Jon Spurling’s new book Red Letter Days: Fourteen Dramatic Events That Shook Arsenal pops tongue in cheek as he traces the club’s decade-long decline from invincible champions to dissent-riven also-rans.
But we may be near a stage where Arsene Wenger would be vilified less if he sent the world spiralling into warfare.
That’s football, innit.
Incidentally, in that summer of 1913, Woolwich Arsenal were relegated. A stormy shareholders meeting rounded on the board for not replacing star striker Andy Ducat; sold to Aston Villa for £1,000. Captain Percy Sands bore the brunt of the stadium jeering. Happily, the club turned a modest profit.
As directors considered a move north of the Thames, the Highbury Defence League was formed. Red Letter Days describes the rising wave of panic in the urbane borough of Islington at the “coming football invasion”.
The Islington Gazette filled with letters fearing an influx of sinful activities and the prospect of ‘hawkers, litter, drunkenness and bad language and of fans arguing about the game at public houses’.
They may have been a little sniffy round that neck of the woods, but concerned residents will be entitled to a turn in their N19 cemeteries if they could see their brethren roaring at a decorated servant and inviting him to fuck off as he boarded a train in Stoke-on-Trent.
But times change. Arsenal might still be putting profit over prizes but we are no longer so certain about this kind of carry-on.
Earlier this week The London Metro ran a poll. The Fans Who Abused Arsene Wenger are… Animals or Heroes?
These are the questions we must ask now. Did Arsene get what he deserved? To decide, we may need some kind of reprisal sliding scale. Foul abuse for slipping out of the European places. Perhaps a little spitting and gouging for a plunge below mid-table. A kick in the knackers for an early cup exit? A repeat of the 1913 relegation? Suppose it would be fitting to pack him off to his death.
It’s been a rough old year for Arsene. Widely ridiculed, goaded by Mourinho, mocked by Gary Lineker, called clueless by Paul Merson. Now a significant portion of the fanbase has turned.
Yet, even his harshest critics must have softened in May, as he gambolled around Wembley in his shirtsleeves, the relief lifting a decade off him.
Not quite the glory of 2004 but after just one season with any assistance from the money men, it was a golden summer that entitled him to a little peace.
And a new deal, a proper crack, if he wanted it.
He may not be able to deliver. He is making mistakes.
But the yobs roaring at him in Stoke deserve the sun blotted out permanently on Arsenal’s prospects.