I've made the summer more bearable by avoiding the sports pages of the red-tops.
Well, marginally more bearable - because it's impossible, if you love the club, to wean yourself completely off the constant drip-drip-drip of news.
The addiction to Arsenal!
And of course that's one of the huge differences between way back at the beginning of the sixties when I first started following the club - and now: the plethora of news. Back then I kept an Arsenal scrapbook - I still have them. Match reports stuck in from the papers that I could get at the time - all dated and labelled.
But come the summer - there's virtually nothing. Why? Not because my love for the club died during those months - but because the papers back then - pre-red-top, pre-tabloid - really didn't cover the game in any great detail once the Cup final was over and only returned the week of the opening game of the season.
I only mention this because, yes, of course, the game has changed in the last fifty years - but so has the coverage. Not just back page, but front page. Constant choice of live games, 24 hour sports news coverage, dedicated TV channels, specials, blogs (!), supplements, online - and so on. Is it any wonder that the players then changed as their enhanced public profiles fuelled egos fuelled salary demands.....!?
Actually this summer has been marginally better than the last few miserable summers of stories about the comings and goings of Arsenal players - which really started at the beginning of the decade when Vieira was in his pomp and everyday there seemed to be stories about transfers, his loyalty to the club, his wage demands, his respect for Wenger, his love of Italy, the importance of the captaincy and so on. In other words, arrant nonsense to fill the acreage of space that the media now gives football...
But it's better (marginally) this summer (well at least Flamini had the good grace to bugger off as the kit from his last game was still in the spin dryer) because the rubbish being written about Hleb and Ade is still rubbish - but there's better rubbish being written about Him from Manchester, the Slave, and Mourinho's badge-kissing love child wavering at the Bridge. And don't we all love schadenfreude!
But when I say rubbish - I mean rubbish! Rubbish because editors have space to fill and will fill it with gossip, half-truths, lies, fiction, scandal. But rubbish because footballers (and their agents) become willing partners in this media dance. Did Hleb say all that rubbish about Arsene and Cesc that he then so quickly denied and retracted? Yes! He probably did on some Belarus website. Did he then - and, oh, the delicious echo of Reyes (!) - spout some inanities about his sufferings at living in London! Yes - I am sure he did. Vacuous rubbish to fill back pages to hasten his exit... negotiations being conducted in public. Do I care if he goes? No!
At least Ade had some engagement of the brain - or PR company - to stage manage a quick philanthropic trip to Togo to display his love of his homeland as he courted any club in Spain or Italy and at least make his exit look like it was coming from a man that had a heart, that cared….
But cared about what? Cared about the club? The fans? And after all that the club and Arsene have given him to read his rubbish about wanting to be loved more – for which read paid more – I’d be quite happy never to see a player kiss a badge again. I don’t care if he goes too…. but I can only laugh louder at the more blatant infidelities from the Slave and the already grossly overpaid Bridge-Waverer.
Some of the earliest cuttings in my scrapbook are about George Eastham. One of the most elegant players ever to play for the club and to whom most modern players owe a huge debt of gratitude. Here was a man who wanted out of Newcastle so much that he put his career on hold and temporarily became a cork salesman before being allowed to join Arsenal and in the process helped to break the ‘retain and transfer’ system - and in part gave today’s players so much freedom.
Slavery? Let’s all laugh. At least this summer there are more laughs to be had at other clubs and the hollow whoring of other players. If Flamini, Hleb, Ade want to go, I don’t care. If they can’t appreciate that the Arsenal Academy and the alchemy that Arsene has applied to them, spare me at least their pathetic outbursts in the media.
I’m an Arsenal Addict and I sleep easy at night.