Stone Cold Friday: When Chickens Come Home To Roost
First he traded the Cadillac for a microphone. Then he lied to me about the band. Just as well he’s delivered the post. Here’s Darius..
Yesterday afternoon, a few of us at work huddled around a radio with our notebooks at the ready listening to the Chancellor meet his clear target of becoming the most unpopular politician in history. We weren’t interested in the headline grabbing “we’re all in it” nonsense – we just wanted to know how the government’s ruthless austerity measures were going to affect our small business and our personal lives.
I remember thinking that I don’t really give a damn about how many aircraft carriers we remain with, I just wanted the local council to collect my rubbish on time, and for someone to force banks to start lending to small businesses and stop contributing to our misery.
It was interesting in this same week, that football conspired to remind us how out of touch with reality the game has become. For starters, it was hard enough wading through the mountain of the ‘Rooney and Fergie’ soap opera in the media to find a decent story about Arsenal’s Champions league rampage against the Ukrainians.
Yet in this media frenzy about ‘Boy England’ – there is a profound lesson that I found myself reflecting on. Football doesn’t want to learn the fact that the game does not exist in a vacuum. Call it arrogance, call it vanity – the fact is that the establishment’s head – alongside the majority of clubs and their owners have their heads so far up the proverbial rectum, no one seems interested in embracing the reality that the rest of the world has to live within their means.
The fall of a footballing giant like Liverpool hasn’t been enough to serve up the reality check, and it’s entirely appropriate that Manchester United is in the spot-light. Observers up and down the country are baffled and bewildered about how United got themselves in such a mess, culminating in one of the most bizarre press conferences the United manager has ever given.
I don’t accept the assertion as suggested by some, that United lack ambition and have made poor choices when it comes to the squad. The bottom line is that it’s not a choice. They’re damn broke – plain and simple. You wonder why this is a surprise to the handful of pundits and hacks doing the circuit on radio and TV, the writing has always been on the wall. They just refused to believe that United would start the fall from grace.
The irony of all this is that even now, Arsenal and Wenger continue to be derided and ridiculed for having the audacity and courage to do what is right for our club. Wenger in particular, has sacrificed a lot and put his credibility on the line by having the strength to see through an ambitious vision that continues to balance sound management of the business and entertaining competitive football.
The “hasn’t won a trophy in 5 years” stick has been swung his way so many times, very few have stopped to reflect on the context or overall success made in this same period.
Even among Arsenal fans who are of the “give us trophies now or else…” persuasion – There has been little or no acknowledgement that the necessary and sometimes painful path Arsenal has taken in the last decade has started to show itself as the resounding success it has always promised to be.
As football drowns itself in a sea of debt, bad management, hopelessness and the vanity of thinking that the game is immune to the laws of economics – Arsenal stands firm and grounded. It stands as a pillar of hope and stability for the future. It stands as a beacon of the virtues of the beautiful game. It stands as an oasis of sanity in an orgy of excess.
And yet we’re told that Arsenal is not ambitious. What? Because we refuse to run the club with debts that surpass the GDP of some developing countries? Because we refuse to live beyond our means? Because we have a tight fisted and egotistic manager with a Masters degree in Economics – who is only interested in proving the media and establishment wrong with his youth experiment?
I sometimes wonder what is more sad. The fact that clubs seem incapable of grasping the scale of the crisis football is in, let alone the economic crisis chopping its way through the rest of the world; or whether the opinion shapers in the game – as Consols refers to them, actually recognize how intellectually bankrupt they are on this issue.
There are people who still think it’s sustainable to pay ridiculous transfer fees and absolutely obscene wages when hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs and livelihoods around the world every week. There are still those who think that there is romance and sensation in football being a high stakes game where clubs spend tens of millions of pounds as a matter of routine.
If you wanted to know how ridiculously out of touch this school of thought is – ask Roman Abramovich. He’s only manage to get little under 2,000 extra Chelsea supporters for a cool £700 million and counting. But he’s won trophies I hear the screaming from the shadows. What has Arsenal won?
Arsenal has won the right to be respected for keeping their head when all around them are losing it. For having the foresight and vision to know that they needed to secure the long term future of the club and give us the chances to win those very trophies for years to come. And believe it or not, we’re going to do it within our means.
Just as our lives are about to ruthlessly change with the austerity measures that the government has shepherded us into – and so shall football have its casualties.
The future is bright, the future is red and white.