OLIVER HOLT: It’s absurd to say Arsenal can only celebrate if they win a trophy. Fans live for moments. Let’s not make a ration book for joy
It was a bitterly cold night in Birmingham last Tuesday when Newcastle United traveled to Villa Park. Eddie Howe’s side have not won a league game since mid-December. Most people expected Aston Villa to surpass them and push them into the bottom half of the table.
Newcastle brought a large contingent of traveling fans, as they always do. It’s a long journey from the northeast at the end of a workday. It would have taken a lot of money and effort to make the trip in the dead of winter and support a team that was drifting in the doldrums.
They made a lot of noise, those fans. They came right behind their side. And Newcastle surprised most neutrals by playing Villa. They won 3-1 and they deserved it. And at the end of the game the players and the staff went to their supporters in the Doug Ellis stand in a corner of the ground opposite the press box and celebrated with them.
Anthony Gordon, their best player that night, stood on the turf and sang along to ‘Who’s That Team We Call United/’ and the fans, some shirtless in the cold, danced and roared. They didn’t win a trophy. They did not finish in the top four or make it to a cup final. They won a mid-season game which moved them up to seventh place.
My inner villain thinks the celebratory dressing room team photos after every win, pioneered by Newcastle, are excessive. However, there is an even bigger part of me that thinks I need to get over it.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has come under fire for his passionate celebrations after his side’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday night
Gunners captain Martin Odegaard took charge of the club photographer’s camera to capture the wild celebrations at the Emirates
The Gunners’ post-match party continued long after the final whistle in the dressing room
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Good luck to the Newcastle players who celebrated with their supporters at Villa Park. I’d rather they did that than ignore them and march straight down the tunnel. I hate it when players stay aloof from fans. I hate it when I see those images of players getting off a team bus and walking straight past their fans with their headphones on.
We want our players to be recognizable, don’t we? We want to see that a win means as much to them as it does to us. We want to believe that it’s more than just a job, more than just 90 minutes at the office. And we want the fans to feel valued for their loyalty, not taken for granted.
So actually I looked at the Newcastle players celebrating with their fans and it sent a thrill of joy through me. Football is supposed to be about joy, isn’t it? It is supposed to be about a shared love of the game that produces moments and emotions like those experienced by the Newcastle fans at Villa Park.
And I felt exactly the same way about Arsenal’s celebrations after their win over Liverpool at The Emirates on Sunday. I enjoyed watching Martin Odegaard live in the moment with the fans.
I loved seeing him strutting around, brandishing a camera and taking pictures of the Arsenal club photographer. Michael Essien did something similar after the 2009 FA Cup final, picking up a camera belonging to a photographer from The Times. The newspaper published his photos. They were also images of pure joy.
It was a significant win for Arsenal on Sunday. Lose against Liverpool and they were as good as out of the title race. Everyone would have lined up to call them bottlers again. Everyone would have said they were hollow men, that they had no spirit, that they did not have the character to be winners.
Odegaard borrowed a camera from Arsenal photographer Stuart MacFarlane and took pictures
Former Chelsea star Michael Essien did the same after the 2009 FA Cup final
But Arsenal’s players stood up. In front of their own fans, they saved their best performance of the season so far for their biggest game. They were brilliant from start to finish. And in the aftermath relief and vindication and rekindled hope passed through them and they celebrated. Why wouldn’t they?
Mikel Arteta’s touchline antics do him little favors at times, but it takes a hard heart to watch him run up and down the touchline in the wake of Arsenal’s decisive third goal and think he needs to keep it under control. The game was a big test of his management and he got through it. He deserved any celebration he wanted.
Come on. What do we want? Managers and players wearing hair shirts? Should we frown on celebrations when a player scores a goal? We complain – all of us – about the specter of VAR sucking the joy out of celebrations and then condemn our players and managers for losing themselves in the joy of the moment.
It’s a different age. Fans live for moments, not just outcomes. More and more fans are there for one game, one visit, one treat, not for the whole season. This is the Instagram generation. Soccer fans want instant gratification. They don’t want to be told the players can’t celebrate anything with them until May. And I don’t blame them.
Celebrations are part of the iconography of football and many of the best, the ones we cherish, are not always related to winning trophies. Remember Jose Mourinho’s sprint and knee slide on the touchline at Old Trafford in 2004 when he was manager of Porto? It was tied during a round of 16.
Jurgen Klopp celebrates in front of the Kop after many home games and it is an uplifting symbol of togetherness. Perhaps the most famous celebration of all is the touchline drop dance of Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson when Manchester United came from behind to take the lead against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993.
Liverpool Jurgen Klopp is known for his passionate celebrations on the Anfield touchline
Victory on Wednesday moved United two points clear of Aston Villa with five games to play. It didn’t decide anything, but it felt significant at the time, just as Arsenal felt Sunday’s win was significant.
If we have lost a little of our traditional English reserve, if we celebrate a little more readily, that is a good thing. We don’t have to hold it all in anymore. We don’t have to treat triumph and disaster the same. We don’t have to hide our emotions. We are not Victorians.
It is absurd to imagine that you can only celebrate when you win a trophy. It is absurd to suggest that you can only communicate with the fans when a campaign is finished. Joy is a precious thing in sports. Let’s not make a ration book for it.
Maybe Mrs. Silva looked closer to the house
Isabelle Silva, the wife of veteran Chelsea centre-back Thiago Silva, is an outspoken presence on social media.
A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of the revealing account of her family’s lunch at an exclusive London restaurant.
On Sunday, after her husband’s side were humiliated 4-2 at home by Wolves, she appeared to urge the club to get rid of manager Mauricio Pochettino. “It’s time to change,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“If you wait any longer, it will be too late.” I wonder if someone pointed out to Mrs Silva that her husband will be 40 this year.
He was one of the best defenders of his generation but he is part of a defense that has looked like a collection of clowns in recent weeks. It is indeed time to change.
Thiago Silva’s wife Belle (above, with Silva and their two children) took to social media during Chelsea’s defeat to Wolves to call for change at the club
Hamilton’s fire still burns
Mercedes has been good to Lewis Hamilton and Lewis Hamilton has been good to Mercedes and so if there was some sadness at the news that they would be parting ways at the end of the approaching Formula 1 season, there was also something inspiring about Hamilton’s decided to take the switch to Ferrari.
With all he has achieved in the sport, Hamilton could have been forgiven for walking away from the sport or choosing to stick with the celebrity for the rest of his career. Instead, in pursuit of a record eighth world drivers’ title, his move to the world’s most popular team will expose him to more pressure and scrutiny than he has ever faced before.
It’s wonderful to see that the fire in him still burns brightly.