Poor old Ashley.
The lad is absolutely obsessed with his former club, Arsenal.
You would think, after six years of rolling in Roubles and scooping up a good haul of trophies, that he would be able to get over it.
But some tic of the psyche, some deeply ingrained weakness of character, means he just can’t let it lie.
A couple of weeks ago, showing what a good winner he is, he was bragging about how many trophies he had won during a period when Arsenal had won nothing.
Yesterday he was at it again, this time boasting about the fact that he had won a Champions League medal and telling Arsenal supporters to “get over it.” (We already had. Who wants to be the worst team ever to have won a Champions League? When we win it I want to do it in style).
Some would say he has every right to respond to the handful of Arsenal supporting Twitter trolls who have sent him abuse.
But doesn’t he realise that every top footballer – indeed just about every figure in the public eye – gets that sort of stuff all the time? Yet the vast majority don’t feel the need to respond in kind with their own name calling. Or at least they realise that to do so would bring them down to the level of the idiot trolls.
But Ashley seems happy among the trolls, perhaps because he has many of the characteristics of a fairy tale villain.
I sometimes wonder what drives Ashley’s obsession with Arsenal. Yes, he left under a cloud after being found guilty of participating in a tapping-up meeting (he was fined £100,000 by the FA for that little indiscretion you may recall, although, of course, in Ashley’s eyes it was not his fault). But that was years ago.
And he gets a lot of stick from the crowd when he returns to Arsenal in a blue shirt. But, really, that’s par for the course in the Premier League. All fans like to boo an old boy they feel let them down. But, unlike Ashley, most “old boys” don’t harbour the same antagonism in reverse. The smart ones cause far more pain to their erstwhile fans by just ignoring them. Ashley, by contrast, rewards the Arsenal fans and fuels the animosity by constantly acknowledging it and responding to it.
The root of this Arsenal obsession must lie somewhere in Ashley’s psychological make-up.
If we were to go on an expedition inside Ashley’s mind, what might we find? Well, first, I expect we would be astonished by the sense of emptiness. All those wide open spaces where nothing much is really happening. We would probably feel like a mouse in a cathedral.
But gradually we would become aware of the hum of synapses working away somewhere. Moving towards the vibration we would soon see a large, vibrant network of connected neural pathways glowing and pulsing with energy. This, of course, is Ashley’s “Football Brain.” And it’s a good one – at least five times the size of Emmanuel Eboue’s Football Brain for example. This part of Ashley’s head is what has made him arguably the best Left Back in the world in the last 10 years.
Moving past the Football Brain we would pass a number of smaller – but still vibrant – centres of activity. These would relate to things like “sex” and “music” and “flash cars” and “havin’ a larf with JT and the boys.” Although not on the same scale as the Football Brain, these parts of Ashley’s mind make-up are all functioning well.
Then we go further in and… oh dear… what are those small, shrivelled things, barely alive at all? Ah! Of course! Ashley’s morals.
Here we find “Loyalty”, pulsing weakly and showing almost no energy, just the occasional quiver if the aural centres detect any mention of the word “Cheryl”.
Beyond that, and almost completely inert, is “Personal Responsibility”. This is the neural centre that needs to be functioning strongly to prevent a person from, for example, driving at 103mph through a residential street in Kingston, South London, or firing an air gun at a work experience student from five feet away, or admitting that agreeing to secret, illicit meetings might be partly your own fault.
Further on, past Ashley’s morals, the mind is just an ashy wasteland, a void of degeneracy and narcissism… until we spot something throbbing ahead in the distance. What is it? It’s throbbing with an intense red light. It’s small, but so very, very powerful.
Could it be…? Yes, it is. It’s Ashley’s Guilt Centre. And, unlike his Morals, it is very much alive. In fact it’s pouring a special kind of poison into Ashley’s heart and soul.
So at last we have reached our destination. This is why Ashley is still so obsessed with the Greatest Football Club in the World. It’s because he is wracked by guilt. Guilt for the wrongs he did us and the lies he told; guilt for abandoning the one club that’s trying to do things the right way, in order to line his own pockets.
And the problem with this guilt is that it sours the taste of every trophy and medal Ashley has ever won since he left the Arsenal.
Winning things through financial doping no doubt provides some satisfaction, but it is a tainted form of satisfaction. It’s like using cheats in a video game or beating someone at tennis by lying about whether the ball was in or out. Sure, it’s a victory, but it’s not a pure one.
Ashley knows that when Arsenal’s next triumph comes, when we win our next title or our first Champions League trophy, it will be worth more than all the baubles that have been bought for him over the past six years.
I know it makes me less than saintly, but I take some comfort from the fact that, in the small hours of the night as he lies on his water bed listening to the gentle snoring of his latest slapper, unable to sleep, in a bedroom festooned with pictures of himself, poor Ashley can’t get those thoughts out of his head. Those thoughts about the Arsenal and how, deep down, he should never have left.
Am I sinking to Ashley’s level by thinking all this?
Would you have done what Ashley did and take off post haste for the big bucks the moment they’re offered?
Is he any different to Robin van Persie?
Should we help Ashley to cure his obsession by all agreeing to ignore him henceforth?
I would welcome your thoughts.