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My Identity

BY NICK THE REVEREND / @goonerrepublic

One of my favourite snippets in Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch' is the bit where he describes that terrible dilemma faced when a loved one catches you off guard with the "What are you thinking?" question. You could well respond truthfully with an Arsenal-related topic, everybody knows full well what the consequences are likely to be.

I found myself confronted with exactly this problem many years ago. It was the dead of night, and the young lady I was seeing turned to me in the dark silence and asked THE question. Should I be honest? I should I be more cunning and tell her something that I think she wants to hear? After a few seconds of frantic deliberation, I decided that if the relationship was to have a future, we needed to be honest with each other. So I said: "I'm hoping Tony's ankle is going to be OK for Saturday. We really need him at the back."

There was a silence, during which I can only presume she was trying to work out whether she had actually heard what she thought she had heard. And once she decided that she had, she exploded. I won't recount exactly what she said - you can probably have a good guess. But the last utterance was: "I can't believe you're so obsessed by Arsenal. It's not as though it's your identity!!!" That was the moment that I knew we had no future, because that was exactly the point - it was and is my identity.

There was nothing inevitable about my becoming an Arsenal supporter. Nobody in my family had any particular interest in football. But there was something about the red and white shirt and the cannon crest, and the fact that there were so many Irishmen in the side in the late seventies certainly helped. So it came to pass that Brady, O'Leary, Rice, Stapleton and Jennings became ingrained in my DNA from the age of nine. And the bond grew stronger, despite my torment watching us lose the Cup Winners Cup Final, and the fallow years of the eighties.

I made my home debut on the same day as Wrighty, standing on the North Bank and watching him score in a 3-2 win against Chelsea in October, 1991. At that precise moment my relationship with the team changed from a sort of obsessive youthful enthusiasm to a grown-up form of addiction. My family weren’t surprised when I left Dublin and to moved London in the mid-nineties so I could work and watch the Arsenal. It was, as it turned out, the perfect moment to make the move - I showed up not too long before Arsene did, and the next thing I knew I was on the North Bank watching Tony lifting the League trophy.

Our last season at Highbury was also my last in London. I returned to Ireland and started a family, and my relationship with the club has changed too. But why should things stay the same forever? The fact is that the club has always been in a constant process of change. What makes the Arsenal unique is the way it has changed and developed and yet maintained its identity: a club based on an unrivalled tradition and heritage. Though I'm better able to manage my addiction now, the Arsenal is still so deeply ingrained in my life and my identity that there is nothing I can do about it. And why would I want to?

Reader Comments (1)

Every bloody day, I get asked that question...

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter@buxtongooner
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