One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

One life, one game, one team, one Invincibles (So far)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Will Stan sell out - like all his predessesors?

Its not just our new owners who seemingly don't give a toss, the alleged custodians of Arsenal Football Club have all been feathering their nests for years whilst pretending to be doing us all a favour. Not one of them has put any money into the Club whereas almost every single one of them has massively lined their own pockets by selling their shares. Who needs dividends when you can make a fortune anyway? Despite all the holier than thou old bollocks that Arsenals old school custodians have spouted over the years Arsenal Football Club tried to sell out to Carlton as long ago as 1998 while Dein was still around and who must have been set for a bit of pocket lining. It didn't happen then, but Dein subsequently threw his toys out of the pram at a later date and walked away with £70 million or so, his loyalty clearly available to the highest bidder - that and his desire to spite fellow board members at that particular time. Dein it seems wanted to cart us off to Wem-ber-lee on a cheapskate rental agreement, other board members wanted to up the value of our club by building a new home before selling out for their own 30 pieces of silver. This was just one battle of the money-men where Fizsman pissed all over his old friend Dein. No honour amongst thieves as they say. Or is it no honour among board members - I forget. Anyway these were just two of the men who sold out our Arsenal. It's been one big disruptive fight in the boardroom ever since the late '90's, at least that's how it looks to me.
Life long buddies, not

The little loved old has-been Peter Hill Wood still treats fans disdainfully, he has done so for years, yet he long since sold his family's Arsenal birthright for hard cash. His father and grandfather, both long-term and relatively honourable Chairmen of the club would have been appalled at his behaviour. About £5.5 million was what his remains of the family heirloom went for. He once famously told Dein there was no money in football and yet has clung on to the Chairman's post like a petrified limpet several decades past it's sell-by date. Hill Wood has been the perpetual patsy and front man for them all, including Fiszman who had almost as much to say as silent Stan. Saint Danny Fiszman sacked our only director who had the first clue about football (Dein) before upping the value of his own holdings by building a new stadium and redeveloping our old one. He partially did this by belatedly bringing in a CEO (Edelman) who neither knew nothing, nor cared nothing about football. Edelman's idea of a new home was to leave it covered in bare concrete and if rumours are to be believed he paid off building bills with money allocated for team spending. We were not told why he was sacked, just as no-one was told why Dein was sacked. But back-stabbing is par for the course in Arsenal's board room. Ask Nina, David or Keith.
Yeah, like he won this

Fiszman's estate made £143m plus, but did he sell because he knew he was dying or because he was looking to sell anyway. I can't say I know for sure but it felt to me then, and retrospectively more so, as if the board had been looking to cash in on the golden goose for quite some time. Fiszman simply speeded the process whilst upping the value with our stadium move. Whilst incidentally ensuring his personal tax bill was kept at bay with his move to Switzerland. Events seem to prove that almost each and every one of them were all too delighted to cash in and piss our heritage, retained in their custodianship, up the river.

Did Fiszman even actively look for a massively rich Arsenal fan or group of fans who cared?  No Fiszman sold out to a disinterested American who collects sports teams as some sort of hobby. Someone previously rejected by our owners because he arrived via David Dein, who happened to be that week's arch-enemy. 'We don't want his sort' was the phrase deployed by Hill-Woodentop. Danny boy was also very keen not to sell to the Oligarch Uzbekistani another outsider lined up by David Dein and so Kroenke was thus the easy preferable option when the time came. It seems Kroenke may not even have to put all his readies up front. So what we have here now is yet another piece of English heritage, namely our Club, in the hands of yet another couldn't-give-a-shit-American. Stan 'zip-lip' Kroenke doesn't actually do anything with his sports teams he just collects them, he shows no interest whatsoever in Arsenal and leaves a lap dog to front up the Club. Just as he leaves others to front up his other assets. Not spending money despite already having already made massive paper financial gains for doing jack shit is all Kroenke has done with Arsenal. He doesn't even see why he should speak at the AGM. He won't discuss his policy for our Club's future because it very much looks as though he has no policies. But then why would you need policies if the Club's gone up in value by about £280,000,000 since he's taken over as owner.

You will note that Dein managed to fall out with Fiszman whom he introduced to the Club by selling him 10,000 shares in 1991 and also fell out with both Kroenke and Usmanov whom he also introduced. The only ones who still care much for Dein are a number of fans who think the sun still shines out of his arse because he was a 'genuine fan' who could relate to fans and introduced Wenger. I'd suggest he has only ever been motivated by his love of money and his own ego.

The one honourable exception to all these dog-eat-dog boardroom shareholders is Ken Friar, an outsider who once effectively ran the Club that has now twice begged him to come back from his well-earned retirement.

As for the other long-term custodians of The Arsenal the Bracewell-Smiths long-term historic holding was subsequently given away by Lady Nina. I say given away but she actually got well over £100 million for her 15.9% stake. Nina too was both dragged onto the board and subsequently kicked off it when it suited them. Richard Carr a perennial boardroom non-entity in his day creamed a trifling £40 million from Kroenke, despite their historic connection he and his family were only too happy to cash in big time.
Lady Nina - in or out when it suited the board

Did any of them lift a finger to assist the Arsenal Supporters Trust. No, not one of the miserable two-faced money-grubbers lifted so much as an index finger. So we are now stuck with two owners: Jabba a part time resident in London who at least watches some games but whom no one wishes to touch with a barge pole, certainly not their own barge pole. All he's done thus far is take a 30% stake and shit stir whenever the opportunity arises. The effective owner is out absentee landlord with no discernible polices. A man who resides on the other side of the pond and does nothing. Nothing other than wear a rather naff rug. By doing nothing I mean he takes no active part and has no stated policy for the future, he also clearly has only a very minimal interest in football, and quite evidently even less in the Club or the team. He and his minions have minimal control over the manager who has clearly been provided with zero guidance for years by a bunch of warring rich boys.

