Arsène Wenger – it has to be said ………

May 31, 2014

I, for one, was thrilled to hear the news yesterday that Arsène Wenger had, at last, signed his new contract. We have him for another three years and credit has to be given to the man for wanting to stay in a job that might have destroyed other men.

Arsene and the team

The stress that he’s been under this season has been etched on his face and he’s often looked really ill when things have gone wrong. I believe he loves this club deeply and if he didn’t think he could improve on this years position he would have walked away.

I’m not opposed to change but I think he still has a job to do and three years gives him time to do it.

We have some great young players in our squad that he knows are going to improve, if I were him I wouldn’t want someone else to get the credit for putting together a great team. You only have to look at Aaron Ramsey to see how Wenger’s faith in a player is rewarded.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my support for his management has wavered in the last three seasons. I have been confused by some of his decision making and have at times felt that he may have lost the dressing room but the scenes of the players hugging him after the cup final win and the crowd singing his name after the parade have banished those thoughts.

Arsene and Ox

Although football is a simple game, it’s not an exact science and so unusual things can and do happen. We were on the cusp of a trophy in 2012 and had we won the Carling Cup we wouldn’t have to listen to 9 years without a trophy. We have a trophy now and hopefully the press will soon stop reminding us how long it took to win one 😉

What I do hope he can ensure doesn’t happen again is the regularity with which we collapsed under early goals. Those defeats hurt all of us although it has to be said we would have been champions if we’d not dropped a few points against lesser opposition. How funny would that have been to have won the title whilst losing those big games? If’s and but’s ………..

The World Cup will be a good distraction for not having any Arsenal for a few weeks but I for one can’t wait to get back to the Emirates and sing my teams name.

Thank you Arsène.

Arsene and Vermaelen

Written by peachesgooner – still a Wengerite

 

 

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Blast No. 16 – Arsenal Players with the most club appearances. No. 2

May 30, 2014

On May 2nd the four players with the most club appearances for Arsenal were profiled, between them they played in an incredible 2.631 games.

David O’Leary 1973-1993 made 722 appearances.

Tony Adams 1983-2002 made 669 appearances.

George Armstrong 1961-1977 made 621 appearances.

Lee Dixon 1988-2002 made 619 appearances.

 Now we will take a look at the next four players with the highest amount of appearances, they are the only players to have played in between 500 and 599 games.

First up we have Nigel Winterburn 1987-2000 he made 584 appearances.

Nigel Winterburn
Winterburn began his Arsenal career at right-back, an emergency measure employed by Graham after he’d been unsuccessful in finding a worthwhile replacement for Viv Anderson. Though heavily left-footed, Winterburn settled into the right back role as best he could and became quickly involved in two controversial incidents of his first season. First, he was seen to openly goad Brian McClair after the Manchester United striker had missed a late penalty in an FA Cup tie at Highbury.The second incident came in the League Cup final later that same season. Despite having fallen behind in the early stages, Arsenal, the holders, dominated the match and were leading Luton Town 2–1 at Wembley with less than quarter of an hour to go when David Rocastle was felled in the penalty area. Michael Thomas had been Arsenal’s designated penalty taker all season but for reasons unexplained, it was Winterburn – who’d never taken a penalty for Arsenal before – who collected the ball up to take the kick.

He put the kick low and strong to the right hand corner as he viewed it, but Luton goalkeeper Andy Dibble guessed correctly and pushed the ball round the post. A newly-inspired Luton then scored twice in the final ten minutes and won the final 3–2. Despite the missed penalty, it was Gus Caesar (deputising for David O’Leary who missed the final due to injury) rather than Winterburn who was made to bear the brunt of the criticism, as he had made the error which gifted Luton their equaliser at 2–2.

