Why Piers Morgan is my guilty pleasure

Chas Newkey-Burden is one of the few who actually enjoys listening to the outspoken Gooner buffoon...

I’m a lifelong Arsenal fan and firmly in favour of the continuing reign of Arsene WengerI’m absolutely appalled by the entitlement and treachery of every single one of the Gooners who have turned against the great Frenchman. 

Well, all except for one. Try as I might not to, I often find myself making an exception for the highest-profile Wenger critic of all, the serial tweeter and bombastic boomer himself, Piers Morgan.

Many Arsenal fans are embarrassed and exasperated by Morgan’s presence. Certainly among Wenger loyalists, he is generally regarded as a traitor, the man who, the moment Arsenal do something as shocking as lose the occasional match, comes flying in like a Stoke City henchman, to thwack nuance into Row Z.

Criticism of Wenger

But I actually feel that Morgan’s criticism of Le Boss carries an almost unique authenticity, because unlike most of the Gooners who shriek at the Frenchman, he only demands of Wenger what he demands of himself. As anyone who has followed Morgan’s eventful existence will have noted, when it comes to his own life and career, he is a fiercely, almost terrifyingly, ambitious and demanding person. If you’ve read his diary memoir The Insider, or any of its sequels, you will find that, amid the machine-gun name-dropping and steadfast score-settling, emerges a picture of a restless man who is desperate to win at everything. 

It often works. When he joined the seventh season of America’s Celebrity Apprentice his fellow contestants didn’t stand a chance. Morgan was an Anglo-Irish cannonball of determination and irreverence, blasting aside his opponents and their disingenuous pearly smiles. He didn’t just win, he pulled off what host Donald Trump described as “the greatest slaughter in the history of The Apprentice”.  

Celebrity endorsement

Trump isn’t the only contentious colossus to praise Morgan. Simon Cowell once told him: “I’ve got to hand it to you, you are the most competitive person I have ever met”. And let’s face it, being called ‘competitive’ by Cowell is like being called ‘tall’ by Peter Crouch, ‘dodgy’ by Sepp Blatter, or ‘boring’ by Michael Owen.

Morgan's live CNN show launched two years ago

Morgan simply isn’t like most moaning football fans. He is not the archetypal whiner who flounders and fails all week in his own life, then demands compensatory perfection at the weekend from his club. He is a breathless perfectionist from Monday to Sunday, and wants the same from anyone associated with him.  

To say he is not everyone’s cup of tea is an understatement, but when a man hustles himself to the bone in a quest for top billing, it is hard to begrudge him the right to demand his club stops getting excited about finishing fourth. The rollercoaster arcs of Morgan’s career also lend his position credibility. Frogmarched out of the building by the Daily Mirror over dodgy photos, he reinvented himself as an American celebrity, before becoming an anchor on CNN. When he lost that gig he strolled into the Good Morning Britain studio. Should his new gig ever go tits up, he’ll no doubt start yet another fresh chapter elsewhere. 

Taking risks

He is confident that if you come careering off one path there will be a new and better one for you to take. So, when he calls for Arsenal to wave goodbye to the Wenger establishment and start with a clean slate, his words carry greater weight than those of fans who play it safe in their own careers, sleepwalking through the same office decade after decade, never taking the risks they demand of their club. 

Lest this turn into a hagiography, we should pause to recall some of the more, well, eccentric things he has said about football. “Here's an idea, Gooners,” he tweeted in 2013, “let's swoop in transfer window for an Everton triple whammy: Fellaini, Baines and... Moyes.” 

Oh dear. He also waged such a relentless campaign against Aaron Ramsey that he ended up looking silly when the Welshman blossomed in the 2013/14 season. Ramsey later refused to shake Morgan’s hand of peace, much to the amusement of many Gooners.

But if you want to see him at his worst, then I refer you to his 2012 tweet calling for Arsene Wenger to be replaced by Harry Redknapp, who he claimed would be “a breath of fresh air” at the Emirates. 

Harry Redknapp – a breath of fresh air! We all have our off days and the boy Morgan had an absolute Weston-super-mare with that tweet. My toes curl into a ball just reporting that he wrote it. He’s a self-deprecating man but I’m not sure any amount of self-mockery could ever atone for it. 

Silence at the Emirates

Well, long may he tweet. Although I disagree passionately with his anti-Wenger stance – and trust me, his recent suspension of his ‘Wenger Out’ campaign will crumble by the end of January at the absolute latest – his passion cannot be doubted. Anyone who has been to the Emirates recently will know that passion is at a premium among Arsenal fans. Seriously, ‘Highbury the Library’ was like a baying Roman amphitheatre compared with the new home. When a minute’s silence is held before a match it’s becoming hard to work out when it begins and ends. So say what you like about Morgan, his passion, volume and hunger are qualities the club needs on and off the field right now. A breath of fresh air, you could say.

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