The fan - Hunter Davies rejoices in Arsenal's black players

I shouldn't really say it, but I like Arsenal because they're a black team

I have this recurring nightmare. Outside Highbury, there are a thousand coaches lined up which have come down from Cheshire and Yorkshire. Inside the ground, I can see a banner waving at the Clock End which says "Cheadle Hulme Gunners", while a flag on the North Bank announces "AFC Supporters Club, Heckmondwike".

Just a bad dream. Must be. When Arsenal move to their new stadium, there won't be a Clock End. Will there? But the way things are going, the rest could come true. Arsenal are the new darlings, flavour of football's fashion followers. Small boys and girls in our prep and primary schools, who have never seen a game, will be buying Arsenal shirts to wear in the playground, while prawn sandwich eaters everywhere will be driving down the M6 and M1 in their BMWs to cheer on "our lads"and yell "we beat the northern scum" from the safety of the hospitality suites. Before driving back home again. To the north.

TV commentators,who have been brown-nosing Man Utd for a decade,will all be Arsene-licking. It's already happening. Peter Drury, who has long drooled over Man U, was orgasmic last weekend over Arsenal's four goals against Leeds. "Simply imperious!" So he ejaculated. Makes you sick. OK then, fair do's, Arsenal are excellent. Wenger has done a brilliant job. I do admire him, especially for not cashing in commercially on his passing fame with books and stuff, unlike Fergie and most managers when people tell them they're doing good.

Wenger must currently be having fortunes offered from publishers and papers, yet he's remained private and dignified. He has also assembled a team fairly cheaply, compared with Fergie, who has spent tens of millions. Thierry Henry was hardly seen as a world-class player when he was bought, nor was Patrick Vieira. Think how much they must now be worth. Wenger has moulded them, made them so much better, which is the mark of a truly great manager.

He got Sol Campbell for free, while Fergie had to pay £30m for Ferdinand. Now who would fetch more, if they were ever on the open market? It was noticeable after the World Cup that although every British newspaper raved about Rio, he didn't make it into the world team chosen by the international press. The only Brit player to be included was Campbell.

I have watched Sol closely for years, from when he was a raw novice at Spurs, and have always been a fan, always wanted him in the team, but I have to admit that, until recently, I would have agreed that Rio was the better, more polished, more talented player. Now I'm not so sure. Wenger, once again, has done a masterly polishing-up job.

It shouldn't matter either way, and I shouldn't even mention it, but I like Arsenal being a black team. Against Leeds, Arsenal had only two white players while Leeds had only two black players. Racial abuse has disappeared from English crowds, more or less, but not in Europe. Arsenal, if they keep progressing, and impressing, might change all that.

Wenger doesn't always get it right. I can't see him turning the base metal of Jeffers into Highbury gold. His sudden and very public boasting about his team and their chances is out of character. He obviously, sincerely now believes it, but what a hostage to fortune. There is also a latent arrogance in the team, especially from Henry. It could make them believe they are so much better than they are, which might tempt them into showboating or relaxing.

But I do enjoy watching them, if only to wonder at the sweat on Vieira's chest. Why is it always concentrated on the same, plastic-looking patch on the front of his chest? A fault in the material or his body? Or is it a prawn sandwich stain from one of their new fawning supporters . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 07 October 2002 issue of the New Statesman, In defence of Edwina Currie, the woman who dared