Sansom left Arsenal in the summer and Winterburn settled into his more familiar left back role as a result, staying in it for more than a decade. He and fellow full back Lee Dixon flanked two superb central defenders in captain Tony Adams and veteran David O’Leary, joined during the 1989 season by Steve Bould. Often the manager would play all five of them as Arsenal took holders Liverpool to a last-game showdown at Anfield for the First Division title, which would have been Arsenal’s first title since the Double year of 1971. Arsenal’s situation meant they needed to win by at least two clear goals to clinch the championship. Winterburn’s free kick set up a first for Alan Smith shortly after half time, but the second looked as though it would elude them until Thomas scored in injury time. This victory was the culmination of the film Fever Pitch.

Arsenal ended 1990 trophy less, but went on to win the league title again the next year, with only one loss. Two years later, Winterburn was in the Arsenal team which won both cup competitions and thus completed his domestic set of medals. Arsenal defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2–1 in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals, the latter in a replay.

Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal at the end of 1996 and instilled new self-awareness and dietary habits into the Arsenal squad, allowing the ageing defence (Adams was the youngest at 30 years of age; Martin Keown had also arrived to account for O’Leary’s retirement after the 1993 FA Cup success) to thrive in the latter years of their careers and prolong their football careers. Arsenal won the “double” of Premiership and FA Cup in 1998.

Secondly we have David Seaman MBE – 1990-2003 he appeared in 564 games.

david seaman

Arsenal manager George Graham signed David Seaman from Queens Park Rangers in 1990 for a fee of £1.3 million; at the time a British record for a goalkeeper. Arsenal sold goalkeeper John Lukic, who was highly popular amongst Arsenal fans, to Leeds United.

Seaman’s time at Arsenal coincided with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. The 1990–91 season saw him concede only 18 goals when playing in every match of the 38-game season as Arsenal regained the league title.

Arsenal won both the FA Cup and the League Cup in 1993 and supplemented this a year later with the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In 1995, George Graham was sacked, and Arsenal came close to becoming the first club to retain the Cup Winners’ Cup, with Seaman earning a reputation as a penalty-saving specialist after saving Attilio Lombardo’s shot in Arsenal’s semi-final shoot-out against U.C. Sampdoria. However, in the final Arsenal lost in extra time to Real Zaragoza, with a spectacular last-minute goal from Nayim from 45 yards out catching Seaman off his line. There were only seconds left of extra time when Seaman conceded.

In August 1996, Arsène Wenger became the new manager of Arsenal. Wenger rated Seaman highly and in 1998, Seaman helped the team to the Premier League and FA Cup double. In 1998–99, Seaman played all 38 league matches, conceding only 17 league goals as Arsenal came within one point of retaining the Premier League and lost in the FA Cup semi-finals to Manchester United. The following season Seaman managed to reach the 2000 UEFA Cup Final, which Arsenal drew 0–0 with Galatasaray, but lost on penalties.

In 2002, Seaman won the Premier League and the FA Cup again to complete his second career double, although Arsenal’s other goalkeepers Stuart Taylor (10 appearances) and Richard Wright (12 appearances) also won championship medals, due mainly to Seaman’s absence through injuries. A highlight of this season was when Seaman dramatically saved a Gareth Barry penalty as Arsenal won 2-1 at Aston Villa.

Despite his international career ending so flatly and accusations his mobility had faded with age, the 2002–03 season—Seaman’s last at Arsenal—ended on a high note. In the FA Cup, he made a spectacular save against Sheffield United’s Paul Peschisolido in the semi-finals, in what former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, a pundit for the BBC on the day, dubbed “the best save I’ve ever seen”. Arsenal were defending a 1–0 lead, when with less than ten minutes to go, Peschisolido had a header towards an apparently open goal from six yards out with Seaman seemingly stranded at the near post. However, the goalkeeper leapt sideways and backwards, somehow managing to stretch his right arm behind him and scoop the ball back and away from both his goal and the opposing players ready to pounce on a rebound. The match was all the more remarkable in that it was Seaman’s 1,000th professional career game. Seaman went on to captain the team during the 2003 FA Cup Final in the absence of injured Patrick Vieira and keep another clean sheet at the Millennium Stadium as they defeated Southampton 1–0. His final act with Arsenal was to lift the FA Cup, which was his eighth major trophy with his team.

