Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oh, Stan? We've always loved him . . . .

It's amazing how benevolent Stanley Kroenke looks now, especially since Arsenal's board, namely Peter Hill-Wood, officially dated himself as a relic by claiming the club didn't want "his sort". It was easy to recoil at Silent Stan, because to the Arsenal board, he undeniably represented all that was wrong in the football world, with its foreign owners and their tasteless riches.

The last thing the Arsenal board needed was to become another plaything to the world's richest, but to an American? What shall be next, oh noble English? Perhaps those vile American things like obesity and violence. We shall not import that into this sacred isle. Footballers, yes, but not one to share our expense accounts and to join us in pretending we have anything to do with what happens on the field.

Enter Alisher Usmanov, "the hardman of Uzbekistan", and now PHW is eating those words like a business lunch in an Emirates luxury box. It is hard to ignore that Usmanov is more akin to the Roman Abramovich sort (non-Western European, rich by dubious means), but it is his bullishness and teaming up with the ousted David Dein that makes Kroenke look like a a dream savior (especially since his partnership blocks Usmanov further). It doesn't help Usmanov that he looks like he can crush a man to death, or at least make a call and have someone else do it for him.

How is this different than the presumptions that we all make? The Dutch are technical, the Italians defensive, Brazilians play joyfully, with big provincial smiles on their faces as they samba through midfield. These attitudes haven't changed. Of course the old-school ways of the Arsenal board are the same, but the ugly American just became a prom queen in the light of someone perceived to be a thug by reputation and association. And so PHW is carefully primping a lovely cushion for Silent Stan's big, fat Costco-sized, gas-guzzling, Bush-loving ass, which of course will be sore from all the incessant love bites sent his way now.

Does any of this matter? Only if the Kroenke's arrival leads to an injection of money, to which strings are always attached. Expectations are hard to let go of for club owners, especially when the drama and allure of top flight football can make new fans dream big, oftentimes to bitter disappointment. The current talk surrounding most of Wenger's supposed targets seem to rely heavily on getting some cash for Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor. All of Kroenke's teams have yet to establish themselves in the upper echelon of American sports, so he isn't a Steinbrenner, or even the Glazers. Like everyone else, he could just be in it for the Premier League money. It's just interesting how an annoying American accent can change its timbre against the backdrop of a Turkic tongue.

Arsenal warm up seat on board for billionaire Stan Kroenke [Times Online]


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