An Arsenal Blast from the Past No. 9 …… George Graham – his Arsenal Years

April 11, 2014

George was the youngest of seven children, his father died of tuberculosis when he was less than a month old. He displayed considerable promise as a young footballer, and was signed by Aston Villa on his 17th birthday, in 1961, but only made eight appearances for them in three seasons. He was transferred to Chelsea in July 1964 where he scored 35 goals in 72 league games and also and won a League Cup medal in 1965, however his time at the club became uncertain after he clashed with his volatile manager Tommy Docherty.

At the time Arsenal were looking for a replacement for Joe Baker, and paid £75,000 plus Tommy Baldwin in 1966 to bring gg1Graham to Highbury and he immediately became a first team regular and was Arsenal’s top scorer in both 1966–67 and 1967–68. After being a runner-up in both the 1968 and 1969 League Cup finals, he finally won a medal with Arsenal’s victory in the1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. He followed it up by being a key member of Arsenal’s Double-winning side of 1970–71. Midway through the 1971-72 season Alan Ball became an Arsenal Player which led George to being transferred to Manchester United in December 1972. He had played in 308 matches for Arsenal, scoring 77 goals.

After retiring as a player he turned to coaching and managed at Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and then Millwall. He guided Millwall from bottom of the old Third Division to the old Second Division and after he left the club in 1986, they went on to win the Second Division gaining promotion to the First Division in 1987–88.

In the mean time Arsenal were going through a torrid period in their history and had only won 4 trophies in the 33 year period from 1953-54 to 1985/86. The European Fairs Cup in 1969/70 and the double in 1970/71, under Bertie Mee then there was an eight year wait until we won The FA Cup under Terry Neill in 1978/79. The club dismissed manager Don Howe in March 1986 following yet 3 more trophy less seasons and finishing an average of seventh in the league.

Arsenal expressed interest in appointing Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson as their new manager with Graham as his assistant but Ferguson decided to wait until after the World Cup that summer before deciding on his future, and so the Arsenal directors gg man3appointed Graham as the new manager on 14 May 1986. Graham cleared out much of the old guard and replaced them with new signings and players promoted from the youth team, while imposing much stricter discipline than his predecessors, both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Arsenal’s form immediately improved, so much so that the club were top of the League at Christmas 1986, the club’s centenary, for the first time in a decade but they eventually finished in fourth position. The following season they went on to win the 1987 League Cup and reached the final again in 1988 where they suffered a shock 3–2 defeat to Luton Town.

His sides displayed tight defensive discipline, embodied by Captain Tony Adams, who along with Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, formed the basis of the club’s defence for over a decade. To compliment his stingy defence he also had capable midfielders like David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, plus a prolific striker in Alan Smith.

At the end of his third season in charge (1988-89) Arsenal won their first League title since 1971, when Graham had been an Arsenal player, and they won in a highly dramatic fashion, in the final game of the season against Liverpool at Anfield; Arsenal needed to win by two goals to take the title; Alan Smith scored for Arsenal early in the second half to make it 1–0, but as time ticked down Arsenal struggled to get a second, and with 90 minutes gone on the clock, Arsenal still needed another goal. With only seconds to go, an Alan Smith flick-on found Michael Thomas surging through the Liverpool defence he calmly lifted the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar and into the net, and Arsenal were League Champions. After finishing fourth in 1990, he signed goalkeeper David Seaman and Swedish winger Anders Limpar in the close season; both players proved to be important as Arsenal went on to win Graham’s second title in 1990–91. In the autumn of 1991 season he signed Arsenal’s eventual second all-time top scorer Ian Wright and gained the club’s first entry in the European Cup for 20 years.

champions1991

After the 1991-92 season he changed the teams tactics; he became more defensive and turned out far less attack-minded sides, which depended mainly on goals from Wright rather than the whole team. Between 1986–87 and 1991–92 Arsenal averaged 66 League goals a season (scoring 81 in 1991–92), but between 1992–93 and 1994–95 only averaged 48; this included just 40 in 1992–93, when Arsenal finished 10th in the inaugural season of the FA Premier League, scoring fewer than any other team in the division and 1-0 to The Arsenal began to echo around the grounds.

cc cup

In the 1992–93 season Arsenal became the first side to win the FA Cup (in a replay) and League Cup double, beating Sheffield Wednesday on both occasions by a 2–1 score. The next season they continued in the same vein, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, their second European trophy; in the final Arsenal beat favourites and holders Parma 1–0 with a typically tight defensive performance and Alan Smith’s 21st minute goal.

