How much has Louis Dunford’s songwriting ability contributed to the revolution taking place at Arsenal?
It doesn’t take a lot for a club to be labelled ‘tinpot’ by opposition supporters these days. Clappers left on seats to help supporters create an atmosphere? Tinpot. Goal music? Tinpot. Listing the fans as the 12th man on the team sheet like Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi asked for? Apparently also tinpot.
The 'tinpot' scourge
Of course, the latest Premier League betting odds suggest that the Italian’s idea of involving the Amex crowd is working, with the Seagulls at just 5/2 to finish in the top four this season. It's worth noting that common sense seldom prevails when deciding what is tinpot and what is not.
Overall though, anything that breaks away from tradition and is seen as trying too hard is immediately called out by the self-appointed social media police tasked with safeguarding football heritage. Of course, there are times when the introspection that being mercilessly mocked brings, ends up working as constructive feedback.
A good example would be when Queens Park Rangers boss Gareth Ainsworth told his bewildered squad that they would be learning a Maori haka in order to help stave off relegation to League One.
Fortunately, Ainsworth asked for this exercise to be recorded which gave the watching world the pleasure of seeing how much his players wanted a humanity-ending asteroid to crash into Earth at that very moment. Alas, a 6-1 defeat to Blackpool in QPR’s next game strongly hinted that Ainsworth’s team-building brainchild didn’t have the desired effect. Squad bonding haka? Seriously tinpot.
Arsenal boldly defy tradition
Arsenal's turn to be rounded on by the hordes of social media was pencilled in for the 8th of May 2022 when the Gunners took on Leeds United at the Emirates. Fans up and down the country were on high tinpot alert after it was announced that Arsenal would pilot Louis Dunford’s song The Angel as a club anthem before kick-off following Mikel Arteta’s request.
English football is full of stirring pre-match anthems that have been sung for decades. Whether it be Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone, Leeds’ Marching on Together or even Sheffield United’s The Greasy Chip Butty, these songs are part of the fabric of football in the country and you can't simply decide to just invent one.
Indeed, to suddenly tell the world that Arsenal will be singing a song that was written as recently as 2022 before every home game was red meat to the pitchfork-wielding tinpot brigade. However, following the song’s debut on a warm Sunday in early spring, there was no such accusation levelled at Arsenal. The reason was simple; The Angel just works in every imaginable way - so much so that it is now a permanent fixture at every home game.
Perhaps you should whisper this next sentence softly, but dare we say that this moving homage to north London has given Arsenal a stronger identity? That’s not to say that the club didn’t have one before but it needed modernising in order to reflect the diverse, quirky and passionate fanbase that Arsenal now has. To that end, Dunford has managed to expertly evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for north London’s past while simultaneously celebrating the changes that make the place what it is today.
Camaraderie is at the heart of Arsenal's revolution
Above all, at the heart of the song’s message is that the people give north London its soul. As Dunford insightfully observes during the last two lines of the final verse: ‘It's in the ruins of your youth and the faces of your past, cause the manor might be changing, but the people always last.’
Put directly, what is a place or indeed a football club without its people?
It is this simple reminder that has helped unite a fanbase while giving them a powerful sense of self that had perhaps been dormant. The result is that Arsenal now play in front of one of the loudest crowds in Europe and are threatening to end Manchester City’s Premier League stranglehold. How much of that can be accredited to Dunford’s songwriting ability? More than you might think.