I have been an Arsenal fan for ten years now. But it was not so before. When I was in Swiss Cottage Secondary School, I was a Derby County fan and then a Nottingham Forest fan. I liked manager Brian Clough and followed wherever he went except for his Leeds blip. He brought the best out of his teams on a tight budget and that could only mean he was a genius.
Arsene Wenger joined Arsenal in 1996 (when Arsenal was known as “boring Arsenal, 1-nil to Arsenal”) and was of a similar stature though of opposite temperament from Clough. He is more professorial, understated, detached, left-brained and philosophical. Like Clough, he pieced together teams on a reasonable budget but got them to play together like a premier orchestra. He transformed boring Arsenal into exciting Arsenal. That converted me into a fan. This is the only British team that plays with a Brazilian attacking flair. They are entertaining, and I hate it so it when they play against leg-kicking, anti-football teams. Yesterday, Arsene Wenger became the longest serving manager in Arsenal’s history and I hope he continues with the club till death do them part. This is unrealistic. Succession would be a real problem. They have to find someone with the same philosophy of football. It could be someone from the “Invincibles” team like Henri Thierry. Or Tony Adams. As long as the baton exchange takes place without incident. I really wish Arsenal well in the post-Arsene era.
I am perhaps more a follower of managers. I sometimes ask myself, “Would I continue as a fan of Arsenal, if Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s heart and soul moved on? What if the players and style of play changed, and it was no longer recognizable?” I probably would not remain a fan. Many fans are admirably or masochistically loyal to their clubs even when the club has been relegated numerous levels. I don’t think I can endure that kind of humiliation and pain. This makes me a fair-weather and happy fan! 🙂