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What Arsenal Fan TV Tells Us About Football Supporter Psychology

Arsenal Fan TV set the standard for the global broadcast of gawping suckers, and no characters have stuck in the public consciousness like Claude and Ty, who neatly exemplify the polar opposites of the tortured football devotee.
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This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

Sticking a microphone in front of someone on the street has always produced surprisingly fruitful entertainment; do it to a group of people under the influence of a life-long, non-reciprocated relationship with a corporate entity – plus an exhausting day of beers, travel and anti-climax – and the entertainment increases considerably.

It is for this reason that supporters' YouTube channels broadcasting post-match interviews and meltdowns have become such strangely compelling viewing. Arsenal Fan TV first set the standard and have since been followed by several other sets of supporters, each bringing a unique cast of characters who provide undeniable – if fleeting – enjoyment.


There was the curious case of Manchester United's Andy Tate, whose sheer Mancunianity and ability to end any name with "-eh" ("Cleverleh….Giggseh….Fellaineh") provided the appropriately shrill soundtrack to the David Moyes era of weekly public humiliation. Spurs, Chelsea and others have their representative buffoons, but no characters have stuck in the public consciousness like Arsenal Fan TV's Claude and Ty, two fans who conveniently exemplify the polar opposites of the tortured devotee.

Claude is a beleaguered, depressed uncle, often wearing his shirt and loosened tie from work, equal parts Willy Loman and anxious Gil from The Simpsons. The tortured relationship with your club that most fans have somewhere, deep down, possesses every wrinkle of Claude's frown. In post-match interviews, he must come to terms with the journey home and the lonely night, having recently revealed to Talk Sport that he and his wife split up six weeks into their marriage. An ultimatum was set regarding their relationship and Arsenal, and Claude didn't hesitate to prioritise the club.

After the recent home defeat to Swansea – launching a post-match anti-Wenger tirade, as is his wont – Claude remarked, "We're not idiots… are we?". Beginning as a bullish statement, it ended as a frantic enquiry as he looked around him, wide-eyed, desperately grappling with the existential consequences of what he has committed his life to. When he says he's "had enough", it's not always clear to what he's referring, having said in that Talk Sport interview that "even the Samaritans have put the phone down on me".


Many football fans will know fathers and uncles of our own, or of mates' families, whose inability to wrestle healthily with their club attachment long into their forties, fifties and beyond should have served as a huge red flag during our own initiation. The way their bald heads went slowly beetroot in their hands every other Saturday afternoon; a grown man with a career, mortgage and family, reduced to a fuming wreck when their side had suffered the indignity of conceding a late Titus Bramble goal.

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You would not know how they were going to react, equal parts fear and fascination as to whether this week's meltdown would be one of the angry, sweary kind that ends in broken furniture and Family Situations; or one of the more mellow, softly delirious kinds, all grieving walks and silent dinners, in which there'd be no material damage but you're sure that deep down, the old man's psyche has taken a bigger battering. Claude is one of these people for whom every defeat or draw is a nightmare, every win merely a brief respite from next week's prospective ordeal.

Enter the indefatigable Ty, the younger, spritely embodiment of tribal positivity, whose spirits nothing can dent, not even the most Arsenal-y big-game capitulation. When they win, he is visibly bobbing up and down and side-to-side, while after every anti-climactic bottle job of the last two years, Ty reflects, says he's "disappointed", but takes the positives. After their 3-1 home defeat to AS Monaco, he said it was "just an off day, just one of those things". The 4-0 defeat to Southampton this season was "a bad day at the office."


Ty is the colleague you can hear bouncing around on a Monday after a victory, wanting to talk about football, not with you but at you. Where you want to give Claude that long hug he's clearly been needing for decades, going full Good Will Hunting and whispering into his ear, "it's not your fault", one can add Ty to the list of oafish celebrity fans we love to hate, to whom we return again and again for such enticing ostentation and knee-jerkery in the wake of every defeat.

