SAFETY - DEAR HAMMERS

Dear Hammers,

this is an open letter in the manner of those nasty round robins from slightly smug relatives overseas; you know, where they think you give a toss that they have a new car and that Helen is getting engaged to Brad, who went to Yale, and now works for IBM; but they don't actually give even half of a toss about you really; not enough that they would write to you personally.

I know it's a bit risky singling out one group of football supporters in their entirety for a tirade (and that's whats coming folks, an avalanche, please ring a bell and warn someone). And I also know we're all supposed to love you. For good reasons we keep a warm space in our chests for the claret and blue. The East End really was bombed, Alf Garnett wasn't actually being serious, and we feel quite strongly about not using unlicensed mini-cabs. And you are like plucky little brothers who we're quite proud of. And you seem to really hate Spurs (which is such an overwhelming sign of good character that it ought to be a tick-box option on dating websites).

But I for one won't be carrying on with the old West Ham/Arsenal love-in any more. Sorry chaps and chapesses. So you caught us in a very bad week. What's with the rubbing it in, eh? The second most surprising thing last week was that one or two of you know how to use photoshop. But the sheer volume of shadenfreude beaming in to my inbox, and doubtless those of other Gooners, was Surprising Thing Number One by a good 3 lengths. Since when didst THOU, tiny flea, stand and mock the horse that thou hast bitten?

Seems some Hammers are merrily burning bridges behind them at the moment. Maybe not you, the recipient of this missive, but a fair few. Well, I've lost it. My rag, I mean. It's gone. Some fucker's got my rag. Next time you play us don't expect any kind of ovation from me when the announcer tells us all to "welcome our guests from East London..." (By the way, you would normally hear me applaud, as well, because everyone here is so fucking quiet, right?) Before you protest that I should untwist my red and white knickers because it's just a wind up', and you still respect us', and you really, really hate Chelsea'... Well, with Chelsea, what's to like? Seriously. Saying "I hate Chelsea" is the same as saying "I like to breath air": it's not a badge of honour, it's a common denominator. Alright you hate Spurs too. Actually, the present Spurs I have some grudging admiration for because they are almost an England B team and it's a world cup year.

'Twould be churlish not to doff one's cap on Seven Sisters road and say well done Jol for making us forget what a pile of old sh!te Lilleshall turned out to be. I've always had a soft spot for West Ham (and Charlton too, everyone likes Charlton...in fact Charlton fans would never fill your email intray with smart-arse remarks; they'd be after you instead to attend a charity match to help erect a special seating area at the Valley for blind first world war veteran ex-footballers with alzheimers... and they'd lay on a coach for the day, gratis). Teddy the Tosser aside, you've got a team that looks a bit like an old Arsenal team - mainly southern boys with lots of pace, not the best passers in the world, but they like to get forward and they take their chances well, and they just have a winning mentality and a good team spirit and just a sprinkling of grisly old pro's to help the kids out.

Just like the days when I started supporting Arsenal. And, naturally, you're a renowned retirement home for old Gooners, as well. Disliking West Ham on those terms would be like withholding Nutty's pension money at the Post office counter. For instance, Reo-coker is the sort of player we used to buy and should be buying still (and keeping Bentley and a few more of the English academy. Starting to sound like a cab driver here, but don't worry, your job's safe). As for respecting Arsenal and just being glad to beat such a great team (which is the excuse I've heard when I mentioned that you seem to've come on a bit Pete Tong since your win at THOF), well you're too late.

Our new kids aren't yet household names who make a mockery of defences, so you'll get no change for your stake there. And our old boys haven't quite cut the mustard this season (Henry aside). They now look beatable running on to the pitch; not after 70 minutes when they've run out of ideas. So there's little for anyone to have to RESPECT out there in an Arsenal shirt right now. You have to earn it, baby and (to paraphrase Morrissey and Manure fans), we just haven't, yet. Anyway, with any family, outsiders are throwing stones from far too far away to break any windows. You should see what it's like at point blank range. You may have thought you put a good twist on the knife, but we were up to our wrists in it by then. Gooners have been a benign and blessed bunch for many years and we'd eat Sheringhams shit before we'd paint a bedsheet with 'Wenger Out' on it.

