Arsenal’s Hairy Upper Lip

November 22, 2011

As many will know, we are in the middle of Movember. Yup, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland, chaps are being encouraged to let the above-the-lip stuff grow unchecked for a month.

And this has exactly what to do with the greatest football club in the world (that’s us, in case there’s any misunderstanding)? Well, it made me wonder about who the best moustachioed Arsenal players have been in my years in harness. My criteria are entirely arbitrary, frankly I don’t really understand them myself, but both the quality of the moustache and the quality of the player are somehow taken into account.  Full-on beardies are excluded.  Here’s my countdown:

10. Chris Whyte: An Islington-born centre-back in the sides of the early to mid 80s.  His patchy hair was more noted than his upper lip furniture, but he nonetheless was a proud exponent of the mou.  Whyte was an adequate defender but who also enjoyably filled in as striker for a while (easy to enjoy because we were hopelessly rubbish at the time, so playing a centre-back up front was good for a laugh).  But he left the club disconsolate when not offered a new contract, and spent two years playing US indoor footy before enjoying a renaissance with West Brom and then Leeds, culminating in being an ever present and playing alongside Cantona, McAllister and Strachan in the title-winning 1992 side.

9. Alan Sunderland: A man who sported the finest example of the white man’s afro, complemented by an unrepentant moustache. Sunderland deserves a higher profile in our history books, he was a potent striker, most famous for scoring the winning goal in 1979′s “five-minute final” against Man U – we were coasting at 2-0 before Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy pulled it back to 2-2 in the closing minutes. Liam Brady then burst forward, released Graham Rix on the left, who floated over a high looping cross that Gary Bailey in the United goal flapped at, only to see Sunderland sweep it home at the back post. A mammoth moment. And it secured the only trophy we picked up between 1971 and 1987.

8. Viv Anderson: Many refuse to acknowledge Anderson on account of his enthusiastic departure for United (he was Ferguson’s first signing), but he was a great recruit from recent European Champs, Nottingham Forest.  With Sansom on the left flank, for a while we provided the England team with both their full-backs (Anderson having been the first black player to play for England).  I also remember being on the North Bank when a goal from big Viv contributed to a glorious 3-1 win over the mighty Liverpool.  Classic Phil Lynott-styke tache

7. Robert Pires: I still love Pires, he was such a fantastically creative player to watch.  The insanely good goal against Southampton stands out, but there were so many.  And with Henry, Bergkamp and Ljungberg, he was part of possibly the best attacking line Arsenal have ever had.  And the ludicrously Gallic Three Musketeers moustache that sometimes adorned his upper lip was the perfect accoutrement to the man.

6. Kevin Richardson: A man with no known nickname, a solid, dependable, no-nonsense, ego-free, moustachioed Geordie.  A real pro, George Graham loved him, and Richardson was a member of the side that won at Anfield THAT night in 1989.  His tache?  Well, it was a tache, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing extravagant, just your regular Joe moustache.  He looked like he would’ve been at ease in Edwardian England.

5. Kevin Campbell: Superkev – we loved him, but let’s be honest, for all his bustle and bulk, he wasn’t very good.  He was sometimes pretty effective, and I remember fondly the two goals he scored in the stunning six we racked up against Sheffield Wednesday in the last 18 minutes of a 1992 match, the score finishing 7-1 to the good guys.  A pretty straight forward tache, looked a bit dodgy in his early years but he grew into it.

4. Ian Allinson: “Ian who?” I hear younger fans ask.  Well, Allinson might have had all the charisma of a beige carpet, but he had a glory moment in the epic three-part League Cup semi-final against Spurs in 1987, when in he came on as a sub and scored the equaliser, before Rocky got the winner and we went to Wembley and won the Cup against then-mighty Liverpool.  That win proved to be the launch pad for our renaissance and led to our title wins in 1989 and 1991.  His terrible tache was in keeping with his Austin Allegro persona.

3. Kenny Sansom: Solid mou from the ever dependable left-back. Was he worth the bizarre swap for Clive Allen, sold twice in one summer?  You bet your Gillette Shaving Gel he was.  (Oops, apols for the betting reference, not really suitable when talking about Mr S.)  Time hasn’t been kind to Sansom (though his porky deterioration is as nothing compared to what’s happened to Dean Holdsworth – has anyone seen the state of him these days? Not good).  We’ve been lucky with left-backs down the years, but Sansom ranks right up there.

2. John Jensen: The cult hero’s cult hero, bad tache, bad curly hair, bad player. Yes, I say to you, yes.  This is a man who would have been judged to look uncool in 1970s East Germany.  He was not burdened with style.  When we signed a player who scored in the European Championships Final, we might have thought we could count on the new guy for a few each season.  It didn’t work out that way, and the fans (when they had a sense of humour) adopted “We’ll be there when Jensen scores!” as a song.  And once he did score, at Loftus Road.  We still lost.

1. David Seaman: Surely the only possible winner, top tache, culminating in the fantastic bad-taste combo with Spunky’s ponytail. Oh and the best keeper we’ve ever had.  OK, he might have suffered a bit with the aerial stuff (Nayim from the halfway line, Ronaldhino etc), but the £1m we spent on bringing him from QPR was a superb investment.  Had to leave his native Yorkshire because he can smile.

So there you have it – my Gooner Tache list.  Feel free to dispute it, suggest others I’ve missed etc.

But also think about contributing to the Movember cause: if you know someone doing the business, sponsor them, and if not, you can always donate on http://uk.movember.com/ The charitable causes relate to research and awareness raising in respect of prostate and testicular cancer.  Many of us will have experienced cancer affecting family members, and these are indisputably worthy causes.

Written by 26may1989