I always hated Arsenal. With their in your face Knights Templar style strip and their fast, over-eager and efficient football and their holier-than-thou attitude to wage structures. Part of me will always presume that George Graham is Arsenal manager and Tony Adams still has his arm in the air. But another part of me likes Arsenal. It’s partly that they now play football like everybody’ second favourite team. But I miss living near the ground. I miss the sound of the matchday roar (though it’s not really a roar, is it – more an excited mumbling) and miss the strange stalls selling pencil sketches of Perry Groves or obscure programmes to obsessives with too much disposable income. I miss the smell of fried extruded meat products. I miss the thrill I always got seeing European fans walking up and down Blackstock Road with confusion on their faces thinking “Is this Arsenal?” I miss being close to the human heartbreak of supporting a team like Arsenal. The suffering of being brilliant yet brittle.
Maybe I don’t hate Arsenal now because I know that, if we go back, my kids will become real Arsenal supporters. My daughter stopped being a Leeds fan when she was five, in the season they were relegated and Arsenal went undefeated in the league. I told her I’d live with it but that’s it – she wasn’t allowed to change again. In a few years Leeds will be in some obscure part of the non-league structure so any memory of them being rivals will be long gone.