What more could we possibly want from a board?

Well apart from not selling our best players each season (board's score for not selling our best players each season 1/10), tying down our better players on longer contracts (2/10), purchasing some additional top quality players with what money we have earned (3/10), a clear policy for team building (2/10). Other than an improvement to the above what I'd really like is a proper football board which has a game-plan (3/10), that gives a shit for its hard-core fans (2/10), that cares about winning trophies (1/10), that knows a bit about football (1/10), that gives football the priority over money-making (0/10). Without this the Club is simply a rudderless ship run by a board whom inspire no confidence whatsoever. The Club is  currently being allowed to drift and they've been drifting for quite a few years, just as they were for 25 years or so after WW2.

All the current intent and direction being shown is financially inspired. It obviously needs to be inspired by football but they've lost track of this very obvious fact. It needs to be all about the football. Myself I don't even demand trophies, just a team that looks like it is intent on winning some. Not any old trophies mind, just the real ones. I don't give a flying fart for the League Cup. I'd like to really see us challenge for the League rather than vie for a place in the Champions League. I'd like to see us really battling it out with the top Clubs in Europe rather than just gaining a few quid from the Champion's League kitty. Thank goodness the board kept Wenger at the helm during these turbulent and stressful financial times, few other managers could have kept sane in such disruptive times. Not that the board would have known whom to appoint in Wenger's stead, they don't have a footballing brain between them and ever employ outsiders to headhunt new CEO's.

When Mr. Wenger joined the shares were worth £280, they now stand at £16,000 plus. Compare that with the rest of the World's economy and shake your head in total wonder. That in it self has been a major reason for the board not even considering any options to  Mr Wenger rather than for his footballing achievements. Not that they would understand his massive achievements in keeping our Club near the top during its recent upheavals anyway. But like I hinted they wouldn't ditch Wenger because they wouldn't have a clue whom to appoint. Unless they consult the experts - but we fans have never ever had any say have we?
Remind me again - who are you?

Please note. I've attempted to be reasonably accurate with the number crunching but accept that the figures are unlikely to be anything like 100% accurate.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Boring Boring Arsenal!

1) Mark King tells it like he sees it:

As a Club, I think we are in big trouble here. Let's take 2 things as set in stone:

1) Stan is not going anywhere, not for at least another 2 seasons anyway. Then he can sell and make a huge profit for an investment he could afford and very little work on his part. Some would say he may stay even longer given his record with other teams, but I think they may be forgetting 2 things, this is England not the US and we are talking proper football with ingrained die hard fans. So whilst he may consider himself safe in Denver, will he really want all the bad publicity that those fans can bring to his portfolio.
Who's funnier Will Ferrell or Stan Kroenke?

2) Mainly for the reasons above, AW will not be leaving unless he walks at the end of his contract in 2014 and let's face it, I can easily see an extension to that being offered this season if we pick up a little bit, as he is doing the job that Stan wants i.e. top 4 with minimal investment (total).

So if we accept the above, what happens now? Well, if we continue to win a game, lose a game, draw a game as we are at present, then come January and with all the money available we must buy 2 players. I would take Henry back as a squad player, ONLY AS LONG AS we also buy a top quality CF and by that I mean one of Cavani, JKH, Llorente or Lopez. If another player of that quality became available they would also be acceptable. Do players of this standard move in January? Not often. Do we pay the money they cost? Rarely! 

The other player needs to be something different for our midfield, so I would like Santa to bring either Capoue or Fellaini as we need a power player who will drive forward with the ball to complement our tiny ballers. Diaby could have been that player, but I think that the resurrection of Lazarus has now been cast aside as the latest offering from Derren Brown. Ideally I think we also need an experienced back up keeper and Leighton Baines, but I think I am pushing my luck now!

Problem is, January is the worst time to buy. No-one wants to sell their better players as they know it is difficult to replace them. Everyone also knows we are desperate, so the prices will go up and AW is already tighter than a duck's chuff as it is! Added to which, some of these players will be cup tied from Europe and possibly domestic and if they come from abroad there will obviously be a settling in period and you can never guarantee that works at all!

I feel that yet again we are in for Groundhog Season, which has actually become Groundhog Matchday for me. I travel to Arsenal for matches now with a distinctly 'meh' attitude. This is mainly because I have given up trying to predict which team will turn up; West Ham away or Norwich away, because I have never seen a top 4 team that could appears so different from one match to the other as we currently do! I think that finally the repetition of what we see has now ground down a lot of my willingness to hope!
Another Groundhog Season?

But I will still keep going, mainly because I am not sure if I can ever stop. I mean I didn't in the mid 70's when we were 50 shades of shit compared to now and just a kid enjoying the experience of being able to go. Even the period of Terry Neill and then Don Howe early to mid 80's wasn't enough to knock the monkey off my back. But am I still going now through habit rather than hope? Is it more social now than sporting, a chance to have a few beers with my mates and my nephew, who I don't see other than at THOF.

Yet again they gave us hope v the scum that they had realised what the problems were and had taken the necessary action to correct them. They built up our expectations, and like mugs we fell for it, got suckered in to reinvesting in the dream, only to find it was a Sinclair C5 and not an iPod! In the cold light of day and with an independent head on we should know that it was Ade who was the hero for us that day and not some renaissance! It is this constant raising and dashing of hopes that makes our support some of the tetchiest around. I can only imagine how much virtual blood gets spilled on the blog dancefloors during and post matches after performances like yesterday. I have no desire to join in with the carnage anymore.

Arsenal fan set against Arsenal fan. AKB v AWOB. Even that has got distinctly boring as it has become the EPL version of Housewives of NYC, everyone just shouting over each other, thinking that he who shouts loudest must be right and giving up any opportunity for reasoned debate.