David became an MBE in 1977 – unfortunately GN5 could not find an image of the presentation.

Thirdly we have Pat Rice MBE – 1964-1980 he made 528 appearances.

pat rice

Born in Belfast, he grew up in London, and after working at a greengrocer on Gillespie Road he joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1964. He turned professional in 1966 and worked his way up through the club’s youth and reserve teams. He made his first-team debut in the League Cup against Burnley on 5 December 1967.

Playing at right back, Rice was initially a bit-part player, making only 16 appearances in his first three seasons at Arsenal, and missed out on Arsenal’s 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup win over RSC Anderlecht. Peter Storey was Arsenal’s first choice right back, but after he was moved into central midfield at the start of the 1970–71, Rice took his place and was a near-ever present in the side that season, as Arsenal won the League and FA Cup Double.

He remained first-choice right back for the rest of the 1970s, playing in the 1972 FA Cup Final as well; he was an ever-present for three seasons — 1971–72, 1975–76, 1976–77. Of the Double-winning side, he was the one who remained at the club the longest, and became club captain in 1977. As captain, he had the honour of lifting the FA Cup after Arsenal beat Manchester United in 1979, as well as losing two finals in 1978 and 1980. He is one of only 3 Arsenal players to have played in five FA Cup Finals (1970–71, 1971–72, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80), the other two being David Seaman and Ray Parlour. He also led Arsenal to the 1980 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final, which Arsenal lost on penalties to Valencia. He finally left Arsenal in 1980 at the age of 31, by which time he had played 528 games in total for the club.

Pat rejoined Arsenal in 1984 as youth team coach, a post he held for the next 12 years, winning the FA Youth Cup twice in 1987–88 and 1993–94. In September 1996, he was briefly caretaker manager of the club after the resignation of Stewart Houston, who himself was caretaker after the sacking of Bruce Rioch. He managed the side for three FA Premier League matches (all of which Arsenal won) and a 3–2 defeat in the UEFA Cup at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Upon the arrival of Arsène Wenger at the end of the month, Rice became his assistant, and played a key role in helping the club to their success in the 1990s and 2000s, including the Doubles of 1997–98 and 2001–02, and Arsenal’s unbeaten League season of 2003–04. He holds the distinction (along with Bob Wilson) of having taken part, as player or coach, in all three of Arsenal’s Doubles.

On 5 May 2012, it was announced that Rice would be stepping down after an accumulative 44 years with club, since joining as an apprentice, with the home game against Norwich being his final home game as Arsenal No.2. Wenger stated, ‘Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his whole life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion to this club…I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole. On the training pitches and on matchdays, Pat has always been a passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we will all miss.’

Rice was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to sport.

Pat Rice & The Queen (1)

Last but not least we have Peter Storey 1961-1977 who played in 501 games.

peter storey v2 

Storey signed as an apprentice at Arsenal after leaving school in 1961.  He signed professional forms in September 1962 and spent the 1962–63 season playing for the Arsenal third team in the Metropolitan League. He made his senior debut on 30 October 1965, taking Billy McCullough’s place at left-back in a 3–1 defeat to Leicester City at Filbert Street. He retained his first team place and went on to play all of the remaining 29 games, though the season would prove to be a poor one for the “Gunners” as manager Billy Wright was sacked after dropping top-scorer Joe Baker and disillusioning the dressing room. In 1965-66 Arsenal finished in 14th place, just four points above the relegation zone, and was knocked out of the FA Cup at the Third Round following a 3–0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, who would end the season bottom of the First Division.

