Arsenal Friday Fanzone Q&A – Jakarta Casual

Arsenal Friday Fanzone Q&A - Jakarta Casual - picture of his 'little Gooner' with Rocky at the Emira

Arsenal Friday Fanzone Q&A - Jakarta Casual - picture of his 'little Gooner' with Rocky at the Emirates - Credit: Archant

After a week to forget for Arsenal fans here’s our interview with a loyal ‘old-school’ Gooner Anthony Sutton – aka Jakarta Casual. Read on for a fascinating chat with a North Londoner who ended up in South East Asia.

Tell us a little about yourself – you’ve got a huge following in Indonesia – how did you end up there?

I left England in 1987 on what I thought would be a year off. I had 12 months in Australia as well as a couple of months in South East Asia but when I returned to England I found I still had itchy feet especially when my boss told me I couldn’t take the Friday off to go to Anfield for the title decider in 1989. I stuck around long enough to see the first game of the following season, Michael Knighton’s kick around in the sun at Old Trafford, then returned to Australia for a couple of years. I was back in 1991 but couldn’t bear to see Highbury without the North Bank so headed to Germany in 1992. Loved Germany, went to plenty of football there, but didn’t like the cold weather so headed to Thailand in 1994 and been in Asia ever since. When I was getting married I wanted to find something to do to keep my out the pub so I started blogging about Indonesian football and Jakarta Casual was born

How did you become an Arsenal fan?

My brother supports West Ham but we were living in North London around 1969/70 so I guess I picked up the bug around then. My first memories though were when we had moved overseas and my old man got me some Arsenal programmes which I devoured from cover to cover. Next up was a book or two and I remember at one stage he wrote to the club and Bertie Mee replied enclosing a rosette, a pennant, a scarf and one of those sheets of paper with the autographs on. I was hooked!

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2007 was a turning point for me. Had we won the League Cup against Chelsea that year I really thought we could have gone on to win more trophies with a young squad who had learnt what it meant to be successful at an early age. Success breeds success. We lost of course but Wenger felt it was ok to lose. He felt the League Cup was beneath him, he had his eye on bigger pots. Within 10 days we were out of the FA Cup and the Champions League and the trend was set in stone. I didn’t understand what he was trying to do, winning is a mentality you can’t just turn off or on at a whim yet here he was saying it was ok to lose in a final because the final wasn’t important? Kroenke? Now I feel the joy of supporting the Arsenal, through good and bad times, is being sucked out by the current regime. I have gone from outright anger to frustration to even apathy at times and that is the worst thing.

Do you think social media has made the game better or worse for fans?

I’ve met some good people through social media. For me it’s the punk rock of the 21st century in a way, it gives everyone a chance to have their voice heard. Where once people picked up a mic stand or a guitar now they only need a laptop and a wifi connection. There is a lot of noise out there but like with buying records and going to gigs we have a choice. We don’t have to follow them.

One thing you would change about the club?

We haven’t been a football club for a long time. I would like us to be one again. David Rocastle’s quote ‘Remember who you are and who you represent’ still means something even though you get the impression certain people would rather it didn’t. You get the impression Kroenke and Co would look at Keith Burkinshaw’s words when he left Tottenham all those years ago, ‘there used to be a football club’ and take it as a compliment.

What makes you proud to be a Gooner?

Our history. The marble halls, the East Stand, Jack Kelsey going from legendary ‘keeper to running the club shop, Tony Adams, the brawl in Italy after the Lazio game in 1971, winning important games at White Hart Lane, Bob Wilson, Rocky, It’s up for grabs now, the lack of racism, roasted peanuts, ‘getcha Gooner’...

Next statue outside would be?

Not really one for statues but they seem to appeal to the selfie brigade. If there was to be a new one I would have Rocky’s words mentioned earlier

First game?

West Ham at home in 1974. Don’t remember much of it. First away game was Spurs 1976 when Willie Young got sent off playing for them. We signed him soon after...

Favourite game and why?

Nothing can take away from the League Cup Semi Final at White Hart Lane in 1986/87. We’d lost the first leg at Highbury 1-0 and were trailing in the second leg before scoring twice to earn a replay. Back to White Hart Lane and we were trailing again before that amazing climax when Ian Allinson and David Rocastle scored in the last eight minutes. Winning there is always special, especially when they think they are on their way to a cup final and the ground is bouncing to that Chas and Dave song, but this game also needs to be looked at in context. We had done nothing for years, looked like doing nothing for years and here we were coming from behind not once but twice to beat that lot and book a place in the final. We finally had a team that looked like it could challenge for trophies, that had mental strength, spirit and ambition.

