Pure joy and life before Arsène

June 30, 2011

I watched the highlights of the Fairs cup of 1970 again last night on Arsenal player, was that really 40 years ago? I can remember that spring night as though it was yesterday.

For 11 years, ever since leaving school and starting our apprenticeships, my mates and I had stood in all weathers and shouted ourselves hoarse, as we won nothing. The modern-day supporter sitting in his comfortable seat, complaining of 6 years without a trophy. Would not believe the conditions we endured standing in all weathers.  Toilets? Do me a favour a wall, a trough and what was basically an open sewer was good enough for us.

Two managers had departed in that time, George Swindon our ex goalkeeper, had been followed by Billy Wright, ex Captain of Wolves and England, in his first attempt at club management, a universally acknowledged  nice guy, he was married to one of the Beverley Sisters a well-known female singing trio, who sat together every Saturday in the front of the East Stand dressed in identical Red And White outfits.

Billy never won anything for all his hard work and with his health suffering under the pressure,  he resigned in 1966. But the legacy he left,  was a  core of young players 6 of whom would be part of the first double winning side.

His replacement Bertie Mee, previously the team physio, was a major disciplinarian and hated by most of the players, he was anything but a track suit manager, cleverly leaving the coaching to the talented Dave Sexton before he left to manage Chelsea, then Done Howe and Steve Burtenshaw. It was Mee who moved Mclintock from right half to centre half and begun to shape the team that was destined to earn a permanent place in Arsenals history.

Two league cup final appearances at Wembley were to be reached and lost in 68 and 69. firstly against our archenemies at that time, Leeds Utd. A team loaded with skilful internationals, but ruthless and cynical under the leadership of Manager Don Revie and his on field lieutenants Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Matches between the two teams over the next ten years were no place for the faint hearted as we refused to be intimidated by them and adopted the same do or die attitude.

The ’69 debacle was even worse, on a Wembley pitch so badly cut up by the show jumping at the horse of the year show staged there a week previously amid torrential rain showers, that it now resembled a bogey ploughed field.

The team most of whom had been laid low by a flu like virus in the week prior to the game, were run ragged in the heavy conditions, by third division Swindon Town and a tricky little winger called Don Rodgers, who deservedly won  3-1 after extra time.

So all that baggage, expense and heartache was in the long-suffering supporters minds as we stood and watched the players run out on that May evening in 1970, to a morass not dissimilar to that Wembley horror.  But this time an hour and three quarters later it was all worth it.

Eddie Kelly one of the graduates from the reserves, a sort of Scottish Little Jack, scored to make it 1-0 at half time, John Radford then powered home a typical Raddy header and minutes later Jon Sammels so often the butt of the Arsenal boo boys, settled it,  hitting a sweet 20 yarder across the keeper  into the back of the net,  Highbury went mad and at the final whistle.  I and thousands of others sang and danced on the waterlogged pitch, our shoes filled with muddy water and we couldn’t give a monkeys, after 17 trophyless years, we had a pot.

The hoodoo was broken, allowing across the years, doubles and cups to follow. Bertie Mee’s reign lasted until 1976, since when he has been succeeded  by 7  managers or  caretaker managers, including the enigmatic George stroller Graham and the 1-0 to the Arsenal days. Before the arrival of Arsène  and his marvelous Wengerball, immaculate pitches and eventually a proud new modern stadium and training facilities.

But it all started, when Anderlecht were put to the Sword and a 3-1 away defeat was overturned on a rainy floodlit evening of unbelievable joy, at the famous old ground, that not even the first leg of the double on another wonderful night away at the Lane could equal.

Written by dandan


Arsenal sign Baconario Sarnielli

June 29, 2011

Written by Jamie

I am brewing a pot of coffee, steam rising. I have bread product of some kind with Bacon. I’ll be honest, I’ve lost track which one. I still don’t know what is wrong with Bacon between two slices of bread but now it’s all focaccia and ciabatta and I couldn’t tell the difference if you laced one with a month old Estonian herring.

Another thing worth a question is this, when did butter become an optional extra when you are getting a bacon sandwich? Do you want butter? Of course I do, if it’s not too much trouble. No proper bread, optional butter, no red sauce, in future just do me a couple of rashers of bacon and leave it at that.