Storey quickly made a name for himself as a rough player early in the 1966–67 season as he injured Manchester City winger Mike Summerbee. He was warned by new manager Bertie Mee not to get sent off after Storey got involved in a brawl during an FA Cup win over Gillingham. The team improved under Mee’s strict leadership, and finished the season in seventh place, cutting goals conceded to 47 from the previous season’s tally of 75. Storey started 34 league games, missing eight matches due to injury and illness. He scored his first professional goal on 22 April 1967, in a 1–1 draw with Nottingham Forest at Highbury.

Bob McNab established himself at left-back in the 1967–68 season, and so Storey was moved over to right-back. Despite being a full-back he was sometimes given the job of marking a dangerous and creative opposition player closely, and though he was never ordered to use rough play he was on these occasions told “you know what to do, Peter”. He was sent off for the first time in his career, along with Frank McLintock, in a 1–0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor in December 1967; despite his tough tackling he was actually dismissed for bad language. Arsenal finished the season in ninth place, but advanced past Coventry City, Reading, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley and Huddersfield Town to face Leeds United in the final of the League Cup at Wembley. Leeds won the game through a Terry Cooper volley on 20 minute.

Their league position meant in 1968–69 that Arsenal qualified for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the 1969–70 season, and they advanced past Glentoran (Northern Ireland), Sporting (Portugal), Rouen (France), FCM Bacău (Romania) and Ajax (Netherlands) to reach the final against Belgian club Anderlecht. Anderlecht won 3–1 at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium after their possession football controlled the entire game until substitute Ray Kennedy scored a crucial header in the 82nd minute. Arsenal turned around the tie with a 3–0 home victory to claim the club’s first trophy in 17 years. Despite their European exploits the team still struggled in England, and finished the league in 12th spot.

Arsenal won the 1970-71 title on the final day of the season with a 1–0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane, though Storey missed the final two league games of the season after damaging ligaments in his ankle. They secured the double after winning the FA Cup, though their progress in the competition was slow, as they beat Yeovil Town, Portsmouth (in a replay) – Storey scored a penalty in both the original tie and the replay, Manchester City, Leicester City (in a replay), and then Stoke City (in a replay). Storey gave a man-of-the-match performance in the original semi-final tie against Stoke at Hillsborough, scoring two goals to rescue a 2–0 half-time deficit; with the first goal he beat Gordon Banks with a volley on the edge of the penalty area, and with the second he sent Banks the wrong way with an injury-time penalty kick.[27] The replay at Villa Park was less dramatic, and Arsenal won the tie with a comfortable 2–0 result. In the final he was assigned to mark Liverpool’s Steve Heighway, and kept the Liverpool winger quiet until Storey was substituted for Eddie Kelly after 64 minutes. Both Heighway and Kelly scored in extra-time, but the winning goal came from “Gunners” striker Charlie George.

He played his final game for Arsenal on 29 January 1977, replacing Malcolm Macdonald as a substitute in a 3–1 victory over Coventry City in the FA Cup.

In his auto biography he wrote:

In time, I became immensely proud of what Arsenal achieved in 1970–71, constantly defying the odds and coming from behind. Only special teams do the Double. One word summed us up — remorseless. We never knew when we were beaten; our powers of recovery during 90 minutes, and sometimes beyond, were immense.”

GunnerN5


Football Trivia Quiz.

May 29, 2014

Ten Questions to test your knowledge of the Premier League.

1. The 4 teams who have occupied the top 4 PL positions on the most occasions are

a)      Manchester United -21

b)      Arsenal – 19

c)      Chelsea – 13

d)     Liverpool – 13

Which team occupies the 5th position?

2. On how many occasions did they finish in 5th position?

3. How many different teams have only appeared in the PL for a single season and   were then relegated?

4. How many teams have never been relegated from the PL?

5. Which of the teams in question #4 has accumulated the least amount of points in their PL history?

6. How many points did they accumulate?

7. Which two PL teams have accumulated the most goals for in their PL history goals?

a)

b)

8. How many goals did they accumulate?

a)

b)

9. Which team has accumulated the most goals against in their PL history?

10. How many goals did they concede?

I will publish the answers the day after this quiz is posted.

