Adrian Durham’s Devotion To Arsenal Sets The Benchmark For True Gunners Everywhere
The Daily Arsenal: a case study in obsessional fandom
Why Adrian Durham’s devotion to the North London club sets the benchmark for true Gunners everywhere.
Listeners to talkSPORT – the national radio station that pumps out sing-along ads for builders’ merchants 24/7 from a ketchup-stained studio on south London – will know that surly Drivetime anchor Adrian Durham has redefined the terms ‘troll’ and ‘shock jock’ to the point where neither really does him justice any more.
A troll tends to pick on one victim and stalk them in cyberspace. Durham’s prey is an entire football club and its employees and supporters, whom he has been winding up on a regular basis for several years.
For this reason he isn’t really a shock jock either, because this provocation no longer comes as a shock. There is a sense of inevitability about his endless attempts to find fault with Arsene Wenger, ‘Arsenal Football Cloob’, and ‘you Gooners’ (as he insists on calling the reds’ long-suffering supporters, as he throws out fresh bait and reels them in to phone his show and wait for hours at 10p a minute).
Durham is from Peterborough, and is the kind of person who takes a fierce pride in supporting his local team. And although he likes to mention ‘the Posh’ on his show from time to time, he prefers to talk Arsenal.
There are obvious commercial reasons for this, of course, but such is Durham’s obsession with Arsenal that you can’t help wondering if his WUM strategy has spilled over into hatred and then gone all the way through to obsessional love, with the hatred retained merely as a flag of convenience. These days he seems to live and breathe Arsenal in a way that puts the young Nick Hornby in the shade. In fact, he lives and breathes in a way that is rivaled only by the awesome Away Boyz…
And strike a light! Here he is, with a couple of the Boyz and co-presenter Darren Gough (cricketer, dancer, and now a Brand Ambassador for Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar).
Such is Durham’s devotion to the club that he even has a daily feature devoted to them – ‘The Daily Arsenal’, introduced each afternoon with the 20th Century Fox fanfare – in which he takes a topical story (or creates one) and uses all his considerable powers of imagination to put the most negative possible spin on it.
If it is a completely positive story (e.g. Arsenal or Arsenal person does something good) then he will simply criticise them for not doing it before now, or for not doing it on a grand enough scale, or for not persuading other Arsenal people to do the same. He has high standards, and expects only the best from the North London giants.
If it is a negative story, he regales the gory details more in sorrow than anger.
After building to his carefully constructed climax he leans back, lights a metaphorical cigarette, and says ‘that was yer Daily Arsenal’ with a contemptuous air that seems designed to distance himself from his pleasure – for all the world as though his listeners had begged for it and he had reluctantly consented, rather than the other way round.
Then it’s back to the rest of the show, most of which, purely coincidentally, also consists of Arsenal.
Durham’s quest in life is to establish ‘the facts’, and he likes to employ grandiloquent phrases such as ‘what I need to know’. At times it sounds as if he is not a phone-in host but the head of a top-level government enquiry into all things Arsenal.
His schtick is to invent a forthright or occasionally extreme opinion and then attribute it to ‘you Gooners’: ‘Gooners, do you really believe that?’… ‘Gooners, are you happy about it?’… ‘Seriously?’… ‘I can’t get my head around this…’
This year, the usual routine – Arsenal’s failure to win anything, and the idea that fourth place and Champions League qualification equated to a ‘trophy’ – received a jolt when they succeeded in landing a real trophy.
But this too became a stick to beat ‘the Gooners’ because it was ‘only’ the FA Cup. ‘Arsenal fans are celebrating winning a cup, I get that,’ he argued. But… it’s only the FA Cup that Wigan won the year before, surely Gooners expect better than that. Isn’t it a bit embarrassing to be celebrating with street parades?…
Nevertheless, the winning of a trophy was enough for Durham to put the big question to the listeners: should the Daily Arsenal be retired?
The listeners apparently voted ‘no’, and so the ritual continues.
The close season, by its very nature, reduces the available ammunition, but Durham soldiers on. There’s transfer speculation, of course, and also the opportunity to criticise Arsene Wenger’s trip to Brazil for the World Cup and the performance of Arsenal players during the tournament – even those returning with winners’ medals.
All the same, with two weeks to go before the resumption of Premier League hostilities, and the bones of Brazil picked dry, even Durham’s imagination must struggle to find fresh meat.
We have just clicked on the BBC Sport website, where the league tables are primed and ready for the new season. And there’s the Premier League, with no games played and no points accrued. And there at the top, in their traditional position of alphabetical preeminence, sits… Arsenal.
‘Let’s have it right, Gooners. Are you comfortable seeing your team sitting at the top of the table, in a position you have done nothing to deserve? Aren’t you a bit embarrassed? Seriously? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for you, WOOLWICH ARSENAL to be bottom of the league, under West Brom and West Ham? I really want to hear from you, 08717223344 or text 81089…’
The Angry Red-and-White Tomato