Everyone used to sing "Boring Boring Arsenal" at us when George had the team drilled for the 1-0 wins. Did we care? Not while he was bringing home the bacon of which we had been so starved of. At least not until about 93/94 when we became purely a cup team and then in 95 when the football itself was pretty sub-standard. Then along came DB10 and then AW to show us the light, a light which never burned so brightly as in 04 with the greatest Arsenal team most of us will probably ever see.

Now though, I'm afraid we are back to the mid 70's and early 80's, some like Brian (no offence mate) may think it is heading towards the infamous bonfires on the terraces v Leeds, protesting at Billy Wright's tenure. Not because of the football, which at times can still be simply beautiful to watch, but because the whole situation around our club has become stale. The inconsistency of the team, the injury hit players, Arsene's tired post match comments, selling our best players, Stan & Ivan's contribution but most of all the bickering between the fans.

Congratulations one and all. We have got our Boring Boring Arsenal back at last!


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Arsenal, J'Accuse!

MA8 had a bad hair day for once
Remember Buckaroo? That poor old mule as we kept piling spades, rope and buckets on it's back until at last, overwhelmed by the weight he would flip out! That is a lot of Arsenal fans at the moment and I have to say that I am that mule, looking at one of our players as he approaches me with the water bottle in his hand, trying to see where he can hang it. Yesterday it was Arteta and I'm afraid his judgement on hanging water bottles was as bad as that of hanging off the back of the Fulham player in our box!

Yours could well be in the attic

We have the AKB's, the AWOB's and we have the BSM who are the radical arm of the AWOB. I have no problem with any of these sides of the argument, it is after all a free country, which today of all days we should all remember. If you feel that somehow AW will still turn this around, then you have kept more faith than me, but that is your choice. Surely if Fergie can keep his powers going at his age and after so long in power, then Arsene must be able to? The main difference is that at MUFC they know one thing, no matter what is going on with the finances of a football club, if you can maintain a winning team or at least one which will realistically challenge every year for trophies, then you can pretty much fool most of the people all of the time.

At AFC, those in power have forgotten this, or worse still have decided that they don't care about any form of protest over the malaise sweeping the club as in reality there is very little the fans can do about it. If the BSM feel they can make a difference then good luck to them. Personally I agree with a lot of what they are saying about greed in football, but I just cannot see that they have any power to be anything other than a voice in the wilderness. They are a minority of our fanbase, a higher percentage of those that attend games maybe than they are of the overall fanbase, but I still think they will be shouted down (not literally) by the larger majority who either see AW as a God on earth or those who simply see protest as counter productive to the playing side.

We have seen that at the top of this club we are viewed as a necessary evil, an inconvenience that must be put up with, at least for a few more years. My opinion is that once we have new sponsorship deals in place and have reduced the debt on the club, then Silent Stan will sell up to the highest bidder and walk away with a very healthy profit on his initial investment. All he has to do is stay in Denver, well away from any of the grubby little soccer fans that are not happy, let Ivan take all that heat and let AW keep us in the top 4.

Is Usmanov the answer? Well he is if fans think he will come in and provide a warchest, allowing AW to buy the 20 mill version of Arteta or the 40 mill upgrade on Giroud, plus pay the kind of wages that the football dogs of war crave nowadays. Would we have lost the best left back in world football under Usmanov, or would Theo have signed his new 100k contract by now? Is AW a better manager than Mancini or RDM? Of course he is, so imagine what he could do with the kind of squad at their disposals. Obviously there are very strong arguments about 'selling your footballing soul' to the money merchants or those who would feel very uncomfortabl having a man own the club with a shady (allegedly) past! How many of those would be prepared to swallow this bitter pill in order to see our skipper lift the ECL and PL trophies again? I think it would be interesting to see fans quickly forget their original opposition if we had a winning team once more. I for one am sick of seeing this team continually raise our hopes only to show that as a squad we are weak, in terms of attitude, spirit, depth and talent. I see so many Gooners who buy in to a run of performances and results, building their hopes up, investing more of their emotions in to the possibility of success only to have them dashed by a display of such ineptitude as shown at Norwich. I really fear for the long term health of these fans!

Personally, I think it would be nice to have someone in charge of the club who may make their intentions clear, even if this may be lip service to the fans, just as the R&W letter was after Voldermort penned his website resignation letter. But what I would like to see is some accountability brought back to the club. Currently I can see no circumstances under which AW would be sacked and given how drastic things may need to get for that to happen nor do I! But, if the section of fans who want rid are right and regardless of owner, AW has had his day and cannot compete in the post Abramovich and now oil rich era, then it would be nice to think that AFC could take the action required to do the best for this glorious football club and not that just for the shareholders to whom we are a turkey being plumped up for Christmas! For the BSM, I hope they continue to campaign, as long as it does not happen during games and impact the players at that time. I do feel however, they are pissing in the wind, but at least they are standing up for what they believe and doing something.
Cares more about rugs than fans or football
To those fans upset by the BSM who feel it is divisive and they should get behind the club no matter what, remember this, which I am sure you can all adapt for your own personal circumstances and history. Outside of my immediate family, the most important thing in my life is The Arsenal. Not a day goes by when it doesn't enter my life in some way or another, be that on the web or chatting with a mate. This has been how the die was cast since the early 70's and I have been lucky enough to be able to follow the team in person for a large chunk of this period. Whilst we have been lucky to have some great times, more so than plenty of other club's fans, we also manage to put ourselves through the mill. Some teams are either brilliant or mediocre, say Liverpool for example. Some may have had a few shining moments of brilliance amongst long periods of failure, Villa and Forest spring to mind and of course some have only the faded sepia photos taken on a box brownie to remind them of a long since passed period of success (no points for guessing this club). The thing with us is we seem to chug along being there or thereabouts for long periods, remaining tantalisingly close to the glory days, but then managing to have them snatched away, normally through our own errors! But the fact remains that we are there, normally being written off by the press and pundits, but clinging on to a faint hope that this year AW will get it right. Of late every season seems to start, pan out and end the same way!

