Arsenal Cup Victory Will Be So Good for the Game & For This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson


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Arsenal beat no-hopers Newton Heath to win 1979 FA Cup

Last weekend’s cup-ties almost certainly sealed the end of the Arsenal trophy drought, which has gone on far too long for a club that represents all that is best about English football.  And it’s undeniable, in this blog’s opinion, that some tangible Gooners success would be A Good Thing.  Good for the game, and good for me.

Now I should perhaps explain this attraction that Arsenal have for me. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Leeds United fan, but I feel no guilt about this.  Why? Well, like anybody in a long-term, committed relationship, I occasionally feel the need for a bit of a change, a break from an otherwise humdrum routine.  And just as many married men – and women, come to that – will argue that it’s OK to look as long as you don’t touch, I feel it’s occasionally alright to let my hungry eye wander a little. So while my heart belongs to Leeds, I’ve long had a passing fancy for The Arse and I feel that this in no way compromises my fidelity where the Whites are concerned.  After all, it’s not like I’m buying a season ticket or anything.

Arsenal is a club that commands respect, they have done for decades – but it’s been so much more the case in the Arsène Wenger era.  In this period, they’ve played football of surpassing beauty – and of course they’ve won just about every honour in the book too, giving the football world a welcome break, on a few occasions, from the grinding monotony of Ferguson’s charmless winning machine at the Theatre of Hollow Myths. The trophy cupboard has been bare for a good few seasons now, but the quality of the football has remained consistently wonderful, a treat for the most jaundiced eye.

Now that the most significant obstacles have been removed from their path to FA Cup glory, I fully expect them to go on and capitalise, bringing home a legendary piece of silverware to the Emirates Stadium.  A Wembley date with Wigan should not unduly worry a team with Arsenal’s class, despite the fact that the Pies saw off Manchester’s finest in the last round.  And then it will be either Hull or Sheffield United in the Final – again, neither of those sides would be likely to present a problem.  I have my fingers crossed here that I’m not jinxing the whole thing – not just for the Gooners fans’ sake, but also because I have a financial and family interest in Arsenal finally ending that annoying trophy-less run.

Firstly – in the wake of Man City’s exit, I was on Facebook proclaiming Arsenal’s forthcoming Cup triumph – and a friend saw fit to bet me they wouldn’t win it. A gift, I thought, and I suggested a friendly tenner as an appropriate wager. Really, it should just be a matter of picking up the dosh – but the rub is that, if Arsenal now lose in the semi or the Final, I shall now feel more than my usual pang of regret.  Losing a tenner is no small matter for even the least parsimonious of Yorkshiremen, and my last football bet ended with me a fiver down, something I’ve yet to recover from.  So clearly there’s at least ten good reasons for me to keep everything crossed.

Secondly, my daughter’s Significant Other is an Arsenal fan – so I’d like to see them win something just for him.  Apparently, he flirted with being a scum fan as a young kid – and while I have magnanimously forgiven him such a childish faux pas, I certainly don’t want him going back down THAT route – so a Cup win to keep him honest would be just the thing.  My late father-in-law, Michael, was also a Gunners aficionado, bless him – he was able to remember Herbert Chapman’s fantastic team of the thirties, Ted Drake, Alex James, Cliff Bastin and all.  I’ll raise a glass to him, if The Arse can lift silverware at Wembley in May.

Some Whites will find all of this eulogising of another team a little distasteful, and I can understand that.  But it can be taken on trust that Leeds United are my one true love, unlovable though they mostly are, and that there’s really no other thing in the world outside of my family that can move me to such depths of despair, or even raise me to such heights of jubilation (if I recall correctly). Arsenal – well. they’re not really even the bit on the side.  I’m too faithful for that – it’s just that I’m a student of the game and its exposition à la  the Gunners seems to me to be the finest thing you’ll see in these islands. When they’re on song, there’s not too many better sights in the whole football world.  My connoisseur’s eye can appreciate this, but my Yorkshire heart still beats for Leeds United – and my blood runs yellow, white and blue.

