By Avenell Dave
I heard the most disgusting comment as I trudged out of the stadium on Sunday.
Some vaguely respectable looking Gooner was walking with, whom I assume was his son, and in a well-spoken voice, said to the boy “That bloke Park shouldn’t be playing football, he should be serving me at the local Chinese!”
I wanted to stop and say something but was in such as foul mood that I decided not to for fear of letting my emotions get out of control.
It shows that racism is alive and kicking – so there’s hope for you yet, Nick Griffin – sadly.
But there are plenty of Arsenal fans who wonder why we don’t play more Englishmen in the side.
As Graham Mac said to me on Sunday, Theo Walcott wouldn’t have been given half as much time to prove himself by the fans if he wasn’t English.
He is right, of course, because Gooners want to see English players coming through, perceiving them to be more loyal, more aligned to the traditions of the club.
But the latest incident with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (see here) underlines the lack of professionalism that blights English players more than most.
Nick Bendtner is conspicuous by his misdemeanor of being snapped with his trousers down outside a London club last season.
Other than that, the players know that Wenger, who was brought up above a pub and knows full well of the dangers and perils of drink, simply will not tolerate bad behaviour.
If you look at the English players Wenger has signed, very few have been a success. Sol Campbell was of course the exception and Matt Upson may have been if he hadn’t broken his leg, but Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright, who arrived with a fanfare, did little to prove themselves worthy of wearing the shirt and the fact that neither went on to prove themselves at other clubs speaks volumes.
C*shley C*le was born and raised a Gooner and yet, when the money offered during initial discussions did not match his expectations (they’re called negotiations for a reason), he started flirting with his current employers and even admitted it in his deservedly-maligned book. D*vid B*ntley is another who believed he was better than he was and didn’t have the application or patience to see the bigger picture.
Kieran Gibbs may be the exception, and having read an interview with Craig Eastmond, he too seems to be level-headed (although it’s early days) but as we’ve seen with John T*rry this week, lots of money too young can have a damaging effect on often under-educated kids whose lives are all about football and not about how to deal with the pressures and temptations that will come their way when fame and cash are thrown at them.
With prices for English kids pretty much double that for similar prodigies from overseas, is it any wonder Wenger looks abroad? There is simply no value in buying English talent unless you can be absolutely convinced the player is grounded and level headed.
Chris Smalling was planning on going to University when he was at Maidstone, which suggests he had the right sort of character for Wenger, while Alex Song may only be 22 but he already has a couple of kids and is clearly a settled family man.
When I read that JET had been in a cop chase and then had the window smashed, it was bad enough, but a McLaren worth £100k? At his age?
To a certain extent, tying down the young kids on big contracts undermines their hunger later on – especially if our finances are in any way as stretched as we fear they may be. But Wenger believes in bringing up players from a young age in the Arsenal Way and, while JET’s behavior has let the entire club down, the Liam Brady Academy shouldn’t be maligned because of one misdemeanour.
Back to Sunday and Park Ji-Sung may not be the most talented player in M*nure’s squad but that’s the second season in a row he’s hurt us badly.
I don’t care if our players are from Finsbury Park, Central Park or the Parc des Princes as long as they have talent, heart and are determined to succeed, fight for every ball and know what it means to play for the Arsenal.