To finish, a few weeks back there was a Sunderland blog, bemoaning the fact that we are a very spoilt and whiny bunch of fans, to be complaining about only finishing in the ECL positions every year and not winning the quadruple instead. I can understand a certain part of his viewpoint but have to say this in response. No-one knows this club better than us fans, and having basked in the glory of 98-05 when AW made us the superpower-in-waiting we could become due to our location, proposed new stadium, fanbase and playing squad, we have seen a gradual decline. Now we all knew that there were tough times ahead, all down to the building of a 60k ground, in London, during a recession and so near to our last ground, but this cannot be used as an excuse for all that has happened since Paddy took his last 12 yard kick of a ball for the club.

We have seen every year AW produce teams that have promised so much, yet eventually have turned out to be made of straw. The list of top quality and brilliant players we have loved and lost is by now infamous. The self induced collapses due to weak mentality and lack of leadership haunts all of us. So forgive us Gooners if we have a moan, but to be honest if we were shit and basically always had been, like say, maybe Sunderland, then we would not moan quite so much. But that's the thing, we all know we are perpetually so close, that we are only 2 or 3 players away from success and eradicating the specific problems that beset our team. Add this to the knowledge that your club has the resources available, a magnificent stadium in one of the greatest cities in Europe and a world class manager. Knowing all this yet seemingly said manager is too stubborn, or your board too selfish to release the funds, then you are entitled to be frustrated, mystified and pissed off.

It's the hope that kills you!


Notes for those who don't do abbreviations:
AWOB Arsene Wenger Out Brigade
AKB Arsene Knows Best
BSM Black Scarf Movement
PL Premier League 
AW The Manager
ECL European Champions League 
PHW Senile old git
R&W Red and White Holdings (Jabba's shareholding company)
SK Disinterested rug owner who cares sweet FA about Arsenal

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A win is a win is a win.

Quite a few fans feel the need for a rant following today's Arsenal game. Well so do I but not a rant about the Arsenal. My rant is about the ref because Anthony Taylor was very worthy of a rant. What a piss-poor apology for a ref he is, without doubt the weakest ref in the Premiership. 6-yard walls for free kicks that took ten minutes to build, Cazorla freely trampled on a regular basis, no concept of advantage, even less concept of how and when to deploy yellow cards, the red wasn't even his idea - he got a message from his lino. This was an abject performance from the man in the yellow shirt with the yellow streak up its back. Sometimes 'you don't know what you're doing chants' are misguided, but not today.

Before the game I'd have taken any sort of win, during the game I'd have taken any sort of win and after the game I was delighted that we'd won. Being pleased with a victory would appear to be a lost art for many Arsenal fans though judging by tonight's internet rantings. The Twatterarti  are still out in force and the forums are full of moaners. Must be the rareity of a three o'clock kick off that's set them off.

What a welcome sight

We were a long way from being brilliant but there were a few signs that we were at least better than fairly pathetic which had been the case in our previous two outings. Battling till the end and deserving the win wasn't outstanding or sufficient cause to open Champagne. But at least it was a move in the right direction for which I'm grateful. Jack looked knackered after 10 minutes but if he can survive the knocks, and he had a fair number today which made me hold my breath till he got up again. He's back though and will get sharper, and when he does he'll be like the much required breath of fresh air. Good also to see Theo back for a brief showing, whatever anyone thinks of him we've missed his pace. Sagna reminded us that he's a class act without ever really looking comfortable in his first game of the season, I thought he did well to last the ninety minutes although having said that he's a long way off 100% fit. Playing two unfit players was a big gamble I wasn't sure about, but it paid off. Just. Santos is still a worry, he didn't play anyone onside today but had he done so the lino wouldn't have noticed anyway.

No match should pass by without mention of Cazorla who is just such a clever ball player and absolutely remarkably two-footed. He's a delight to watch and currently about the only player to give real value for the money. So we had one two-footed player, five left-footed players and five right-footed players starting today. It should have been a perfectly balanced team but our forwards are still lacking something. Namely the desire to shoot.

Feel sorry for Gervinho who looks to have a bad injury and sorrier still that it leaves us with even fewer options unless we can get the Ox fit again. That said today's silver lining was the AA man's fabulous cross, I'm not his biggest fan but credit where credit is due.

I do so hope that Hughes yet again looses his job this season, how he still actually has a job is a mystery, but the bigger question has to be why does anyone ever hire him as a manager in the first place?

Brian @Gooner48

Friday, 19 October 2012

Wilf Copping - Arsenal's hardest ever player?

Of all the hard men who've ever played for Arsenal I reckon there's one, who if his photograph was anything to go by, was meaner than all the rest. That player was Wilf Copping a dour ex-miner from Yorkshire. His legendary toughness was confirmed to me by my late Grandfather, who claimed that Wilf was the hardest player he ever saw play at Highbury. The fact that Copping didn't shave on matchdays almost certainly enhanced this conception. He played for us in the thirties in a position which was then known as left half, which roughly translated means, he was a left sided defensive midfield player who wore the number six shirt. Wilf was born in Middlecliffe, Barnsley but failed to get a place with his local club despite attending trials as a youngster. Their loss was Leeds gain.

Wilf Copping - the hard man's hard man

Born in August 1909 Copping signed for Leeds in March 1929 and was an ever present throughout the 1930-31 season when he was an essential part of a very strong half back line which comprised Edwards, Hart and Copping. Between 1929 and 1934 in his first spell at Leeds he played in over 160 league games, appeared six times for England and represented the Football league on two occasions. Herbert Chapman had started negotiations with Leeds for Copping's signature at a time when Arsenal were searching for a suitable replacement for Bob John, who despite having been a tremendous asset to the team, was by now in his mid-thirties. But the great manager's untimely death meant that it was George Allison who completed the deal for the sum of £8,000 in June 1934.

