George “Geordie” Armstrong died of a brain haemorrhage after collapsing on the training field 11 years ago on the first of this month. He was a year younger than me and joined the club as a 17-year-old, two years after I had first claimed my permanent place on the terraces as a 15-year-old. He was my first footballing idol and was to be associated with the club on and off for 39 years.
I mention this because a new young full back has been thrown in at the deep end for us in recent weeks just as Geordie was and by and large has risen to the challenge. Carl Jenkinson is 19 years old and in his first year with the club having been transferred from Charlton Athletic in June.
AA boasts a number of good judges of a footballer and this young man has caught their attention. The strength of character he has shown after surviving that 8 goal pounding at the hands of the Mancs, his work rate, application and determination as he joined the fight to recover from our disastrous start, all bode well for the years ahead.
On the other side we have another new summer arrival, this one more senior and a Brazilian international to boot. Andre Santos arrived having, we are told, supplanted Roberto Carlos, he of the 35 Metre free kick, as his Turkish clubs first choice full back, but wanting to play in England. He signed for us primarily, he said, as we played his kind of football.
Both Carl and Andre were elevated to the first team far quicker than anticipated as both Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna our first team fullbacks, were as is the Arsenal way, to suffer long-term injuries.
So the squad now has 4 speedy fullbacks ready, when fit, to combine with our Flying Wingers, Theo and Gervinho, to form an attacking force capable of getting behind the oppositions defence and crossing the ball into the right areas.
But this is where the similarity ends, Geordie played in his early days in heavy leather boots on muddy, waterlogged, energy sapping bogs of pitches, yet would still run up and down that wing for ninety minutes, virtually non stop. At the same time, evading, receiving and accepting as part of the game, sliding tackles that would see the offender banned Sine Die, if he did such a thing on today’s croquet lawns. On top of which he was using a leather ball that grew heavier as the game went on and the water soaked through the dubbined Tee panel monster with its leather lace that was, pre ‘the valve’ the premier ball of its day.
Yet, and here’s the strange thing, what with all these disadvantages was Geordies main claim to fame? He could hit that ball on the run or from a corner and put it straight into the danger zone and on the head of the likes of Joe Baker, Raddy, Kennedy and even in later years the elegant stroller Graham. Count the amount of headed goals that came from Geordies crosses, watch us win the league at WHL as Ray thumps a header past Big Pat Jennings from a Geordie cross. Pure magic created with skill and constant practice, and regularly displayed by the little man with a heart of a lion.
So what’s your point you may ask, well I have a question for the modern footballer. If Geordie could do all that, under conditions that would probably make you guys refuse play, why can’t you on our manicured pitches, with lightweight footwear and a ball my gran would have kicked straight out of the garden. Why do you lot struggle, not just on the run, but from corners and free kicks as well, to even clear the first man, for Christ sake!!!!!?
Written by dandan