Of course I want butter, the greasier the better, dripping out of the side mixed with the red sauce.

Today, I dream of Spain, of America, or frankly just about anywhere where sea is lapping to shore. Where I can sit like Derek Trotter in a beach bar drinking more cocktails than James Bond.

Such fantasies while frustrating are slightly more appealing than the alternative. Which is, in reality sitting at my desk getting neurotic about Arsenal’s transfer activity or rather, the lack of it.

If I were on holiday, I wouldn’t be sitting there doing that. I would be in a bar, on a beach, having lunch, exploring an old cathedral, doing a tour of a football ground.

I would even rather be in a Waterpark, Go-Karting possibly even at the same time but I wouldn’t be subjected to this.

If on holiday I would occasionally find myself looking at a two day old report from Steve Stammers in the Daily Mirror while consuming a big cake and cooling VAT looking at a magnificent vista. As if i were some amatuer James Richardson.

Instead, it’s Coffee, Bacon and a Windows vista.

Every TV show yesterday showed a beach, even the Grand Prix.

I look out over London Wall and the day looks lethargic. People move slowly in the heat outside the Museum of London, almost slow motion, Almost as slow as Arsenal’s Summer. A summer of big change, so we are told. Not one player in or one player out by 27th June and don’t give me any of that Jenkinson stuff, i mean players that will definately have an impact next season.

First we are signing Gervinho, then we are not, then we have signed him, now we haven’t even made a bid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m right behind Le Gaffer but the time it takes for us to sign a player does gives me the ache.

Stars form and burst, giant pandas mate and we still can’t conclude a deal.

We are like a 16 year old geek of the class trying to get his next door neighbours phone number. The President of Lille says we made contact but made no offer. It makes it sound like we rang up and got shy, giggled, said “Gervinho” and hung up.

I watch a lot of European football and I have seen Gervinho play half a dozen times. However despite this and him having the most ridiculous centre parting since “Saved by the Bell” was on TV, a month ago I couldn’t have picked out Gervinho if he, Scott Parker, Chris Samba and Juan Mata had done a conga past me singing “The Locomotion”.

That isn’t to say that he is not a good player.

I watched reports from around the world on the news this morning. War, torture, famine and not one word about Arsenal, Not one word. Selfish BBC.

This summer however for Family reasons, some work reasons and some financial reasons a holiday in June or July or even August is out of the question.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as being told you can’t go to Barcelona when all you want to do is hang out on the beach in Barcelona. Ask El Capitan.

Last year I went away in late November, it wasn’t easy catching the games abroad in November. You invairiably end up in a back street Irish bar sat next to some guy who came for a holiday in 1982 and never went back.

“I had trials” he will say, then you are subjected to two hours of the “I could have been a contender, but the booze, the girls, knee injury, blah,blah blah” speech. By the time Wilshere pops in the fourth at Villa Park you are reaching for the Tequilas.

The overwhelming point is this. Summer is for holidays, Winter is for football.

Holiday resorts in November are full of sadness and storm clouds and sitting around looking at Newsnow in June doesn’t look a lot differnet.

It isn’t going to do you any good come the fixture pile up.

So if you can’t get away and I can’t, then get your sun tan oil and get to your nearest park or pub by the river, or your back garden. Pour yourself a Pina Colada and read a two day old copy of the Daily Mirror and for a moment, just a moment, you might be able to convince yourself that your not addicted.

So Happy Holidays even if they are, only in your mind!


Arsenal Pays The Price For Project Youth …… Twice

June 28, 2011

It is widely acknowledged that the strategy of bringing through young players was the only way for Arsenal to try to maintain their prominence at the top of the Premiership whilst paying for the Emirates Stadium.

It worked brilliantly, mainly due to an exceptional balancing act by Arsène Wenger. We did not flatter to deceive – we deceived, and for 5 years we proved the critics wrong. Managers are often applauded for bring their club up a division; well Wenger’s feat certainly ranks as highly.

I don’t believe the term ‘Project Youth has ever been used by AW or the club and is seen by some as an indictment rather than an accolade, but for the purposes of discussing past and future recruitment, I shall continue to use it here whatever your personal feeling is about it’s efficacy.

