By Woolwich Brooks
I’ve given myself until about 2:30 on Saturday.
After that, Robin really will be just another player. Another player for one of those garish northern clubs I don’t much care for. Until then, for one more day at least, I’ll let myself go on.
It’s just one thing in particular doesn’t sit quite right with me regarding a common gooner reason for the shock about his move. And, in fact, some industrious sort has made a rather depressing picture representing this reason. You may have seen it.
The picture is, obviously, of Robin, and on this picture is printed a quote from just some 18 months ago. You know what it is. It’s his quote basically saying how easy it would be to leave and win elsewhere. but that it would mean more for him to win here, here at Arsenal.
We read that and we wonder how he could ever change his mind (or have his mind changed) so quickly.
I mean, what mere 18 months is this?
Explanations for his being able to demonstrate such “turn-coat Charlie-ism” have seemed to centre around his never having been a true gooner anyway, merely putting it on.
The conclusion many, including the most intelligent of Arsenal commentators out there, have come to is that for players, a club is as an employer is to the rest of us.
The problem I have with this is that it paints a picture of footballers in such a black and white way. Either they are like fans, as we would dream, or they are ruthless professionals happy to dump their employer on the whims of progression, opportunity and self-interest.
But it really isn’t this simple.
Less considered, particularly during this episode, is that players are human like the rest of us, incredibly complicated, sweaty, overpaid humans capable of panic, fear and, importantly, desperation.
Robin did himself no favours with that gag-inducing letter of mid July, but even that demonstrates how human the man is. If he were a mercenary, he wouldn’t have bothered with such a letter. He would have said a simple no thanks and gone as soon as he could.
My thinking is that he isn’t a mercenary. He wasn’t lying about being a gooner. He wasn’t lying when he said it would mean so much more to him to win at Arsenal than elsewhere. The letter, and even leaving Arsenal itself, to me at least, shows a man in the throes of desperation.
I don’t think he wants to leave, but I DO think he feels he has no choice.
He is 29, he can wait no longer to win big. I imagine it WOULD mean a lot for him to win at Arsenal, it would mean almost everything – just not quite everything.
Unfortunately, it means a little bit more to win at least something in the first place. Even if that can’t be at Arsenal.
It’s hard not to understand that.
That goes some way to explain the terrible letter. If we were to analyse the handwriting it would be that of a man not knowing what the fuck he’s doing, running on instinct, making it up as he’s going along.
That isn’t the behaviour of a mercenary, of someone who doesn’t care about the club we love.
Maybe I’m over-thinking, but this feels like a crime of passion, not logic. We lost Robin a few months after he said that quote from the beginning of this post. When we collapsed in Easter 2011, going from title contenders to 4th and having to qualify for the CL, losing Cesc and Nasri took all attention. The failure to secure Robin’s services for longer then brings us to this.
Robin is no gooner anymore, but I sincerely feel as though he wishes we thought of him as one.
Yes, he’ll be hated. That’s the price he will pay, the price he has to pay, for what he has let happen.
But it’s the price he has to pay for being human, for being afraid of reaching 80 years old, looking back on his short career, and regretting having won nothing.
Unfortunately for us Arsenal fans, in this case at least, fear of regret is that little bit greater than the fear of being hated.