Through Their Eyes; Gooner Profiles: Tom Canton of The Gooner Talk TV
Welcome to “Through Their Eyes”, a weekly segment brought to you by You Are My Arsenal. Each week we will interview a Gooner to relive some of the club’s most memorable moments through their own words and personal experiences. We will also cover current events and upcoming fixtures to bring you questions and responds you will not get anywhere else. The aim is to let you see our beloved Arsenal through their eyes.
This week we spoke with none other than Mr. Tom Canton! (@TheGoonerTalkTv) Tom is a 25-year-old teacher and lifelong Arsenal fan. While working full-time Tom also hosts the Fantastic YouTube and twitter page The Gooner Talk TV. Tom provides tactical insight into current and potential incoming players as well as weekly podcasts, raw reactions, and tactical breakdown podcasts. It was a pleasure to catch up with Tom and relive some of his most memorable moments. This is what Tom had to say…
Q: Football fans tend to be heavily influenced by family and friends in regards to who they support throughout their life. A tradition often passed down generations. Who was it that most influenced you to first pull on the famous red & white and why?
A: I was lucky enough to have a grandfather and grandmother throughout my early life, however, their partners passed away before I was born. My Nan had told me how my Grandad was a supporter of The Gunners and I wanted to carry a part of him on even though I never had the opportunity to meet him. My father, a huge Gillingham supporter, took me to many Gills games throughout my childhood because the travel and cost to go to Highbury and then the Emirates was too much to commit to. Although I reckon he secretly just could not bear the thought of his son not being a Blue – my blood was always going to be Red and White.
Q: Some of the best memories I have from my childhood are sitting on the floor, surrounded by family, cheering on the Arsenal. What is your first memory of watching Arsenal and why is it so special to you?
A: My first vivid memory of The Gunners was when I was 10. I know I watched plenty of games before this, but my memory just does not serve up a better example. The FA Cup final against Manchester United sticks out for me as my first real ‘run around the room’ moment. Also, it is not the Vieira penalty that I remember most, it was when Bergkamp somehow managed to deflect the ball onto his own crossbar to clear – a symbolic instance that signified it would be Arsenal’s day.
Q: As a 25-year-old it could be argued that you grew up with the best Arsenal team in the club’s history. A talent littered side from top to bottom. But which single player would you have labelled your childhood hero and for what specific reasons did you gravitate towards them?
A: You could say that, but as my most vivid memory was 2005, it was arguably the end of an era that I truly grew up witnessing. I watched Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, and Cesc but the one player than I always connected with the most was Tomas Rosicky. I loved his style, his tenacity, and of course his knack of scoring big goals against those lot down the road. I was at the FA Cup 3rd round tie where he robbed the ball from Danny Rose before running half the length of the pitch and dinking the ball past Lloris. A win which set us on the way to ending the trophy drought. What a player.
Q: Arsenal have had some massive rivals over the years. Including some individual players. Which player from a rival did you hold the most hatred for? *Cough* Van Nistelrooy *Cough*
A: Yes, Van Nistelrooy was an early bugbear, but I went through several phases of dislike of opposition players. Many of whom went on to become pundits and irritate further with points I wholeheartedly could not understand. I am sure they’re lovely really. But a player who really does stick in my mind is Nacer Chadli. He signed for Spurs with the money they received from the Gareth Bale sale. To be honest, my satiric dislike for him buds from one moment which caused controversy across social media. In a 1-1 draw in 2014, Chadli put Spurs 1-0 up and decided to cup his ear to the fans and I just thought, “how dare this simply average footballer cup his ear to our fans.” Of course, the Ox later equalised and we earned a point, but that moment would bother me continuously even to this day. The cheek of it.
Q: Contrary to popular belief we have been blessed with some days of glory in our lifetime. One in particular that holds high on that list is the 2005 FA Cup final victory over Manchester United. Undoubtedly our biggest rival at the time. Walk me through what you remember from that day. Where did you watch it, who were you with and what did you feel seeing Viera lift the Cup after the final whistle?
A: Well I mentioned this as my earliest moment so I won’t re-cover it beyond that I remember I was in my childhood home, surrounded by a family who as the sole Gunner was titillated with the thought of being fully focused on a cup final. Little did I know it would not be until I was in my near-20s I would see another cup success. Let us be honest, it was not a great game, but when Vieira put that penalty away, I didn’t care and ran around the house screaming his name.
Q: We made the move from our beloved Highbury to the Emirates back in 2006. What were your feelings regarding that move and what did you foresee for the future at the time?
A: I was excited. But I think that was because I never got to experience a game or live through the glory days of Highbury the same as if I was an adult. Were that the case, I think I would have been very emotional and probably gutted to see us leave. But I was excited, we were promised riches and what we got was far from it.
Q: Match day at the Emirates and the surrounding area is an incredibly special place. The sea of red and white that flood the streets, the packed bars, the suspense and anticipation in the air. Walk me through your match day routine when attending the Emirates.
A: A matchday for me is a combination of two things: friends and fear. Firstly, I love that through running The Gooner Talk it has enabled me to meet some amazing people, ex-pros and fellow writers and broadcasters. Seeing these people easily equates to that of watching my team play. The fear comes from the effort and money that goes into attending a game knowing everything is out of your hands. The boys need to put in a performance and whilst I’d pay even more than I do out of pure love to see my team play, I’m a person who hates wasting anything. However, this gamble does mean the reward for when we win is emphasised and the post-match pint tastes all the sweeter. Plus, the chicken wrap from Roosters next to the Twelve Pins (thanks to Ola for introducing me) will forever be a personal ritual.