Unfortunately the 1994 Cup Winners’ Cup proved to be George Graham’s last trophy at the club; the following February he was dismissed by Arsenal after nearly nine years in charge. It was discovered he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge following Arsenal’s 1992 acquisition of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen, two of Hauge’s clients. After admitting he had received an “unsolicited gift” from Hauge the Football Association banned him for a year – due to his involvement in the scandal.

The Arsenal statement

“Arsenal FC has now been informed by the FA Premier League Inquiry of the results of their investigations into alleged irregularities concerning certain transfers and the Board have concluded that Mr Graham did not act in the best interests of the club. The Board have therefore terminated Mr Graham’s contract as manager. The chairman said that it was sad that Mr Graham’s distinguished career with Arsenal FC should have to end in this way and he paid tribute to Mr Graham for the success that he had brought to the club over the past eight and a half years. Stewart Houston will assume the responsibilities of manager.”

It was an unpleasant way to bring his career at Arsenal to an end.

GunnerN5


An Arsenal Blast from the Past No. 8 1970/71 – Arsenal’s 1st Double

April 4, 2014

Let’s start off with a picture of one of our most Famous teams.

1970 71 team photo

Arsenal’s first double in 1970/71 was a triumph for collective efficiency and steely resolution. At one point in the league they were seven points behind Leeds United and of all places to go the Gunners had to travel to White Hart Lane, for the final game of the season on Monday May 3rd, 1971. They knew that they needed either a win or to secure a scoreless draw to bring the title back to Highbury for the first time since 1953. A score draw would not do as Leeds United was waiting hoping for an Arsenal slip-up.

programme

51,192 fans managed to squeeze into White Hart Lane (The Cockerel Coop) with thousands of fans outside hoping to get in – (GN5 included, but sadly to no avail). Spurs were desperate to deny Arsenal the bragging rights in North London. It was a difficult situation to be in for the Gunners as oddly enough if they scored, they still couldn’t dare concede for as I mentioned above, a score draw would have shattered Arsenal’s dreams.

A Spurs goal at any stage was most unwelcome. Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings was in splendid form and made many fine saves throughout as Arsenal tried to break the deadlock. In the end, Arsenal was the team to break that deadlock.

In the 88th minute, Ray Kennedy headed in a George Armstrong cross via the underside of the bar.

kenedy goal

The goal only meant Tottenham increased their pressure further in hopes of preventing Arsenal winning the title. A Tottenham goal would have been enough for Leeds to win the title, but there was very limited time for them to do it in.

In the end Arsenal prevailed. Bob Wilson prevented any Spurs equaliser from happening and Arsenal sealed the first half of the Double by winning the league in front of Tottenham supporters at White Hart Lane, much to the delight of our ecstatic fans.

One of GN5’s program’s from the Double season with some very famous autographs.

gn5s programme

Next up was the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday May 8th, 1971 – it turned out to be a classic encounter with Liverpool in front of a crowd of 100,000 raving supporters.

Arsenal had been drawn away in every round of the Cup and in the semi-final were 2-0 down to Stoke City, before equalising with a very controversial last minute penalty.

peter storey

This forced a replay at Villa Park four days later, a game Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from George Graham and Ray Kennedy.

Now to the small matter of the most important game in our history – The FA Cup Final

A victory over Liverpool would give us our 1st League and Cup double.

Due to the clash of Liverpool’s red strip with Arsenal’s red and white colours, Arsenal wore their away strip of yellow shirt and blue shorts.