The only time I went to Highbury, it was to see Leeds win there by three goals to one in a daft game that saw Phil Masinga score twice as George Graham’s managership of his beloved Gunners was coming to a tragically shady end.  I was overjoyed – when Leeds play Arsenal, my loyalties are firmly with the Whites.  That goes without saying. Even when victories over the Gunners have seen another undeserved title go to the Pride of Devon, I’ve been able to take great satisfaction in United beating my Capital favourites.  So, you see, I’m still the genuine article as far as Leeds fans go. It’s just that I have this need to appreciate class and beauty – and Arsenal’s football is beautiful, their history glitters with class.

Forgive me then for taking pleasure in Arsenal’s success – when it’s not at the expense of my beloved Leeds.  A handy by-product is that this regard for The Arse also helps me to dislike Tottenham Hotspur, although I’m sure that’s quite an easy thing to do really.  As I write, the hapless Spuds have just lost 1-3 at home to Benfica, which I enjoyed a lot.  So it’s been a good night off from Leeds United’s ongoing trauma, what with writing optimistically about Arsenal – and watching their so-called rivals lose. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the current purgatory of trying to find some glimmer of light in the Whites’ murky situation.  But still – that’s where my heart is.

At least, in May, I’ll have the distinct pleasure of seeing London’s finest lift the FA Cup, as well as the equal joy of taking a tenner off my good friend Muddy. At least, I hope so.  Surely, I haven’t given the kiss of death to the Gooners’ trophy prospects?  And for God’s sake – I have to win a bet one day.

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23 responses to “Arsenal Cup Victory Will Be So Good for the Game & For This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Ropey Wyla

    feel no shame Rob, I too get my fix fo actual pantomimeless football from watching arse and it’s hard not to be impressed by beautiful, flowing, passing football, especially when our team plays the most drab, dire headless chicken, sunday league hoofball that’s as hard to watch as it is to get exited over.

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  2. David Rowley

    Great read Rob. A bit of light relief in an otherwise torrid week….

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  3. good article. arsenal have a lot of class. in response I am old enough to remember a Leeds master class against Southampton back in the seventies. An outrageous performance on the day…

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  4. Thanks for this article, and for being a student of the game. You are a real football fan. Good luck to Leeds next season.

    Arsenal fan and lover of the game.

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  5. You had me thinking of my bit on the side – which is Liverpool. The only reason (I ever looked, and like you – only looked) was i attended the Liverpool v Leeds United match at Anfield in 1969 when the 0-0 draw gave us our first top league title. The Liverpool fans were simply magnificent as Leeds got the draw needed and so stopped Liverpool from overtaking us with a game left ( home to Forest I think). How many supporters give a standing ovation to an opposition team that just pipped them to the title! Amazing to be there and enjoy it. So over years as Leeds descended into abyss after more abyss (Wilko’s revolution aside) I got a little satisfaction from watching Liverpool shag the lights out of Man U until of course the “evil one” arrived at the Theatre of Wet Dreams.
    Like you there is only one true love but living down under we rarely get to see Leeds United live so I have to occupying my mind with the teams playing in the Premiership. I often wondered whether that curse you wrote about was all down to me – when Leeds lost the greatest team ever and fell by the wayside Liverpool have not won a Premiership for a longer period than Leeds and perhaps my support (and I say that lightly) seemed to effect their league performances – I try to dismiss that theory as it did not stop Liverpool winning Cups!
    As for Arsenal I too like the way they play and the current Liverpool team under Rogers are also very pleasing to watch. Wouldn’t it be great to have a Leeds team playing ticky tacky football with the opposition running round like headless chucks. We can dream.
    We have 9 days of more horror to suffer until we know if the Cellino revolution is on. Let’s hope the perpetrator of the curse can finally clearly see that what we did in our past is over and a new beginning is granted under the direction of a man that just might want to stick it up the establishment (fitting the Leeds mentality to perfection) and deliver a team capable of knocking about the ball for some 23 consecutive passes before the final volley hits the roof of the net. Leeds 7 v Southampton 0!
    Nothing else needs to be written.

