Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stand By Me...Well Us.

Arsene Wenger today showed the passion that most Arsenal supporters are looking for but sadly it was a stuttering performance from the other board members.

The loudest applause was undoubtedly for Ken Friar as he was awarded his own bust and he looked genuinely taken a back when he saw all shareholders and supporters put their hands together.

Most people know about the respect I have for the manager but his speech did not let his fans down. He spoke with passionate and looked as determined as ever. He explained some of the mistakes he has made but vowed to keep fighting.

The AGM started with a stuttering Peter Hill Wood welcoming and telling us the structure of how the meeting will plan out. He told us that we will be hearing from Mr Kroenke and that was met with smiles from the shareholders, fan share members and supporters in the room.

Ivan Gazidis was first up and paid tribute to Danny Fiszman who passed away earlier this year. Ivan then went on to introduce Mr Kroenke and reminded us that he has been on the board for three years. According to Ivan, Fiszman only wanted to sell to Kroenke because he trusted him and believed his values would be upheld at the club.

Ivan moved to team matters and told the room how the club have added youth and experience this summer however, that takes a bit of time to settle (hinting about the slow start) but insists things are on the up.

He spent a minute talking about the superb achievement of the Arsenal ladies team who won the treble and this was greeted with a round of applause too.

The financial side is always debated greatly and Ivan was quick to point out that the club are in a very strong financial position. The debts from the property side are cleared and bank loans are paid so the only debt remaining is now the stadium, which is manageable according to Ivan. The Asia tour has given the club a platform for future tours and further commercial success. Arsenal, according to Ivan have not stood still and have tied down further commercial deals and developed the Arsenal player which is now in 110m homes in 88 different countries.

The plans for the 125 year celebration are done and dusted in terms of planning but are being kept quiet and the club want to keep it that way for a while yet. Arsenal have added a new medical centre at the training ground in a view to help the science in football too.

Ivan ended by reminding us all that Friar and Fiszman built ‘modern Arsenal’ and he is proud of the club values, style and the ‘manager who always puts the club first’. The club are ‘obsessed’ with being successful (Ivan) but ended by saying ‘a football club is more then just football’ and we must stand together to be successful.

Next came the man who we were all waiting to hear from and that was silent Stan. His first words in public were ‘its great to be here’; even though he only arrived a few hours before the meeting but he said the club is ‘great’. The next bit was the talk of the town after the meeting and that was because Kroenke said he was not sure why he had to speak however, some people think that it may have been a joke as he is called silent Stan but others feel he meant it.

Kroenke paid tribute to Fiszman and vowed to continue on his values and said his spirit will live on. Kroenke says he has had other offers to be involved in other teams across Europe but this did not interest him. He only saw how special Arsenal were after the commercial deals with his US teams. Kroenke feels Arsenal have everything to be successful; good management at the top, a good manager on the pitch and fantastic support.

Stan ended by saying he plans a long term future at Arsenal and says he plans to stay here for a long time and insists he loves London ( even though he has only been to a handful of matches and only arrived today and is rumoured to be on a flight back tomorrow!).

Next on the menu were a few questions from shareholders but to be honest, they were not exactly answered by Hill Wood. There was one about the self sustain model but Hill Wood was certain it is the right way to go rather then being dependent on one person and says the future ‘is in our hands’.

Our very own Darren ( @darrenarsenal1 ) asked about Tom Fox’s bonus and we are told Mr Fox hit his targets; what his targets were you ask? No sod knows.

Other questions included ticket prices and the question what if we fall out of the Champions League positions but Hill Wood said the club will try all they can to stay in the top four places ( like we did not know that!). The Fan share scheme is currently being talked about with the AST and board (however, I am not sure how much talking has actually been done!) and the question of David Dein coming back was dismissed and Stan Kroenke even jumped to the defence of Peter Hill Wood by backing him publically.

Peter Hill Wood ended by re-electing board members but forgot one small matter. HE FORGOT TO RE-ELECT STAN KROENKE! He then had to go back and re-elect him. Classic.

Next up was the boss. In my humble opinion, the boss spoke with passion and tried to explain as much as he could why the team failed last season. He blamed himself for going for all four competitions but felt the team were unlucky in Barcelona and at Wembley. Wenger gave credit to supporters and was thankful of the outstanding backing he has had over the last 15 years and that is one of the main reasons why he has been so loyal to our club.

Arsene Wenger agreed we lost two world class players but feels the new players that came in should not be judged so early. He feels that last season the team played too many games between November and January and felt without Fabregas and Van Persie playing much; it difficult to get over the line.