Arsenal won 2–1 after extra time, with all three goals coming in the added half hour. Steve Heighway opened the scoring for Liverpool with a low drive past Bob Wilson on his near post. However, Arsenal equalised with a scrambled goal from substitute Eddie Kelly – the first time a substitute had ever scored in an FA Cup final. The goal was initially credited to George Graham, but replays showed that the decisive touch came from Kelly after Graham had struck the shot. Charlie George then scored a dramatic winner late in extra time, when his long range effort flew past Ray Clemence. This prompted George into a famous celebration – lying on his back on the Wembley turf waiting for his team mates to pick him up.

CharlieGeorge_468x301
The match was played in a great spirit of sportsmanship by the players and was responded to as such by the fans. When Liverpool’s Lawler was floored with cramp late in extra time, he was helped to recover by two Arsenal players. Arsenal’s victory – and double win after a gruelling 64-match season – was greeted with an ovation by both their own and Liverpool’s fans at the stadium, and Liverpool were also cheered by both sets of fans as they took a lap of honour after the presentation of the trophy and medals.

c g with medals
This picture is reprinted from Gunner N5’s original copy of the Evening Standard. Boy oh boy – that’s hair to make even our own Kelsey jealous.

Finally some more details of the Double winning team.

newspaper
GunnerN5


Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders : Early Era’s Vote Time

June 29, 2013

Time for another vote in our summer quest to find our greatest squad. And as in previous weeks you have the chance today to vote for midfielders from our earlier era’s. Don’t worry your recent heroes come next week.

You can vote for up to 3 players if you find the decision difficult,

If you’ve missed out on reading the excellent articles earlier this week check out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s posts.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile


Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders Day 3

June 27, 2013

Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we continue to highlight the midfielders.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite midfielder by voting in the poll at the end of the week

7. George Eastham: 1960-1966

George played in 223 games over a six year period.

1632512_display_imageBorn in Blackpool, Lancashire, he was part of a football family — his father George Eastham, Sr., was an England international who played for Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool, while his uncle Harry Eastham played for Liverpool and Accrington Stanley.

George junior first played for Northern Irish club Ards, where his father was player-manager, and the two played together on the pitch. A skilful midfielder/inside forward, he was signed by Newcastle United in 1956, and made his debut in October 1956. He spent four seasons with the Magpies and during his time there he won caps for the Football League and the England U23 side. He played 125 games for Newcastle, scoring 34 goals.

However, during his time at Newcastle United he fell out with the club over the house they had supplied him to live in and their attempts to stop him playing for the England U23 team.

With his contract due to expire in 1959, he refused to sign a new one and requested a transfer. However, Newcastle refused to let him go. At the time, clubs operated a system known as retain-and-transfer, which meant that teams could keep a player’s registration (thus preventing them from moving) while refusing to pay them if they had requested a transfer. Unable to leave, George went on strike at the end of the 1959–60 season, eventually taking the club to the High Court in 1963. As a result, although he did not gain personally, he succeeded in reforming the British transfer market. The “retain” element of retain-and-transfer was greatly reduced, providing fairer terms for players looking to re-sign for their clubs, and setting up a transfer tribunal for disputes.

After winning his case he signed for Arsenal and made his debut in 10 December 1960, scoring twice. Throughout his six seasons at Arsenal, he was a regular for the side; though not a prolific goal scorer, George was one of the most talented players in an average Arsenal team. Under manager’s George Swindin and Billy Wright, Arsenal never finished higher than 7th during his time there. His  time at Arsenal was often turbulent; as well as the court case against Newcastle United, he fell out with Arsenal after asking for a pay rise following the maximum wage’s abolishment in 1961. In both 1963–64 and 1964–65 he scored ten goals, the most per season during his Arsenal career, which included two in a 4–4 draw in a memorable North London derby match against Tottenham Hotspur at Highbury in 1963.

It was at Arsenal that his international career flourished; he joined the England squad for the 1962 FIFA World Cup as an uncapped player; his England debut finally came in 1963, against Brazil. In the 1966 World Cup final only the 11 players on the pitch at the end of the 4–2 win over West Germany received medals. Following a Football Association led campaign to persuade FIFA to award medals to all the winners’ squad members, George was presented with his medal by Gordon Brown at a ceremony at 10 Downing Street on 10 June 2009.

