The reaction of Arsenal fans, waking up on the morning of a north London derby they were approaching with an unusual sense of forboding to find headlines promising a £1.5bn takeover by unnamed Middle East investors whispering sweet nothings about ticket prices and transfer kitties, was telling.
Far from taking to Twitter and the airwaves to celebrate the potential arrival of a white knight to deliver them from eight trophyless seasons, many instead began asking difficult questions. Can this be taken at face value? Who are they? What do they want? What's in it for them? And, perhaps most pertinently even at a club where the current ownership model is under increasing scrutiny and fan discontent mounting, would we be any better off?
While it is always dangerous to generalise about "fans" as though they are one homogenous mass, there is no doubt that they are, in general, better informed, more engaged and less trusting than at any time since the Premier League was formed.
Given the problems of the game of ownership roulette at many clubs during the past decade, and the endless column inches it has provided, there is more cycnicism and less giddy abandon among the general fanbase at the prospect of any takeover. And given the looming introduction of financial fair play rules, there is also the entirely legitimate question of how much value there now is in a benefactor with deep pockets (an argument well summarised by Forbes).
Which isn't to discount the deep gratitude felt by Manchester City fans to Sheikh Mansour (as slightly cringingly expressed in that banner at the Etihad) or that felt by Chelsea fans towards Roman Abramovich for saving them from near-bankruptcy and pumping £1bn into the club in the decade since, even if emotions have been slightly more conflicted of late. But it is unlikely that either would be flinging fake notes in the air with such abandon were those takeovers to happen today.
The Arsenal Supporters' Trust lists on its website a series of principles that it expects potential owners to abide by. "The AST believes that Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person. The best ownership model for Arsenal will always include supporters being represented and involved in the ownership structure as shareholders," it says. "We understand the reality that any stake in Arsenal is available to buy at any time should someone make an acceptable bid, but we will oppose any bid to buy the club outright and take it into single ownership."
That view is one shared by an increasing number of fans, who wish to have a say in how their clubs are run. That feeling has been born of a confluence of factors – from admiration for Swansea's succcess on and off the pitch, with their 20% stake for supporters and sustainable business model, to a hard-to-define but keenly felt response to a feeling of impotence and powerlessness.
Even Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the avowedly "ownership neutral" Premier League, has recently called the Swansea model "ideal" and backed the Portsmouth Supporters' Trust to complete their takeover of the club.
Supporters Direct, the organisation that has helped 180 supporters' trusts with more than 300,000 members over its decade in existence, is also evolving towards a more complex model and wants to be seen as more than a bearer of rattling buckets. As its funding and remit again come up for debate against the backdrop of the recent select committee report into football governance, there is recognition that the aims and needs of a supporters' trust at a Premier League club, where full ownership is unlikely but a fan's voice on key issues is vital, are different to those of a League Two club that may need intervention to survive.
In the recent debate over ticket prices, there have been signs that fans are, for the first time, willing to put aside historic rivalries to fight for the common good.
Perhaps some of the shift in the prevailing mood is down to cynicism at two decades of the Premier League ownership merry-go-round. Certainly, much of it is down to the fact that the internet and social networking sites make it easier than ever to share information and allow the myriad accountants, marketing executives and business people within a club's support to pool their expertise.
If the debate around business models, related-party transactions, leveraged debt, corporate governance side letters and global commercial strategies can sometimes feel a long way from simple pleasures of the beautiful game then fans may argue that it is a necessary response to the way it has evolved.
Perhaps the most heartening example of fan power has taken place not in the Premier League but on the south coast where a group of fans have determinedly battled against the odds to save their club from the ravages wrought by a succession of owners with a range of dubious motivations – very few of them in the best interests of Portsmouth Football Club.
At Fratton Park, they have had enough would-be saviours with empty promises and emptier pockets to last a lifetime. Here, too, a succession of attempts by owners and would-be owners to palm them off or patronise them have been aggressively resisted to the extent that they stand on the cusp of a historic takeover. Even at the last, they have had to resist an attempt by members of a rival consortium led by Keith Harris to sue blogger Micah Hall, whose dogged pursuit of the chain of dysfunctional owners has been a key factor in getting to this point. Fellow supporters have launched a petition and fighting fund to defend the action.
The cases of Portsmouth and Arsenal, at opposite ends of the footballing spectrum, are proof that fans – weary of being taken for fools by new potential owners – are willing to not only look a gift horse in the mouth but to prod it, kick it and subject it to a searching series of online questions before welcoming it over the threshold. On the whole, that can only be a good thing.