What do we think of Jack Wilshere? Brilliant!
Jubilant, sweary and a little bit pissed, the Arsenal star's victory-parade performance proved he’s a fan, too.
Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere has been charged by the Football Association with misconduct and forced to make a public apology. Why? For orchestrating a series of foul-mouthed, anti-Spurs chants during Arsenal’s FA Cup victory parade. Jeez. You couldn’t make it up. At times like this, I feel like ‘doing a Blatter’ and resigning from football altogether. If a bit of banter is considered improper, then football really has lost the plot.
Wilshere was clearly three sheets to the wind when he grabbed the microphone at the victory parade. ‘What do we think of Tottenham?’, he asked the Arsenal faithful. ‘Shit!’, they roared. ‘And what do we think of shit?’, he asked. ‘Tottenham!’, they yelled. Wilshere also started another familiar chant. ‘My old man said be a Tottenham fan’, he sang. ‘I said fuck off, bollocks, you’re a cunt’, the fans retorted. Cue the inevitable media-fuelled shitstorm. ‘You want passion from your players, there’s no doubt about that, but he has overstepped the mark’, said former Arsenal striker Niall Quinn. ‘I think he has to retain that passion for his club but not to cross the line and mock Spurs fans the way he did.’ ‘Another PR calamity for Arsenal today as Wilshere outburst detracts from team’s triumph’, tweeted Associated Press sports reporter Rob Harris. Wilshere, no doubt under duress, felt compelled to say sorry for his behaviour. ‘Apologies if I upset or offended any of u with my celebrations’, he tweeted the next day.
There are two things that puzzle me about this incident. Firstly, why is this even a news story? Secondly, what exactly has Wilshere done wrong, apart from singing woefully out of tune? The ‘my old man’ chant is sung the length and breadth of the country. It’s one of English football’s most glorious terrace ditties. It combines passion and local animosity, with a bit of teen rebellion thrown in for good measure. Plus it packs in more vulgarity in a single sentence than pretty much any other football chant. What’s not to like? Yes, there are swear words, but, like it or not, people do swear at football matches. If we fine players for swearing, then football is royally buggered – excuse my French. And don’t give me all that nonsense about footballers being role models. If you don’t want your kids to hear rude words, then don’t take them to a football match. End of.
Spurs fans on Twitter were quick to hit back at Wilshere, mocking him for his injury record and obsession with Tottenham. But were any of the Yid Army seriously offended by Wilshere’s antics? I mean really offended, not the theatrical outrage-by-numbers that we hear on radio phone-in programmes. Inevitably, in these thin-skinned times, there will always be a few sensitive souls who claim to be traumatised by a bit of old-fashioned banter. But most seasoned supporters should be immune to this kind of playground insult-trading. Spurs fans, let’s not forget, mercilessly taunted their team’s former captain, Sol Campbell, for defecting to the Gunners on a free transfer. The Yid Army chant, which branded Campbell a ‘Judas cunt with HIV’, was a masterclass in trolling. Both Wilshere’s jibes and the Campbell Judas chant are the stuff that football rivalries are made of – fiercely partisan and full of foul-mouthed banter.
And why shouldn’t Wilshere mock Arsenal’s local rivals while celebrating their cup victory? There would have been no fun in mocking Aston Villa, would there? Villa’s pitiful performance at Wembley was humiliation enough for them. But, more to the point, there’s no ‘previous’ between Arsenal and Villa. The Spurs-baiting at the victory parade reminds me of Manchester United’s Stretford End ticker. Remember that? It was the famous banner, hung from Old Trafford’s Stretford End, which reminded Manchester City fans of the number of years since City last won a trophy. Even when Arsenal and later Chelsea were United’s title challengers, the ticker showed that United fans’ animosity towards City remained as strong as ever.
There’s another very good reason why Wilshere shouldn’t have to apologise for mocking Spurs. In an era when footballers are widely disparaged as pampered mercenaries who are out of touch with ordinary fans, Wilshere was behaving just like a fan. Ironic that, isn’t it? That’s why the Arsenal fans love him. He’s one of their own. Only a few weeks ago, the media were fawning over Steven Gerrard for staying loyal to Liverpool, the club he supported as a boy. Wilshere was merely expressing his love for his boyhood club in the vernacular of the terraces. Where’s the crime in that? Would we rather he had used the platform to thank his agent and commercial sponsors? Of course not. Having a pop at Spurs was absolutely the correct thing to do. Keeping on trolling, Jack, keep on trolling.
Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @DuleepOffside
Super Jackie Wilshere – an Arsenal fan’s view
The very moment Wilshere snatched at the microphone, you could feel the football moralists squirming uncomfortably on their high horses. Wilshere is the embodiment of everything a modern footballer is not supposed to be. He’s unashamedly spirited and enthusiastic; an Arsenal man through and through, as opposed to a corporate cut-out afraid of hurting people’s feelings and disgruntling sponsors.
But the only mistake Wilshere made was apologising – albeit half-heartedly on Twitter. He did not need to apologise at all. His loud-mouthed desire to elicit Arsenal fans’ contempt for Spurs encapsulated what’s so enthralling about football in the first place. No sport stirs up emotion and tribal fervour quite like our national game; foul-mouthed fans, frothing at the mouth, are part and parcel of English football. Without local rivalries, fuelled by unbridled emotion, big games would lose their sense of importance and gravitas. Nobody would care as much about football if it devolved into a softly spoken, tea-and-crumpets affair.
By chastising Wilshere, we are also criticising the game in its purest, most emotionally driven form. He’s the last of a dying breed. He isn’t just a player on a bumper million-pound contract; he’s also, first and foremost, a fan of the club he plays for, and he isn’t afraid to show it. Enjoy these displays of emotion while you can, because football is becoming increasingly bland and sanitised. What do we think of that? Shit.
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