In February 1971, at the age of 34, George took a break from playing in order to develop his coaching ability, with the view of going into management. He embarked on a trip to South Africa, playing on loan with Cape Town City before having a spell as player-manager of Hellenic, who had previously been managed by his father.[ He returned to Stoke in October 1971, to continue his playing career. He made 194 league appearances for Stoke City in total, scoring four goals.

George retired from playing in 1974, having been awarded the OBE for services to football the previous year.

He quit professional football completely, and emigrated to South Africa in 1978. where he set up his own sportswear business as well as being a football coach for local black children. He is also chairman of the South African Arsenal Supporters’ Club.

8. Jon Sammels: 1961-1971.

Jon appeared in 270 matched over a 10 year period.

gun__1277731613_sammels_jonBorn in Ipswich, Suffolk, Jon joined Arsenal, the club he supported as a boy, in 1961, he was a regular in the reserves and a successful youth international winning seven caps for England.

He scored on his first-team debut for the Gunners on 27 April 1963, against Blackpool. However, he only played sparingly, twice in 1963-64 and not at all in 1964-65 and he did not secure a place in the side until the departure of Geoff Strong, and later George Eastham.

Not many footballers can say they’ve scored twice in a win over Brazil but Jon can, some of the world’s finest players descended on Highbury in November 1965 (although Pele and his fellow Santos internationals did not make the trip) but Jon stole the show with a goal in either half. And he was only 20 at the time.

Noted for his accurate passing and strong shooting, he broke through in 1965-66 and was an ever-present during the 1966-67 season. As well as being a regular for Arsenal, Jon played for the England U23 side nine times. He played in both of Arsenal’s League Cup final defeats in 1968 and 1969, before finally claiming a medal in the 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup; he scored Arsenal’s winning goal in their 4-3 victory on aggregate over RSC Anderlecht, after Arsenal had trailed 3-1 after the first leg.

However, he lost his first team place in the 1970-71 season, thanks to an ankle injury and the emergence of George Graham; although he played enough games to win a First Division winner’s medal, but did not take part in the Gunners’ FA Cup Final win over Liverpool that completed their Double-winning season.

He submitted a transfer request, and he was duly sold to Leicester City for £100,000, Jon was a regular in the Leicester side for the next seven seasons, playing 265 matches for the Foxes, scoring 25 goals. Under Jimmy Bloomfield, Leicester were a talented and exciting side, but the only trophy they won was the 1971 Charity Shield, and they never finished above seventh in the League. He left Leicester on a free transfer in 1978, and played for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the NASL for a single season.

After that, he retired from the game and returned to the UK.

9. George Graham: 1966-1972.

George appeared in 308 games over a 6 year period.

Born in Bargeddie, Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest of seven children, George grew up in poverty in Bargeddie, near Coatbridge. He showed considerable promise as a footballer, and clubs like Newcastle United, Chelsea and Aston Villa showed an interest in his talent.

ggrahamHe signed for Aston Villa in 1961, on his 17th birthday and spent three seasons at the Birmingham club, making only eight appearances. Chelsea signed him in 1964 for £5000.  George scored 35 goals in 72 league games for the club and won a League Cup medal in 1965, but he fell out with the Chelsea’s manager, Tommy Docherty.  At the same time, Arsenal were looking for a replacement for Joe Baker, and paid £75,000 plus Tommy Baldwin in 1966 to bring George to Highbury. He made his debut on 1 October 1966 at home to Leicester City and soon became a regular in the Arsenal side. He was Arsenal’s top scorer in both 1966–67 and 1967–68, having started out as a centre forward for the club, but later moved to inside forward.

He was a runner-up in both the 1968 and 1969 League Cup finals, before finally winning a medal in the 1969–70, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. He followed it up with being an integral part of Arsenal’s Double-winning side of 1970–71, and even had a claim to scoring Arsenal’s equaliser in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool, although Eddie Kelly is officially credited with the goal.

