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Thursday
Dec082011

Two Loves

BY LIAM LENIHAN / @LiamL1102

Most men fight with their girlfriends or their wives about the amount of football watched at home. I’m no exception but there is a slight difference. The worst argument I’ve ever had with my fiancée was about the suitability of Robin Van Persie to the position of out-and-out striker. That was about three or four years ago. I was wrong and his recent scoring exploits have proved the point.

After every goal Robin scores, after every impressive stat that’s read out relating to his performance, after every one of his assists or any commendation from the commentator, my other half turns to me and asks: “Hmmm, he is playing very well Liam but I wonder, are we getting the best out of Van Persie in that position?!”

I suppose I should explain. Some football lovers are born Arsenal fans, some choose to be Arsenal fans, and some have Arsenal fandom thrust upon them. I’m in the latter category. Not that I’m complaining mind you – I’ve always admired Arsene Wenger, his attacking philosophy and his commendable approach to youth development.

Anyway, when I met my fiancée a decade ago she was, and still is, a fanatical devotee of the men in red-and-white. Many hard-core Gooners will begin to see where this is going and begin to grumble unsympathetically that I’m not a real fan. But believe you me, it’s not easy competing with rich athletes, especially those who inspire the almost pure love my Mary has for Dennis Bergkamp (or the Dutch deity as I resentfully used to call him behind her back).

So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – right? I wish it was so simple. You have to earn being a real fan. You can’t just criticize a dodgy defence or a misfiring attack because it’s plain to anyone with a basic understanding of the game. You have to earn that by slowly beginning to allow the lunacy of the fanatical fan to permeate every aspect of your being until you’re glad you are getting married on a Thursday because there are Champions League and FA Cup fixtures in April. And you end up hugging Gunnersaurus Rex at the Emirates Cup. Then there’s the irrational admiration you hold for players who ultimately make you look bad – step forward Julio Baptista.

In addition, there are the disastrous expeditions. The one that comes most obviously to mind is the store in Cork, run by a Liverpool nut, who wouldn’t put ‘WE’VE GOT DENNIS BERGKAMP’ on the back of Mary’s shirt because apparently, “it would spoil the shirt.” The owner convinced me to get ‘WE”VE GOT BERGKAMP’ – apparently the ‘DENNIS’ violated some special code. I had to buy a second shirt from another shop in Cork a few days later so Mary’s birthday wouldn’t be spoiled! In fairness, I laugh now but at the time fifty euros was a lot of money…oh who am I kidding, it still is, and I’d still pay it!

I joke with my fiancée when she questions my credentials as a ‘real fan’ that true love has brought me to The Arsenal. It’s received with short shrift, though I suspect the sentiment is secretly appreciated. Seriously though, it’s not half bad having the faithful adopt you between the age of 21 and 31.

My greatest fear regarding my future mother and sister-in-law is the inconsistent nature of our current team’s ability to close out games and its effect on their happiness. And if I am slowly being accepted into the fold through trips to the Grove and a freakish osmosis of ‘priceless’ facts regarding the age, origin and ability of our many players it’s hardly the worst thing your adopted family could do to you.

My favourite memories? Any of the big games we’ve won which have allowed my future wife and I to relax and enjoy the highlights on a Saturday or Sunday night. I’m getting married next year to my favourite Gunner and that fight about Van Persie is still the worst thing we fought about. I played it safe and brought her a ruby and white gold ring to be sure – you can’t go wrong with red and white!

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