The nature of fanhood and how us Arsenal fans commonly react

The nature of fanhood and how we fans commonly react by Jon Fox

To properly understand how we Arsenal fans react and how we behave when discussing our common love of Arsenal FC, it is necessary to understand how human nature actually makes us what we are. Now I have long maintained that to be a human, a perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary person, it is certain that we, all of us, are also hypocritical at times. If you prefer, a hypocrite!

I am definitely a hypocrite, a “stinking, double standards” hypocrite, if it makes anyone feel better for hearing that admission. To my mind that is no more than a truth which I have recognised most of my long adult life, and so I fully accept this imperfect state of being that we all share. Of course, I have not met everyone, so I ought to hesitate to say “everyone” is a hypocrite. But I do not, so does that make me a cocksure know-it-all then? Well, it would seem so, I’d say!

So, if we agree that hypocrisy is not actually a desirable state of being – and I can argue that in either direction, according to my mood that day (yes really, as I could argue it is a comfort being like other humans) – it means accepting that we are fallible and have faults. I doubt anyone on here would honestly claim to be perfect but actually saying in public that you personally are not perfect, in fact very far from it, is less easy.

But if only for this article, it is a necessary truth, even for a bighead such as I am to admit. So why do I say all this then? Because we all have our own opinions on all matters Arsenal and so often decry others their own opinions. So, if we are hypocrites, can we also admit to our own personal biases, such as pro or anti Ozil! Pro or anti Arteta etc! We all have our own biases and that is just being honest. But we also care deeply about our common love and we are all in the same tribe on Arsenal, which OUGHT to dwarf our many differences, but we so often forget that we are, in essence, family. A diverse multi ethnic, global family, multi-generational too and all the richer for having such variety all in one family, or tribe as I like to call it.

A family of Arsenal fans then, a comforting thought, certainly to me and I hope and think to many too. Then are our players in our family too? After all we Arsenal fans all pay a huge price in various ways, not only in money but in angst, emotional highs and lows, turmoil, distress, even feeling that life is not worthwhile after losing a vital game heavily. Whereas our players do not pay in money but actually receive money, loads and loads of it too, much of it from we fans, albeit indirectly. And despite what many players publicly say, in carefully worded statements, about how much they care for the club and its results, do we REALLY believe them? I suggest that only some of them really care, but many others are mercenaries just passing through and making the best use of their talent financially while they can, but who have no abiding lifelong love for the club and will just move on to their next club when it suits them.

I am saying that such as Adams, Wright, Keown, Bergkamp, Henry and Seaman ARE definitely Arsenal family but RVP, Adebayor, Bendtner, Cashley etc are not. No way! And that being so, we treat these ex-players in very different ways. Which is what humans naturally do, to those they love or hate. In our life outside football, I suggest we do not openly hate (I prefer to call it strong dislike) other people we know personally nor even love anyone outside our own close family and best friends, so football, being our passion, is different in that respect. To love or strongly dislike someone who doesn’t even know you exist, in most cases seems bizarre, doesn’t it? I think so but in an Arsenal fan that is normal and accepted as being normal, even allowed, at least within our own football tribe.

Trouble is though, we have many different opinions about players, managers, directors, etc, currently or formerly in our tribe, that we either love or hate. So, if we in the same tribe then disagree about our loves and hates with other tribe members, we turn our spite on those who disagree, as they are perfectly entitled to do. That steps outside the normal behaviour of a non-football fan person and can often make those who have little time for football at all, or even of team sport, look down on us as a lower class. Which ironically makes them just like us in that respect, it you think about it! In an odd way I find that thought comforting. Better than calling them a stuck-up snob anyway, even though we will probably still think it! And anyway, it’s probably true.

(I love dogs and cats with a passion and look down on those who don’t as missing out on something precious. Are they the snob then, or am I? You decide for yourself according to your own opinions on cats and dogs. Oh, on me too! And I promise not to hate you for it!)

And we all treat them as family or as non-family accordingly. That is evident and also natural. Nothing wrong with defending and loving family but to hate outsiders and worse still those who have turned against our Arsenal fan family is how we football fans behave. It may never get us into Heaven but in this football world it is just how things are, so we are wise to accept and understand this truth. In any case we all realise that this love/hate hypocrisy is an integral part of the whole process of being an Arsenal fan. Would we really be happier if Spurs or Chelsea didn’t even exist? Who would we all jeer at and hate then? You can bet we would find another team to hate.

