Arsenal: ‘go on – would you rather watch us, or Stoke?’

Our second Gooner to preview SAFC v Arsenal, Jon Ryan*, had an enviable journalistic career, mixing business and pleasure by becoming sports editor of the Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Telegraph. A racing man, too, he rounded it off by cantering into a top job at the British Horseracing Authority, which oddly enough brought him into contact with Niall Quinn. No hardship for a big Quinny fan. Jon is pictured with his daughter Jemma “on a disastrous night in Munich – we lost 3-1 in a snowstorm but at least witnessed the world’s biggest snowball fight in the Olympic stadium and had a mean knuckle of ham”. Bet he was happier last night …

Salut! Sunderland: What do you make of Arsenal’s start to the season and what are your minimum/maximum expectations?

We’ve started extremely well in filling up the treatment room, right where we left off at the end of last season with Walcott, Robin van Persie, Bendtner, Nasri, Ramsey all out for varying periods and now Diaby. On the pitch we were lucky at Liverpool, ok against a woeful Blackpool and determined against Blackburn (not a trip we usually enjoy) and much better against Bolton. Minimum expectations? Top four above Tottenham. Maximum expectations? At least one trophy and that doesn’t include the Carling Cup where I think Wenger will continue to stick with the younger fringe and reserve players and as we meet Tottenham the Tuesday after you guys it will end there as ‘appy ‘arry would put the first team out to win a cup of tea.

Was there a time last season, with Man City spending like crazy and Spurs/Liverpool/Villa breathing down your necks when you feared the Gunners would drop out of the Big Four?

On a regular basis, but then that is the nature of being a Gooner. We suffered dreadfully from injuries and a goalkeeping duo whose confidence evaporated alarmingly. In the end it was comfortable enough ,but that was in no small way thanks to Liverpool and Villa falling apart and Tottenham playing with greater commitment than anyone can remember to get into the Champions’ League.

I have always been quite charitable about Arsene Wenger’s selective view of foul play and prefer to proclaim my admiration for him and the way he wants his team to play. Is he still the one for you?

For a man with such poor eyesight Arsene has achieved remarkable things in football. If you have followed Arsenal since 1954 you appreciate what he has done, yes ,we had the George Graham years but that 1-0 to the Arsenal chant and the style of football wore very thin. What irritates is people like Alan Green chirruping on about “the fans won’t like this … another season without a trophy” when we still watch some of the best football in Europe. What would you rather do: watch Arsenal in full flow winning nothing, or Stoke? I would have paid to just to see the last goal scored by Vela against Bolton from a through ball by Fabregas at the end of a 20 plus passing move.

Last season, Arsenal were seen by many as both victims (eg Aaron Ramsey) and sinners (Mr Eduardo). Do you really think the Sunderlands/Stokes/Birminghams are out to get your players, and do you really believe Eduardo was unjustly criticised?

Not sure that Eduardo broke anyone’s leg and put them out for a season. I’ve no problems with Sunderland, the Diaby incident was four years ago and we all know how Dan Smith’s careered downhill. And yes, we have had players capable of putting it about (Bergkamp was no angel and Petit clattered good and hard … even Henry knew how to foul). I think Eduardo was naive, he was born in Brazil and played in Croatia before coming here … I wish him well but won’t miss him. Last Saturday against Bolton, following the away game at Blackburn, has shown that we do have more steel in the team.

You have a fair number of celebrity supporters, from literature, film, media, business etc. Are you more understanding of them than Roy Keane used to be of Man Utd’s “prawn sandwich” brigade?

You’ve apparently got Steve Cram, Dave Stewart, Kate Adie and Heather Mills. Go on then, I’ll name drop shamelessly – Rory McGrath sits two rows behind me and drinks in one of the less salubrious pubs in the area. I used to sit near Matt Lucas but they are genuine supporters as are Alan Davies and Ray Davies (definitely no relation) who go with the fans on away trips. Inevitably in London you’re going to get more celebs than you might elsewhere but reassuringly a lot of the club level executive boxes stand symbolically unfilled thanks to the economic downturn…But then I still fondly remember standing on the North Bank … no sport has undergone a greater change in its image and audience than football in the 25 years and it hasn’t all necessarily been for the better.

