Exclusive Interview with Gunnersaurus

Paul Gilham

SB Nation spoke to Arsenal's mascot about the future of the club, and the loneliness of being one of the last dinosaurs on earth.

You're a dinosaur. More to the point, you're one of the carnivorous ones: teeth, claws, and so on. Does this cause any problems when you're working with children?

[Laughs] Oh, no. I've been vegetarian for the last two or three million years. I've pretended to eat plenty of children since I started the job, of course, but no, I've been off the meat for a long time. Actually, that's one of the reasons I'm very glad Mr Wenger joined the club - before that, I doubt anybody over here knew what broccoli was.

Do you have many friends among other mascots?

I get on with most of the Premier League mascots well, though I don't really see them much outside of work. I have a couple of good friends in America -- Dinger in Colorado, the Raptor in Toronto -- and we try to get together once or twice a year, to talk over old times. It can get a bit awkward sometimes, what with the whole carnivore/herbivore history, but you've got to hang on to your roots.

Were you at this week's AGM?

I was not. I'm not allowed to attend, as Mr Wenger thinks my presence might distract from the seriousness of the occasion. Plus I once knocked Mr Gazidis over with my tail. I tried to help him up, but, well, I've only got short arms and I don't think he appreciated the assistance.

Do you share the fans' frustrations?

Of course I do. I heard that Mr Wenger has received some criticism for his assertion that a fourth place finish represents a trophy. And maybe it does, in the sense that it's a difficult challenge, and achieving is a significant success. But at the same time, it's doesn't move you, as a fan, in a way a trophy does. You can't make a foil-covered replica of Champions League qualification and wave it in the crowd, or take fourth-place for an open-top bus ride.

Do you accept that that a certain amount of prudence is required, to build for the future?

Oh, of course. We're aiming for 2014, and we're hoping that reconfigured sponsorship deals and Financial Fair Play gives us a competitive advantage. There's no sense doing anything that might put the club's future at risk: live the dream and you'll wake the nightmare, you'll end up being owned by Ken Bates.

But at the same time, above all else, football clubs should be in the business of producing memories. And it can feel, at times, a bit like Arsenal are wilfully forfeiting the memories we could be having now, in favour of the possibility of memories in the future. That's where the frustration comes from: diplodocus tomorrow. If the one tangible achievement from a season is the maintenance of status for next season, why are you bothering at all?

Do you think the long-term plan will work?

Who knows? Since we embarked on this plan, Manchester City have been taken over. Manchester United have expanded their commercial revenues. Chelsea have continued to spend. And it relies, in significant part, on UEFA doing what it says it intends to do, which is ... optimistic, shall we say. Then there's the vague and lingering threat of some kind of breakaway league ...

So you think that things might change? Might make the long-term plan irrelevant?

I don't know. I mean, I'm a dinosaur. One of the last. The day before the cataclysm, I was making plans: this it what I'll do tomorrow, this is what I'll do next week. That triceratops haunch will keep for a couple of days. Then I wake up and everything's a smoking mess of rubble and all my friends are dead. Obviously, the chances of an actual asteroid falling on Ashburton Grove are quite rare -- and I'll be bloody annoyed if one does -- but even so, things happen that are outside your control. Football's a volatile place filled with volatile people, and it gets shaken up all the time. One more billionaire, or a solid and coherent Tottenham, and suddenly fourth becomes a maybe. And then you end up in a position where you're not even winning the trophies you're inventing for yourself, which is pretty bleak.

Is there cause for optimism?

It's tempting to say no: gloom is the default setting for most football fans. And Arsenal fans seem to be particularly prone to the emotional highs and lows. Three clean sheets at the beginning of the season and we're the old team reborn; two losses in a row and it's a full-blown crisis. But of course there is. Regardless of everything else, we've got some excellent footballers that can play excellent football. That's plenty to be going on with, even if we are charging the fans the best part of fifteen pounds for fish and chips.

Is there any truth in the rumour that Arsenal's injury woes are down to Arsène Wenger's recruitment policy extending to all parts of the club, meaning that the medical department is staffed by seventeen-year-old's with good GCSEs that want to be doctors one day?


You attracted some criticism over the last few seasons for joining the teams when there's a minute's silence. Is there anything --

[Interrupts] Look, I read about that. It makes me laugh. As if a dinosaur would have no understanding of life and death, of loss and mourning. Sixty-five million years I've been knocking around this planet, missing my friends and family, and my colleagues. So yes, I bow my head for whichever human being who has died. As a mark of respect. But I also bow my head to remember the loss of my people, the hunters that I ran with and the prey that ran from us. A loss on a scale that you puny mammals could not begin to comprehend.

Finally, who have been your favourite players while you've been working with the club? Arsenal or otherwise.

There's something very endearing about Per Mertesacker. I reckon, if you left him alone for a bit, he'd start eating leaves off a nearby tree. And Andrei Arshavin reminds me of one of those little furry things we used to laugh at during the late Cretaceous. If only we'd known that being a small mammal was the way forward ... But my favourite player is Juan Román Riquelme. I met him after that penalty miss, and we really connected. The poor man. He knows how it feels, to be one of the last survivors of a noble species that once dominated the planet.

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