The cost of dedication

Old season ticket
Ticket from the olden-days

Now, as all those among you lucky enough to be season ticket holders at the finest club in the land will attest, this week the renewal forms for next year dropped onto the mat – or to be precise, arrived in the inbox.

The eagle/misty-eyed will have noticed that one thing has been consigned to history – the self-addressed and stamped postcard that used to boomerang its way back to you once the paperwork had been received by the club. Being a middle-aged and grumpy sort of bloke, I miss that postcard already.

The other thing that disappeared, alongside the old ground itself, was the paper season ticket, which resembled a raffle ticket book, with its tear-out matchday tickets at the front and indecipherable coloured cup-tie coupons and special match vouchers at the back.

Replays and other assorted unscheduled matches required a special kind of intelligence to arrange tickets for: the ability to pick out the correct voucher (“is it coupon B, or special match voucher 21?”). These things came with experience. You could always tell the rookie season ticket holder in such circumstances, skimming through the book in a blind panic as deadline day for ticket applications loomed.

Voucher
Voucher

The other two things that have changed considerably are the price, and the availability.

Getting my first season ticket, in the year we signed Kiwomya, Helder and Hartson in a desperate attempt to climb the table prior to George Graham’s sacking, required nothing more than a phone call to the club. They had plenty available and all I had to do was head down to the ground and choose the two seats I wanted.

As for price, well in 1994-5 I paid £260 for my season ticket, naturally in the East Lower at Highbury. The price rises thereafter mirrored the huge increase in popularity of the game itself, the arrival of expensive European players and of course, the huge growth in player wages.

The club has to its credit held prices now for three seasons running – though they were admittedly already among the highest in the land – but the prices below do nevertheless indicate the inflation in ticket prices at Arsenal since the conception of the Premier League. I only now have two of the electronic stubs – inserted inside the cover of each season ticket – to indicate the prices I paid, but suffice to say that in the four years between 94 and 98 the ticket price had risen from £260 to £390, and by 2008, it was nearer £900.

Still, every season I moan about the cost, yet every season I’m back for more.

It’s a little bit addictive…

Match review: The nil-nillest of nil-nils

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City

Season ticket renewal time is almost upon us – and what better way to offset the pain of some of the priciest tickets in the country than with a reminder of what Arsenal do best: Goals, technique, speed and a never-say-die attitude?

All those things will doubtless be unveiled against Fulham on 9th May, because yesterday’s goalless draw was as turgid an end-of-season game as you will ever see. It was instantly forgettable.

Which is all the more peculiar for the fact that City’s owners are palpably desperate for the kudos the Champions League would offer. If they miss out by a point or two come the end of the season, someone might want to ask Mancini why he ordered his team to come for nothing more than a draw against an Arsenal side with three straight defeats playing on the mind, an impressive cast list of crocks and one eye on the summer sunloungers.

Not that we were able to break down such a stifling lack of ambition. We had no real answer to it – a couple of shots on target only, the best of which was a van Persie free-kick that floated just high and wide.

We all wanted a reaction from the Wigan game, and in terms of commitment and focus, it was an improvement. It’s a shame that improvement didn’t translate into attacking threat.

It was a day for fans of defending, and while City did not venture forward much, of our players it was the “outstanding” Campbell – “Maybe you should take him to South Africa” Wenger said post-match – and the returning Song who caught the eye. Even the much-derided Micky Silver looked good.

If, hypothetically, we had a keeper showing signs of advanced shell-shock and wearing gloves lubed with WD-40, and we were looking for an easy game to parachute him into that would ease his frayed nerves, yesterday’s was that game. Fabianski had almost nothing to do all match, and certainly nothing remotely taxing, even by his standards.

We do have one thing to thank Adebayor for: His pig-tailed arrival in the 52nd minute at least sparked the game into a modicum of life. But once the vituperative songs had died down, there was no more papering over the cracks of a dull game and it and it wasn’t long before it was ambling along again, going nowhere fast.

Even eight minutes of added time, against a Faroese rookie keeper, produced no telling pressure from us and that was that.

“Losing to Wigan was in our heads, it was absolutely forbidden to lose, they didn’t throw everything forward blindly.” Can’t argue with that from Wenger.

From our point of view, it edged us closer to third, and therefore away from having to play a Champions League qualifier, and it arrested a losing streak.

But the Independent’s 4/10 rating seems about right.