Marouane Chamakh. You won’t necessarily know this but we were in for him a year ago, only to be insulted by the Bordeaux coach (then Laurent Blanc) and president (Jean-Louis Triaud) as not being a big enough club for him. How good is he? And were we better off settling for Darren Bent?

He seems a tremendous player, great work rate, unselfish and athletic in the Henry mould … strikes me as the sort of guy who could play with any Premier League club but I think Wenger’s French connection is obviously the key for a lot of these players. In any case Bent’s done fine for you…and he moved from a small club to a big club.

And what will be the finishing top four this season? And, in case you ever look that far down the table, the bottom three?

Top four: Chelsea/Man Utd/ Arsenal/Tottenham

Bottom: West Ham are looking dreadful but apparently believe there are three worse teams than themselves in the league.Really?I don’t think it will be clear cut down there and any three from a number could be heading south … but I’d love Blackpool to stay up so that we can continue to get those refreshing weekly pearls of homespun wisdom from Mr Holloway.

Do you have any good/bad memories of Arsenal-Sunderland encounters, home or away, of the past? Or of players – Quinn, Schwarz, Stokes spring to mind though I don’t suppose Stokes came into view much – who have served both clubs. And don’t you mention Alan Sunderland too!

I loved Niall Quinn … he had tremendous feet for such a tall gangly guy and always ploughed on regardless and had a pleasant nature. I knew Charlie Hurley when he was manager at Reading and I reported on them, he was one hell of a character and I remember the Reading-Sunderland cup replay when you were on your way to beating Leeds where all the chanting was adulation in his direction….but bad memories, not really. Ask me again at 7.30pm on the 18th.

Have you already forgotten the World Cup and with what enthusiasm are you looking forward to Euro 2012?

Yes, the World Cup happily a long forgotten memory. I thought it was a disappointing tournament, no really memorable game only one player stamping himself as truly great and that was Iniesta. The best team won. I fall into the category of supporters whose sporting dream is to see my club win the Champions’ League and if you have seen England win a World Cup once another tournament doesn’t seem quite so important.

Will you be at our game? What will be the score.

Sadly not, it will be pub TV time. I would settle for a draw but think we’ll sneak it 2-1. Your new guy Gyan looks useful.

* Jon Ryan on Jon Ryan: first taken to Highbury aged five by my late Uncle Michael – his brother David is a Spurs fan so how lucky was that – and have been going even since. I currently have three season tickets to cater for my children Jemma, Tom and Harriet. Until I retired in May I worked in Fleet Street for 35 years on the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph as a news reporter, news editor, assistant editor and,most enjoyably, as sports editor (for two years on the MoS and nine years on the Sunday Tel). I began in local newspapers and covered Fulham, Chelsea, QPR and Brentford before working in Reading where I covered matches at Elm Park as well as working as a news reporter. I spent my last two working years as director of communications at the British Horseracing Authority so I saw a lot of Niall Quinn especially at Cheltenham.

Colin Randall

See also: The Arsenal ‘Who are you?’: rooting for Blackpool, recalling another Sunderland

35 thoughts on “Arsenal: ‘go on – would you rather watch us, or Stoke?’”

  1. I’d rather watch Stoke – because I’m a Stoke fan and Stoke are by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.

    If I was a Scunthorpe fan, I’d rather watch Scunthorpe.

    If I was a Leigh RMI fan, I’d rather watch Leigh RMI.

    I dont care who we play against, I go because I support Stoke. The very fact that the chap has raised this question shows that he’s not in touch with 99% of real football fans.

    Oh, and quite ironic that the guy earlier posted a link to the Paul Robinson challenge…I’m sure for fairness he’s just finding the Gallas challenge against Bolton as we speak, which was apparently nothing more than a mistimed challenge, leading to an extreme amount of overreaction from everybody. I’m also glad we’ve had a link to the Fabregas challenge on Pugh, from behind, late, no intention to get the ball and then provoking the Stoke bench – the acceptable face of english football indeed.

  2. Can I just say: great crack from non-Sunderland fans – mainly Stoke but also a few Arsenal – and I think the issue has been well debated.

    Craig: “Funny, why mention Stoke?” – look at the actual question and answer in the Jon Ryan interview. Sunderland , Stoke, Birmingham have all been targeted by Arsenal fans because of injuries sustained by their team against ours in recent season. Valid question, in other words.

