The mindset of a certain kind of football fan

posted by Nick Hornby April 10, 2008 at 3:31 pm Sport 1 comment , ,

“I’ll tell you where it all went wrong for Arsene Wenger,” said a friend after the first leg of the Champions’ League quarter-final against Liverpool, a game that Arsenal were unlucky not to win.  “That two-all draw against Bolton, when we threw away a two-goal lead.” Like many Arsenal fans, I remember the game well – it was a decisive moment in the race for the Premier League, and those two dropped points meant that Arsenal would not win the title…in 2003. According to my friend, we have been on a sad, slow but steady decline ever since.

“What about 2004? When we won the League without losing a match? You don’t think he temporarily stopped the rot that year?”
That was a disappointing season,” he said. (My italics.) “We should have won the Champions’ League, and he chucked the FA Cup away.”

This is the mindset of a certain kind of football fan. Becoming champions of your country in an unbeaten season is no use if there aren’t a couple of cups to go with it; and the championship is not an end in itself, but only a stepping-stone that allows you to climb towards more championships and cups. This is the mindset, in other words, of a fan who will be disappointed every year. If he were a Manchester United fan, he might have allowed himself a brief smile at the end of the treble-winning ’99 season; but other than that, it’s hard to imagine where the joy of following a team might come from.

All Arsenal fans are disappointed this week. A season that had begun to promise so much has ended in calamity and despair. If I were Arsene Wenger, though, I would console myself with the thought that, had Arsenal held on for five minutes at Anfield on Tuesday night, seen off Chelsea in the semi-finals, and trounced Manchester United or Barcelona in the final in Moscow, some fan somewhere would still be complaining about his failure to shore up the defence in the 2003 run-in. In other words – what’s the point of winning anything, ever? Unless, of course, you’re going to win every game, for all eternity.

One Response to “The mindset of a certain kind of football fan”

  • Hi Nick,
    I have just found you’re website tonight as I should be planning some maths lessons for Weds, I work a 3 day week these days.
    Anyway the mind set of this particular football fan is ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have won more than 4 games in league 1 (Really should still be called the third division) by the end of November’.
    “That was a disappointing season” doesn’t come close when you support the longest serving team at in this league. Still I suppose we can both look back and say ‘Look at Cambridge Utd now’.
    You seem to be a very busy boy these days. How do you find time to read so many books? I have just read Andy Kershaw’s Autobiography. It took me a month! It’s an enjoyable read, you get a mention, but every time I picked it up after a day in school I nodded off.
    Do you ever get to Manchester?
    The last time I was aware of you up here was when Jenny & I saw you at a reading you did after 31 songs was published. I am sure you have been Up North many times since then. Now I have this web site I will be able to track you better perhaps.(I don’t do facebook.)
    I note you have been involved in trying to encourage children to read via your children’s projects. Do you do days in schools?
    We have book week & that sort of thing at my Primary school. Is there any chance of a authors day visit to Canon Burrows C. of E. Primary school in Ashton-Under-Lyne?
    Have you guessed my team yet? Some previous managers to help you are: Ian Dowie, Brian Talbot, you should remember him, Ronnie Moore, Dave Penny & the most successful one of all Jimmy Frizzel. Now you have got it.
    Oh yes we beat Notts county last week 5.1 so it’s not all bad news.

    Hope that this gets to you.

    Andy Clark