Arsène Wenger was the architect of the plan and in truth he was just being pragmatic because he had few other choices. He cites many advantages to bringing through young players together, but it is apparent that his growing frustration in the latter part of last season was due to his disappointment that it had not brought all the rewards he had envisaged.

The sad truth about P.Y. is that there is a sting in the tail. Now that we have established a stable financial model, the team built around Fabregas is beginning to crumble and reinforcements are required.

Herein lies the problem. The wages paid and the erratic performances of some of those players has meant that suitors are not exactly queuing for their services, and when they do, the valuation often falls short of what the club would expect.

From past dealings, it does not appear that Silent Stan is likely to throw 30 million at Arsène for a marquee signing and I doubt the manager would spend it if he did, so the club is in the predicament of either hanging on to players who have disappointed or selling cheaply and therefore reducing the funds available for ‘quality’ replacements.

Arsenal is a top European side who perennially feature in the Champion’s League. We generate vast amounts of money on the pitch and commercially but we play a different game from the other clubs and personally I’d rather buy within our means if SK keeps his promise not to saddle the club with debt. If we had debts like Barca or Manu, I’d be more happy for us to spend money we don’t have – what the hell!!,  but when you’ve trodden one path so successfully for so long, why change?

And so we are in a waiting game. Waiting to see what kind of offers (if any) we will get for the likes of Bendtner, Clichy, Eboue, Almunia and Denilson. Waiting to see who of those we have been scouting are still available if and when we sell. Waiting for Barca to come up with the right offer for Cesc …… which may happen sooner rather than later if  recent reports are to  be believed.

There is a world of difference between selling a player who is no longer wanted in which case the buyer knows he can call the shots; and selling a player who you want to keep. In most cases, you are in the driving seat when you don’t want to sell. Unfortunately, when that player only wants to go to one club, even that advantage is diminished.

I expect Cesc’s departure will trigger the purchase of a replacement midfielder, most likely Ricardo Alvarez, in the same way as Bendtner’s sale will create the funds for the possible signing of Gervinho or A. N. Other striker. Balancing (reducing) the wage bill is every bit as important as finding the money to buy players.

The power lies largely in the hands of others. The clubs we are dealing with know this and it gives them the upper hand. So prepare yourselves fellow Gooners for a frustrating summer. Project Youth was the only choice we had in 2006 and it continues to restrict our choices in 2011.

Written by Rasp


Arsenal’s Best Signing Ever

June 27, 2011

Who is the best player ever to have been signed by Arsenal?

Last summer I wrote a post about ‘Arsenal’s Best Transfer News Ever’. The point of that piece was to determine which piece of transfer news was the most exciting when it was announced, regardless of how that player went on to perform for the club.

So, for example, Clive Allen was on that list even though he never played a game in anger for Arsenal and so was Davor Suker, who was never more than a bit part player.

This time I want to know which signing (as opposed to home grown player) has been the best piece of business we have ever done.

You may want to weigh up factors such as what they cost, what their impact was on the team, what legacy, if any, they left behind, their achievements versus the expectations we had when they arrived and so on.

I’m not including anyone who has come through the Arsenal ranks from apprentice up, or has been recruited at too young an age to be considered a mature signing (so there’s no room for Cesc Fabregas).

For starters, here are what I consider to be some of the main contenders:

Cliff Bastin

Cliff was spotted by Herbert Chapman playing for Exeter away at Watford. Chapman had gone along to keep tabs on a promising Watford player but was so impressed by Cliff that he snapped him up at the end of the 1928/29 season. It was an inspired piece of business and was crucial to the Chapman revolution that led Arsenal to dominate English football in the 1930s. Bastin’s scoring record for the Gunners was not outdone until Ian Wright surpassed it in 1997.

Ronnie Rooke

Arsenal’s dominance in the Chapman era was ended not by any other team, but by the Second World War. When football began again afterwards we returned as a severely weakened side and narrowly avoided relegation in 1947. But the following year we bounced back to reclaim our crown – and the vital ingredient was a tough, experienced centre forward called Ronnie Rooke. He was nearly 35 when we signed him from Second Division Fulham and he had never played in the top flight – so he was a real gamble. However, his 21 goals in 1946/47 helped stave off relegation and he followed that with 33 more the next season as we marched to the title.