    And in his answer to the previous question, Jon Ryan himself raised the “would you rather watch us or Stoke” issue that led to the headline.

    But the fact that so many people have thought it worth commenting – here, and at Oatcake – or just reading (well over 2,000, which is high for this site) justified every word. Good banter, as stafford-stokie said.

  3. Funny, why mention Stoke. Not a fan of Stoke at all (Villa actually) but I would must rather watch a good hard working team like Stoke full of blood and guts fighting until the end than namby pamby pretty football Arsenal who ultimately dont win anything!

  4. salutsunderland: Difficult to know what the referee meant, I suppose, as his words have been filtered through Pulis. It’s quite clear that if there had been no injury then he wouldn’t have even blown his whistle, he hadn’t considered the incident worthy of a free kick even – but there was an injury, I guess.

    For me, if there’s a driving analogy that fits then its Formula 1, where accidents can happen due to the speed and split second decisions that need to be made to gain advantage. In my opinion the Shawcross challenge (and I still struggle to call it a challenge, as he had possession of the ball) certainly wasn’t akin to driving recklessly on a public highway. There is a still photograph taken a split second before impact, and Shawcross is even then closer to the ball than Ramsey. This says to me that Ramsey possibly entered quicker than Shawcross. I don’t mean this to be misconstrued, it was a terrible and sickening injury and in some respect I’m playing devils advocate, but did Ramsey wrap himself around a (far bigger, stronger) lamp post, even?

  5. Steve: the other thing is that Sunderland fans probably prefer not to intrude on a private spat! Now we haven’t got Cana, Gooners find us harder to insult. Cattermole’s just a pantomime baddie; we only allow him to play when we know we can still get through a whole half without losing.

    Dave: thanks for the link.
    He (Pulis) added: “Everyone knew straight away what had happened. The referee [Peter Walton] said it wasn’t meant, but because of the injury he had to send Ryan off.”

    … doesn’t amount, in my honest opinion, to the ref saying he thought on reflection the red was wrong. It goes back to my driving analogy where consequences do play a part in punishment. But I share your view about the top clubs being treated more favourably on many levels. Refs by and large do an honest job and make many fewer mistakes than the far better-paid players, but Graham Poll came as close as possible to admitting in his book that they are affected by things that should play no part in their decision making.


  7. davey mate. be warned. if you ever ask a arse fan any thing, they’ll always twist the conversation to taik about the bnp loving stoke thugs![and if you look at any thread on any message board you will see that this is true!!]
    good luck against them, because if you dont roll over for them, allow them to rub your tummy then send you on your way, you too will be classed as the anti god !!

  8. im in no way having a go at Sunderland as ive nothing but repect for them. Everything that i say is directed towards Arsenal and Whinger. Pick up a dvd of the Stoke game with the Ramsley injury. Watch it all and look at some of the arsenal tackles. You made far more worse ones than we did. Watch it without the whinger specs on. While your at it watch the tackely your knob made on Sorro the other year that he got sent off for. The one while the ball is in his hands. Footballs a contact game. I know ive played it long enough and spent enough time on crutches over the years. If Whinger carries on we soom will be able to allow women players in the Prem

  9. The “this is football not rugby” comment above says a lot I think. Parroting Arsene Wenger’s comments of 2 weeks ago.

    As has previously been said, salutsunderland, the referee did actually say that he sent Shawcross off for his own protection – after seeing the severity of the injury. He didn’t even blow for a free kick until witnessing the distress Ramsey was in. That’s old news though.

    As for Kenwyne. Early days (as he was injured after being savagely scythed down from behind on day one of the season 😉 ) but the signs are good. Fuller/Jones looks like a partnership to be feared, I’m not sure how Gudjonsen is going to elbow his way in. We haven’t seen the ‘unplayable’ version of K.Jones yet, but he’s added a new dimension and seems to have gelled very well with the team, he’s made for a Pulis XI.

  10. Davey:

    I’ll admit the reference by Jon Ryan to Stoke gave me an irresistible headline which draws in fans of three clubs.

    Last time I checked at what I think is the main Stoke fan site

    a reference to the Salut! Sunderland interview had been read 365 600 840 times. I’ve had a barrowload of hits despite the site being down a little earlier.

