I’m a (very) bad loser.
Whether I’m playing or supporting, there’s something inside of me that just outright rejects the idea of coming off second best.
So I don’t know about you, but I find myself fighting the urge to avoid football altogether at the moment, in between games, given the way our season is turning out.
I do have something in the way of mitigation though. Something that regular readers are all too familiar with. I’m engaged to a Spurs fan, a season ticket holder no less.
In fact, this week brings with it my own equivalent of D-day. It’s the happy (or not, depending on your outlook) weekend where we are due to tie the proverbial knot after which I’ll be indelibly and irrevocably linked to a Lilywhite.
So it seems only right and proper that this week’s column should be dedicated to what is now very much more than just a love affair with the enemy.
So what made me start seeing a Tottenham supporter in the first place, I hear you ask? Or at least, that’s certainly the question I’d be posing, along with some heavily raised eyebrows, if one of you were doing the same thing.
Put simply, I didn’t know he was a Spurs fan.
By the time I’d worked out his repugnant tendencies, it was too late and I was in too deep. It’s hard to see adult Helen remaining in the dark for so long, but for 16-year-old Helen, a burgeoning interest in boys did manage to reduce my usual levels of obsession with football in general and Arsenal in particular from 100% to about 95%.
And over 10 years later, to be honest, our conflicting football fandoms has almost become one of the most defining elements of our relationship.
There are some upsides.
I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with someone who wasn’t into football. Clearly it’d be handy if he supported Arsenal too, but at least this way we can laugh at United, Liverpool and City together. Imagine a world where you weren’t able to watch every Premier League or Champions League game on TV, but were instead forced to watch Coronation Street, or perhaps Downton Abbey? Exactly.
And needless to say, if ever children appear on the scene, my Gooner parents have already been very firmly instructed on the necessary steps. Clearly if I were to enrol my kid on the Junior Gunners scheme at one-hour-old then it might cause a little domestic tension, but if my dad does it…?
Then, of course, when Arsenal win, it also adds to the satisfaction to see his obvious annoyance. Correspondingly, when Spurs lose, it’s all the more enjoyable because I get to wallow in it first hand. Let’s face it, living with a fan of the only team who are worse chokers than us – well, it helps you get a sense of perspective!
And there’s the part where, because I’m at the Emirates one week and he’s at White Hart Lane the next, I get some peace and quiet to myself pretty much every weekend. This might not seem a big deal to some of you, but actually when you’ve been with someone a long time – and maybe this is exacerbated because of his Tottenham roots – it’s actually really nice to have some time to yourself!
Of course, if results don’t go our way then it is tough. Luckily I think it would be fair to say that although my future intended would claim to be as ardent a Spurs fan as I am an Arsenal one, it doesn’t really work out that way, because he’s just a bit more chilled out than me. If Arsenal lose, it ruins my weekend, and usually days beyond too. When Spurs lose, he still sees it as a bit of ‘comme ci, comme ça.’
It’s become infinitely harder in recent seasons, as the boys from up the road start to feel more confident, more daring if you will, and there’s a sense of entitlement and expectation building which is hard to deal with as an Arsenal fan whose entire life more or less has seen us finish above our neighbours.
This season is by far the most nervous I’ve felt about us coming good by mid-May, not even because Spurs are playing in an invincible fashion – they’re not, and with better finishing Swansea would have stuffed them earlier this month.
No, I’m at my most nervous for two other reasons: Firstly because we aren’t playing at our best, certainly for 90 minutes at a time, and right now every little thing that goes against us is derailing the Arsenal train. But secondly because I want this year to be the happiest of my life – which it won’t be if Spurs beat us – and I also want it to be the happiest of my other half’s, and not because Tottenham win the league. Imagine how badly our wedding would be overshadowed by the bus parade and DVDs if the unthinkable should happen!
So yes, so much hangs in the balance this season – Arsenal’s success, Arsene’s future, and of course my own happiness. Little wonder when I went to the doctor recently, he told me I’m showing classic signs of stress. No **** Sherlock! In other news, water is wet, the Pope’s a Catholic and Arsenal are ridiculously off colour.
But the consequences of Spurs finishing above us or, heaven forbid, winning the title – they just don’t bear thinking about.
So come on Arsenal, the time is now. Give me the best wedding gift of them all: a return to form, starting at Everton on Saturday.