Winning the “Double” brought the attention of Scotland and he was selected for the national side for the first time against Portugal in 1971. He would go on to win twelve caps over the next two years for Scotland, scoring three goals, his final one coming against Brazil, by this time he was no longer an Arsenal player. The arrival of Alan Ball made his position at Arsenal less assured so he moved to Manchester United in December 1972 for £120,000. He spent two years at United, and was relegated to Division Two, before seeing out his career in England at Portsmouth and Crystal Palace. He played the summer of 1978 in America for the California Surf.

After retiring from playing, he became a coach at Crystal Palace and then later Queens Park Rangers. With the dismissal of Don Howe as Arsenal manager in March 1986, the Arsenal directors were interested in appointing Alex Ferguson, as their new manager with Graham as his assistant. However, Ferguson decided to wait until after the World Cup that summer before making a decision on his future, and so the Arsenal directors appointed Graham as their new manager on 14 May 1986.

In total, he played 308 matches for Arsenal, scoring 77 goals.

10. Frank McLintock: 1964-1973.

Frank appeared in 403 games over a 9 year period.

Frank was born in Glasgow and brought up in the Gorbals, he started his career in the Scottish Juniors with Shawfield, before moving to Leicester City in 1957 as a wing half, making his debut for them in 1959. He spent seven years at Filbert Street and he reached, but lost, two FA Cup finals (1961 and 1963) and a winning League Cup final (1964) During this time he also made his debut for Scotland, against Norway on 4 June 1963.

frank-mclintock-arsenal-football-player-1972In October 1964, he was signed by Arsenal for a club record £80,000 and went straight into the first team. He spent the next nine seasons with the Gunners, moving from midfield to centre half. He was a first-choice player throughout, and became the club’s captain in 1967, and would go on to skipper the club during their period of success under Bertie Mee. He reached  two League Cup finals (losing both, in 1968 and 1969), and became so disheartened that he handed in a transfer request in 1969, but manager Bertie Mee persuaded him to stay, and he went on to win three major trophies in the space of two years. In 1969-70, Frank led Arsenal to an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final win beating Anderlecht 4–3 on aggregate. The following year, 1970-71 , he lifted the club’s first League and FA Cup Double.

He went on to play for Queens Park Rangers and spent four seasons with them making a total of 127 League appearances before finally retiring from the game in the 1977 close season. In all, he played over 700 times for his three clubs combined.

After retiring from playing, he joined his old club Leicester City as manager in 1977. However, he endured a difficult time in charge, and City went through a spell where they had one win in 26 matches. He was later manager of Brentford between 1984 and 1987, and then a coach at Millwall, helping the club gain promotion to the old Division One.

In 1971 he won the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award. In 1972 he was made an MBE and in 2009 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

In total, he had played 403 matches for Arsenal, scoring 32 goals.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile


Arsenal’s Greatest Squad 1st Vote – Greatest Manager

June 1, 2013

This week GN5 has provided us with a review of our greatest ever managers, its been interesting reading and quite illuminating discovering things about our managers, I knew the names I knew some were physios becoming managers, but there was lots of info I had no clue about.

I have known five managers in my lifetime, Terry Neil, Don Howe, George Graham, Bruce Rioch and Arsene Wenger, only two feature in this poll, which makes voting difficult, but GN5 has given me much food for thought as to where my vote should go.

Below is a handy spreadsheet showing the statistical achievements of the candidates, numbers can’t show what the manager did for the club in other ways.

HC GA TW BM GG AW
# Games 336 294 378 420 364 638
Games Won 157 137 171 181 167 368
Games Drawn 84 80 101 115 108 161
Games Lost 95 77 106 124 89 109
Goals For 736 552 677 554 543 1206
Goals For per Game 2.19 1.88 1.79 1.32 1.49 1.89
Goals Against 541 345 509 444 327 601
Goals Against per Game 1.61 1.17 1.35 1.06 0.90 0.94
% of Points Won 59.3 60.2 58.6 56.8 55.6 66.1
League Titles 2 3 2 1 2 3
FA Cups 1 1 1 1 1 4
League Cups 0 0 0 0 2 0
European Cups 0 0 0 1 1 0
Charity Shields 3 3 2 0 0 4

Also have a look at the posts that have been written over the last week:

Chapman and Allison

Whittaker and Mee

Graham and Wenger

So now its over to you:


Arsenal’s Best Ever Transfer Manager

June 4, 2012

We judge managers on many criteria, the most obvious of which is winning trophies.

