Morning folks, how are we all doing on this here Friday, eh?

Today’s blog is going to start off on a slightly sombre note, but an important one, as we kick off with the written article that Aaron Ramsdale wrote on the Player’s Tribune. Read it here. Honestly, read it.

I often see a lot of interviews from players. We see them speaking to camera, podcasts, etc and occasionally there is something exclusively for print. But sometimes when I read those sorts of articles I think “yeah, that’s ghost written. No chance that footballer wrote that – it is too polished”.

Not this article. You can tell this article is written from the keyboard/pen of the man himself. It sounds like him. It sounds like a real person and you can tell it is entirely from the heart. It was touching, it was emotional, it was a story that has not been told and he himself said in it the written piece – he had deliberated on saying these things for a long time.

I am so glad you did, Aaron. Not that you’ll read my wafflings, but there’s a guy in Uxbridge who is an obsessive football fan like you, who is so glad you wrote it.

There’s even humour in there too, punctuated in between the serious messages that he conveys. I love the reality of it. When you see interviews and videos with footballers you know straight away if they have engaged “PR training mode”, because they just speak in pretty dry tones and never really give up anything. Why would they? Their words can easily be twisted in today’s content-hungry mediaverse, so it’s better to give the boring soundbite and then move on. But this written piece really speaks to reality; THEY ARE ALL HUMANS. They have feelings, they have emotions, they go through pains just like all of us. Yes they are supremely rewarded by never having to worry about financial issues for the rest of their lives (for those at the top, elite level, I mean), but they still go through the same emotional feelings that every human goes through.

Even the speculation stuff – one of the more light-hearted pieces in the article talks about how he got his Engaldn call up and bowled straight up to Saka and said “is your club interested in me?”, for Saka to confirm that he’d spoken to Saka about Ramsdale’s character. I loved that idea that so many people know about Ramsdale’s future before even he seems to!

But the real emotion in the article comes through some of the pains. Through talking of the heartache of losing an unborn child, for example, which is something I have never experienced but recently a friend at work has. Honestly, that is just a friend, but when I heard the news about her my stomach knotted up inside. She’s had to take time off work to deal with the emotional loss. That is the same loss that Ramsdale and his wife felt, yet just a few days later he was putting a brave face on in front of millions of people. That deserves so much respect that my words on a page cannot remotely properly convey.

Then there is the story about his brothers and his gay brother and what he’s had to hear. And he’s decided that “f*ck it”, no more. Yet more respect. Football is football. It isn’t about politics, it isn’t about race, gender or personal preferences, it is about competition, victory, tribalism and feeling part of a community. Do you know what I do when I walk down the street and see somebody in an Arsenal shirt? Well, I used to nod at them, but when I realised they’d give me funny looks unless I was wearing an Arsenal shirt (random man walks past you nodding? Bit weird…) I changed that to just saying to myself “gooner, good on ya. One of us”. Literally EVERY time I see anyone with any kind of Arsenal merch. That’s what I say. That person could be somebody I’d never get on with and never spend time with in a million years, but in that moment, they are one of my brothers and sisters.

(It also works the other way around with The Scum, or Chelsea fans. Never really anyone else in shirts, oddly enough, just those two – they are the enemy and should be approached with caution, a slight disdain and a sense of them being from another planet to me.)

And that’s what Ramsdale conveys in his article and I couldn’t echo those sentiments any more highly.

And he gives words of inspiration to kids reading it too. He talks about how until last season all he’d ever known was being in relegation scraps. Imagine being a professional ‘keeper, at the most difficult end of the pitch when you spend a lot of time plucking the ball out of the net (I would know, from the age of nine until 16 I played in goal and mostly for teams that weren’t that great – conceded 23 in one match before. That wasn’t a fun Sunday morning, that’s for sure), yet still having the mental fortitude to be mentally strong enough to keep saying to yourself “good things will happen, just keep going”.

And it did happen. He joined us. He talks about his debut away to West Brom. I was there that day with Giles and despite all of the internet abuse he talks about, not that he didn’t probably know this already, but within the first few minutes we gave him a shout out. He was up the other end of the pitch in that first half too. But the fact he heard it, that he knew when he makes his way on to the pitch as an Arsenal player, he’s getting the love from us in the stands, that means something too. It shows him that the internet can be the Wild West at times; but in real life, he is part of our tribe and we will fight for him.

I think I’ll leave it there for today. There’s lots of rumours and other stuff to mention, including the Wenger interview, but for me, this needed to take precedence because it was such a fantastically written and emotional piece. Props to our boy in between the sticks.

Catch you guys tomorrow.