Most fans moan, we don't. But when we do, though, it's internecine strife on a grand scale with shit flying everywhere. The Jacob's and the Esau's are measuring arm hairs in the tent and it can only lead to war unless someone intervenes. personally, wheen it comes to Arsenal, I'm usually chirpier than a budgerigar with a large hard-on, but I actually have some of my own wood for the fire at the moment. I hate dissing players, but Sol Campbell let his team mates and us fans down badly. If he was anyone else's player, he'd not have a bib or a parking spot at training today, let alone some flipping relationship councillor that Arsenal have probably forked out for. We'd also never carry a player. We never have before - not even Merson and Adams, pissed from the night before. They still grafted so hard that, if you've ever been to work with a hangover and got nothing done of note that day, the very shame of watching them sweat out the booze chasing a wayward clearance down to the corner flag made you bleed shame out of both your ears. And they probably shared the man of the match bottle of bubbly, which inevitably started them off again on the next legendary bender.

But Girl-berto is just getting a free ride. I no longer accept this is a Languorous Brazilian Maestro' we are paying to watch. If I saw those words on a postcard in a phone box, I'd know straigt away I wasn't really looking at a 'GENUINE PHOTO' - with him it's the same thing; less than the sum of his parts. When he was out with back pain for much of last season we really missed him. Now he's back in, we miss him even more. Ashley Cole is allowed to go to tribunals about his astronomical contract and is not told to sit down and fucking shut up as he would have been in the GG era. Any player we have who is any good is now tapped up by the newspapers before even the agents have sniffed around them. Some newspaper men really have it in for us because they are MAKING exclusives. OK, more fool us for having players so easily swayed by the stinky winds of the rumour monger. But your Arsenal career is like getting Goldman Sachs on your CV now. Even the toilet cleaners at Goldmans will get a trading desk anywhere else.

Talking of transfers, Theo Walcott is a fucking miracle, because we can't get near quality players normaally before the blue chequebook comes out and they swan off to join Roman's legionaries. But when we could have bought, we didn't. And that's much worse. I'd rather buy a few who don't work out, just to chivvy up the encumbents, than keep my powder dry only to realise, with the Apache's bearing down on the wagons, that it had leaked out of my pocket. Mighty Arsenal? We haven't had a settled line up in 18 months, really. In fact, I challenge you to name the starting 11 against Bolton. I can't. What with selling Paddy (when he didn't want to go, we now find out), Ashley out with a wallet injury, shit-loads of debt on the new stadium (yet to be remaned The White Elephant Bowl but give the Evening Standard time), Thierry not signed up yet, and these iffy "redcurrant' look-great-with-jeans shirts that are starting not to feel like look-like-a-Gooner shirts...it all makes my conservative, softly-softly, don't rock the boat, little Arsenal ticker do star jumps.

The respect people have for Arsenal is a finite commodity in serious danger of being squandered. Edelman is spending goodwill, right now, like a New Jersey hooker in Macey's with a stolen credit card. We don't rile easily, but when we do we make enough rile to put traditional rile makers to forming unions. The ticket prices for Ashburton are disgraceful. Ashley Cole can't understand why people don't sing his name anymore? Well, quite apart from not remembering what he looks like, he's practically pulling fivers out of our pockets.

The stadium is over budget, yes, and it's an expensive project, yes, but I didn't realise you needed me to mortgage my own property to enable you to build yours! Anyway, that's all real estate. The core of the club is still the 11 men on the field and if they go alright we can manage the rest on instinct (the same one you say you have) which is..."They're Arsenal, they do things the proper way". Our worst run of results in the Wenger era isn't really all that bad, but we have standards you just wouldn't believe... The team don't look like Arsenal at the moment. Funny shirts, kids from the reserves, unknown quantities. It'll take some time before we feel like it's settled down.

Any pain gooners are feeling is actually self-induced. We actually know it won't be like this for very long. But you really haven't helped. I know you're not meant to either, but all the same...you know. 6 wins and that Pardew (who looks a bit CID, I reckon) who you thought was cack, is now verging on manager of the month. let's see if he cracks aa smile when he's ranked up alongside Danny Wilson, Alan Ball and Brian Little on that illustrious trophy. And Bobby Zamora, who was a swapsie for your darling Jermaine, is starting to pay you back big style. That great oaf you were yelling at all last season, called Marlon Harewood, is now centre forward de nos jours. Repka is gone and you have another Ferdinand (avec le 'aircut d'imbecile that is his family trademark) at the back, so you can actually risk breathing out when the ball comes down your end. But big fucking deal.You know that we're better than you. And that we always will be. Little brother may have won a school prize, but if he grins a bit too much at supper, he'll still get a wedgie when the lights go out.

You are storing up some credit in the Bank of Defeat for the day when we actually recover from our malaise, probably sitting in some very unfamiliar seats, looking at a pitch that someone tells us is the new altar of our new temple, and we start playing a bit of football on it...lucky for you you'll probably still be in the Premiership to enjoy it.


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