A lifelong love of Arsenal: For better or worse

With the Premier League fixtures set to be released Gooner reader John Grocock reflects on this time of year

A lifelong love of Arsenal: For better or worse


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With the Premier League fixture list set to be released on Wednesday, Gooner reader John Grocock reflects on this time of year. 

PART ONE 

Another season, another year, over.

Another summer offering long, hot days of alcohol imbued reflection.

An opportunity to take pride in successes and good practise and to lay bare shortcomings.

How could we have done better, how did we react to disappointment when decisions went against us?

How did we manage individuals through their difficult periods and how did that impact on others. 

Let’s go a step further.
 
Let’s look back beyond the last year. How have we come to be who we are today?
 
Are we the best we could be? Are there particular moments in our past on which reflection causes an uncomfortable sense of guilt and regret. 
 
Have we spent money on frivolous, luxury items, which sparkled momentarily, swelled our heads with their opulence, but soon left us with an empty feeling both in our hearts and bank balance?
 
Have we, conversely, tried to scrimp, as we strived to save limited resources only to realise that buying cheap leads to buying twice. 
 
How have our decisions impacted on our overall structure? Should we have put more energy into building solid foundations, enabling us to better deal with the ups and downs of fortune.
 
Most crucially, have we neglected those people who support us.
 
Those closest to us, without whom, we could not function?
 
Those who are always there for us, through good times and bad.
 
Those who have shared tears of joy in our moments of triumph and been by our side as we’ve picked ourselves up off the floor. 
 
Fundamentally, are we today, who we want to be? Can we look in the mirror and be proud of what we see?
 
If not, is it too late? Are we prepared to make the sacrifices which could alter how we are viewed and how we view ourselves. 
 
Are we willing to make a difference? 
 
PART TWO 
 
It’s May 1979 and a 7 year old boy has discovered football. He’s big for his age and at the end of his first season training with Burbage Old Boys, his manager, a Scot named Jimmy Jackson, suggests that maybe he should consider rugby as an alternative. 
 
As he travels with his parents and 2 younger brothers up to his grandparents in South Yorkshire from his Leicestershire home, he wonders whether football is for him, despite it being so much fun. 
 
His father, a Utd follower since the tragedy of Munich, has decided to watch the cup final at his parents adding colour to what otherwise would have been a black and white experience.
 
As they settle down in front of the tv and the two teams walk out to the backdrop of flags and cheers, the boy makes a decision which will shape the rest of his life.
 
As he watches the blue tracksuit tops being discarded to reveal the golden shirts beneath he announces with absolute clarity “I want Arsenal to win”.
 
An obsession. There is no other word for it and no obvious explanation. His father is far from zealous in his support of Utd but as surely as Sunderland’s right boot secures the cup, it also secures the boys heart. 
 
As teenage years progress,  most waking moments and many dreamed filled nights are consumed by Arsenal. Mood swings not only hormonally charged, but dependant  on the result of a football match.
 
Now he’s old enough to attend games. As he takes up his place in the North Bank middle for the first time could anything else in life make him feel like this.
 
A roller coaster of emotions culminating in a man named Brian blazing a penalty over the bar as a tangle of bodies share a moment of unadulterated ecstasy. 
 
But there is also agony and defeat and those mood swings impact on his parents and those around him. 
Never one to seek confrontation, in late 1990, after an adrenaline fuelled 3-0 win against Liverpool, he steps on to a coach full of Scousers, tells them their fortune and gets a smack in the mouth for his trouble. 
 
As the boy becomes a man, a wonderful woman takes him and his obsession on.
 
Only London universities are considered and Leytonstone becomes home. 
 
The wedding speech includes Arsenal references, tickets for the upcoming season are bought in a public telephone box during the honeymoon and every decision the couple make is based around a teams fixture list.
 
A career in the police and four children arrive but nothing can  assuage his reliance on his team.
 
Annual leave is used to attend games, days at work which can’t be avoided are planned meticulously in order that he is in front of a TV or next to a radio for those crucial 90 minutes. 
 
Every holiday, every invite to visit friends or relatives, every parents evening, every decision he makes is with The Arsenal in mind. 
 
And now the season has ended and once again he has time to reflect on whether he is a good man, a good husband and a good father.
 
Summer allows him to spend more time thinking about others and to contemplate his addiction.
 
If he is honest, he can see that for a few short weeks, he is closer to the man he wants to be and should be.  
 
He knows also that he cannot change and that once those fixtures are announced he will become that seven year old boy once more. 
 

 


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