I strongly dislike a great number of teams both at home and abroad and also have an unexplainable fondness for a number of other mostly smaller clubs. Kidderminster I can understand why, as my son was born there but why Hartlepool? It can only be, I presume, because I rather like Jeff Stelling (the Sky Sports presenter who is a fan of them). As for Nottm. Forest, the early years Woolwich Arsenal link about why we wear red shirts link explains this for them. The white sleeves came much later. Plus we away fans once met Clough when he was manager, though at Derby, not then at Forest, and he was chatty and concerned about us fans. You don’t forget those things. But I can’t stand Derby. Why not? Search me!

The nature of a fan is to be very optimistic or very pessimistic according to how our team is playing. Some of the mass pessimism right now is markedly different from what the same fans were writing after our first three games though. Surprising then? I’d say a firm no; it is par for the course of being a fan and particularly in being a fan of a huge club like ours. We are not different from Manc fans or any fan of any other big club, seen to be underperforming. So, in a wider sense, as they are also football fans, that places those dreadful Mancs in our tribe. Help!!! Spuds too! AAAARH!

To conclude, I say that all Arsenal fans are, in most ways and when outside our football tribe, perfectly normal everyday human beings with our various quirks and talents. But when we are all together in that glorious madhouse known as football – and JustArsenal is just an extension of that – we are very strange but also perfectly normal football fans. I hope that may give some comfort to you. To me personally, I have not got a clue if it does or not, but I will stay in that madhouse as long as I have breath in my ageing body.

God bless you, fellow tribe members, and please keep safe.

Jon Fox

Tags fanhood Jon Fox tribes


  1. Very good and enjoyable article I have to say, what I like about it is the fact that it asks some good questions makes you think and demands some self reflection/evaluation which can only be a good thing in my book!

  2. Mr. Fox is it the third part of your series of articles on football fans? If so, then I must admit that it was definitely worth the wait. If not, then it is another great article from you.
    I loved the personal touch here, and it made me think about my stance as a football fan.
    I always enjoy your articles and opinions, though sometimes I disagree with them. Maybe I am the snob, lol.
    Please stay safe and write more articles!
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

    1. Thanks a lot Sid. Please call me Jon, if you prefer, as I am far from a formal type and “hate” being called Sir when in restaurants etc. Your reply shows a keen intellect, as I have long thought about you.

      In essence it WAS PART of my third section. But I am keeping some of that for another article on here very soon as I want to explore the relationship in more depth (than in this article) beween fans and club, not just players but the whole club , both historically and currently.

      As you will surely be aware I find the human side of things of more interest than merely who is being picked or who should play. There is of course plenty of room for all but I want to explore types of articles which are less common, partly in order to give more variety of articles for this much read and very underestimated site.

      I am aware that very many read regularly but very few ever post at all and fewer still contribute articles. That is normal human behaviour, in all sorts of ventures and to be expected.

      I am always far too hard, esp on both poor Patrick and Martin, who BOTH work SO hard but without much praise. AND WE ALL NEED PRAISE AS WE ARE HUMAN.

      BTW Sid, ever thought of writing one yourself? You could do it well I believe. Just write as you think and don’t worry overmuch about grammar, as it is what you SAY, not how technically accurate your writing is that really matters. Though upon reading your posts, I think that should not be a worry to you in any case.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Mr. Fox. I would try to call you Jon, but as they say, old habits die hard.
        Yeah, I think this article was a little different from the club and fan relationship series, as it delved more into the fan side, with a nice personal touch of yours. I honestly could relate to most of what you said, maybe because almost all humans have a similar thought process, and it is perception (self-perception mostly) that makes them different.
        About the article part, yeah I have always thought about writing one about what would be the current scenario if we won the CL in 2006. But I don’t want to make a half-hearted attempt at it. Studies and work have kept me out of researching and wireframing the article, and yes there is also the battle with procrastination, lol. But I hope to complete it soon( though how soon I don’t know). Thanks for the valuable feedback, Mr. Fox. Let’s hope the festive season turns our fortunes around and the Arsenal rises once again.

  3. That is a great article Jon and very timely considering the turmoil.

    The nastiness level is high on this site right now with snappy comments and people questioning team loyalty and the like.