GunnerN5

 

 

 

 

 


Give Us A ‘C’: Arsenal Alternative Alphabet

May 28, 2014

And so we move on to the ‘C’ words in our alternative Arsenal Alphabet.

C is for:

Charlies

We Arsenal fans have been blessed with a simply wonderful pair of Charlies: first, there was Charlie George – an Islington boy who went from terrace tearaway to Wembley wonder. The picture of him lying on the turf with his arms in the air after scoring in the 1971 FA Cup Final is one of the most enduring Arsenal images of all time. Our second Charlie is Charlie Nicholas, the mercurial, genius Scot whose goals clinched us the first trophy of the George Graham era (he scored a brace against Liverpool in the 1987 League Cup Final). Sadly his love of the high life soon grated with disciplinarian Graham and he was on his way not long after that Final. However he’s still very fondly remembered by the supporters.

Chicken

Whenever we need a laugh all we need to do is glance up the Seven Sisters Road and look at their ludicrous club crest: a chicken standing on a basketball.

Clock

How many great moments have been shared by the faithful beneath the Clock End at Highbury? The only mystery about the clock is why it took the club so long to figure out that they should install it at the new ground when we moved to Ashburton Grove. At least they got there in the end.

Curse

There was a story put about that, when the stadium was being built, a construction worker who supported the Spuds buried a Totteringham shirt somewhere on the site in an attempt to curse us. Given the shaky start to our trophy efforts at the Grove some Gooners even began to give credence to this tale. Well, the FA Cup win over Hull should put paid to that nonsense. The buried Spud shirt had all the efficacy that Spud shirts normally have – namely none.

Crocks

If only, if only… how many times in recent years have we wondered what might have been if our key players had managed to stay out of the treatment room? Our injury record is simply appalling and I really hope that dealing with this recurring problem is a priority this summer. Although the portents are not good: apparently we’ve agreed a three year deal for Mr Bump, while we have also made an official bid for Humpty Dumpty.

Cashley

Poor, poor Cashley Hole. He could have been an Arsenal lifetime legend, instead he almost crashed his car because of our terrible pay offer of 60 grand a week, held illegal meetings with The Special Needs One and decamped to Chav Towers, lured by filthy luchre and the attraction of the club’s impressive three year history. Now the Chavs don’t want him any more and he’s trying to find a new club. He needs to start calling up his contacts… now where did he put that mobile phone?

OK, over to you for your own C Word contributions…

RockyLives


Thinking about our squad………..

May 27, 2014

I’ve been looking at our squad lists because in all the talk of transfers, what doesn’t seem to get much discussion, is how we aim to fill our squad of 25, and leave room for the youth to come through. Which of course is now essential with the homegrown rules in place. So before we look outside, let’s look within.

This was our squad list last season.

Arteta Amatriain, Mikel (No)
Bendtner, Nicklas (Yes)
Cazorla, Santiago (No)
Diaby, Vassiriki Abou (No)
Fabianski, Lukasz (No)
Flamini, Mathieu (No)
Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo (Yes)
Giroud, Olivier (No)
Koscielny, Laurent (No)
Mertesacker, Per (No)
Monreal, Ignacio (No)
Ozil, Mesut (No)
Park, Chu Young (No)
Podolski, Lukas (No)
Ramsey, Aaron James (Yes)
Rosicky, Tomas (No)
Sagna, Bacary (No)
Szczesny, Wojciech Tomasz (Yes)
Vermaelen, Thomas (No)
Viviano, Emiliano (No)
Walcott, Theo James (Yes)

Ricardo Gibbs and Amatriain Arteta. Brilliant.

So that was a list of 21, with 5 Home-grown players. We also added Kallstrom in January. I think we will lose 6 of these players (Bendtner, Park, Fabianski, Sagna, Viviano and Kallstrom.) of which only Bendtner counts as home grown. That will leave us with a list of 16 and 4 home-grown players. Only Carl Jenkinson and Jack Wilshere from our current first team are required to be added to our list for 2014-15. Which would make it a list of 18, with 6 homegrown players. So we can add 5 more non-homegrown players this season.

