Football: 'It's been a total farce'

Nick Harris checks out the fans' reaction to this season's saga at Highbury
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The Independent Online
United in the adversities of the past month, Arsenal fans outside Highbury last night were confident of one thing: that their recent problems will, if anything, only fuel the renaissance of the team.

"There's one thing about Arsenal players that will motivate them," Frank Kelly, a season ticket-holder, said. "And that is that when their backs are up against the wall, they'll come out fighting."

The faith of the supporters is also being placed in the hands of the in-coming manager Arsene Wenger, whose arrival on 30 September was finally confirmed yesterday.

"Brand new issue of the Gooner," heralded the fanzine sellers. "Out today. Special French edition." And indeed it was, with a cartoon on the cover of the man fans hope will be the special French addition, alongside a tricolor and the headline "Walking in a Wenger wonderland?"

What the Messiah of Monaco will eventually do remains to be seen, but since the sacking of Bruce Rioch five days before the season's kick-off, the patience of the most ardent Arsenal supporter has been tried.

"It's been total and utter farce," said Martin Brock, one of many fans who lay the blame at the feet of the board. "I just wish David Dein would go," said another. "Ever since he's been here we've had trouble. He might be dedicated to Arsenal, but he doesn't give a monkey's about the average fan. At the end of the day, it's the people at the top who've messed up."

The most recent episode in the Highbury debacle, Tony Adams' admission of alcoholism, did not come as much of a surprise to most. "Arsenal have had a history of players who liked a drink, so it's water off a duck's back, really," said one.

Although it might be a familiar problem, Adams will have no lack of fervent support. "The supporters are 100 per cent behind him," Richard Parker said. "What he's done for the club you can't ever take away from him. He's never let Arsenal down, and people respect him for that."

The start of the team's season on the pitch was marred by the 3-2 home defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach last week, but it is seen by most as a temporary problem. "We're practically out of Europe before Wenger gets here," one fan said. "But hopefully he can plug the defence a bit, and bring some flair to the side."