Did they really play for Arsenal?

October 24, 2014

This is a short starter for Rant Friday and concerns our ex-players who have become pundits.

Let’s start with a man who has a clear anti-Arsenal agenda, Stewart Robson. I have no idea why such an admired player (pre-injury) has turned into a man who cannot speak without being negative about our boys but whatever it is it must have been painful because he clearly hates his former employers.

Then there are the Sky boys. Smudger Smith was one of my heroes. Known as “The Professor” in the dressing room because he read broadsheet newspapers Smith rarely is complimentary about our boys, choosing instead to tell us how much better the opposition is and then laying into our lads, in particular JW.

Merse. Mercurial on the pitch and a buffoon off it. Is this illiterate the best Sky can come up with?

George Graham. I guess he has reason to be anti-AW but I hoped for better from a man who brought not only trophies but dishonour to the club.

O’Leary. Our appearance record holder and yet persona non grata at THOF. Why?

At least we have Ian Wright, Wright, Wright, TH14 and Lee Dixon fighting our corner.

Want to moan about them apples??

written by Big Raddy

 

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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.


First vs Third

November 23, 2013

Firstly, I have to say how impressed I am with our feeder team’s current form, nothing less than wonderful. One of the problems with the advantages given to the CL clubs and those backed by billionaires is that the romance has gone out of the league table. Never again will Wolves or Portsmouth or Spurs win the title, those days disappeared with the advent of colour television.

So we are delighted when after a third (almost) of the season an unfancied club can be 3rd in the table playing attractive football. Given the furore following Adams sacking and the arrival of the unknown Pochettino, Southampton’s revival has been the stuff of fairy tales. Built upon a sold defence and a hard working midfield, they have embarrassed a few of the top clubs and will be looking to do the same this afternoon.

But is their style so advanced? Big strong centre backs, fast athletic full backs, hard workers in midfield with both destroyers (Schnitzel and Wagamamma) and craft (Lollipop), wingmen and a big centre forward who is excellent in the air. Seems to me a bit like our ’89 double team.

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An *80’s Ricky Lambert?

As usual you will be better served on other sites if you are after tactics or stats.

Instead let’s look at a couple of players.. Wanyama: After a poor start he has acclimatised to the PL and is looking a fine signing. It must be said that I expected him to be lining up on our side this afternoon but I guess the signing of Flamini negated the need for a DM. He was superb for Celtic and I think will do well  throughout the season, always assuming he doesn’t go the route of other “hard men” like Frimpers and Tiote who allow their reputations to affect their play – it is no good crunching into a tackle, winning the ball and then passing the ball straight back to the opposition!

Then there is Lovren. Brilliant signing – no other words for it. Who knew? And only 24 y.o. Expect to see a big money transfer in the next couple of seasons, especially as he will be going to Brazil with Croatia. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the movement of our forwards but alongside  Hooiveld he has created a mean defence.

Arsenal: Much has been made of the return of Theo and his potential link up with Ozil,but I expect our flyer will  get 20 mins at most. Instead we much “make do” with the team which has taken us to the Top of The League! It would be great if Rosicky is fit but there are doubts, so maybe Mr Wenger will be brave and play Wilshere in a very attack based midfield?

My team:

arse v saintsOur bench is getting stronger. Will Nik B still keep his seat? Fabianski, Monreal, Gnabry, Theo, Rosicky, Vermaelen, Jenks. Sorry Nik – it is back to the stiffs for you young man.

Would be lovely to see OG back amongst the goals but I fear that like all the other Southampton’s opponents we will struggle to score this afternoon. That said, if we can score early then the Saints will have to be more expansive.

Another disadvantage is that most of our chaps have been away on international duty – Santi and Monreal has been all over the Africa. Thankfully, Ramsey and Ozil, two players who are in the “red zone” have been rested, and Koscielny, due to another rush of blood, missed the Ukraine game, that victory will give added vava boom to our French contingent.

This should be an entertaining game with Arsenal having to find a solution to Southampton’s pressing game. If we really are to win the title this is an important game to win and I can see no reason why we cannot gain the three points. The loss to the Surrey Devils was painful but we left knowing the best team had lost, lose points today and there will be question marks.