He made his league debut for the Gunners on the opening day of the 1934-5 season, on the 25th of August at Fratton Park, where Arsenal drew 3-3 with Portsmouth. His first season at Highbury saw the Club win our third consecutive League Championship. Despite being a regular visitor to Whittakers treatment room Copping had missed only two games up until March when he suffered a very serious knee injury at Goodison Park. It was a match in which Arsenal needed a point at least. Frank Moss, our keeper, had injured his shoulder and was playing on the wing. Eddie Hapgood, the fullback, having already replaced Frank in goal by the time Wilf was injured. Remember in these days substitutes did not exist. Being the man he was Copping played on in extreme pain against Everton with his knee tightly bandaged and nearly fainted with pain at the end of the match when the bandage was removed. Amazingly Arsenal managed a 2-0 win and Moss was one of the scorers. However as a result of this injury Copping was put out of action for the remainder of the season.

In his first season with Arsenal he also managed to add two England caps to his tally including that most famous of matches when Arsenal, sorry, England beat the World Champions Italy 3-2 at Highbury in November 1934. The "Battle of Highbury" as it was known saw England field a team that included seven Arsenal players. The magnificent seven were Wilf, Ray Bowden, George Male, Frank Moss, Eddie Hapgood, Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin. This match was rated as one of Copping's finest and some felt that at times he was almost playing Italy on his own. He obviously revelled in the heat of the battle, and this one saw Italy play in what was somewhat politely reported as an 'over-vigorous' manner. Eddie Hapgood, rather more bluntly, described the game as the dirtiest match he'd ever played in. Such a game suited Wilf who was known as 'The Ironman' due to his legendary toughness.

Wilf was the first to admit that he could also be described as temperamental and fiery. Yet despite this and his well-earned reputation for bone-jarring tackles the indications are that they were generally perfectly timed and fair. Although how this quite squares with Eddie Hapgood's description of Wilf's 'famous double-footed tackle', I'm not too sure. He looked harder than perhaps he was, possibly intentionally, and his image was enhanced by the somewhat sinister looking blue stubble that he sported on matchdays. Copping was also famously quoted as saying 'The first man in a tackle never gets hurt' and if you've ever played the game you'll have to agree that's difficult to argue against. Another great quote on Copping comes from Bill Shankley recalling a clash in the 1938 England - Scotland match: 'The grass was short, the ground was quick and I was playing the ball. The next thing I knew, Copping had done me down the the front of my right leg. He had burst the stocking - the shin pad was out - and cut my leg. That was after 10 minutes and it was my first impression of Copping. He didn't need to be playing at home to kick you - he would have kicked you in your own back yard or in your own chair...'

Wilf was also, according to Tom Whittaker, very temperamental in the dressing room. Tom had to ensure that no one spoke to Wilf before a game or he'd blow his top. He was also extremely superstitious, always putting his left boot on first and insisting on being the sixth (his shirt number) man out of the dressing room.

During his time at Highbury Wilf was the best of friends with Jack Crayston, described by Tom Whittaker as an elegant gentleman of the football field. Crayston and Copping were as different as chalk and cheese both on and off the pitch. But not only did they train together, they also always paired up on away trips, often a train journey, to play a peculiar form of Chinese whist in order to pass the time.

Copping played 33 league games in the 1935-6 season and was a member of the F A Cup winning team that beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the final. He only missed four matches of the 1936-7 season which saw the club finish in a lowly third place. The following season he again missed just four games in Arsenal's successful Championship campaign of 1937-38. The season that followed, 1938-39, was his final one with the Arsenal because in the March of he was transferred back to Leeds. As Copping had told the then trainer, Tom Whittaker. "I'm going to ask for a transfer... I feel war is coming and I want to get my wife and kids back up North before I join the Army." It was for this and no other reason that a legend left a successful team. Copping had made twenty appearances for England before the outbreak of the Second World War. With the Arsenal he had won two League Championships and the F A Cup and had also played in four Charity Shield matches. Had it not been for the War it could well have been more.

We can't really compare Wilf Copping to the modern players but one thing is for sure, he was without doubt a hard player but a fair one. In the 185 league and Cup games he played for our club he wasn't once booked or sent off. In his time with the Arsenal his powerful, crunching tackles earned him a deserved legendary status.

During the war Copping reached the rank of Company Sergeant Major and served with the army in North Africa. It would have been a very brave soldier who didn't obey the orders of this great man.

Wilf's Stats:

Wilf Copping - position Left Half (defensive midfield)
Born at Middlecliffe, Barnsley, Yorkshire on 17 August 1909
Died June 1980 aged 70
Signed from Leeds in June 1934 for £8,000
Played for Arsenal 1934-35 to 1938-39
Debut v Portsmouth away 3-3 League 25 August 1934
Played 20 times for England (7 while with Arsenal)
2 Football League Caps
League matches     played 166
F A Cup     19
Charity Shield     4
Arsenal total     189
League Championship medals 1934-35 1937-8
F A Cup winner 1935-36
Charity Shield winner 1934-35 1938-39
Charity Shield finalist 1935-36 1936-37
One of the record breaking 7 Arsenal players who played for England v Italy

© Brian Dawes 2000 originally published on the Jack Kelsey Fan Club website (defunct)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Arsenal Book Review - Woolwich Arsenal FC: 1893-1915

Woolwich Arsenal FC: 1893-1915 - by Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews
Reviewed by Brian Dawes

This comprehensive and reasonably priced book is subtitled 'The Club That Changed Football'. Now I'm not going to pretend that this book would be ideal for every Arsenal fan because many fans are clearly only interested in what's going on currently or what's going to happen next week. Thankfully however, due mainly to our fabulously interesting history, we also have many Arsenal history buffs. And for all these students of the Club this 234 page volume is certainly an absolute must for every Gooner who has a serious eye for Arsenal's early history.

