FAN'S EYE VIEW : Holiness dragged in gutter

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The Independent Online
Arsenal fans will always remember where they were when they heard the news.

George Graham taking a bung? George, that elegant figure of such high moral probity that he won't even spend the Euro profits on a striker? George, who'd rather let Seaman go route-one than buy us a midfielder worthy of the name?

"Stroller" himself, who'd won us six trophies in eight years and was now on course to out-gun his holiness Herbert Chapman? Stroll on. It wasn't possible. It isn't possible. And it is still, of course, alleged.

We want to believe it isn't true. We know it can't be true. And yet, and yet... If it is, and George has to go, there's the prospect of new management and the weird thought of actually enjoying our Saturday afternoons.

In our dreams, we can even see some adventurous new boss splashing out on a forward line to go with that defence. Highbury could be like Wimbledon - the tennis, not the football club - with heads swinging back and forth, end to end stuff, scorelines withmore than one goal (if that) to bite our nails over.

Is that what we want? Or would we rather go back to Wembley for more dogged replay victories? Would we rather age 10 years hanging on to a smudger goal in another Euro final? Are those brief moments of glory worth the humiliating defeats at Leicester andSouthampton?

The short answer is: we don't know. When George is winning, we love him. At moments like this, when we've lost more Premiership games than we've won and we're sliding down the table, we think he's a tight Scottish git. We bay for him to get out Ken Friar's ample cheque book, full of our money, but he just strolls on.

So this time, for once, we've been scanning every nuance of those mealy-mouthed FA statements. We've even tuned in for clues, like Kremlinologists, to Graham Kelly's nasal whine. So the panel met for three hours, eh? So there was a case to answer, huh: So they've sent sleuths to Denmark? So there must be something in it... maybe.

With anyone else, there wouldn't have been any doubt. Well, that's football these days, isn't it? Agents, managers, players, even the board members - everyone's got their hands in the till.

But George? The buggers let Spurs off their six points, put them back in the Cup and give us barely a day to rant about it before they go after George. Who cares if the team's developed arteriosclerosis? We're with him all the way.

So the boys - you show `em, lads - bounce right back at Maine Road. They play like angels, and give us our first away win since Brondby. And they do it on the telly, with Spurs fans watching. Right on, George, Wright on, you can beat this rap.

Then they play like prats at home to Leeds. Bloody typical. We'll forgive Merse anything, if he cleans up his act and starts scoring again. We'll cheer Captain Fantastic out of jail, if he skippers us to the title. But we can't forgive George for grinning on Match of the Day while we're feeling gutted.

Even in my section of the Lower East Stand, on the whole a respectable lot, we were shouting: "Spend some of that bung on some players, George!"

Typical Graham: a backhander for a player who has not even scored one goal for Arsenal. Just think of it. No more George, and there'd be no more Linighan back passes. No more Campbell missing open goals. No more missing out on the Suttons, the Ferdinands, the Collymores. No more Keown at all.

It has added 20 years to my life. But maybe no more Cup doubles. No more snatching the title from Liverpool in the dying seconds of the season. No more awaydays to Torino and Copenhagen... Come back, George, all is forgiven?

If we'd beaten Leeds, maybe. The board may be standing by him, sort of, but we fans are definitely wobbling. However we come out of all this, with or without a new manager, we're looking for an Italian striker with a name like Vitanuova.

Get your cheque book out, George, or you may find us wanting to believe it's true.

Anthony Holden, the writer and broadcaster, has been an Arsenal ticket holder for 20 years.