    The site is getting to be about the same as when Wenger and Emery were leaving (and I am not trying to stir a pot – just my own observation).

    Regardless of outcomes and personal points of view on managers, owners or formations – a very happy holiday season to all you Gunners out there!

    1. Great to hear Stewart and as I must be honest, I am one of the most guilty of all in being so combative to certain others in our common tribe. So my New Years resolution is to be less of a judgemental old git in print and a nicer human being. Hope you enjoy the holiday period and God bless you.

      1. Jon
        An interesting read and Stewart is right to highlight the nastiness that has begun to pervade through this site.
        Good luck with your new year’s resolution. Will we recognise it’s you in 2021?
        I’ve agreed and disagreed with you over the last 14 months or so and I find your posts infinitely more readable when you ditch the judgemental old git mantra, and concentrate on your sense of humour instead. At times I have really laughed
        Here’s hoping for a win tomorrow and a happy Christmas to you…. and a winning Arsenal streak over the holiday period and beyond

        1. Thats very kind of you Sue and I wish you too a happy and joyous Christmas and New Year. I value your regular posts as much as any other on here and only wish their were many more of your thoughtful and considered , mature opinions on here. I am going to try being nicer in print. I really am very nice an kind in the flesh if you but knew me.
          But I am fierce in life as in print when fighting for what I see as truth and I do not appreciate unthinking posts made in obvious haste and clear overreaction which reeks of spoilt children, to my mind. MANY people have no idea of how keen their brain COULD be, if only they had more determination to apply it before lashing out, and at the wrong targets too, so depressingly often.
          They let THEMSELVES down and that is desperately sad and could, should, be so different!

  4. Hey Jon, I was likewise working on an article about fandom and how it relates to our club…here’s a little taste, hope you enjoy:

    I must admit, I’m an addict. Like many of you, the problem started when I was too young to fully understand the psychological trappings of fandom. In the beginning, it was all too easy, the football was sublime and it appeared as if our Professor had discovered the elusive formula for long-term success. From an organizational capacity we had one of the best in the business, the once honorable David Dein, whereas on the football pitch, we had a relatively unknown savant who clearly lived and breathed the sport. Maybe we simply flew to close to the sun or maybe the powers that be were convinced that things were changing, financially speaking, and if we didn’t adapt we would get left behind. Either way, it led to the fateful day when we mistakenly opened the door and did exactly what you never do in a Vampire movie…invite him in. How ironic, considering the narrative surrounding the Emirates. We were led to believe that if we wanted this era of greatness to continue, this must be done at all costs. Sadly, we all know what happened next. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. That’s why it was so goddamn confounding. In retrospect though, the descent that followed our absentee landlord’s arrival makes perfect sense. None of the top teams would have survived such a move without a similar decline, especially under the guise of a self-sustaining model. Imagine what your initial reaction would have been if you knew that this business model required you, the fans, to pay substantially more for an inferior brand of football, yet your Billionaire owner was unwilling to risk anything to ever change that narrative. Must be nice to be so incredibly privileged that no matter the results you can never lose. Unfortunately for us fans, we are not only the ones who are enabling this to occur, but we have to likewise suffer the consequences of this insanely problematic dynamic. So until we properly address the truths of our past, rid ourselves of this horrible Kroenke scourge and wipe the slate clean, we will continue to be controlled by the systemic lies and mismanagement that have permeated this organization since the day we left the Highbury. Now some might say I should stop rehashing what appears on the surface like ancient history, I would say to them that whenever you don’t properly address the mistakes of the past, you’re bound to repeat them

    1. vieralynn, Oh Wow! What a magnetic post and I so much hope and URGE you to write that article! Your writing style is superb and your choice of phrase almost unparalleled.

      I WILL LONG REMEMBER THIS MAGNIFICENT POST and hope, even plead, that you write far more often, as writing of THIS standard is exceedingly rare on here and needs to be more widely read and more often. Applause!!!!

