I BELONG to the generation of Arsenal fans who are now in their early 30s, whose childhood support for the club began in the late 1980s and who from then until around 2005 witnessed near continual joy. For us, the previous eight years have been a harsher experience – no worse than anything that our parents or grandparents, had they been Gooners, would have experienced for prolonged periods, but sobering nonetheless.
A few once sacred mental cows have been slaughtered in recent years: we are no longer in a continual battle for supremacy with Man United, we no longer beat them as often as they beat us, we can lose 8-2, we can see former players step up from playing for Arsenal. We have seen them leave us and within a year be Champions.
In short, we have had to become accustomed to a more modest footballistic lifestyle.
And yet, to my mind, there are two sacred cows that remain. Two things that we can hold dear to, irrespective of the change going on elsewhere. Two things that are intrinsically us.
The first is Invincibility: when the last unbeaten record goes each season in the Premier League, I feel enormous relief. An inner peace.
And the second is the issue of where titles are won. United may have amassed many, many more than us but when it comes to that moment when challengers become champions, nobody can match us for style: Anfield, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane – moments of unadulterated joy rendered oh so much sweeter by the setting. Winning at the home of the enemy is what we do to others – not what we have done to us and that is why I was so delighted to see United beat Villa tonight.
As United had stumbled over recent weeks it was as if they were saving themselves for the Emirates. I was dreading it.
Frankly, I couldn’t give a stuff about a guard of honour – for me it will be a painless experience – one over in seconds. Yes, we will be welcoming United to our ground as Champions, but frankly we’ve done that countless times over the years!
What they’ve never done is win it in our place. They’ve never been able to sing about how they won the league at Arsenal. They’ve never been able to explode into title winning joy on our turf. And that remains the case.
And it is for that at least that I am grateful to Robin Van Persie.