    As Stafford-stokie says there, it’s all good banter. And as Jon admits, Arsenal have dished it out themselves (and continue to do so from time to time despite otherwise being, at their best, fabulous to watch).

    We raised our game against them last season and I hope we can do it again on Saturday. Otherwise we’ll lose. Rwo-nil with Bent and Gyan scoring, and Chamakh sent off for violent play, would be dreamland.

    By the way, Stoke fans, what are first impressions – excellent goal aside – of Kenwyne?

    Steve: Sunderland fans come here in droves every day but are contemplative and measured by nature, responding only when absolutely necessary. That’s one way of putting it, anyway.

  11. Are there any Sunderland fans on here? Are you relieved Cattermole is suspended? Could save you from the abuse Stoke, Bolton, Blackburn, Birmingham, Hull, Wolves etc have to put up with. Do Arsenal fans actually realise that one day one of their players could break someone’s leg? i wonder what would happen then….

  12. ED You have just unearthed the secret of a busy blog : Slag off another prem team – and the responses will fly in .
    let’s continue with Arsenal (after saturday , of course ) then contine alphabetically through the league

  13. aaron – im guessing you have never seen Spanish football, it may suprise you to learn they also make hard challenges and players get injured. Messi wont come here because he is at the biggest club in the best league in the world

  14. i dont mind players putting a foot in, arsenal players past and present do that and thats great, but keep it clean and its fine. I dont for one second mind different tactics, long balls, route 1 football whatever…if it wrks for you, good. Just dont go out with the belief that you have to leave a mark on another professional. Sometimes i woner if the likes of messi would ever survive in this league.

  15. All you stoke fans need o stop whinging about wengers thoughts. the fact o the matter is if your team’s tackles dont result in horrendous injuries, there wont be a problem. Sounds to me like the toughness of the arsenal side is being questioned because of their reaction to horrendous tackls. get real, this is football not rugby. Since whndid breaking a player’s leg become ok? ridiculous.
    is this football?
    Since when did this sort of thing become ok?
    some people are so desparat to promote this macho image of the english game, look where it gets the national side…nowhere. shameful.

  16. Matt: not doubting you but do you a have a reference for that comment by the ref as I don’t remember seeing it – or what would have been the logical consequence of the card being rescinded.

  17. “Will the irate, whiney Gooners among my readership please stop mailing me to tell me how terrible Ryan Shawcross’s “tackle” on Aaron Ramsay was? Contrary to what you’ve all been bleating for the past week, I remain convinced that it wasn’t a tackle, it wasn’t high, it wasn’t studs up, there wasn’t unneccessary force and there is nothing you can say about it at this late stage to change my mind. Let that be an end to it! Still, if nothing else, it’s strange how so many people can watch the exact same incident and draw such different conclusions.”

    As this journalist states, strange how different people view the same incident and reach different conclusions. He says a few other things too, but we’ll gloss over them.

  18. It still amazes me that even though th whole of the country talked about the Ramsey/Shawcross tackle and say it was an accident but Arsenal fans still follow Areshole Wingers brainwashed beliefs. Look at the Man Utd players injury in the week…the first thing Fergie did was to deffend the Rangers player. I didnt see much difference between both tackles…well apart from Bentner tugging Ryans Shirt a second before they BOTH went into the tackle. Oh Whinger didnt see that did he aong with Febregas foot across Whiteheads shin after about 10 mins or the 4 or 5 challenges from behind. Ramseys leg was broken before the contact you want me to send you a picture that proves it or wont you see that either!!! Good luck to Ramsey but Whinger you seriously had better bring some ear plugs when you come to the Brit

  19. Arsenal are hypocrites. They will claim the “thuggish” style of Stoke but they seem to forget the the days of Keown and Viera! Van Persie was sent of at Stoke a couple of seasons ago where he head butted Sorensen. That is another example of Arsenal being hypocrites, but of course Wenger does not see the incidident or neitier do their fans. Why are Arsenal so upset with Stoke? Maybe because they are still bitter at Stoke for two defeats and bitter that they have won NOTHING for several years. They are not good enough to win anything but they claim they are and then go onto blaming other sides for their failure. Are Stoke “thugs?- no. The Ramsey incident was something that happens in football, a total accident, but seemingly the football world will accept this but the Arsenal fans will not. Stoke are a physical side but we are fair.

