Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Finally the tall grey man stood up and approached the lectern. So ashen was he, he resembled nowt less than a cigarette that had been left in an ash-tray to burn itself out. He stiffened sinews that had long been stretched to breaking point by the agony of watching errors that even the mascots sniggered about.
And then, in a tired but impassioned Alsatian voice, Le Professeur addressed the apostles that gathered before him
“Somewhere there is a place where the world is at peace; where footballer shall not harm footballer; where the extra pass shall be the equal of a goal;
“where pint-sized pretty boys with flicky faffy feet shall be feted – and clumsy rumbling oiks with all the grace and touch of sponge-shoed yetis shall be scorned and jeered and pelted from the stands by philosophy graduates;
“where centre-halves are as French fancies – decorative, lightly frosted and easily crumbled and devoured; where goalkeepers are friendly buffoons whose every touch makes you tremor with a mixture of mirth and fear; where the Big Number Nine is a work of fiction and the small number fourteen a joy to behold.
“Here bottles of mineral water are safe.
“There are no horrors to abhor, or ignore, depending upon who committed them.
“Children from across the (predominantly French-speaking) world can hold hands around a golden orb like some freaking Benetton ad and preach possession unto each other, forgetting that it is only nine tenths of the law and not even a fifth of a score;
“Here, tippy shall pass to tappy and tappy to tippy; to score off your knee is a crime; the long ball is a dance party that finishes at six in the morning; tackle is what you cover when you stand in a defensive wall and humping it into the box is only available on the adult channel.
“Spectators shall hiss ‘Shhhh’ if someone says ‘Hoof it, you soddin’ twat Djourou!’
“The season begins in spirit and wonder, glimmers with a thousand dreams and finishes with some really nice compliments, thank you;
“And the joy of Cesc remains forever;
“But there are no medals here – but then what are medals but mere trinkets to adorn the necks of the artisan? An artist needs a cup for nowt more than somewhere to put his peppermint tea. What is the pursuit of trophies without the pursuit of perfection?
“For one day, mes amis, we will score the perfect goal. And it will not be scored by going round the outside or hitting it long and feeding off the knock-downs. It will be an orgy of one-touch purity (unless Bendtner’s on the pitch) put together by nimble pixies with magical magnets in their feet and paradise in their souls.
“And even if you do say that Barca have done that already and are way better at it than you’ll ever be, hear this, oh Gooners!
“We shall not desist! We shall through our desire, our mentality, our technicality and our one touch too many, ascend the sheer face of English philistinism and bring forth a better way: the Arsene way!
“For I have been to that mountaintop! And we shall all get there again one day – though obviously we’ll probably trot back and forth and fail to find the direct route to the top.
“And once there we shall gaze across all we have achieved. Top four finishes, Champions League quarter-finals, runners-up medals by the sackful. And still a huge amount of wonga in the kitty for a decent keeper and a centre-back with a spine.
“And we shall embrace then at a job well done.
“For we shall look back at that which went before: the dark days of 1-0s and George Graham. The ineffable tedium of that team (apart from that fluky 2-0 at Anfield which bagged them a title). And we shall not fear our true selves.
“And yea, though Fergie may sit astride a higher peak, lost in clouds of champagne spray, and Jose may glower above us too (I shall not know for I won’t be looking – I’m no voyeur), we shall not weep. For we shall know in our heart of hearts that we have striven to bring to a game full of base urges and crude lunges a sense of beauty, of Art.
“And to those of you that cry ‘Go, Arsene, go!’ I say ‘Non’. I am Arsenal. Why even my name is writ in Arsenal’s. Arsene to Arsenal. One day Harry Potter will manage Stoke City, a Del Boy Trotter will coach Bolton and Robbie Savage will be represented in Scunthorpe.
“So will I change my outlook, my philosophy? Jamais!
“I will hold true to it with every fibre of my increasingly hacked-off being. And remember this, mes amies. If we win nothing more. If we simply piss away Kroenke’s kazillions on an over-expensive Tomas Rosicky cloning machine and never achieve another thing except the affection of football fans everywhere bar White Hart Lane, then remember – we will always have The Invincibles... “
There’s a ripple of applause from the folk who throng the Emirates Library. “Yeah, they were great them Invincibles but they had a couple of hard bastards at the back, two more ugly buggers in midfield and Thierry Henry. And a proper goalie.”
Le professeur pauses for thought. He looks the man in the eye, then he picks up a bottle of water, slams it on the floor and storms out.