It's perfectly clear even from merely flicking through and viewing the many tables, photos, press cuttings and cartoons that this book has been very seriously researched. If you turn to the back of the book, as you should with any serious work of history, viewing the bibliography will reveal that the sources are quite simply more definitive than any previous early history of the Arsenal. I'd even suggest that the research, some of which must have taken years to undertake is as definitive as it is currently possible to be. So much so that other Arsenal authors will have to make revisions to the standard concept on some aspects of Arsenal's early history. Which in a nutshell is why this book is a must for all Arsenal history buffs, they'll learn many new things about Woolwich Arsenal, just as I have.

Once you start reading its not hard to believe that is the best researched early history on Arsenal that has ever been undertaken, and that's impressive given that so much research has been done on this subject already. It's been well put together without becoming a humourless series of dry facts. In fact some of the characters described are almost impossible to invent.  You've also got to love a book which gives the crowd at Woolwich their very own chapter, but you'll see why this is so when you come to read it. By way of example few will know that Charlie Buchan, then a schoolboy, was at the1906 FA Cup fixture against Sunderland and he paid his entrance fee by selling one of his schoolbooks. But my favourite antidote refers to a Bradford called Bond who was suspended by the FA for one month after he was alleged to have sworn in the presence of two sisters who were seated in the Arsenal stands.

Arsenal's progress in the League and Cup are each afforded separate chapters. Each season is discussed as a whole in the League section, a good decision given that the facts and figures are available in numerous other sources. The FA Cup matches are covered game by game including the Qualifying matches. Arsenal historians will be well aware, but and it may surprise some that despite this being a long time prior to any major successes for the Club we did in fact compete in two FA Cup semi-finals as Woolwich Arsenal, both of which are well covered.

The chapter on 'The men who played for Woolwich Arsenal' has done the sensible thing and concentrated on the most influential and interesting players of the period. That said, it still covers over 50 players in 36 pages, doing so in a manner that is very far from being a dry statistical rehash of facts and figures. The following chapter that covers our managers is equally well rounded.

If this book lacks anything it is probably detail about the authors, all of whom have proved very worthy in adding great value to this fabulous historical undertaking. This work clearly wasn't done for the money, despite its fine authoritative detail matching any academic work you might come across on almost any subject. It's an obvious case of writers doing something simple because they care deeply enough to make it happen. I know for example that Andy has been systematically collecting and collating data for many years and its great to see his diligent research bear fruit at long last. Tony you can more find more about by trawling the internet, or perhaps by reading his factional title 'Making the Arsenal'. Mark I know nothing about other than the fact that anyone who writes a Dissertation relating to Arsenal for an MA in Twentieth Century Historical Studies is fine by me.

As I said at the beginning of my review this isn't a book to suit every Arsenal fans' taste, but certainly a book that is an absolutely essential addition to every Arsenal History buff's library. I believe it will stand as the ultimate authority on its subject matter for many years to come.

Woolwich Arsenal FC: 1893-1915
by Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews
Published by Hamilton House
ISBN 978 1 86083 787 6
Paperback £14.95

The book has been written by the founders of the Arsenal History Society, Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly, Mark Andrews. The Society is part of AISA, the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association. You can buy the book direct from the publishers on line or by phone to 01536 399 011, or you can place an order by fax on 01536 399 012

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Free Membership Box

As you'll know if you're a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Red Member at Arsenal you eventually receive a 'free' membership box each season. I have no idea if the Diamond Club get theirs thrown in but somehow doubt it. My free box cost me a grand or so this season. The box invariably contains what the Club consider to be 'goodies' and because I don't ever recall anyone else doing so I thought I might review them for once - so that's what I've done below:

This year its a nice red solid square heavy cardboard box inscribed with some marketing bullshit that doubtless some overpaid marketing nerd was overpaid to dream up, it reads:

'I am a Fan
I am a Member
I am
Always Ahead of the Game'

Well actually no you're not ahead of the game, especially so if you rely on www.Arsenal.con for your Arsenal news updates or informed opinions. And should anyone from Arsenal be reading this I'd be quite happy to come up with some much better and vastly cheaper marketing bullshit for next season...say for the price of my season ticket.

The 2012/13 Handbook - an annual gem

On the plus side this season the box contains the 2012/13 Official Handbook which I have to say is good news personally because I regard this little gem as an excellent source of information, I usually purchase a copy and so this in itself has saved me a fiver that can now be wasted on a cheap bottle of wine. Good call Arsenal.

Then there's an Arsenal keyring, this one I actually quite like and it will prove useful one day. But then again they've given us key rings in the past so they're clearly scratching around for ideas. This comes in its own sweet little box, which is entirely useless for anything other than the keyring. But instead of throwing this box away I'll probably keep it for a year or two imagining that I'll find a use for it - and then throw it away.

There are six postcards included probably because they're both flat and cheap, five of which are absolutely fine although they wouldn't all be to my own personal choice. But one hasn't really been thought through because it includes Van Purse-strings appearing in the background of a Vermaelen goal celebration. I mean really - how difficult would it have been to Photoshop the **** out of the picture?

There's the inevitable credit-card sized fixture list. Like we've not all see the fixtures already.

There's a cheap pair of in-the-ear type headphones in plastic box which advertises ArsenalPlayer. Now if you're a member surely you're already aware of ArsenalPlayer and if you're over the age of 10 you've almost certainly already got a superior headset even if you nicked a seriously crabby set on your last  plane trip, or whatever. I can't even think of anyone I'd want to give these away to just to annoy them.