Q: We’ve covered the glitz and glamour of what it’s like to be a Gooner. But let’s take things down a level! A subject many Gooner’s keep on the long finger. The 8-2 defeat to Manchester United back in 2011 was one of the worst days in the club’s recent history. Tell me about that day and the repercussions of that result to the club’s reputation.
A: I was not able to watch the game. My Dad flat out refused to pay the extortionate fees I have now surrendered to for Sky Sports and the like. So, I was listening to 5Live. In my room, working on something with it in the background and I remember as things got worse and worse thinking, “this is the test.” My Dad always said to me that true fans stay till the end no matter the score or the situation. And he is a Gills fan so spare a thought for him. I sat there listening to my beloved team get embarrassed knowing that if I can make it to the end, this will be the worst game you’ll ever have to endure. How naïve was I when Wenger’s 1000th game rolled around?
Q: To say we endured a drought of silverware would be an understatement. What did it mean to you on a personal level to finally see that barren spell come to an end by winning the FA Cup in 2014 after a 9-year wait?
A: It meant so much. With my earliest memory being the last cup we would win for 9 years, that wait throughout my entire secondary school life was painful. Always having to look back to try and defend my club. I was in my first year of University, in a Wetherspoons and I had gathered everyone from the year I had been lucky enough to make friends with. Then Hull scored, then they scored again, and I was on the verge of shedding a tear for the first time as a fan. Thank God things turned around. I think my other half was even more relieved knowing she would have to pick up the pieces on the phone later. But yeah, possibly the happiest I have been as a fan so far.
Q: The great Arsene Wenger and Arsenal mutually decided to part ways back in 2018 following a decline in results and performances. This was something that split the fanbase. Where did you stand at the time and how did you feel once the announcement was made?
A: I felt at the time it was too late. So much damage to his reputation had been done to a point I know it leaves it unrecoverable for many even now. I was therefore relieved but anxious at what was to come. I was not convinced that even with the Frenchman now a memory, the club was positioned correctly to appoint the right man… that turned out to be the case.
Q: After parting ways with Wenger the club was tasked with replacing one of the all-time greats. After what seemed to be an extremely dragged out process, they opted to go with a surprising choice in that of the ex PSG boss, Unai Emery. In hindsight, it’s obvious that Emery wasn’t what Arsenal needed at that particular time. But were you on board when he took the wheel and why do you feel it went wrong?
A: I was on board in the sense I will support anyone who represents my club. However, I was critical. I remember tweeting mere hours before the surprise announcement having heard and seen links to the Spaniard that it did not inspire me. Having come from a situation at PSG where he had failed to control big personalities and even surrendered a league title to Monaco. A Sevilla side who, yes had won 3 back-to-back European trophies, but had failed to win a single away league game in his final season. I thought it was wrong and I turned out to be right. I wanted us to take a risk and go for Arteta back then, but I think the extra 18-months with Pep Guardiola will have been hugely beneficial to his development as a coach.
Q: Since parting ways with Emery the club have taken an approach that many fans strongly disagreed with by appointing ex-club captain Mikel Arteta as head coach. What was your opinion of the appointment at the time and how do you feel he has started?
A: I was and still am excited. I think Arsenal have got one of the few young coaches in the world who can potentially become world-class. Some will say that Arsenal should have gone for experience, but I think if there was ever a time Arsenal have had the least to lose and take a risk, it is now. I look forward to seeing what happens in the summer window because this team needs an overhaul and I have faith he has the bottle to make some big decisions.
Q) You’re walking down the street, you see a lamp on the ground, in front of you, you pick it up and give it a rub, out pops a Genie (for some reason I’m imagining a blue David Seaman) and grants you 3 wishes. You can change any 3 things from the board level to the players within Arsenal. What 3 things would you opt to change?
A: That is a broad question. The immature child inside me just wants to wish for unlimited wishes but I shall resist. Of course, the easy place to start would be to remove Kroenke and bring in an owner with a connection to the club, who is ambitious and communicative. An owner who invests within the legal parameters and backs his coach.
I would reverse the series of events which led to Sven Mislintat’s departure and replace the men around him, such as Raul Sanllehi, with a team of the German’s choosing which would best support him in identifying the best young talent in the world with the negotiation skills to acquire them.
Finally, I would sign Marco Asensio. Simple as that. (That was selfish, but I do not care)
Q: As football fans, we love a good prediction! How do you see the next 3 seasons playing out for Arsenal?
A: I am hopeful, I think that there are signs of positivity. Saka’s new deal, Saliba’s introduction, the potential of Arteta, and the fact that 2 or 3 transformative players in the summer could really change the fortunes of this side. (But how long have we said that for?) I hope to see us back in the Champions League in the next 3 years but know the quality of teams around us will fight tooth and nail to prevent that.
Q: Finally! We all hold Arsenal close to our hearts. Something that helps distract us from the stress of everyday life (as funny as that may sound). But if you met somebody that had never followed football and they were searching for a club to support, what would you say to explain why Arsenal is so special to you and what makes us different from any other club?
A: That is tough. I think I would say you would be picking a club with a rich history of being different. Owning records no one else has. Being revolutionary. Risk-takers. I would say you would be choosing a club that will give you every emotion you can experience in the sport from the mind-numbing frustration to the pure ecstasy we love the game for. I feel as though there are very few clubs that provide that. The feeling is different here, rewards are more satisfying. The defeats are more gutting. I cannot guarantee you success, but I can promise you the justification that your choice was made for the simple love of the game.