      1. Thanks Jon, I provided numerous articles for Pat a couple years back, but then things changed and all of a sudden I wasn’t able to get my articles and/or responses to other’s articles posted…I must have angered the wrong individuals during the whole AKB vs. Arsene Out heydays…even now I’m unable to get most of my responses posted within a 24 hour period…you always had nice things to say about my writing, which was much appreciated…if you care to see others, just look at older articles, usually near the very bottom, as that’s where this website allows me to lurk…take care of yourself…Cheers

      2. BTW, I used to write under the name vieralynn, which was an ode to a combination of both Patrick Vieira, our steely midfielder commander, and the Pink Floyd song Vera, about the famous British songstress, Vera Lynn…in the song there is a line that states “what has become of you”, which I thought was uniquely appropriate considering what was going on at the time with our once dominant club…as a former educator and someone who both played several sports at a highly competitive level and ran a variety of sports organizations, I felt I brought a rather unique perspective to the mix…maybe someday I’ll be removed from the “waiting for moderation” list, so that I can once again actively engage with others on this site

        1. vieralynn, I really cannot believe you are even now on a moderation list. After all these posts on this thread have been accepted. I have had run my ins with AdminPAT, as have many others at times But he does not hold any grudges, I truly believe, nor do most intelligent folk , so please DO try again to submit an article as it will be huge disappointment if someone of your intellect and vision is kept from this site.

          I WILL BE QUITE HAPPY TO BAT FOR YOU BY EMAILING PAT, if you wish. Good luck, sincerely!

          1. thanks once again for the kind words…who knows, maybe this very exchange will provide me with the necessary impetus to get back on the horse…lord knows I have a plethora of half-finished drafts that sadly apply as much today as they did when I first put fingers to keys…maybe it’s a good sign that my reply to you, discussing my concerns about this site, was actually posted…best holiday wishes to you and yours!!

  5. Jon…

    From start to finish a thoroughly great article! I cannot praise it any more than many have said. Thanks for your human touch to viewing the status of the Arsenal family (or tribe, as you prefer).

    I am a great fan of your regular posts, and recall what I said in the past, that many look forward to your posts, although I have no evidence to back such a statement up, nevertheless, I am convinced of my thoughts in this regard, particularly following the many responses I have read here on JA. However harsh or direct you may sound at times, you have created a great personality! Changing it in the new year in some aspects will be great, however, many would still love to have the Old Jon that they know.

    Once again, I cannot say anymore than you have said, and I hope we all stay together as family in both good or bad times. I really pray for a turn around, which will be consistent, and I hope for the best!

    Please remain safe, vibrant, and filled with joy!!

    Always keen to read more of your articles!


    1. Fire if you are not the kindest person on this site I will be amazed! So touched by your lovely comments.

  6. A very enjoyable read, and I feel compelled to reflect on a few things.
    Yes, times have changed, and less players feel emotionally tied to the club they are playing for. That is the same for every club, so we (Arsenal) are not alone here.
    On the positive side, you could say, that in a world where people change jobs, partners, homes etc. at a much quicker pace than just 20-30 years ago, fan loaylty towards their football club seem to be a constant. Just imagine, if fans were “moving” with fashion or short term results.
    We may have a our own ups and downs in enthuisiasm for football and Arsenal, but we don’t jump ship 😉

    1. A cheering thought that we fans might just be almost the only thing , outside of family and partners, on this planet where we stay loyal. And you don’t hear of fans getting divorced from their clubs either.

      Though to read some of the club criticism on here, I BELIEVE THE CLUB WOULD BE HELPED BY DIVORCING THEMSELVES FROM SOME OF THESE FAIRWEATHER FANS. Much of their rages are way over the top and deeply out of order but they won’t see it!

  7. Jon Fox,what a wonderful article, much better than a lot of articles that appear on here day in and day out, as if articles had to be constantly changed.i always look out for your articles and comments, i love your style of writing , and, your sense of honesty.i wish a lot more contributors,on here, would take your stance and, write better articles. articles for the sake of articles are so boring and bland.when i first started frequenting this fine page i thought that you were the most up your own bum person ive ever read. i quickly changed my mind ,however, when i really took note of your comments, you are different to most of us on here, and thank goodness for that.i look forward to your next article with enthuaism , and i will be searching for your comments in all the recent articles.stay safe jon, and happy christmas, if you celebrate it .

    1. Steady gerry , you’ll have even me blushing and I am not usually short of self confidence. Best wishes for the holiday and many thanks for your too kind words.

      I’d write more articles but am such a quick but sloppy typer with aged fingers that won’t always do what I want them to, so I have to correct constant typos, when I can be bothered. When I was much younger my typing was far better and far more accurate. But who cares, except me!!!