  20. @SalutSunderland;

    Well, the referee for a start. He admitted after the game that he only sent Shawcross off after seeing Ramsey’s injury, and also stated that had Ramsey not received an injury Shawcross would not even have been booked. It’s impossible for someone not at the game to sya it was reckless, when the highlights and footage of the injury is limited to the about 2 seconds before the challenge. Shawcross was in possession of the ball, was impeded by Bendtner and the ball got away from him, Ramsey dived in as Shawcross tried to clear the ball, nipped it away but left his standing leg in the path of Ryan’s boot.

    Arsene Wenger and Arsenal; Voyeurs the lot of ’em

  21. I don’t know how bad Braga was , but I sure hope they were terrible , or we are in for a very long evening come Saturday !!

  22. Stafford-Stokie

    It wasn’t malicious but it was desperately reckless and no one, as far as I know, has ever suggested it wasn’t a red card offence.

    A bit like dangerous driving: hit a lamppost and there’s not too much fuss/kill someone and you go down for years even though the true level of negligence/recklessness may be identical. People remember the challenge because of the horrendous consequences.

    But I’m with you on the question of getting opposing players booked or sent off. The worst feature of the France v Italy World Cup final wasn’t Zidane butting the Italian thug but Buffo(o)n racing halfway across the field to scream at the ref to show red.

    Salut! Sunderland gets it in the neck from Arsenal fans for thinking it is only marginally better than diving and feigning injury. I love the way Arsenal play, but one or two Gooners don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with any of those things if committed by their players against uncultured oiks from north of Potters Bar.

  23. At least it makes a change to hear an Arsenal fan admit his team have had ‘hard’ players, ironically it was when they were the best team in the country. As for not wanting to pay to watch Stoke play, John shows himself for what he really is, another tourist who doesnt realise people pay to support their team regardless of how they play, what they win or what division. Maybe John should travel a few miles up the road to see Watford or Barnet and see that people do not pay their money to just to see goals like Vela’s.

  24. Oh yes and who was it that went to the aid of Ramsey when he broke his leg?
    Yes thats right it was the Stoke players while your cheats were to busy chasing the ref to get Shawcross sent off. You must be so proud!

  25. gee says:

    But does he cry to the media every time a decision goes against us?
    Errr. NO!
    Does Winger moan every week just to get the ref on side?
    Does he get his players to help con refs every week?
    Just like he wouldn’t let the tosser Ramsey tell the truth about the Shawcross ACCIDENT!
    Another season of winning nothing for you glory boys. x

  26. Stafford-Stokie says:

    WoW as opposed to Tony ‘chav of the year pulis’ taking the English game (even though he welsh) to the highest plataeu.

    Yeah you keep beleiving the sun and talk sport

  27. Team establishing itself in Premier League after 25 years in lower divisions don’t play as attractive football as “Big Four” team shocker.

    I always thought the ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’ chant was aimed at the George Graham’s team, turns out its the supporters personality.

    How to win friends and influence people, hey.

  28. The asre can not even be called an English club anymore. The french fool is ruining football as we know it. It won’t be long before tackling is taken out of the game forever. It is a shame he forgets HIS teams record before he went all soft on us.
    I would much rather support a team like Stoke than a bunch of crying excuses for men.
    Southern softies.
    Enough said.

  29. I also thought why mention Stoke.

    Stoke certainly have rattled arsen whenger now it seems the fans as well.

    dont see what everyones problem is with Stoke they have come into the premier league,proved people wrong by not going down.

    Now just a peeak at their squad shows they now have flair as well,Fuller,Etherington,Tuncay.Gudjonson,Pennant.Could have a very good season.

  30. I enjoyed reading this article and found it refreshing and to the point. I’ve picked Arsenal as my 2nd team because of the way they football and last night the football they played was beautiful. Come saturday my first team Sunderland will turn them over.

  31. Just to repeat the message that appeared on the first Arsenal Who are you?’:

    ALL COMMENTS WELCOME BUT SPAM EPIDEMIC – take your pick: Viagra, colon cleansing, dodgy loans, escort girls, garden fences, wrestling, weight loss – MEANS THOSE POSTING HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME WILL EXPERIENCE SOME DELAY FOR MODERATION

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