Cast Long Shadows

By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)

Cast Long Shadows

It was 101 years ago that we moved into a stadium that went on to become ingrained into our identity over the course of the following 93 years. From its art deco styling, to the marble halls, Highbury was a truly extraordinary place. I remember the poignancy of the Final Salute to this day – and I’ll likely never shake that feeling of loss when I think of our former home.

While I can recall May 7th, 2006 with some accuracy, the same cannot be said about the 1913-14 season. I could lie but I think one or two of you sharper one’s out there might find me out for the imposter I would inevitably be.

The last season (1912-13) in Plumstead was calamitous to say the least as the club found itself with dismal attendances, poor performances, and an eventual relegation to Division 2 for the 1913-14 season. The club needed a change and the result was a move to our eventual home in North London.

Our start to the season was impressive, recording three wins to begin the campaign and vault us to the top of the Division. Fans were returning to see the Arsenal, the new ground was impressive, and the team was showing signs of a successful season ahead. The mood was buoyant in North London.

The Director comments in the Official Programme from September 20th, 1913 reflected the disposition of the club, players, and fans alike:

“There is a Latin motto which runs something like this: ‘Victoria concordia crescit,’ which, translated, is ‘Victory grows out of concord’ – and this is absolutely what we attribute our success to this season. ‘Concord.’ Our players, our manager, ourselves – and, yes, yourselves-have only one thing in view – the well-being and success of our Club. This is particularly so with our players – and depend upon it, so long as this happy state of things exists, so long will our Club do well, and thereby help to make these weekly chats pleasant.

“Of course we cannot, and do not, expect always to win, but the present spirit will, we are convinced, carry us successfully through many a hard struggle for the ownership of League and S.E. League points.”

  • Our Weekly Chat – By the Directors – Woolwich Arsenal F.C. Official Programme Sept 20, 1913

Victoria concordia crescit – victory grows out of concord. As far as anyone can tell*, this is the first known use of this motto in relation to Arsenal. Over the years, “concord” has evolved into “harmony” but the meaning remains the same – united we are stronger than divided.

It’s funny that something said about the Gunners over 100 years ago can still remain relevant today.

As I prepared for my Deadline Day Podcast appearance last Monday, I listened to the first episode of the day. Time difference meant it was 6 or 7 in the morning with me due on at 8 am for the 4 pm UK show. I listened intently as I scanned NewsNow and Twitter for any tidbits of transfer news we’d possibly talk about but there really wasn’t anything concrete at that point.

Then something quite unexpected happened. It was Geoff (@GeoffArsenal) and he was speaking about how he thought it was going and his tone was wavering. I had to pause and re-listen again.

Geoff is generally a pretty sensible guy and I’d categorize him as an optimist based on my regular listening of the Pod and his Twitter activity. I should state that I don’t know Geoff any more than any of you do but his tone on the pod was unmistakably deflated.

It threw me off.

It wasn’t Geoff’s fault and I’m not throwing him under the bus at all. I’m also not a total melt. It just gave me an ominous feeling like we weren’t going to get the business done that I thought we needed to do.

Of course we went on to bring in Danny Welbeck, and given a chance to reflect on our Transfer Dealings this summer, they were, overall, very good. We could maybe use a couple more bodies over the course of our next 55-60 games but the quality we’ve brought in has been excellent and I struggle to remember a transfer window that has been this productive.

Transfer dealings aside though, I want to come back to Geoff. I’ve been dwelling on that feeling for a week now and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to articulate why it had such an effect on me.

I think it comes down to influence. There is an idiom that goes something like this – cast a long shadow. It means to have influence over something. Leaders, people in power, celebrities, sports heroes; they all cast a long shadow in some way.

Andrew over at Arseblog, Tim Stillman, Daniel Cowan, Pedro, Geoff, Tim Payton, Robbie at Arsenal Fan TV, and countless others that share their views through podcasts, blogs, and various forms of social media, all cast their own shadows across us. Whether they like it or not, they have the power to influence us and the way we feel about Arsenal.

I don’t want to be perceived as being on the proverbial soapbox – perhaps I will, but that isn’t the intent. It is more of a comment based on observation. This isn’t a blog about leadership responsibility either. I think what I’m really saying is that there are many voices that comment on our Arsenal. Some you’ll agree with and others you won’t – but they all have that power to influence the way we view our team – and sometimes it’s just important to be aware of that influence.

The proliferation of social media and blogging means there are more and more voices being added to the din that is Arsenal support and by extension, we as fans, all have a shadow that we’re casting – some longer than others.

I think it brings our Latin motto back into sharp focus and gives renewed meaning to the word “harmony.” We as fans can effect two outcomes – how we treat each other, and how we support the team. That’s it. We can’t influence transfers, magically heal players, or take corner kicks no matter how much we enjoy endlessly debating those things.

Let me be clear here – I’m not proposing that AKB’s and WOB’s get together to sing “kumbaya“ in order to win the title. I think differing viewpoints and constructive debate make supporting the Arsenal that much better as a supporter. But somehow if we could all agree that above all else we’re here to support the Arsenal, if we could give our team that unequivocal support every time they take the pitch – well I can’t help but feel that there’s nothing bad that would come of that.

Victoria Concordia Crescit. Cast long shadows.

The Other Geoff

*The programme reference and research on the use of Victoria Concordia Crescit was based on this article by friend of the Pod and Arsenal historian Andy Kelly (@Gooner_AK) – go give it a read.

By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)

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