Also included is a scratch card which encourages punters to gamble on Gunnersgambling which is run by Betsson. I've not scratched my scratch card as yet, and maybe never will, but I'd be prepared to bet I'll win the £10 free bet rather than a signed shirt. But of course I'd only get the £10 free bet if I register an account. Personally I prefer alternative addictions to gambling such as alcohol. You can also win loads of poker chips for Casino, but only if you match them pound for pound should you choose to open an account. It says of course you have to be over 18 to receive this bonus, so is it just possible that this has also gone out to under 18's? I do hope not.

The original and superior Hardback version

And finally the inevitable book. I love books and I particularly love Arsenal books, but I've yet to receive one in the Arsenal Members pack that I have not already read. This season's free book is no exception. It's an abridged paperback edition of Arseblog's very wonderful 'So Paddy Got Up'. It's a good read but not as good obviously as the full Monty which I reviewed here some time back

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Santi Cazorla or Geordie Armstrong?

I know he's less than ten competitive games into his Arsenal career but even so it's taken a while for some pundits and most punters to catch on to the seemingly natural two-footed nature of Santi Cazorla. There were some of us who picked up on it very early doors but two-footed players are even less common than the left-footed ones so its maybe not surprising that many had to have it pointed out to them. Most players these days can play off either foot but its mainly a matter of degree as to just how well, a simple short range pass is all most will attempt. With Santi he looks just so natural on either foot that it would be a waste of time for a defender to try and work him onto his wrong one even if they could figure which it was. As it happens Santi is right footed but you certainly wouldn't know that by watching him shoot or play, in fact I only know that because it is what Wenger has said so.
Santi: Right or left footed?

Wenger's quote on him was: ‘Santi is right footed but when you watch him play you don’t know. It shows how important that is in the modern midfield. Right or left foot was always important, but we forget about it sometimes. I’m surprised there are not more.’

You'd have to a agree with Wenger about that. I doubt that many think about the left-right balance too much but Wenger has always attempted to balance his sides with both and over the years we've had our share of left-footed players. None more so than Nigel Winterburn who was so one-footed it looked positively awkward at times, but even he scored one with his right peg. The fact that there are not more seemingly natural two-footed players around surprises Wenger and in this day and age it surprises me. He sited Glenda Hoddle as one such, but a far better example would be Bobby Charlton in my opinion. Sir Bobby was a right-footed player who played wide-left in his early career to his later advantage, and to England's as it happens.

For Arsenal we've had quite a few who can use either foot effectively but none so naturally as Santi. I say that because I really wouldn't have known if he was right or left footed if Arsene hadn't said so. The only other Arsenal player I can recall being so totally two-footed was George Armstrong. Geordie of course was a legend who graced our first Double side with two quality feet and an engine the likes of which you'll hardly ever see again. He was by trade a winger but was in effect an engine room who would play down either or both flanks, often in the same game. Uniquely I believe he was the only player I've ever seen who could strike both inswinging and out-swinging corners from either flank with either foot. How he never played for England is quite unbelievable. Mainly you'd suspect because Alf Ramsey had abandoned wingers altogether, but that's another story.

Arsenal's most two-footed player ever?

Meanwhile back at our current two-footed Spanish gem, he really is a rather tasty player isn't he. But can he maintain such form throughout a season? Or maybe he can even improve further as he comes to grips with the English game. Only time will tell, but he already matches Geordie in my eyes regarding his two-footed skills. Better yet he appears to be absolutely loving his football with Arsenal as much as we're all enjoying his play.

Brian Dawes @Gooner48

Monday, 24 September 2012

Optimism is almost rife

Yep. Optimism is almost rife - who'd have thought it?

So are we in with a real shout at the title this season? Well I'd have to say its way too early to say but its quite obvious to all that we're playing well, playing as a team, looking good and generally looking more solid. Not entirely solid, but pretty solid. Our foward options are limited however and our goal-scoring, Southampton apart, has been fairly mediocre by past standards. Although I'd suspect that this will improve as our new players gain a further understanding of the pace of the Premiership together with a better understanding of each others play.

It's all fairly heartening. The biggest plus for me has been the solid look of a team who defend as a unit rather than as seperate sections of the same team. This has resulted in minimal panicking.

Arteta - our new Gilberto
As for the players:
The midfield looks seriously outstanding. Atreta has looked majestically controlled and is now playing like the new Gilberto. Santi Cazorla has looked to be possibly THE buy of the Premiership season thus far. For my money he's the most two-footed player we've had since Geordie Armstrong. Diaby looks like some of us always believed he could and is growing in confidence game by game, not to mention stature. Aaron once again showed at the Etihad the potential we knew he had prior to his horrific injury, he's really back now and beginning to fire on all cylinders again. With the Ox coming on stream as a force and Rosicky yet to return that would be good enough news. But factor in the pending return of young Jack and our midfield strength in depth bodes seriously well and looks hard to match. Add in the versatile Coquelin and I think we're sorted in midfield. Frimpong is down to 8th in the pecking order and he's also a reasonable prospect. We lack no depth here.

Up front Podolski clearly doesn't take prisoners, looks like he was made for the Premiership and is settling in nicely. Grevinho is making great runs, taking up great positions but unfortunately rushing his shots. Someone needs to tel Gervinho that Henry didn't get motoring on the goal stakes till he learned to calm down and pass it into the net. Giroud hasn't found his feet yet but I'm confident he will. Walcott for all the problems, mainly an arsehole agent, would most probably have flourished this season. And his pace is still a major asset for us no matter what some might think. Chamakh I've written off but we still have the options of the Ox or Ramsey who can slot into our front line. Should we want to slow our play down and not bother to track back there is of course always Arshavin.

We have three top quality centre backs vying for places, which allows each a break if they stay fit. They're now all past their Premiership learning curve and beginning to flourish under Uncle Bouldie. Jenkinson is my pick for most improved player, although Gibbs is running him fairly close in this respect. What an engine Carl has and how well he uses it. With Sagna and Santos also on tap the fullback position looks well covered this season for once.

