies it pretty much still is. This is mainly due to 3 things. Jose did a brilliant job there, but unfortunately his demeanour made the club pretty unpopular and he engendered a spirit which has stayed long after he was dismissed. Roman and his trigger happy recruiting and firing of managers is just ridiculous, plus his alleged interference in the playing side of things. Lastly, the fact that they appear to have tried to recruit the same % of unsavoury human beings on the playing side as they have within their fanbase. I realise that all clubs, ourselves included have their fair share of morons, racists and thugs, but I do feel that Chelsea do rather abuse the quota and seem to be depriving an entire country of its share of idiots per village. The likes of Terry and Cole have really summed up their personal standards, add to it the transfer fees and wages paid, the recruitment and disposal of mercenary footballers and you can see a blueprint for how not to buy a football club and run it respectfully.
But then there is Citeh. Never really had a problem with them to be honest, or their fans who must have suffered more than most over the last 20 years of United dominance. So they have loads of money, which they spend on huge transfer fees and wages, often just as unnecessarily as Chelsea; Scott Sinclair anyone! But apart from sacking Hughes (not something to be criticised really) they have stuck with Mancini and he has delivered an FA Cup in his first year and the league, if only just, in his 2nd. Two disastrous ECL campaigns aside, both in terrible groups which we would not have escaped from, he is not doing a terrible job and apart from a couple of unfortunate incidents brought on by substandard executives, they seem fairly organised and unChelsea like.
So here is the scenario. Usmanov, in league with the Middle East buys Stan out, after he decides that it is more trouble than it is worth to stick with a non US sport he knows little about in terms of the cultural gap between the MSL and EPL. Usmanov is installed as the Chairman/owner and he starts to make some changes. First, he explains to AW that he still has faith in his ability and is going to make huge funds available to him for transfers and wages. However, it is made clear that AW must be shopping at Harrods from now on and not Lidl, as the club and its fans demand and are owed the quality of player that befits our intentions. Time will be given, but results will be expected. The board members are in the main dispensed with and replaced with younger (not difficult) business savvy executives with a UK sports background. Respected ex Arsenal professionals are brought in to deal with various aspects of the club, the likes of Bergkamp and Overmars from Ajax, Paddy from Citeh and others can all play a part in the off field activities.
For the fans, there is movement on ST prices and how they are paid, with some of Black Scarf and other fan’s group suggestions coming in to play. Measures are taken to enhance the match day experience in terms of pricing and atmosphere. Home kits are red & white and away kits are yellow!
The team is finally able to challenge once more for the top trophies and has a squad equipped to do this on all fronts and wins its first silverware in 9 seasons, finally removing the monkey from its back. Yes the club is being financed by big money from Uzbekistan and the Middle East, but as we dance and sing in The Bailey on Holloway Road, does anyone really care? Is there a pocket of Gooners somewhere sitting in a quiet corner of a pub bemoaning the fact that we didn’t do it through self sustainability and longing for the days of Gervinho and Santos! The tradition of the club has remained, we still do our bit for the community, we still wave the flag for equality and fair play and best of all, Arsene Wenger is allowed to prove that given a level playing field with the rest of the ‘financially doped’ clubs he is still able to compete.
Then, in Berlin 2015, he finally adds the European Champions League to his CV as Jack Wilshere lifts the trophy after goals from Falcao and Isco see off the challenge of Messi’s Barcelona. AW takes this opportunity to retire as Manager, moving on to the board. The opening day of the 2015/16 season sees another statue unveiled outside the stadium as Arsene Wenger rightly takes his place alongside the existing 4 AFC icons.
Now I appreciate that there is quite a bit of fantasy about that scenario, but in all honesty a lot of the foundations for it to actually happen are already in place, so it may not be a complete stretch to picture.
So does selling out in terms of shares really have to equate with selling out in terms of your soul?
I say show me the money!