This is what a crowd can do to players
Sunday's game is the eighth home cup-tie of the season so it is not included in the season ticket price. As such Arsenal have given people the chance to "opt out" of taking up their seat for the match. Certain "supporters" groups have seized this as their opportunity to give Stan Kroenke a bloody nose by organising a boycott of the game. If they think Kroenke would be remotely bothered then they are crazy. Nevertheless they claim to have had great success in terms of people deciding to not go to the game. Whether that is true or not you can judge for yourselves based on what I write further down.
Among the main people calling for this boycott are the Arsenal Supporters Trust and Red Action. The AST have long been a target of my serious dislike. They are fronted by a spokesman who seems to think that putting on a big rosette and turning up at the AGM makes him number one fan. The man in question is Tim Payton and he talks utter b******s. His groups advocating of the boycott is no surprise - the self-publicists among them will be champing at the bit in the hope of getting their ugly mugs on Sky or an interview with Radio Five. The fact is that if Payton doesn't turn up then nobody will notice the difference - he spent the last Ashes tour in Australia at the height of the football season, so he was almost as absent as Silent Stan himself. Equally deplorable are Red Action. Here we have a group (albeit of no more than a few men) who claim to want to build the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium. How do you propose to create an atmosphere from your living room? Today, having announced they will not be attending the game out of protest they want people who do turn up to help display one of the crowd surfing flags before kick-off. I hope Arsenal tel them all where to go from now on - there are plenty of fan orientated people employed by the club who could easily take on the job.
I have to say at this point that I am not going to the match. However, I am not boycotting it. I never would. I am working on Sunday so my ten year-old is taking my place in the stadium. If I wasn't working then I'd be attending. I don't care how much I disagree with Arsene Wenger, or with the way Kroenke is having the club run, I go to support Arsenal. The only thing that would stop me from going is being priced out. I'm fortunate that I have a decent job that means I can still afford to go. I'm also fortunate to have been brought up by a Dad who has supported Arsenal since 1950 and has been going for over 60 years to watch the team play. On the way back from the Swansea game an acquaintance of ours said on Twitter that he won't be renewing his season ticket as he "has better things" to spend his money on. His choice, obviously, but he is clearly nothing more than a glory hunter. Having gone through the 50's and 60's, the mid-70's an early 80's, my Dad has seen plenty of lean times but, in his own words, "I've never considered not going" - and that is exactly how I feel. Arsenal is my club, my team. Win or lose, thick or thin, it is going to The Arsenal that is one of lifes pleasures. Why would I deliberately choose to not go in order to "make a point"?
It would seem that this boycott is doomed to failure in any case. A brief look at the website this morning shows limited availability for tickets. It would appear that not many are boycotting after all. If they are, then the silver and red members are lining up to take their places. Red Action are back-tracking this morning with their Twitter feed describing a full stadium as a "win-win" as the team will get the support while Kroenke won't get their £35 in his pocket. I think they realise the game is up. I hope that those who do turn up create a real cauldron to support the players - you can be sure the 9000 Watford supporters will be right behind their boys.
I am not anti-protest against Kroenke. However, turning your backs on the team is simply not the way to do it. What is the way? That's not for me to decide. I would be more than happy to join in with proper protests outside the stadium that were directed at the majority owner. The fact is that share holders have ample chance to make their feelings genuinely known by making a stand at the AGM. Whatever the protest may be it shouldn't be one that involves not supporting the team. How can you expect the players to turn up on the day when you make a conscious decision not to? I also hope that anyone boycotting the game by opting out won't be expecting a ticket for Wembley if we are lucky enough to get there again.
We shouldn't underestimate the role that fans support can play. You hear all about the hostility in many of the away European grounds. Look at the effect of the "yellow wall" in Dortmund, for example. I chose the picture at the top of this post as a reminder of what the Arsenal fans can do to an opponent at a crucial point in the game. If you can't appreciate it from the photo then here is the video of it - just look at the North Bank, and then compare that with what a half-empty Emirates would be like...