As a hardened Blackburn Rovers fan, I’m not supposed to have any love of Arsenal.
Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan… all these places were synonymous with “getting stuck in to ” soft Arsenal teams, who rolled up with all the style of a Rolls Royce but the durability of cling film. There used to be nothing more satisfying than sending these “southern softies” packing as Arsene Wenger bemoaned “foul play” and the rough and tumble of northern football clubs.
I’ve been infuriated as well, by Blackburn’s reputation amongst London-based media for enacting precisely this – supposed strong arm tactics against vastly superior players and somehow getting away with it.
I can vividly remember a 2005 FA Cup Semi Final where Rovers were destroyed by all the press for having the cheek to try and beat Arsenal – Robbie Savage, Andy Todd et al taking the public bruising and battering which they’d apparently dished out to Vieira and co.
Then there was the ridiculous argument between a 20 year old Cesc Fabregas and Hughes over Rovers’ style of play. We would have played like Barcelona, Cesc lad, if we had anything like their resources!
And anyway, Arsenal have treated Blackburn pretty savagely in terms of results as well. A pair of 6-2s at the Emirates, 4-0, 7-1… all these horror shows are etched on my brain of when we were well and truly smashed.
No other team has given us quite so much punishment.
And yet, despite all this shared history of mutual loathing, I’ve got a tremendous soft spot for Arsenal.
In fact, since about 2008, I’ve been crying out for them to win the league – to show it to the better drilled, more efficient and generally more ruthless teams like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United that flair and magic can win titles.
Has it happened? No way.
Why have I followed them? I think precisely because I’ve witnessed (and suffered) first-hand what they can do on their day. And it’s a thing of beauty. Their football can be sumptuous, the goals breathtaking and the results outstanding.
Unfortunately, it comes all too rarely now. Wenger’s approach has been found out and the sheer openness of his side, particularly away from home is ridiculous.
Add to that their dreadful injury record and trying to follow Arsenal is about as joyful as watching Blackburn Rovers.
And besides, some of my best memories have come at the hands of Arsenal.
So I’ll keep supporting them in the Premiership. Can they show those other clubs?
Probably not – but at least when Rovers rejoin the Premier League and are getting battered every week (think Burnley at the beginning of this season!), I’ll still have some victories to celebrate!