Frank McClintock

Our Double-winning hard man was brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, which explains a lot. He was signed in 1964 after seven successful years at Leicester. Starting off in midfield before moving to the CB role (and the captaincy) he was a rock throughout the relatively fallow years of the late 1960s and, of course, led Arsenal to the Double in 1971.

Alan Smith

Another Leicester stalwart, signed in 1987. “Smudger” was an awkward-looking, ungainly centre forward, but there was no-one better at holding up the ball and bringing others into play – skills that, along with his eye for a goal, proved to be vital in our title-winning seasons of 1989 and 1991.

David Seaman

After winning the league in ’89 most of us were happy with John Lukic between the sticks, but George Graham decided that he wanted the best and went out and got Safe Hands from QPR in 1990. It’s no exaggeration to say that Seaman was an essential ingredient in every subsequent success achieved by the club during his time with us.

Ian Wright

Although he would not win a champions medal until 1998 and the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Wrighty was a mainstay of the Arsenal team in the later George Graham era, when we stopped winning championships and started winning cups and when our flamboyant attacking midfield was replaced by pragmatic journeymen. Arguably, without Wright’s goals during that period, we might really have struggled.

Dennis Bergkamp

I’ll admit to being biased here. Dennis is my all-time favourite Arsenal player – but what a signing he was in terms of ambition and imagination. Bruce Rioch was the boss when Dennis arrived in 1995 but his signing is widely attributed to David Dein. The English league did not have much in the way of foreign superstars at that time (Eric Cantona apart) and Dennis showed the way forward for many of the great foreign players that followed. His touch, vision, passing and reading of the game was a damning indictment of the type of players being produced by English clubs in the Route One era.

Sol Campbell

Sol’s signing from the N17 knuckle-draggers was the sensation of the close season in 2001. The fabled Adams-Keown-Bould back three was near the end of its days and a significant reinforcement was needed. You don’t get more significant than Big Sol, who went on to become an immense figure in our defence, even if he did go a bit loopy at the end.

Patrick Vieira

Signed in 1996 from Milan, Paddy took the EPL by storm and is arguably still the greatest midfielder to have strut his stuff since the Premiership was formed. Arsenal captain, Arsenal legend, fearless, tireless, gifted… what more is there to say?

Thierry Henry

After Arsene Wenger’s first Double in 1998, we were all gutted when young goal machine Nicolas Anelka was persuaded by his greedy agents (his brothers, no less) to walk out on us the following year. But we need not have worried. Arsene went one better, bringing in Thierry Henry fresh from France’s 1990 World Cup triumph. He was a winger with va-va-voom, but Arsene converted him into the deadliest striker the Premier League has ever known.

That’s it.

My choice would be Dennis, because he completely transformed Arsenal and helped transform English football. He also stayed with us until the end of his career and is clearly still a devoted Gooner.

What do you think?

RockyLives


George G …. From Stroller to Sergeant

June 26, 2011

Sometimes it is tough finding things to write about, especially on a deathly quiet Glastonbury Sunday.

Is Wimbledon more interesting than an news-shy Arsenal newsnow? Not since the Crazy Gang has Wimbledon held any interest to the football lover.

Those were the days – the George Graham era. A team developed and moulded by one man’s discipline and vision.

How could it be that George Graham whose nickname was “Stroller” thanks to his lacksadaisical style became Sergeant George? In his early days the ex-Bargeddie boy was notorious for the fact that he spent all his money on clothes and cars , yet was totally averse to buying a round in  the post match pub environment. Little changed when he became a manager – his control of the purse strings caused the departure of many a fine player e.g. Keown wanted an extra few pounds a week, GG refused his request, sold him  and then was forced to buy him back from Everton for 2 million of her Majesty’s finest.

Another mystery is how George, who was a “luxury” player developed his dislike of players in a similar vein. One of his first acts was the removal of Champagne Charlie, a fan’s favourite and a player capable of flashes of brilliance – the antithesis of the GG player.

Furthermore, George hated to get dirty so sliding tackles were rarely seen, his idea of defensive duties was trotting back from the half-way line for corners, so how did he develop the best back 5 ever seen on an English football pitch? How could it be that a player whose speciality was spectacular scissor kicks and volleys become a coach whose heritage is “1-0 to the Arsenal”?