So before any additions our squad will look like:

GK:  Szczesny*

RB:  Jenksinon*

LB: Gibbs*, Monreal

CB: Per, Kos, Verm

CM: Arteta, Diaby, Flamini, Ramsey*, Rosicky, Wilshere*

AM: Walcott*, Cazorla, Podolski, Ozil

ST: Giroud

Obviously we need to buy players in various positions to have a complete squad, and a squad that is good enough. However, we also need to consider bringing players through our youth ranks. Will they be incorporated into first team action? Indeed, some of them already are.

Now, my knowledge of the Arsenal Reserves and youth teams is fairly limited these days and I had to do some internet scouting to find out about most of them. Some names are familiar because they have been mentioned on and off in the media. Others are just wild punts. I may have left some talented players out, or got the positions wrong for some of the ones I did include. However, such as it is, this is the list I compiled of players we have coming through (or out on loan), along with the years in which they need to be registered.

GK: Damien Martinez (2014), Matt Macey (2016), Deyan Illiev (2017) Josh Vickers (2017)

RB:  Hector Bellerin (2017), Tafari Moore (2020)

LB: Brandon Ormonde-Ottewille (2017), Arinse Uade (2017)

CB: Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miquel (2014), Daniel Boateng ( 2014), Semi Ajayi (2015), Zach Fagan (2016), Isaac Hayden (2017), Julio Pleguezelo (2020)

CM: Francis Coquelin, Samuel Galindo (2014), Chuks Aneke (2015), Thomas Eisfeld (2015), Jon Toral (2017), Jack Jebb (2017), Kris Olsson (2017), Gedion Zelalem (2019), Dan Crowley (2020)

AM: Ryo Miyaichi (2014), Joel Campbell (2014), Wellington Silva (2015), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (2015), Serge Gnabry (2016), Zak Ansah (2016), Tarum Dawkins (2017), Alex Iwobi (2018)

ST: Yaya Sanogo (2015), Benik Afobe (2015), Chuba Akpom (2017), Austin Lipman (2017)

Although we certainly can’t plan to shape our squad to accommodate some players who may (or may not) need to be registered in the next 5 years, but seeing as some of them are talented, and the homegrown rules account for at least 8 of a squad of 25 players over the age of 21, we cannot be completely blind to their talent while going out to purchase a player.  For example, Zelalem. No one wants to hear the line about ‘killing’ Denilson again, but at the same time, here is a player who can count as an U-21 for the next 5 seasons, and yet he is on the fringes of the first team. Surely we must be aware of making space for him in the squad eventually. That of course includes looking at player contracts, planning the evolution of a squad with the right balance, depends on opportunities that open up in the future in the transfer market etc.

So for me the question is how many spots can be made available to our U21 players? (To add depth, not to compromise on quality) The ones I’d like to see get a chance would be, Martinez (3rd choice GK), one of Miquel (out of contract)/Ajayi/Hayden as 4th choice CB, one midfield spot for either Aneke or Eisfeld. And Joel Campbell to come in as well.

Ox (obviously), Gnabry and Sanogo are already members of the first team I think. Akpom and Zelalem seem very talented but I think they might need a loan first. For others like Ryo, Afobe, Wellington and Coquelin, sadly, I think the time has come and gone. What do you think?

P.S. This article was written before Arsenal released certain players. Aneke, Tarum Dawkins, and Zak Ansah among them.

Written by Shard


A very happy 26th May Gooners

May 26, 2014

1989. I was at my peak. A season ticket holder on The North Bank, and I hadn’t missed a home game. Two more left at Highbury to Derby and Wimbledon, and we can wrap it up. We blew it, then watched in horror on the Tuesday as Liverpool put five past West Ham, leaving us having to win by two clear goals at Anfield.