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It is the duty of all you lucky people who are going today to lift the team. Say it loud and say it proud – “We are the Arsenal and we are the Best …..”

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Arsenal’s Greatest Forwards – 5th Day

July 17, 2013

AContinuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we will end our quest for the greatest forwards to include in our team.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite striker, this weeks posts will bring us bang up to date and there will be a vote on Saturday.

14. Frank Stapleton: 1972-1981.

Frank appeared in 300 games over a 9 year period and scored 108 goals.

Frank was born in Dublin, he started his career with Arsenal, joining them in 1972 as an apprentice, after he was turned down by Manchester United. He made his first-team debut in 1975 against Stoke City, and went on to form a potent striking partnership with Malcolm Macdonald; the two scored 46 goals between them in 1976–77. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for the three following seasons, and helped the Gunners reach a trio of FA Cup finals; he scored one of the goals in Arsenal’s 1979 FA Cup Final 3–2 win over Manchester United, and scored 108 goals in 300 appearances in total for the Gunners.

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Frank moved to Man United in 1981 for £900,000 (a fee set by tribunal after the two clubs could not agree). He helped United win the 1983 and 1985 FA Cups. It was in the first of those finals, when he scored against Brighton, in which he made history by becoming the first man to score for two different clubs in FA Cup Finals. He left United in 1987, after scoring 78 goals for the club in 365 matches.

He went on to play for Ajax Amsterdam, before returning to England with Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Aldershot, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City, where he spent three seasons after a brief period at Le Havre in France.

After being sacked as Bradford’s player-manager in 1994, he had a brief spell at Brighton & Hove Albion in the 1994–95 season, playing two games before finally announcing his retirement as a player.

He also won 71 caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring a then record 20 goals. he made his international debut under then player-manager Johnny Giles in a friendly against Turkey in Ankara in 1976 at 20 years of age. He scored after only three minutes of his debut when he headed home a Giles free-kick at the near post. Frank was committed to international football insisting that an “international release clause” be inserted into all of his contracts so that he could be released to play in international games for Ireland. He played a significant role in Ireland’s attempt to qualify for the World Cup in Spain in 1982. However his goals against Cyprus, Holland and France in the qualifying matches were not enough as Ireland were denied a place at the World Cup by a superior French goal difference. He was made captain of the national team for the qualifying campaign for the 1986 World Cup though Ireland failed to emulate their fine performance in the 1982 qualifiers. Frank captained the Irish team to the 1988 Euro finals and played in all of their matches during the competition including Ireland’s famous victory against England.

Frank moved to the United States to coach Major League Soccer side New England Revolution in 1996. In the 2003–04 season he briefly returned to English football as a specialist coach of Bolton Wanderers. The Bolton manager Sam Allardyce wanted Stapleton to enhance the skills of the strikers at the club and saw the Irishman as an ideal candidate, given his successful playing career. 

15. Alan Smith: 1987-1995.

Alan appeared in 347 games over an 8 year period and scored 115 goals.

Alan was born in Hollywood, Worcestershire. Alan started his career at non-league Alvechurch in north Worcestershire. He then signed professional forms with Leicester City in June 1982. In his first season, he scored 13 goals in a psmithartnership with Gary Lineker, as the Foxes won promotion to the First Division. He spent five seasons at Leicester, scoring 84 goals in 217 appearances, before he was transferred to Arsenal in 1987.

During his time with the Gunners the team won all three major domestic trophies – two League Championships, the FA Cup, the Football League Cup (in their 1993 ‘Cup Double’) and in Europe the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He scored the first goal in Arsenal’s League Championship winning victory at Anfield in May 1989, and the only goal of the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory against Parma. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons, and the top scorer in the First Division in the 1988-89 season with 23 goals

In eight seasons at Highbury, he scored a total of 86 league goals, averaging at just over 10 goals per season. His first league goals for the club came on 29 August 1987, when he netted a hat-trick in a 7–0 game versus Portsmouth at Highbury. His last came on 12 December 1994 in a 2–1 win over Manchester City in the FA Premier League at Maine Road. As well as his goals in the 1989 title clinching game and the European triumph of 1994, he scored a hat-trick against Manchester United in the First Division on 6 May 1991.

