Football players are just passengers on a train.
For most clubs, that train has been running for well over a century. It has had ups and downs. Gone through dark tunnels and reached the top of the mountain. The train never stops (except for war and disease).
A player gets on the train. His journey might last for 6 months (a loan deal). It might span 3 decades. It might be the only train he ever gets on. He might get on many trains during his career.
Some might even return to the train once they retire from playing, to manage the train.
But when the players (or manager) leaves; the train does not stop. It keeps going. It picks up new passengers and the journey continues. Even owners are just passengers. They get off when they sell.
Someone like Mesut Ozil’s train journey on the Arsenal Express has lasted 7 and a half years. He got on a train that had been running for 127 years already. He has been on the train for just under 6% of its running time.
Whilst Ozil has now got off the train, the train is still running. Other passengers still on their journey. New passengers will jump on soon. Others are nearing their stop.
Arsenal have seen legendary passengers get off the train before.
From Liam Brady to Rocky Rocastle. Patrick Vieira to Thierry Henry. All got off the train and jumped on a new one, heading to a different destination.
For very few players, the likes of Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp, the Arsenal Express is the final journey. There final destination is retirement.
And even when these great passengers get off the train, it continues to chug on.
The longest serving passengers on the train are those at the back. The fans.
Fans are often treated like 3rd class passengers by train owners. They are charged high prices for the worst seats. They do not get the luxury that players get up top. But it is the fans that keep the train running.
Whilst there are fans on the train, the train will keep running. Even if an owner spends all the money, asset strips the train, the fans will find a way to keep it on the tracks.
Ozil’s Arsenal journey is over, but for fans the journey only ends with death. It is not their choice to get off.
You see, the train is so much bigger than those passengers up in first class. A player gets off. The train continues. A player retires. The train continues.
The train will reach the top of the mountain again in the future, but will go through a lot more dark tunnels.
As the years go by, former passengers grow. They become less important. They are no longer on the same journey. Their journey has ended.
For fans, the journey continues…