George G …. From Stroller to Sergeant

June 26, 2011

Sometimes it is tough finding things to write about, especially on a deathly quiet Glastonbury Sunday.

Is Wimbledon more interesting than an news-shy Arsenal newsnow? Not since the Crazy Gang has Wimbledon held any interest to the football lover.

Those were the days – the George Graham era. A team developed and moulded by one man’s discipline and vision.

How could it be that George Graham whose nickname was “Stroller” thanks to his lacksadaisical style became Sergeant George? In his early days the ex-Bargeddie boy was notorious for the fact that he spent all his money on clothes and cars , yet was totally averse to buying a round in  the post match pub environment. Little changed when he became a manager – his control of the purse strings caused the departure of many a fine player e.g. Keown wanted an extra few pounds a week, GG refused his request, sold him  and then was forced to buy him back from Everton for 2 million of her Majesty’s finest.

Another mystery is how George, who was a “luxury” player developed his dislike of players in a similar vein. One of his first acts was the removal of Champagne Charlie, a fan’s favourite and a player capable of flashes of brilliance – the antithesis of the GG player.

Furthermore, George hated to get dirty so sliding tackles were rarely seen, his idea of defensive duties was trotting back from the half-way line for corners, so how did he develop the best back 5 ever seen on an English football pitch? How could it be that a player whose speciality was spectacular scissor kicks and volleys become a coach whose heritage is “1-0 to the Arsenal”?

It was tragic that George’s Arsenal career ended thanks to his avarice. Tragic that a manager who was so successful had his legacy tarnished. He brought disgrace to the club he loved (and loves) so passionately.

I loved those early GG teams which brimmed both attacking intent and defensive prowess, it was only when he came under pressure and doubt that GG sought to pack the midfield with artisans as opposed to artists. Gone were Rocky, the Merse, Micky T Paul Davis etc to be replaced by Selley, Morrow, Johny J. McGoldrick etc. We won but we had lost the ability to entertain …..

…… something that George Graham in his playing career could never be accused of.