He only received one yellow card throughout his entire career. He retired from professional football in July 1995. Several clubs, including Watford, had expressed an interest in signing Alan just before he announced his retirement from playing

He is currently a regular co-commentator and sometimes studio pundit for various television shows. In 2011 he commentated on the Champions League final alongside Martin Tyler. On June 30, 2011, EA Sports announced that Smith would replace Andy Gray as Martin Tyler’s partner in commentating in FIFA 12. This partnership continued in the subsequent instalment of the series, FIFA 13

Smith is married to his childhood sweetheart, Penny and they live with their two daughters Jessie and Emily.

16. Paul Merson: 1982-1997.

Paul appeared in 425 games over a 15 year period and scored 99 goals. 

Paul was born in Harlesden, North West London, and started his career at Arsenal, joining the club as an apprentice in 1984. After a loan spell at Brentford, then under manager Frank McLintock, he made his debut for the Gunners in November 1986 against Manchester City.

mersonGradually he established himself in George Graham’s successful Arsenal side of the late 1980s. By the 1988–89 season he was a regular on the right wing, at the end of which Arsenal secured the First Division title with a last gasp Michael Thomas goal in the final game of the season against Liverpool. Paul scored ten times that season; he made his debut for the England U21 side, and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

With Arsenal, Merson bagged another league championship in 1991, both the FA Cup and League Cup in 1993 (scoring equaliser in League Cup Final v Sheffield Wednesday) and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. He also made his debut for the full England side, in a friendly against Germany on 11 September 1991.

Paul’s career was put on the line in November 1994 when he admitted to being an alcoholic and cocaine addict. The Football Association arranged for him to undergo a three-month rehabilitation programme and he returned to the side in February 1995, just before the dismissal of George Graham as manager. Under caretaker manager Stewart Houston, he helped Arsenal reach the Cup Winners’ Cup final for the second season in a row.

In 1995–96, Paul remained a regular first team player under Arsenal’s new manager Bruce Rioch and continued to play regularly during the 1996–97 season following the appointment of Arsène Wenger. In a somewhat surprising move, at the end of the 1996–97 Premiership campaign, in which Arsenal finished third, Paul was sold to relegated Middlesbrough in a £5 million deal – making him the most expensive player ever signed by a non-Premiership club. Whilst Arsene Wenger had offered a new two year contract, Middlesbrough offered double the salary available at Arsenal.

In the autumn of 1998, Paul was sold to Aston Villa for £6.75 million after wishing to be nearer to his family in the South. Subsequently he signed for Division One club Portsmouth on a two-year contract, and was instrumental in the club’s promotion to the Premiership in 2002–03.

Paul first played for the England national team in 1991, being called up by Graham Taylor. He also participated in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden.  1998 marked the end of his international career after 21 full caps in seven years, in which he scored three times.

GunnerN5


Happy 26th May

May 26, 2013

Football is all about the creation of heroes.

When we think about how a game was won or lost we search for the person/people that affected the outcome. Last night Arjen Robben became a hero scoring in the 88th minute of a game that looked destined for extra time and penalties.

Last weekend Laurent Koscielny became our hero for scoring against Newcastle and securing fourth place for us.

All teams have their heroes, some can do it on a consistent basis whereas others just manage one moment that gets them into the history books.

Some footballers can by their own actions drive their team to victory and others that shoulder the responsibilty are unable to do so. Sometimes it’s down to the gods to smile on the winning side ……. it was meant to be.

On the 26th May 1989 Arsenal went to Anfield for the final game of the season. A win by two clear goals would snatch the title away from Liverpool and on that night the footballing gods were on our side. We were victorious and that team of heroes earned their place in Arsenal folklore.

Many of you might recognise yourselves or others in the following clip ………. enjoy.

Which games stand out for you where a hero was born? Or which of your heroes always pulled all the stops? Feel free to add video clips in your comments for others to enjoy.

Have a nice day.

Written by peachesgooner


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