By the next morning, the photo was retweeted hundreds of times and appeared in UK tabloids (without permission, how rude). “The Wenger Out protests had reached America!” the tabloids crowed.
Jake Wythers laughs now; he made the sign precisely to get attention and laughs. “The point was to be funny and get pictures of it taken. It was perfect to see it in the tabloids,” he says.
Wythers, 24, lives in Minneapolis and describes himself as a “waning Arsenal fan.” He grew up playing and watching soccer and was 10 when Arsène Wenger’s “Invincibles” won the league. “Arsenal were the most fun team to watch, so I kept watching and following them.” But like many fans, 13 years of backward progression has made him frustrated with Wenger.
“There’s a campaign every season [to oust Wenger] and a lot of times you feel like it’s overblown and impatient. This is the first time it’s felt absolutely warranted.” Though he’s tentatively joined the anti-Wenger campaigns, he still says his sign was a joke. “I’ve taken it to Timberwolves and Wild games. I thought it would be funny and ironic.”
He held the sign up as he watched his local team, Minnesota United, suffer a 6-1 drubbing during their home opener. “People in my section were joking that I should cross it out and put Heath’s name there,” he says. Wythers has a bit more resolve himself. “You’d like to show more patience in your first season. I think ‘Heath Out’ would be an overreaction, but there are similar frustrations. You’d expect to lose your first games in MLS, but not with scorelines that are historically bad.”
Part of his waning interest in Arsenal is due to the rise of Minnesota United. He says he always felt that his love of a club overseas was a “bit manufactured.” Now, he is excited to have a local club to cheer for. Even without results that he can cheer for yet, he’s hopeful. “We’ll have this season where it’s a honeymoon,” he notes that that feeling will get fans through a bad year. Wythers hopes, though, that Minnesota will start to “spend like Atlanta did” to get the likes of Miguel Almíron or its other stars. “It’s my hope we make those kinds of moves or else the support will dwindle quickly.”
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