When Arsenal lost 3-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge recently, the Sky Sports cameras picked out a Gunners fan in the crowd with a ‘Time to go’ banner aimed at Arsene Wenger.
Former Manchester United and England defender turned pundit Gary Neville called the fan an ‘idiot’. This sparked plenty reaction, and the fan – Kane Hopps – suddenly found fame via social media.
Elephant Sport down with him to to get his side of the story, and his views on Neville, Wenger and Arsenal.
How the past few weeks been for you?
It has been pretty crazy. People have been calling me, texting me, tweeting me – even [Times football correspondent] Henry Winter, The Sun and TalkSport. It’s definitely not something I expected from just putting the banner up.
How have you dealt with being at the centre of a media frenzy?
It’s certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I’ve had to get on with my day job while it’s all been happening so it has been a bit difficult, especially getting calls left right and centre from various new outlets. But overall I think I have dealt with it pretty well!
You have received a lot of support from fellow fans. What does that say about Wenger’s current situation at Arsenal?
It shows the tide has most certainly turned and has become more vocal than it has ever been before. People who have previously been on Wenger’s side have even had enough now and it shows that more and more fans are not just going to sit there and accept it now.
Everybody knows about that banner now; will that recognition persuade you to bring it to even more games?
Definitely – that was the plan anyway. The Watford and Chelsea defeats have shown me nothing has changed. He goes on about how this squad is better and different this year, but it’s not. I don’t care what we do from now until the end of the season, we are not going to win the Premier League (which we were promised) so something has to change or the banner will keep on coming.
During games, has anybody come up to you in support of the banner?
Yes, quite often. At Chelsea I had people coming up to me and patting me on the back saying well done, who were in favour of the banner. We even managed to get a ‘Wenger out’ chant going for about 10 seconds or so. There are far more in favour of it than not, put it that way.
Has anybody come up to you who have not been in favour of the banner?
A few people approach me and ask me why I do it and tell me to ‘support the team instead’. But they miss the point – I am supporting my team. I am supporting the club by doing what I believe is best for it! I respect their views whether I agree with them or not, so they should do the same with mine.
If you’d won at Stamford Bridge, would we have still seen the banner?
Yes. I know a lot of people will not believe me but win, lose or draw, that banner was coming out. The home game to Watford was the tipping point, and I cannot continue to sit here, pay all this money for the same mistakes to keep happening year in year out.
Can Wenger do anything now to prevent you from protesting/bringing the banner?
For me, no. That ship has sailed unfortunately. The FA Cups were nice but for a club like Arsenal to not win the league for over 12 years isn’t good enough and the manner in which we go about it. The way we capitulate year after year after year, nothing changes.
He goes into the transfer market and doesn’t buy the right players. We are short, again. Injuries hit us, again. We crumble in the big games, again. That will never change under him – otherwise, it would have changed already.
So when can we expect to see the banner next?
The next game!
Moving on to Gary Neville’s comment, what was your immediate reaction to being called ‘an idiot’ live on air?
First of all ‘wow’. I could not believe so much had been made of it. But I was quite shocked that he called me an idiot because he has been quite vocal over Wenger, his failures, and how we are not title challengers.
So I ask for all that to change and all of a sudden he goes on the defensive and calls me an idiot! I thought it was very contradictory of him, especially from a top pundit to call a paying fan an ‘idiot’ for his own opinion, I was surprised.
Bearing in mind you didn’t take it personally, can you almost be thankful to Neville for the free publicity, even if it was unintentional?
Yes, that would be fair. He has blown it up so much that it has ended up on the news, radio and national papers – the exposure it has had has been crazy. So I guess a small part of me does have to thank him for that!
Do his views towards fans like you change your views towards him as a pundit?
Not really. I still respect him as a pundit and think he talks a lot of sense when he is analysing the game. He is not biased and does not let personal views dictate that either. But this particular view makes me think he is less in touch with fans than I thought, that’s for sure.
If you were in a room with him in a ‘gloves off’ scenario, and he maintained his view that you or any Arsenal fan who brings a banner to a match to express their views is an idiot, how would you respond?
There are a load of things I’d love to debate with him – the main one being why he feels he can call me an idiot for having an opinion, and really press him to see if he actually feels that towards any paying fan, not just Arsenal fans.
I’d also like to ask him how he can continue to criticise Wenger (even throughout the Chelsea game) and then question me when I ask for the same things to be changed in a positive way! I also think managing Valencia has made him go soft on other managers – has he has seen first had how hard it can be?
He seems to sympathise with managers more nowadays after his experience at Valencia, so I would love to question him on that too.