It is evocative that Ty is sometimes ebullient even in defeat, performing just as in-your-face a display of braggadocio so as to show that the defeat is never significant in the grand scheme of things; the battle may have been lost, but the war will be won, just you watch. He calls Stoke "nobodies" after they beat Arsenal 3-2 having led 3-0 at half-time, while Harry Kane is "lucky" after netting two goals to beat the Gunners.

Put Ty and Claude together as quickly after a game as to still be in the "anger" stage of grief, and you really have some television on your hands. Their feuds are famous, their meltdowns utterly alluring. The last resource remaining for Claude, in a world that's kicked him in the bollocks for so many years, is to rant and fume some vulgarities after a game. Ty won't even allow him such a privilege, denying all the crises, rejecting the legitimacy of Claude's angst.

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After that 3-2 defeat to Stoke, Ty says: "We have a bad start, but Hector [Bellerin] puts in a brilliant ball, Alexis [Sanchez] equalizes, and it would be a different game", which elicits a verbal brawl of fury from Claude, who screams, "We were 3-0 down to a pub side!".

Drunk, tired fans arguing over whether the sackings should be handed out to the players, or the manager, (or that fascinating trump card of "the whole lot – the board, the chairman, the kitman") is a conversation that hits a natural dead end pretty quickly, but Claude and Ty's disputes have plot development to make David Simon proud. After several years of feuds, their meltdowns have even become self-referential, screaming at each other over who interrupts who more, whether Claude spoke over Ty at Bournemouth, or whether it was the other way around.

Both Claude and Ty will always go to every game, and it looks like Arsenal will continue to always be Arsenal, and so it's not clear if their feud of optimism vs. pessimism will actually ever end. While victories seem to prove Ty somewhat right while defeats support Claude, they respectively appear to talk most sense the other way round: Ty's pragmatism in defeat and Claude's realism in victory both serve as a moderate, realistic counter-balance to what's being shouted, such is the atmosphere of blinkered tribalism.

Ty's aesthetic has become famous in its own right, attending every game wearing visibly official Arsenal merchandise, down to the water bottle that keeps him hydrated and official club headphones slung around his neck. It is a fashion style reflective of his ideology, of childlike tribalism, the unwavering, utter belief in the club's exceptionalism.


That said, Ty's bizarre optimism in the wake of Arsenal meltdowns is, in fact, perfectly understandable, and insightful to the psychology of the extreme tribalist. When your team creates chances to score, it's an affirmation that they could have won, that you didn't waste your time turning up to watch, showing you can beat your opponents, which is something you didn't know before the game.

In the tribalist's head, this "we could have won the game" moves very swiftly to "we should have won the game", because the opportunities were there. And even when Arsenal lose, they have usually created a significant number of chances, such is their attacking talent.

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All of which makes Ty not right or wrong, merely completely understandable. Ty is the embodiment of deep desire and belief, exhibited in his Arsenal bottle, beanie and oversized baby-grow, and so to him those missed chances are not so much Arsenal's failure, but gross cosmic injustices. We have all left games thinking over and over about the chances our team missed, contemplating them to the point of thinking that the real, 'fair' outcome should have been one where our team scored such chances.

Ty may one day become a Claude, or he may not; their respective evangelism and nihilism are not simply a matter of age (despite what it seems, Ty is also an adult man). These outlooks are hard to shift, rooted deep in your childhood when your attachment began. The way Arsenal underperform, the way they fail to properly reciprocate Claude's utter faithfulness and devotion, will probably always inhabit his soul. Even when they win silverware, a small, dark spectre of inevitable future letdowns lingers in the back of his mind. She is in your arms now, but you know that there is always next year, where loneliness may well return.

And for Ty, it may be that for all the seasons of title runs disintegrating into top-four runs, of "valiant" Champions League knockout exits, the small, nourishing knowledge that there is always next year will sustain his hopefulness. There will always be another possible scene for victory, for elation, for bragging rights, and the camera will be waiting for him to broadcast that bragging outside the ground. Both characters have their respective dreams, and neither can rid themselves of their addiction. Richard Scudamore knows this all too well.