Wenger thought the rise of Wilshere was important and equally he was always under pressure to buy a new goal keeper but thinks everyone agrees that the matter is now closed.

Arsene Wenger insists the team are ready for a ‘fight’ but feels the club must be united with its supporters. Without being united, you have ‘no chance’ he said, ‘so we must be united’ and stand by and trust him and the club.

The full speeches are on Arsenal player but often you may not get the full picture and see the passion of people when they speak but most in the room agreed that Mr Wenger spoke well and spoke like he really cared.

How the other board members spoke? Well that is for one to judge.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why Disable Supporters Deserve A Special Mention At The Emirates And At All Football Grounds In The Country

When we talk about football fans, we think about the fans that travel up and down the country watching their team play home and away with relative ease. The financial side of going to football matches hurt most supporters’ during a season as money can be tight but apart from the financial constraints, there are relatively few issues that I personally find that stops me watching my beloved Arsenal team play home and away.

There is a section of supporters that find it much trickier but still do what everyone else does. The disable community at Arsenal and in football generally is massive. I want to take the next few minutes to give them the credit they well and truly deserve.

Home or away, sunshine or in rain, they are there. The uncomfortable journey that may occur is not an issue for these supporters and they do not complain nor really care because they want to just support and watch their team play (even though for some travelling is very difficult). I always see these fans turning up and supporting their team every time I go to a football match (club or Country). The section around the ground at the Emirates which seats wheelchairs is always full of enthusiastic football supporters. I often like to talk to them and listen out for their experiences at other grounds and issues they may have had and some of the stories I have heard are incredible; yet they keep coming back and that is a credit to them and football in general.

I know a few purple members and I often meet up with a few before games to have a chat; I have a cousin who is a season ticket holder who was previously a purple member too so I know a lot of about the Season tickets/purple membership. Purple members put in applications for their tickets and the disability team distribute the tickets.

The away tickets work on points like it does with everyone else but travelling up and down the country takes more effort as some people cannot just jump on a train to get to a ground. Some will need to plan much in advance and get someone to drive them along with finding a parking place which is relevantly close to the ground.

I know some that have to pay extraordinary rates for accessible taxis to bring them to games then have to wait a while after games for the taxis to come and pick them up again. (If that is you, then contact your disable ticketing team who can give you a few mini cabs numbers of accessible taxis that the club may have links with).

With the current climate and the recent poor form yet at Arsenal; the support has remained at its best home and certainly away. The Disable community are a massive part of that and sometimes taken for granted. They deserve credit from all football supporters all over the world as Arsenal is not the only club where the disable community is huge; most clubs across the country and abroad have many communities like this that travel across the country (and world) to watch their team play.

Things like this are what makes football so unique and what makes Arsenal football so special.

Thank you.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

15 Years Wenger + Spurs Away

He may not be one for anniversaries but today is the 15 year anniversary of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

15 years ago to the day we saw headlines of ‘Arsene Who?’ in the evening standard and the man quickly proved exactly who Arsene is!

The last six or so years have not quite gone to plan but supporters who were around in 1996 (most anyway) would have taken three Premiership tittles (having never won it before) four FA Cups, runners up in the Uefa Cup and Champions League and being in the Champions League every single year (full seasons). On top of that getting to see the lights of Henry, Vieira, Pires and Fabregas grace the Highbury and Emirates pitch.

In recent months, if you believe everything you see and read, you may think his turned into this crazy mad man who knows nothing but if you look at his record over the last 15 years, you can see his perhaps not as crazy as people have made out.

He has made mistakes; well the whole club has but generally, the 15 years have been quite successful and for that you have to credit and respect Mr Arsene Wenger.

The game of the season (for supporters anyway) is the north London derby and the one at the lane is one of the best games of the season. We have won Leagues there, won games in which record number of goals were scored and also had some real crackers there; none more then last season.

Spurs away is a place where I always think Arsenal can step it up a bit and the more senior players will understand what this game means to us. I expect Robin, Ramsey and Sagna etc to be telling all the players about the expectations at the lane.

Defensively we have looked shaky and the concentration for the goal on Wednesday night was shambolic; not only did we not stop the short corner or attempt to stop it, we let a man have a clear run and leap on goal and gave him a totally free header. Concentration is the key defensively. Song is most likely to drop back which means Frimpong is likely to start in the middle of midfield but I personally have not ruled Coquelin starting either.

I said before the Bolton game that I would take four points from the next to League games but having won against Bolton, I would love to sneak a win at the lane but a draw would not be the worst result in the world.

It’s a game that excites me immensely and a positive result will give players and supporters the boast we really need.

Come on you Arsenal !

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