You won't get anything informative out of this, I warn you now. But you'll find a shoulder to cry on.
So this is what it feels like.
The end of the affair. The affair where I stood by you through thick and thin, for richer and poorer, for better and worse. The affair that would be put on hold when you lapsed into anonymity with such regularity, a cast around your ankle or crutches at your side. The affair that seemed to burst into resplendent glory whenever you wanted it to and gallop towards what seemed to be a warm glowing sunset of promise and hope, only to be cruelly cut down each and every time by something.
So. Tell me. What do they have that we don’t have?
Actually, no. I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. I wouldn’t be able to take it. I guess it’ll be some waxing on about ambition. About being in a position to win things and wanting to create a legacy for yourself.
I get that, honestly, I do. That’s how you guys do things, that’s how you measure yourselves against everyone else. Success. We could’ve given that to you, but I guess we made you wait too long.
Never mind how long we waited for you. Never mind how many games we had to put Bendtner—Bendtner —at lone striker because your knee had carked it again.
Never mind the adulation you received when you smashed in that free kick against Sunderland, or that volley against Everton, or that ridiculous shot that defied physics against Barcelona where you ran across towards us, slid on your knees and pumped your fist like a piston; and it was a piston, you were a piston—the piston that kept us going!
You were our morning coffee, you were our medication, you were the one luminous star in our sky that burned week-in, week-out; we would point to you as you sparkled and we would whisper sweet nothings to you from across the sea, smiling at your smiles, despairing in your despairs.
And now you’re leaving us.
This is what it feels like.
This is the dark side of football.
The dark side of something that transcends politics, nationality, race, sex, class and wealth. I imagine this is how Scientologists must have felt when L. Ron Hubbard died; only football is not scientology, it is real, proper religion. It is real and it’s there on your screen or on the field or in the waves shot out by your radio; football is real and that is why this is such a staggering blow to the solar plexus of my faith.
Because you’re really going. You’re not gone yet, but you’re going. You’re really, really going and there’s nothing we can do about it now.
I thought, when you were considering your options, that what I believed as a fan made a difference. I bet all the other fans did too. That’s the nature of a mob mentality: if we each do something, if we—if every one of us—believes, and states our belief and our love; if we pray and hope and pray some more to those great fickle football gods above us, then surely—surely—righteousness will prevail.
I wonder if you know how many people around the world cried today because of this news.
I didn’t—I simply have a knot in my stomach that won’t loosen itself, and my heart is beating with the deep thump that it gets when I find out something really bad has happened and I’m trying to find some kind of solution or solace but I can’t, even though I want to.
Is this it? You and me—are we really doing this? You’re honestly just going to walk out of that door, with the confidence and assuredness of a brilliant player that we made you into, that you would never have become anywhere else, just as you have done everything you can to get us into a position where we can give you what you want?
You are cruel. You wanted us to change and we changed. But obviously we didn’t change enough.
I don’t blame you. I don’t hate you. You made me smile and sing and shout so often. I spoke your name with the reverent confidence of a grateful poker player with a perennial ace in the hand.
The joy you brought me is incomparable. In our time of need, you stood up like a great player should. But don’t think that I’ll ever look upon you fondly again.
I wish I could. I wish I could just keep the good times in my head, replaying over and over, but it doesn’t work like that. The bitter taste of rejection will be forever ingrained in my mind whenever your name is uttered or written, that red and white blood that flows through my veins will boil, that knot in my chest will tighten and I will grimace and be forced to "remember, remember the fifth of
September" July—the day I found out the truth, and the truth tore me apart, and I set about rebuilding myself. Again.
But we’ll rebuild. We always do. No matter who kicks us—even if it’s our own player—we’re never down, we’re never out. We have the spirit of...well, of Arsenal. Of a team that knows it is bigger than any player, any generation of players.
Maybe that’s our downfall—we’re more in tune with reality than the rest of the novelty circus that football has become, with players earning as much in a week as I earn in twenty years, with eighty million pounds being flogged off to buy a skilful peacock.
Maybe we kept our feet on the ground, and maybe you see yourself as a spaceship. But remember that a spaceship soars off to a world of uncertainty and doubt. And remember that you definitely don’t have an escape pod.
So thanks. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the grace, the class, the style, the incredible left boot, the movement, the leadership, the goals and the assists.
But most of all, thanks for reminding us, as if we needed reminding, that life is one cruel sonofatwitch. Just when you think things are looking up, everything can go pear-shaped in the blink of an eye.
Thanks for the reality check.
I would say good luck, but I really wouldn’t mean it.
I would say I wish you all the best, but I don’t.
I would say I love you.