It was tragic that George’s Arsenal career ended thanks to his avarice. Tragic that a manager who was so successful had his legacy tarnished. He brought disgrace to the club he loved (and loves) so passionately.

I loved those early GG teams which brimmed both attacking intent and defensive prowess, it was only when he came under pressure and doubt that GG sought to pack the midfield with artisans as opposed to artists. Gone were Rocky, the Merse, Micky T Paul Davis etc to be replaced by Selley, Morrow, Johny J. McGoldrick etc. We won but we had lost the ability to entertain …..

…… something that George Graham in his playing career could never be accused of.


Here’s something to smile about ………

June 25, 2011

Can you remember the 1966 World Cup Final …….. you know, the one which ended with Bobby Moore (sadly deceased) lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy? It was on television and it was in black and white.  I guess few of our readers were born back in those far off days..

5 years earlier Tottenham last won the League.

4 surgeons are taking a tea break:
1st surgeon says “Accountants are the best to operate on because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.”
2nd surgeon says “Nope, librarians are the best. Everything inside them is in alphabetical order.”
3rd surgeon says “Well you should try electricians. Everything inside them is colour coded.”
4th surgeon says “I prefer Tottenham fans. They’re heartless, spineless, gutless and their heads and a**eholes are interchangeable.”

The 7 dwarfs are down in the mines when there is a cave-in. Snow White runs to the entrance and yells down to them. In the dark distance a voice screams out “Spurs are good enough to win the Premiership.”
Snow White says “Thank God – at least Dopey’s still alive!”

A man is sitting in the pub with his Jack Russell dog on Saturday afternoon. The football results are coming up on the television in the corner, “Arsenal 4 Tottenham 1”, reads the announcer.
Suddenly the Jack Russell dog jumps up and shouts “Oh no, not again!”
The shocked landlord says “That’s amazing. Why did he say that when the result was announced?”
“Because he is a Spurs supporter” the dog owner replies.
The landlord then asks what the dog says when Tottenham win a match, to which the man relied “I don’t  know I have only had him 3 years.”

Harry Redknapp, shortly after another training session, comments to the head groundsman at White Hart Lane how impressive the pitch is looking. “It ought to,” replies the groundsman. “We put 70 million quid’s worth of manure on it every week!”

On days when life is treating you harshly and you think to yourself “could it get any worse than this?”, just remember …. you could have been a Spurs supporter.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners

Written by Big Raddy


Arsène Wenger manages the Dream Team

June 24, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Arsenal.com are currently running an all time dream team vote. The problem with this it is often only the young who vote and recent memory can skew the result.

We have a wide church here with regard to ages so how about we all pick our all time eleven, manager, coach, physio and you can even throw in a few squad players.

One stipulation you must have seen them play or manage whilst you’ve been alive. On second thoughts this could put the younger members of the forum at a disadvantage so perhaps we can allow two wild cards for positions where you believe a player from before your time may have added some.

I’ll start us off:

Seaman

Lauren   Adams  O’Leary  Winterburn

Pires    Vieira  Talbot    Limpar

Bergkamp
Wright

Subs
Henry
Rocastle
Ljungberg
Merson
Campbell
Caesar

Coach : Don Howe
Physio : Gary Lewin

Manager : Arsène Wenger

That was tough and I’ve only been watching them for 29 years, good luck to our older supporters.

So just to say I know that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but hey it’s my fantasy you all get to have yours too.

Admittedly some have been chosen for how they did things on the pitch, they may not all be the best in their positions but in the case of a few:

Wright……his pure enthusiasm for the game, affinity with the fans and love of scoring goals and also because of that goal against Big Nev, the whole of Highbury singing Ian Wright Wright Wright for a good ten minutes after he scored it.

Limpar…..I was there when he beat Hooper from the halfway line and it was probably the best goal I ever witnessed at Highbury.

Caesar…..you have to have an anti hero to have a hero, he was always good for a laugh (unfortunately for him we weren’t laughing with him).

So there is the challenge pick away. Don’t ask me to justify my selections I made them in five minutes and will probably change them every ten.


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