‘From Hereford To Here’

Modern 'top level' football. Rootless, often clueless, non-inclusive, sanitized and mute – reflections on yesterday’s Arsenal v Brighton game


So this was our biggest away League fixture for 34 years. I was looking forward to it primarily as the first concrete expression of our wonderful collective achievement over the last 20 – as the banner says, ‘From Hereford To Here’. (As an actual game of football, I’m looking forward to Palace away far more.) Our support on the day was magnificent. Apart from that, things evolved more or less as I expected them to, both on and off the pitch.

I’m not going to go into the game too much, it’s been well covered elsewhere. Dynamic defensive duo Dunk ‘n’ Duffy determinedly diverted diverse dangers and everyone else battled admirably, especially Solly March, truly one of our own. We ended the game in full voice with heads held high. And that phrase - ‘in full voice’ - was the catalyst for writing this piece.

From my experience it isn’t really accurate to describe ‘The Emirates’ as a library. I have taken part in many library based performances and things can actually get quite noisy if you put your mind to it.

It was more like a dentist’s waiting room, to be honest.

It is literally true – and I mean literally – that 100 Whitehawk Ultras in their scaffold-covered ‘Din End’ in the Conference South make more noise than a theoretical 56,000 Arsenal fans (there were thousands of empty seats) did for the majority of the game. There were permanently fixed artificial ‘supporters’ banners’ all over the stadium announcing the presence of Arsenal fans from different parts of the globe – but the missing one was from Belgium. The Trappist monks’ branch of the global Arsenal brand was in full voice everywhere.

I presume the empty seats were season ticket holders who didn’t fly/drive/train it in from wherever because it was ‘only Brighton.’ Given that there are thousands of local long term Arsenal fans who have had to give up theirs because they can no longer afford them, that is an insult. It’s also an insult to the thousands more Brighton fans who would have come given the chance. My heart sang (ha!) when I heard about the FC Koln invasion: no matter what the branded mouthpieces of modern football say, our game isn’t like going to the theatre or Madame Tussaud’s. It’s a passion, a way of life. And when passion wins, as it did that day, it gets a huge cheer from me.

I know that there are thousands of dedicated, proper Arsenal fans: their fanbase is one of the most multicultural in the country and that’s brilliant. I talked to some in the Hammerton Brewery pub afterwards and they too bemoaned the atmosphere. This piece isn’t about them. It’s not even really about the disconnected, often literally clueless football tourists who have turned ‘the Emirates’ into a John Cage tribute act.

It’s about the modern football ethos that money trumps everything, that it’s fine for a vastly overpriced season ticket only used half the time to keep a lifelong Gooner from watching his team, that ultimately we fans are mere extras now anyway, our match times changed at ridiculously short notice at the whim of the great god TV. As a lifelong lover of the game whose team has reached the supposed pinnacle of our sport I feel like someone who has kept a pet goldfish all his life and cares about it as much as ever – but can’t stand the water it is swimming in now.

I won’t be missing an away game this season, and am interested to see how the atmosphere at the other ‘big clubs’ compares to that at Arsenal. I know that none of them will have the kind of support those of us who are far less ‘fashionable’ do.

Because – as my favourite chant of yesterday goes –
'We support our local team. We suppo-ort our local team.'

Attila the Stockbroker


Read Attila's Poem From Hereford to Here here