Ed’s note – This article by Paul Lawrence originally appeared in issue 142 of The Gooner, published in early 2004. It's pertinent given the inititative at the current time of the fans who are congregating in Block 26.
Many things will be said about 'Fans' Day' in the next week, but to me it represents one thing: a positive step in the right direction.
Everybody reading this has, at one stage or another, complained about the atmosphere (or rather - lack of!) on matchdays at Highbury. We've all done it, and we're right to, because it's embarrassing. The atmosphere at home games has gone from poor to appalling over the last few years, while we've all stood in the pubs moaning to each other about 'middle class fans' and 'tickets being too expensive'. But you know what? It's all bollocks. It's all just excuses. How many of us have actually tried to do something about the problem? How many of us have got up to do something pro-active?
Well now, at last, somebody is.
Fans' Day is the club's initiative, but they've approached us - the fans - through the atmosphere forum, to help them try and get it right and do it properly. The club are listening. Listening to what we, as supporters, want to see changed. We can make an improvement, but it's up to us to do that. This is an ongoing process, and it's now about looking beyond Fans' Day and using our new influence at the club to work towards new things that can help us make football at Highbury what it is supposed to be - an experience. Starting with ideas like the Songsheet initiative.
There are plenty of good ideas floating around about how we can wake up the Highbury Library, but it is still down to the fans. It doesn't matter how many new and original songs people come up with, it requires someone to actually sing them. You can't hold a gun to someone's head and make them sing! But we knew that when we started.
The whole root of improving the atmosphere at Highbury lies in changing people's attitudes:
* Making fans realise that the situation at Highbury ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH. That it is embarrassing and needs to change.
* Making fans realise they are RESPONSIBLE for the atmosphere. It's not something that is included in the price of the ticket.
* Making fans realise what a massive contributing factor atmosphere is in terms of results, and how much it helps the players.
* And finally, but perhaps most importantly, making people understand that things CAN CHANGE.
It's not a lost cause, and we don't have to accept the library. If we can't make something happen NOW, what hope is there for Ashburton Grove.
It is imperative to change people's thinking in that respect or nothing can ever improve; and if there's one thing I can say I've learnt from speaking to people in Birmingham, Milan and around Highbury while we were dishing out sheets, it's that there are plenty of like-minded people who DO want things to change.
The bottom line in terms of new songs, whether they're printed on a sheet of paper or not, is getting someone who's confident/drunk enough to start them. If anyone was in the "English football pub" in Milan before the game, they would think the songsheet had been a roaring success because most of the songs went down a treat and sounded great when they were belted out by a bunch of rowdy Gooners.
But then if you had been with me, dishing out sheets in the pubs along Blackstock Road before the Fulham game, you would almost certainly think the whole thing had been a ridiculous waste of time. Some of the comments I've heard and questions I've been asked are, frankly, ridiculous:
* "It's embarrassing, other clubs will take the p*ss" What's more embarrassing? A song printed on a sheet of paper, or a sold out and yet still silent football stadium? * "But that's just the way it is, the away support always out-sings the home support" You would think so if you travel away with Arsenal. It's no coincidence that we've got one of the worst levels of home support, and yet some of the best away support in the country. People are so frustrated by the lack of noise at THOF, they have to go to northern grounds to vent their frustration. And boy, it works. The lads love the away support they get, but anyone who thinks the away support ALWAYS outsings the home support is wrong. Ask anyone who was at Bolton, or Southampton. If we could just raise the level from "embarrassing" to "acceptable", everyone would be happy.
* "I don't like the idea of us being seen by TV cameras singing off a sheet" GET A F***ING GRIP!! We're not expecting you to stand on the terraces, reading the words off a hymn-sheet like a f***ing choirboy! Take the sheet home, learn the words, and then sing the song next week. It's exactly the same principle as when we have a new song created by the conventional methods (drunk bloke in pub sings to mates), except now you don't have to stare coyly at the bloke six rows away, trying to lip-read and listen to the words.
* "Some of the songs are sh*t, the lyrics are gay" Because 'We love you Freddie, coz you've got red hair' isn't gay at all is it? 'Walking in a Bergkamp wonderland' is fantastic songwriting - if you're a deaf six year old with learning difficulties. Take half of the football songs in the country, write the lyrics down on a sheet of paper, look at them, and then try to tell me they're not sh*t or gay! Be a bit more open-minded. "My, my, my, Delilah" is a God-awful song, but when it's roared out by several thousand lairy Stoke fans it sounds bloody fantastic! And if you can't be open minded, write something better and send it to us!
So get singing the new songs. Be brave, you never know - some people might actually join in this time round. And if you are too shy to start a song, make sure you join in when others around you are trying!
Football has changed, and we can choose to change with it, or get out of it. Fans' Day and songsheets are just small steps on a very long road to putting a bit of passion back into Highbury. We're not going to be there much longer, so let's make the most of it. Let's enjoy our last years together at The Home Of Football. Don't wait to see if things change at Ashburton Grove, because the problem will just get worse.
But most importantly of all - SING UP FOR THE ARSENAL. Support the people who are trying hard to improve things, embrace the changes, and be grateful that something is finally being done to turn things around. After all, it can hardly get any worse! We've got no excuses anymore and no more right to moan. This is our time, and our chance to wake up the Highbury Library. We can use it as a good opportunity to make an improvement, or we can ignore it, laugh at it and go straight back to square one. It's your Club.
It's your stadium. It's your experience. It's up to you!
The current issue of The Gooner can be bought at the remaining home and away matches this season. It can also be posted to you (£6 UK addresses, £7.50 overseas) if you wish to buy it through our online store or if you have a PayPal account you can simply send us payment direct click here for our paypal.me link (although please remember to put the name and address for sending your issue in the message, and if you forget, then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know those details)
2019-20 season subscriptions still available!
Having reached our target of 1000 paid up subscribers to continue printing in 2019-20, we are welcoming further subscriptions. For £30 (UK addresses) or £42 (overseas addresses) you receive six x 68 page issues through your letterbox over the course of next season.
There are four ways to pay –
- You can pay with a credit or debit card via our online store, click here to get to our subscriptions page. NB – Follow the PayPal process until you get the option to pay by debit or credit card (as opposed to setting up a PayPal account, although you will have to set up a Gooner Store account to capture your contact details for the issues to be sent to you). If you wish to set up a PayPal account, that’s fine, but you should not have to.
- Pay £30 or £42 direct via PayPalto this email address: email@example.com. To make this as simple as possible, you can use our paypal.me link and remember to ensure you leave your name and address in the message. If possible, please make your payment a ‘friends and family’ / personal payment – this helps keep our costs down. Very important – If you forget to enter your name and address in the message field, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to inform us of your postal address, as when paying this way, PayPal does not give us your address details unless you type them out in the message with the payment.
- Via online bank transfer, making a payment of £30 or £42 to –
Account name: The Gooner
Sort Code: 20-76-90
Account Number: 03004112
If you are making an international payment, the IBAN and Bic / Swift codes and bank address are as follows -Swift / BIC code: BUKBGB22
Iban: GB79 BUKB 2076 9003 0041 12
Bank address - BARCLAYS BANK PLC Walthamstow 3 Leicestershire, LE87 2BB, England
Use the reference 1920 followed by your surname. Very important - please follow up the payment with an email to email@example.com stating your name and address, and the reference that you used for payment (e.g. 1920Smith). Otherwise, we will not be able to match the payment to you.
- Via post by sending a cheque for £30 or £42 (if you wish you can download a pdf form to fill in your details by clicking on this link.
Send your cheques to -
12 Buxton Court