The Final Word On The Atmosphere Debate

A preview before a ‘Fans’ Day’ that took place on 1st February 2004 v Man City

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Highbury wasn’t called ‘The Library’ for nothing once it became all seated

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! 


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  1. mad max

    Apr 28, 2019, 12:52 #113625

    another pathetic display at Leicester today, worrying times indeed, we have to face facts we're no longer a big club only a rich owner willing to spend big will get us back among the big boys. emery is not the answer either. team selection's questionable, average signings, we don't even play attractive football anymore.such a depressing state of affairs we should have stayed at avenell road where we definitely had atmosphere

  2. Don Howe

    Apr 27, 2019, 16:19 #113622

    You're fighting a bit of a losing battle. In the same way as most of the people on the planet are "too stupid to live" ignoring global warming until extinction, some of the songs heard at the stadium in recent years have been pro wenger or in favour of Ozil when he stirs himself for a few seconds from 20 centuries of stony sleep. I will not sing them. These are the same people I suspect who abuse Alexis and Cesc when they return. The stadium is now populated by many people who wouldn't be able to sing you any of the old songs ( and some of them deserve to have died eg those encouraging or threatening violence of anti semitism). The songs we do hear are "the Torreira" my personal favourite as it applauds someone with some backbone. the Ozil durge which I hate, like it' s subject, " by far the greatest team" which is an oxymoron, " Rocky" occasionally, and "One nil". "Hurrah, we are the arsenal boys" (Marching through Georgia) is occasionally heard as well and that is a great old song. The Red Army song is moronic and cannot possibly inspire the team. Very well done for trying to give it a go though. It all feels a bit like David Attenborough trying to get the last pair of Pandas to mate. I suspect that any real singing tradition we had came from our Irish community. One way in is to adapt great songs to arsenal lyrics. Freddie's hair song and Giroud La La La did this. There are songwriters out there, we just need to encourage them I suppose.

  3. RobG

    Apr 27, 2019, 14:44 #113621

    Love that photo' ! Evening matches at the old Stadium were so evocative. I was in the North Bank Upper and I miss it still ; and Highbury. But there you go :(

  4. Andrew

    Apr 27, 2019, 13:54 #113620

    "Don't wait to see if things change at Ashburton Grove, because the problem will just get worse." Well, that certainly came true.