Last weekend’s Premier League talking points seemed – as is so often the case of late – to centre around Arsenal. Over the last few weeks, the Gunners have started to look like a parody of a parody.
One airplane was hired to proclaim the wish of a section of the club’s fans that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be given a new contract. That was rivalled soon after by a second plane, professing the desires of another section of the club’s fans’ that he would.
To complete the caricature, it may well have been the same plane making two runs: just how many airplane banner companies can there be based around the Hawthorns?
It’s not the first time that a plane carrying a message has been flown over a football ground, of course. In fact, they’re becoming more and more common, especially in an era of instant results and managerial sackings. It is an outlet for fan anger and when people don’t think their views are being listened to, a plane over a ground will get some media coverage.
Social media coverage, too. But in the days before Twitter, football was a simpler place. And on the birthday of former Liverpool and Real Madrid goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, we can at least reflect on one of the nicer incidents involving a football club and an airplane carrying a banner.
In 2007, after six years at the club, Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek announced he would be leaving. That year, Liverpool reached the Champions League final for the second time in three years – though Athens was to provide much more painful memories than Istanbul two years previously.
Dudek was one of the heroes of the 2005 triumph, saving the final Andriy Shevchenko penalty and playing a crucial role in adding the finishing touch to Liverpool’s famous comeback.
A year later, Dudek was on holiday in Poland during the summer break when his Merseyside home was burgled. Amongst the stolen possessions were the medals he won with Liverpool as well as his collection of shirts and awards.
It’s clear, then, that the Pole had been through a lot during his time at Anfield. Being part of the team that won in Istanbul was always going to make his stay at the club memorable and emotional, but sticking around as Pepe Reina’s understudy before moving to Madrid showed his love for Liverpool.
A love he then professed with the famous banner over the skies of Liverpool which read, “Jerzy Dudek thanks LFC family 4 support”.
In the days of plane wars, anger and embitterment, Dudek’s plane antics seem altogether of a different time. It’s always easier to destroy than create and to let out raw anger rather than chew over the nuances of the situation.
Arsenal fans clearly aren’t chewing over any nuance at all. It looks as though Arsenal fans just can’t make up their minds, but the reality is there are just two entrenched camps hiring a plane to make their feelings known.
And yet, we all know their feelings. We’ve known their feelings for quite some time. Years, probably.
Dudek’s gesture was a beautiful, sentimental tribute to a city that welcomed him and shared so many memories with him. Arsenal fans, on the other hand, aren’t telling anyone anything they don’t know. The only winners are football banter social media accounts and sites who can use the story to make money off your clicks.