But not far behind the acquiring of silverware comes the ability to find great players and bring them to The Arsenal.

In those stakes there are some interesting contenders for the crown of our club’s best ever “picker”.

Read on… then vote for the one you think has been the best in this regard.

Bertie Mee

Bertie’s appointment from physio to manager in 1966 was a big shock to most people (him included – he insisted on a clause in his contract that he could return to physiotherapy after 12 months if the management thingy didn’t work out). Bertie had a strong core of players to build on, but he brought in (or promoted from the youth team): George Graham (Chelsea), Bob McNab (Huddersfield), Pat Rice (youth), Charlie George (youth), Eddie Kelly (youth), Ray Kennedy (Port Vale), Sammy Nelson (youth), Liam Brady (youth), Frank Stapleton (youth) and David O’Leary (youth). Pick the legends out of that lot! However he also recruited Peter Marinello, Alan Ball and Bobby Gould, none of whom were great successes at Arsenal.

Arsène Wenger

Like Bertie Mee, Arsène was able to build on some great foundations when he got the best job in football in 1996. The George Graham back four was still in place and the club had also acquired a certain talismanic Dutchman. But our new French coach made signings that would really bring back the glory days: Vieira from Milan; Petit from Monaco; Anelka from PSG; Overmars from Ajax; Henry from Juventus; Ljungberg from Halmstad; Campbell from Hell; Toure from ASEC Mimosas and more. In 1998, 2002 and 2004 those players brought us huge success and some stunning football.  Since then we have seen many other fine players arrive under Arsene’s stewardship (Van Persie, Fabregas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain), but seven potless years have also led to questioning as to whether his “picking powers” are on the wane.

Terry Neill

Terry was at the helm from 1976 to 1983. During that time he took us to three FA Cup Finals (sadly we won only one of them), plus a Cup Winners Cup Final (lost) and a third place finish in the league in 1980-81.  His key signings were Malcolm MacDonald (from Newcastle), Alan Sunderland (Wolves) and Pat Jennings (the Swamp). Graham Rix was his most notable promotion from the youth team. Supermac, in particular, was a great signing who really lifted the club. He scored 42 goals in 84 appearances for us before injury brought an untimely end to his career.

Herbert Chapman

Chapman spent several years failing to achieve much success after joining Arsenal from Huddersfield Town in 1925, but after winning the FA Cup in 1930 he oversaw one of the most successful periods ever in our club’s history – an era of dominance that ended prematurely with Herbert’s sudden death from pneumonia. His most significant signings included such legendary Arsenal figures as Alex James (Preston NE), Cliff Bastin (Exeter), David Jack (Bolton), Eddie Hapgood (Kettering) and Herbie Roberts (Oswestry).

Billy Wright

Billy managed Arsenal from 1962 to 1966 and his reign brought no major trophies. However, he helped lay the foundations of the success that would follow a few years later. Billy’s transfers included Bob Wilson who arrived from Wolves and Frank McLintock, from Leicester. Both would go on to be vital members of the 1971 Double side, Frank as the captain. Billy also promoted several promising youngsters into the first team, including Peter Simpson, John Radford, Peter Storey and George Armstrong, so he could certainly spot a player.

George Graham

The “famous back four” will always constitute Gorgeous George’s most lasting legacy to Arsenal. When he took over as manager in 1986 he found Tony Adams, Paul Merson, Micky Thomas, Paul Davis and David Rocastle all waiting for him. Graham was quick to make Adams his captain and to put his faith in this outstanding crop of young players. But he had to transfer in the other components of the legendary defensive unit: Winterburn from Wimbledon; Dixon and Bould from Stoke and Keown from Everton.  When you consider that George also brought us the joy of watching the likes of Ian Wright, Alan Smith, Anders Limpar and David Seaman, you can see how effective his transfer instincts were. However, in his later years the signings (or promoting) of players like Kiwomya, Carter, Morrow, Hillier, Helder, Jensen and Selley provided a bit of a knock to his reputation.