One other game sticks in my mind. Nottingham Forest away in 1988 with the fog hanging heavy over the River Trent. We won 4-1 and we were in the seats. I thinks the lads on the terraces were kept behind after the game so as we headed out of the stadium and over the river all we could hear was ‘Boring boring Arsenal’ rising from the dimly lit stadium over our shoulder.

Worst game and why?

I was at the Walsall, Oxford United and York City cup games and they weren’t pretty. More recently Crystal Palace away last season. Luckily I hadn’t flown half way round the world just to see a football match!

Favourite player and why?

Growing up it was Liam Brady. Pure class. When he left we lacked stardust for a few years, no disrespect to the likes of John Hawley and Paul Gorman, so when we signed Charlie Nicholas that had a huge impact. In later years Rocky and Ian Wright of course. More recently Dennis Bergkamp.

Worst player and why?

He’s probably not the worst player to play for us but I never took to Manuel Almunia. Making him our first choice goalkeeper to me was an admission by Wenger we weren’t interested in winning anything. I’m old enough to remember when Brian Clough signed Peter Shilton and he said a good goalkeeper was worth 18 points a season. Top teams have top keepers. We had Almunia.

Pre-match routine?

When I’m in Indonesia wake up 10 minutes before kick off, go to bed again at half time! When I’m in England have a few beers before the game.

Best thing about Highbury?

The East Stand, the old North Bank, the old Clock End, the West Stand. If those terraces could talk, what tales they could tell. It was part of a football club that had grown organically on the sweat and exploits of those who worked there, toiled there, cheered there. The legends were made from the word of mouth from supporters who invested so much in that football club and not a slick corporate PR machine seeking to impose its own ideas of what the matchday experience should be from on high.

Best thing about Emirates?

Um, it’s close to Highbury. You get a nice view. Um.

Biggest scrape as a fan?

I took my first slap at Arsenal tube station from a Manchester United fan who thought I had been getting a bit too familiar with his girlfriend. Most unlikely, I was 14 years old and looked like Lux out of Graham’s Gang! A few years later a group of us got separated from the main body of Arsenal support coming out of Millwall and we walked in unnatural silence along the New Cross Road in the dark behind another group of lads who were also keeping quiet. Reaching New Cross Gate station turns out they were Arsenal fans as well trying to keep a low profile. Oh, how we laughed!

Fourth place trophy or Europa League – can’t say both

Winning the Europa League. My little Gooner is nearly eight years old and has a great collection of medals he has already won. I asked him recently whether he plays football for fun or for trophies. He looked at me like it was a daft question and pointed to his trophy cabinet.

Favourite win over Spurs

The one I mentioned before and the 3-0 in 2009, 24 hours after my little Gooner was born.

Prediction for the rest of the season

Same as last year. Hopefully Wenger will recognise the importance of winning a trophy, even the League Cup or the Europa League but I’m not holding my breath.

All time Arsenal XI

Seaman - Dixon, Adams, Keown, Sansom - Rocastle, Storey, Vieria, Brady - Bergkamp, Wright

Anything you want to add, I hear you’ve got a book out?

I had a book published about Indonesian football, only available in Indonesian at the moment, earlier this year and it soon became a best seller. Watching Indonesian football is a great experience. Imagine English football in the 1970s. The atmosphere at some of the games will just blow your mind away and the closeness between club officials and supporters just doesn’t exist in England any more. Shortly after my book was published I was invited to attend a meeting between the management of Persebaya Surabaya, one of the biggest clubs in the country, and respected terrace faces. Not shareholders in suits with fancy job titles but genuine supporters who travel home and way often in difficult conditions to support their team. The supporters thanked the new management for saving their football club and asked they do not forget what it means to be a Persebaya supporter. They said the fans have kept the club alive during recent bad years, they deserve to be heard and to their credit the management listened and asked questions. As I sat there listening to the dialogue I told one of my Indonesian friends this would be impossible in England. He looked surprised and asked me why clubs don’t want to have a dialogue with supporters and sad to say I didn’t know the answer.

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