  8. I admire your wish to share your views Jon, but Tribalism is the bane of the world, Reason a cure. Support does not have to be tribal, it can be a common goal (no pun) and hopefully common reasoning. Football tribalism per se, has caused so many problems. If you mean having a common purpose or meaning fine, but Tribalism (the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group) can be devastating. I’m sure you mean something more subtle and different to that definition of tribalism.

  9. Jon, a great read nad, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy so far and that is praise indeed!!

    As I read it, it seemed I was reading about myself in similar situations and circumstances over the many years of supporting our great club – it is this overwhelming desire to see The Arsenal be the top “tribe” that makes us fans and/or supporters.

    I’m not sure if any other club has had the ups and downs that we have had, it seems like only yesterday we were top of the tree, invincible and thinking it would never end!!!

    All the older fans know how supporting ANY club has highs and lows and it struck me, while reading this, just how much enjoyment I got when manure and the spuds were relegated – what a silly way to react…but I know it would give me even greater pleasure if it was to happen today!!!

    You and I have had many clashes, some that have got out of hand of course, but also we have, it seems anyway, an agreement on what life itself is all about.
    I doubt very much if we will ever see eye to eye on everything, but it is so good to read what the fans above think and say about the article and you yourself.

    Well done Jon, it would be a shame if you try and change, your bombastic and cutting remarks always seems to bring out the best/worse in me (and many others) and I have a feeling that my next article, hopefully to be published tomorrow, will see us at loggerheads again….such is the wonderful way of life as a football fan…being a member of a “tribe” is how I have always thought of my ties with The Arsenal and as you and I know, we were fortunate enough to be invited in!!!

    1. Hi Ken a short post just to test if it takes my comment, as I spent around twenty minutes replying only for my post not to take.

    2. KEN What can I say other than how generous and warmhearted you are. Not news to me of course but I WANT TO SAY IT PUBLICLY. Your comments have humbled me a deal and made me resolve to TRY being less bombastic in print and be kinder. Being the lifelong hypocrite that I am, though I don’t honestly expect to attain my hopes but I WILL TRY.
      I feel I owe it to you to fully explain why I write as I do. As a confirmed believer in the precious gift of free speech, I have for some time now, seen free speech come under increasing attack from the well intentioned but ill advised and naive “woke” brigade.
      Now I am liberal to my core and ABHOR all types of prejudice against ANY human who has a good heart and tries to do their very best and means well to all folk, and who sees only people, not skin colour, creed, religion, age, nationality, disability, sexuality or any other irrelevant superficial difference from the so called “norm”, whatever that norm is thought to be.

      PERSONALLY I DISLIKE THE WORD “NORMAL” when applied to people, as it inhibits variety and the richness of our many and wonderful human differences.
      To extend this thought, though it may cause some shock on this site, we should not, IDEALLY, (though I am as guilty as anyone alive) even criticise other members of our wider football tribe who happen to be so unfortunate (lol)as to support one of our rivals. But, being human, we do. Thus we are hypocrites. QED!

      But on free speech and freedom to give our honest opinions, I will defend that to my dying breath, as I see this sinister creep of “woke tyranny” posing as liberalism, while in actuality being the very opposite. Look how politicians speak; in waffle, jargon and dissembling half truths and lies, whilst cherry picking stats to defend their case while ignoring stats they don’t wish to mention. That is NOT honest speech and it is not the way decent people should think or behave.
      More than this, there is a creep of being insulted even on someone elses behalf by assuming insult, when non was intended; a class of “professionally insulted” illiberal, fake “liberals” who threaten the free worlds freedom of thought and speech, for which millions have died to preserve. Witness China, North Korea, UAE,etc. where people are controlled by the state and are robots, not free people. UGH!
      So I WILL CONTINUE TO WRITE AS I THINK, but will endeavour to be less abrasive at times, though NOT if it inhibits writing truth as I perceive it. Sorry to be profound Ken but I think I owed you(and others who care to read it)that full explanation and hope it may give at least some who wish to really think about how we humans behave, some food for thought.

  10. What a nice article Jon! I’m relatively new in this site . I do enjoy all the analysis, contributions and arguments. Well life is in phases, we are humans and we are not perfect. When you have passion for something, you go to any length to defend it. Jon kudos👍!

    1. Ayan, You are hugely welcome to this site, as I think all will surely agree and thank you so much for your very generous comments.

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