“I remember I was at the Football Writers’ dinner when Liverpool played West Ham,” recalls Smith. “They kept scoring, two, three, four… and we kept saying, ‘How many have we got to beat them by now?’”

Michael Thomas was equally confused. “Then George came over, messing around, punching me in the arm, saying, ‘Two-nil? Not a problem!’”

Over the past four years we’ve had great posts celebrating this anniversary, we have two bloggers – MickyDidIt89 and 26may1989 – that remind us every day that when it was up for grabs, the Arsenal team of 1989 grabbed it.

This is Big Raddy’s story of arguably the Greatest Day in Arsenal’s history.

May 26 1989, a day never to be forgotten in Gooner history, but also a preface to the modern Arsenal. Here is my story of the evening and why I think it changed the face of our fabulous club.

The run up to the game is embedded in the history books, but no-one can effectively describe the disbelief and despair that echoed around Highbury following the 2-2 home draw to Wimbledon. We had a 12 point lead over Liverpool at Xmas and had seen it whittled away to being 3 points behind. We had thrown away 5 home points in two games against poor opposition. We had choked. Goodness knows the furore had there been blogs in those days – Samaritans would have been busy!

The drudge home after the Dons game was very long. I gave little hope for our chances at Anfield and didn’t even try to get a ticket, but approaching the game I dug deep, sought some “mental strength,” found some fighting spirit.

It should be noted that the game was on a Friday night…. unheard of in those days and rare now.

My wife, thinking that football was a Saturday sport, had booked us to go to a dinner party at her new Boss´s (let’s call him Rupert) flat in the centre of Hampstead. She worked in the media business, and all the guests were from Saatchi & Saatchi.  I told her that I couldn’t attend unless I could watch the game through dinner, her response was to tell me to call Rupert. And here we come to the huge social change that came about that night, and in my opinion changed the face of football forever.

This was the season of Hillsborough, the reputation of English football fans was at an all-time low. If you liked football you were either violent or ignorant and uncultured. Football was for Yobs. Rupert, being cultured and polite, was delighted to hear from me and said that as a guest of course I could watch the game, but ….. I would have to sit at the table with the sound off and participate in the conversation.

We arrived and were shown into a beautiful dining room with a long table and I was sat at the end with a separate table for my 14″ TV. I felt humiliated and less-than, however my addiction came first and I was satisfied. The host had caterers to do the food and serve the wine allowing him to concentrate on his guests. Needless to say., I was at the opposite end of the table to him, due to his assumption that my passion must mean I was incapable of enriching any intelligent conversation.

Seriously, to those youngsters who read this, football fans were viewed as stupid. There were no University courses in Sports Management, no Soccer Academies etc et

So, the first half comes and goes and I am getting tense. At half time people were very “nice” to me, commiserating as though I had lost a pet. Champagne was flowing around the table, some guests went to the toilet to “powder their nose” and I sat there non-communicative, wishing I could find somewhere dark to be alone.

Second half kicked off. Smudger scores. I jump up shouting; they look at me as though I have escaped from a Psychiatric Unit, BUT and here is the start of the change – they got caught up in my passion. Rupert asked me to turn the TV so he could see it. Questions were asked “Who is the tall bloke who keeps raising his arm?”, Why don’t they shoot more? ( 😉 )”, “Why , when Arsenal play in red & white are they playing in yellow and blue?” Needless to say, I was incapable of speech.

The Mickey T moment. Never ever to be forgotten. It replays in my mind in slow motion (as I am sure it does for you). The whole table went mental. Jumping in the air, hugging, back-slapping and shouting. My main recollection was thinking “Where is my coat, I have to get to Highbury…”. but Rupert and his friends were high on the game. They had really enjoyed watching a half of football. They connected! If Big Raddy  – a less thuggish man you could never meet – was a football fanatic, it couldn’t be just razorblade toting thugs that went to Highbury.

