I am Arsenal. All Arsenal from early days to now. I am walking to my normal entrance in the Emirates on Christmas eve. It is dark, it is cold, but I need to make sure that we are ready for West Ham on the 26th. I can feel, all around me, a grim chill enveloping me. There are murky shadows everywhere. But I dismiss such foolishness from my head as I apply my key card to the door. Suddenly, it pours red blood down its white facade, and a head that seems familiar to me then forms from the blood and screams at me. It looks like David Moyes. The door opens and it all goes calm. I am shaken but I feel my imagination is running away from me. I go inside to my office but there is a distinct frost in the air. The heating mustn’t be working I say to myself. Anyway, I have work to do so I set about my tasks. I do have an electric heater that looks like a real fire so I put that on and pour myself a nice drop of rum. The world starts looking like a better place. It is Arsenal and I am home.
Was it him???????
I am not sure how long after that the real strangeness happened but I seemed to be asleep with the drowsiness induced by the dark liquid. I heard loud knocking coming from all sides and the room started shaking. The door flung open and it was Harry Bradshaw, our first successful manager, but he looked like a zombie.
“Harry, is it you?”
Harry Bradshaw 1899 - 1904
“Of course it’s me. I need you to understand what it is to be Arsenal. You must listen to me. Tonight, you will be visited by 3 spectres, the first at midnight, and then at one and then two. You must take strong note of what they show you, and finally, you must take action to bring us back to being Arsenal, the most feared team in the land.”
The First of the 3 spectres
Then he disappeared. I looked at the empty bottle of rum on the ground and laughed. Look at the damage you have caused me, giving me nightmares. 3 spectres, indeed. I retired to my bed up high near the boardroom to get the rest I need. Sleep came quick. Slumber was delicious until my grandfather clock tolled way louder than ever before, a noise like being inside a huge church bell.
Herbert Chapman, smiling, came out of the FA cup of 1930. He looked like he used to, dapper, but with those intense eyes which commanded respect. I immediately embraced him for I always loved him. He made Arsenal great.
“You have something to show me, Herbert? You are the spectre?”
“Yes, I have many things to remind you of. Let us away.”
Herbert Chapman 1925 - 1934
He took me by the hand as we flew through the air. I recognised where we were going. Upton Park. It was surely in his time as all the crowd were wearing cloth caps and virtually everyone was standing. We sat down in the dugout. The match started. I was getting a dreadful sense of déjà vu. It was confirmed when James Ruffell scored for West Ham. I will never forget this game. And now it was played out horribly again in front of me. Goal after goal were fired in including a hattrick from Victor Watson and two own goals from us. 7-0, to West Ham, of all teams. 7th March 1927 will always be etched on my memory.
A ghoulish day at this place
“Why, Herbert, why are you showing me this?”
And then a terrible fear caught hold.
“Is this going to happen on the 26th? Oh sweet Jesus, not that.”
The second of the 3 spectres
I started shaking uncontrollably. My mind was spinning. Then the whole world started whirling. Suddenly, I was back in my bed. It was a dream. I must stop drinking rum. Sleep came with ease, though, as I settled down under the duvet. For how long? Not long as at one it sounded like I was inside the grandfather clock again. Clanging so hard I thought I would go crazy. Then it stopped. George Allison popped out of the 1936 FA Cup. Now, George was a great manager, totally underrated. 2 league triumphs and an FA Cup. But this time I was afraid. What could he show me?
George Allison 1934 - 1947
He took me across London again. I remember this day. It was the Fa Cup on the 5th January 1946. The cloth capped men on the terraces. The memory of the war still fresh in everyone’s minds. I inwardly screamed as all of West Ham’s six goals went in without reply. I can never forget that day.
“West Ham! West Ham are the demons that are going to derail our title dream. Please tell me, George, tell me that’s not the case?”
But he just smiled and turned away, as my mind was spinning again. I fell into a vortex, out of control, until I landed in my bed. Bad news on my doorstep again. I am being warned. 2 of our great managers got hammered by the Hammers. Arteta must be warned. This is a big match. But then I realised that there was still one more spectre to go. But surely I know the message? West Ham gave 2 of our worst defeats to 2 of our greatest managers. What more do I need to see? I couldn’t sleep, and was tossing and turning but somehow I dozed only to be thrown back inside the insidious bells of the grandfather clock. The noise was frightening, all encompassing, ethereal. Then it all stopped.
The last of the 3 spectres
A scary ride to Highbury
Arsene Wenger climbed out of the 1998 FA Cup. I was never so glad to see anyone. Arsene knows. That’s all I can say. He made us into the modern day club we are. He was a mentor to Mikel Arteta. He will show me what to say to Mikel to stop this nonsense. I gladly took his hand as we flew. It wasn’t very far. To my beloved Highbury, in fact. It was West Ham again. I could remember this day, too, 1st Feb 2006. Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora rifled in 2 goals before Thierry Henry got one back. Matthew Etherington made it 3-1 and then Robert Pires got another towards the end. 3-2. A horrendous day. Ok, I get it, West Ham can still be dangerous at home. We must prepare. But Wenger wasn’t done. He then brought me to Upton Park again. It was the next time we played the Hammers. Nov 5th. Another bad day as they scored a very late goal by Marlon Harewood and 1-0 it finished. But it still wasn’t over. He took me back across London to our shiny new Emirates stadium. It was our next match against the bubble blowing Irons on the 7th April 2007.
Arsène Wenger 1996-2018
Bobby Zamora scored on 45 to make it a miserable day for us. We couldn’t score. 3 times in a row Arsene Wenger was beaten by them. I had almost forgotten that, an indignity that even the best teams couldn’t manage. I was in despair. Surely this meant that it is all about to go wrong. I gladly threw myself into the vortex knowing that I would get back to my bed. West Ham are the harbingers of doom! My great dream of getting back to being Arsenal is over. No more sending teams home crying. Woe is me, I sobbed.
The end of it
Things were no better in the morning. Desperation was etched in my face as I looked at my mirror. What are we going to do? I could hear a noise coming from outside so I looked out my window. It was Mikel Arteta going towards the entrance. He was smiling, in huge contrast to my black tear stained eyes and the wretched look upon my face.
“Hey, big boss Arsenal, what’s up? You look terrible.”
“I have a bad feeling about this game. West Ham have done terrible things to our managers in the past.”
Mikel looked serious for a second. But he had a confident look on his face.
“I have done all the preparation. The players know what to expect. I know exactly how David Moyes brain works. I have worked out how to get the tactics right. We are ready. We will continue our fight towards the title. Don’t worry, Arsenal, this Christmas West Ham will be good to us. “
“And we will give you the money you need, Mikel. We may have have been stingy in the past but buy the best. We have loads of money.
No words have ever made me happier. I hope to Dickens he is right. And God bless us one and all.
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