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  6. Counte Of Monte Fisto

    Rob,
    I went to the emirates in the recent cup matches & to a man (or woman) the Arsenal fans were great. No negativity towards us, they are a great club who deserve a better return for their approach to the game.
    In many respects Arsenal should be all fans favourites to win the league (clearly there is no conflict of interests from a lower mid championship club currently) because they haven’t just bought it like Chelski,citeh or scum.
    I hope Arsenal win and also win the premier league, Liam Brady what a player and RIP Rocky Rocastle a real talent who never got the chance at Leeds to show us his best
    MOT

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  7. David Smith

    Rob – enjoyed the read. As said before, there is no shame in appreciating the talents of other clubs – I too have a guilty secret as far as following the fortunes of another club, but don’t feel able to disclose it during this particular confessional !!

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  8. I don’t have anything against them really,apart from our inconvenient victory over them which handed the title to the scum. It just goes to show though,that stability at a top club can be a wonderful thing provided the manager knows what he’s doing and has a progressive outlook on all aspects of scouting,coaching and tactics. On the other hand, i see that nutjob on the “sofa”site is once again calling all who want BM out “idiots”. I remember those faux intellectuals in the 80s who lived in self imposed poverty as it suited their “left wing” image. Similarly we get faux intellectuals revelling in the fact our side is cannon fodder for every pub team in the league and that anyone who strives for change is an idiot apparently. By my reckoning that must be at least 70% of the support and this will no doubt rise after tomorrows tanking. That “sofa” must be covered in stains due to the satisfaction gleaned from BMs incompetence. We all know the many reasons why this one trick pony should go,but can anyone tell me why he should stay,without using the word “stability”please?

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  9. Morning Rob.
    Coming from North London I have always had a very soft spot for Arsenal, for one they stopped Manwho winning the league in the 90’s, and as a Leeds fan that always sat well with me. I went to all the cup games against Arsenal in th e90’s the replays at Elland Road as well.

    More recently I went to the Emirates a few seasons back when Snodgrass put us 1 up and then Cesc scored a penalty in the last couple of mins to equalise. I was in the Arsenal end to the left of the away Leeds end, as had a loan of season ticket from lad I worked with who couldn’t go. It was obvious I was Leeds when Snods scored. I didn’t jump out of my seat when he scored, but I think my facial expression gave it away.Not one of them said a thing, and when Cesc equalised I politely left my seat, wished them not too much luck in the replay, and they were all sound, said our support that day was amazing, which as always it was, and they liked Leeds and hoped we would be back in the prem again. I cant think of any other supporters in my time following Leeds that have ever said anything complimentary about Leeds, and in London we have many foes only too quick to slate us.

    One action that certainly shows a mutual admiration of the two clubs supporters is on a time when 50 Lads from Leeds walked past a certain pub in a London British Rail station full of Gooners, one not in the know young gooner said ‘lets go for em’ which was greeted with the response, ‘We havent got any grief with Leeds, says it all.

    Heres to a 1-2 win for the boys tomorrow.

    Top article as always Rob, Im beginning to think we may be brothers separated at birth

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  10. Peter Hill

    Hi Rob, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, your view of what it takes to be a Leeds fan seems to coincide with mine, and Leeds have been my drug of choice for 52 years! I was amazed to read that you are also an Arsenal admirer. I can’t say I have always watched the Arse, but I just love the football that Wenger produces, and admire the way he finds cheap players and gets so much out of them (I wonder if he would consider giving Egg a masterclass or three?). If, God forbid, it ever came to Leeds going out of business, I could never support another team, but would be happy to carry on watching Arsenal.up the good work!

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  11. Peter Hill

    That should have been ‘Keep up the good work’ at the end!

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  12. Tell you what , people point to that Southampton game but two weeks previous we slaughtered Man U and for me it was a better win, it was on Motd as well but the bbc won’t want to see the all time media darlings humbled will they? and not with Best and Charlton playing for them. Totally outclassed them, and it was the start of the ole shouts as well.

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  13. I don’t mind the Arsenal either .

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