So, who do you think has been our best picker of players ever?

RockyLives


George Graham: A personal Retrospective.

May 25, 2012

There are moments in a football life that live forever. We all have them -Micky T at Anfield, TA6’s goal v Everton, TH14’s v MU, Dennis at Newcastle or Freddie in Cardiff. But it is the childhoood memories which really stand out and for me they are often connected to the ’70-’71 Double team. One of my favourite ever goals was scored by one of my early heroes – George Graham.  Nicknamed “Stroller” thanks to his languid style, Graham was a frustrating player, capable both of brilliance and walking through a game contributing nothing.

This goal was against Man Utd at a packed Highbury, 60+ thousand fans in a steamy, smoke filled stadium. I was in the North Bank, about half way up, just under the roof – I wasn’t big or brave enough to join the lads up the back. The Man Utd team included the brilliant George Best and Best scored one his goals in front of the North Bank. The signature arm raised salute was given a volley of abuse from the North Bank Gooners but we all knew we had seen something special. Then we got  a corner, or it could have come from a Geordie Armstrong cross – either way the ball came in from the wing at The Clock End, and in what seemed to be slow motion Stroller leapt into the air and scissor kicked the ball from the edge of the area leaving the keeper (Stepney?) groping for air. Highbury went wild – at least that is how it is in my current alcohol raddled head.

It doesn’t matter whether my memory is historically correct – we didn’t have the internet or Sky – what is important is the effect it had upon the young BR and his relationship to George Graham. GG went from being an ex-Chelsea Scottish striker into being The Man – and for some time he was. Imagine a taller Paul Merson, GG was the same type of player – infuriating and yet spectacular.

When he left to join MU I was upset but by then we had Charlie George and Big Raddy and had won the Double. It hurt as much as when Kolo went North.

Of course, as George was an ex-Gunner I followed his career and was delighted when he made a success of his first management job at “No-one likes us, we don’t care” Millwall. However, his management style was such a change from his playing – suddenly, the effete, artistic, Stroller had become a Sergeant Major. Gone were the King’s Rd dolly birds and the expensive suits, in their place was the 3 button Blazer and a club tie. Taking Millwall from the bottom of the then 3rd Division to the top of the Second in just 3 seasons, George was a manager to watch.

Then came the surprising news that Don Howe was to be replaced by GG!!  I was delighted to have another Arsenal man at the helm. The League Cup followed in his first season, then Anfield ´89, and the FA Cup,  and the one-loss Champions of ’91, and perhaps his greatest achievement, the classic 1-0 in Copenhagen.

GG brought all this to the Arsenal and yet we were greedy. We wanted to see the expansive football which he first brought to AFC. We were sick of seeing a midfield of shire-horses punting the ball up to the genius of Ian Wright; the time was ripe for change and when it came it was to be shocking. As shocking as anything I can remember in football. As the news leaked of the Bung Scandal, we couldn’t believe it – “Not our George. not The Stroller,. He doesn’t need the money living in his beautiful Hampstead mansion”. But we were wrong, you could take the man out of the Gorbals but not the Gorbals out of the man.  I am still in shock!

But on the terraces of the Clock End we were excited, we knew Arsenal had to move on and we knew that if George went “upstairs” his shadow would affect any new manager. This was the best for the future of the club –  certainly not for George but no-one made him dip his beak.

I was delighted to see George on the pitch for the 125th Anniversary. He is a huge part of Arsenal’s history and despite him tarnishing the reputation of the club, he remains an Arsenal great. Had he not been so bloody stupid there would be a statue of GG outside the Emirates. But he was, and despite 230 games as a player and 460+ games as manager, he remains a peripheral figure at Arsenal.

George Graham remains a massive Arsenal fan with a huge collection of Arsenal memorabilia. Let us not forget that this is a man who had a cannon mosaic in his garden whilst managing Spurs.

To me George Graham will always be the man who scored that goal against United, for that and 26/5/1989, I am eternally grateful.