I am ashamed to say that I “liberated” a couple of bottles of bubbly, grabbed the wife, and scedaddled as fast as I could to N5. I was dropped off outside the Gunners Pub carrying the champagne which lasted about 4 minutes.  The Fever Pitch film got it right, there was an enormous street party, a feeling of camaraderie never repeated. The noise was deafening and I stood on the Marble steps until around 3 a.m. Even at that time the Holloway Road was awash with jubilant Gooners , sharing laughter and booze. Fantastic.

I met Rupert and a number of the fellow guests over the following seasons. All had bought season tickets at Highbury and were as knowledgeable and connected to the Arsenal as any Gooner. Football had become the Cocaine of the Masses!

This is what the Guardian write of the game and the social effect….

“Many cite the match as a pivotal turning point in English football. Writing in The Guardian, Jason Cowley notes how instead of rioting, as had occurred at Heysel with fatal consequences, Liverpool fans stayed on after the game and applauded Arsenal “as if they understood that we were at the start of something new; that there would be no returning to the ways of old”. Cowley describes the match as “the night football was reborn” and that the event “repaired the reputation of football”.

The match is not only seen as the starting point of a renaissance in English football, but also the moment where people started to see the untapped commercial potential of live football on television.”

“Good Old Arsenal We are proud to say that name”

Big Raddy’s story.


Give Us A ‘B’: The Alternative Arsenal Alphabet

May 25, 2014

Continuing the Alternative Arsenal Alphabet, we move on to the letter B which, when lying on its side, looks quite comical.

Please remember this is the ALTERNATIVE alphabet, so don’t scream and shout at the absence of Brady and Bergkamp.

Boring

There was a time, when we kept winning games 1-0 and when George Graham’s famous defence was meaner than Scrooge, when we fans actually revelled in the ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’ epithet. But it was much more fun later on when Arsene arrived and we became ‘Scoring, Scoring Arsenal.’

Battle of Old Trafford

It was September 2003… Arsenal and Manchester United were the two best teams in the country; Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane were in their pomp; the rivalry was intense. Vieira was sent off in the 80th minute after receiving two yellow cards in three minutes – thanks in part to play-acting by Van Nistelrooy. In the dying seconds, with the score at 0-0, United won a penalty. Van Nistelrooy took it but it hit the bar. The reaction from the Arsenal players was fantastic – with Martin Keown bouncing in the Dutchman’s face like a demented Zebedee. A mass scuffle broke out, leading to five Arsenal players and two United players later being fined.

Battle of the Buffet

A little over a year later and we were back in Manchester with a 49 match unbeaten run under our belts. Mike Riley and a ridiculous dive from the Granny Shagger conspired to end our run. The fun really started in the tunnel, when scuffles broke out and Cesc Fabregas lamped a pizza onto Alex Ferguson’s head. The first and only time a pizza has been served with an extra topping of twat.

Bragg

Melvyn Bragg – or Lord Bragg to you – is one of our celebrity fans – and as one of the most erudite and intelligent gents in the land (check out his wonderful “In Our Time” show on Radio 4), it just goes to show that Arsenal supporters are the brightest and the best. By contrast the Spuds boast Darren Day and Chas ‘n’ Dave among their support, while the Chavs have David Mellor and Michael Greco.

Banana

Chelsea fans can bombard our players with a thousand sticks of celery at Wembley and that’s OK; Spud fans can pelt an injured player (Theo) and the stretcher bearers who are carrying him with coins and that’s OK. One Arsenal fan throws a single banana at Gareth Bale and he gets banned for three years (perhaps he should have launched an a-peel). Mind you, I did like this line from the trial: “Thomas Flint, who, the court heard, has no interests other than football, was sentenced to a three-year football banning order, fined £250 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a £25 victim surcharge.”

Buying Trophies

It may work for the Oilygarchs of Manchester and West London, but I am delighted to say that it’s something that Britain’s classiest club does not engage in.

Right that’s a few to get you started… now over to you.

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