Not so the keepers both of whom have been less than perfect, but at least we know they've got what it takes and Szczesny has all the potential we could wish for.

If it were my money I'd look for a forward in January and ditch Chamakh. But even without another forward we're definately getting there.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Job Done

Montpellier our opening Champions League fixture: Job done, in the classic one match at a time mode.

The way I see it that's 3 points acquired in the Champions League in a tricky but fairly straightforward away tie against the French Champions. It wasn't always pretty, it wasn't always emphatic but there was no panicky defending, just the odd piece of suicidal dribbling from Diaby in our box. Wenger will probably trust Abou to know he screwed up, whereas I'd hope that Bould will bollock him in no uncertain terms and we'll all move on.

3 wins 2 draws to date - fine. Only 2 goals conceded - fine. One was a keeper's cock up, one was a marginal penalty which we've all seen given or not - shit happens and is better happening in a 2-1 win than a 1-0 defeat. Vermaelen knows it was a poor piece of judgement on his part so move on.

Might Uncle Bouldie be the new Don Howe?

The good news to date: I make that 450 minutes now without any noticable twitchy defending, and had we eliminated the two errors a prospective clean sheet to date. We didn't do that though so we keep working on the elimination of errors. I'm content enough with what's gone down thus far. All achieved without both Sagna and Koscielny which I find rather impressive.

Any pressure put on Giroud is totally uncalled for, he's linking well, working hard, battling well and making decent runs. The rest will come if we give him time, which we will - its the media putting the pressure on him not the fans, that's quite evident. Feck the media.

Citeh. Bring it on. No one outside of North London (other than the world-wide Gooner fraternity) is expecting anything other than a hard fought Citeh win. A draw woud be fine, a win would set the benchmark for the rest of the season and make quite a few halfwits take serious notice. I think the odds are against us. But I'm getting the sense of good things coming. Pressure for team places. Players working for each other. The TEAM playing as a single unit. Players coming in and doing a job. All of which bodes well for a decent season ahead.

Can we do it? I've no idea but with the Arsenal you just never know. Wenger is under immense pressure this season but Bould has a certain calmness about him doesn't he? I'm sensing a velvet glove wrapped around an iron fist. Is Uncle Bouldie the new Don Howe perhaps, and if he did really get a headache it certainly didn't show did it? Are he and Banfield making life just a tad less stressful for AW now? I do hope so.

Brian @Gooner48

Sunday, 16 September 2012

16th September 1996

Arsene Wenger was formally announced as Arsenal's new manager on 16th September 1996.

Speaking in a press conference in Nagoya, Japan he said:

"It is my dream to manage a team in a top-level European league. And if I don't accept the offer right now I will miss the chance. I think Arsenal is a club with big potential. I think that English football is going up and that the Premiership is one of the most important leagues in the world now. So I think that it was also a challenge for me to maybe be the first foreign manager - and for sure the first Frenchman - to go there and try to be successful."

Mr. Wenger, a somewhat lean bespectacled Frenchman was working in one of the world's lesser leagues in the Far East and was due to start work on a three-year contract on 30th September of that year. To say that the majority of Arsenal fans were underwhelmed at the prospect was putting it fairly mildly.

Much has changed since his arrival

And so it was that Arsenal began an adventure which became a revolution. It's been a fun ride and one which at a future date we'll actually be able to assess in its full historical context for our Club. Many big things have happened in the time since his arrival and some may even recall just how average it all was when he took over at our beloved Highbury. Things have changed big time, the Club has changed big-time and the bar has been raised so high since then that we now have many 'fans' who feel our manager is himself unworthy of being the man in charge of an established European Super Club, renowned world-wide for playing the quality football he himself effectively created.

I for one am still very much enjoying the ride and am delighted for it to continue with Mr. Wenger in charge. Feel free to argue otherwise of course if you don't appreciate what we've got going here. It's not perfect but its pretty damned good from where I sit in the Stadium.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New Arsenal Book - reviewed here

The Battle of London by Rex Pardoe

reviewed by Brian Dawes

As Bill Shankly might have said had he managed Arsenal or Tottenham 'Some people think the Arsenal-Tottenham game is a matter of life or death, but I can assure you it is far more important than that'. Alas he never did say that, but thousands would have agreed with him had he done so.

This book, which was first published in 1972, is described as 'The full story of the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur from the 1880's to the 1970's'. And it is. The concept was quite possibly prompted initially because at the time it was written Arsenal & Spurs were the only two clubs to have achieved the domestic double in the Twentieth Century. With them doing so at either end of the sixties comparisons were inevitable, still fresh and the story compelling.

This title begins at the beginning for both clubs tracing their early development and despite Rex Pardoe not being a Gooner he is unbiased in his account which covers the tribal rivalry by devoting chapters to suitable eras of the game. I've only found one minor error, which is where he claims it was 1913 when Arsenal switched to red shirts with white sleeves. Other than that I can't fault it. The biggest coverage quite naturally goes to the two Double winning seasons where coincidentally both clubs fared well with injuries and both teams only called upon 16 players each during their respective campaigns.

There have been times when Arsenal dominated and periods when the Totts had their nose ahead. Given that both clubs are being covered and compared there might be a little too much Tottenham for some tastes, but then again its surely always better to know your enemy. Especially so should you wish to ensure good knowledge of all your opponents deficiencies. Either way the text takes you right back to the various eras in a way that perhaps a more recently written title can't quite manage. Certainly those with long memories of these epic battles will have their memories jogged and others younger readers will become altogether better informed.

Only the stats pages have been updated, which is handy because if studied they show that in the 108 seasons of league football played by Arsenal we've been ahead of Tottenham some 78 times. Of the 30 season when Tottenham actually made the same division as us and headed Arsenal almost half of these were in the 1950's and 60's. And only in two seasons during all this time, 1913-14 & 1914-15, have Arsenal been in a lower division. Bringing the statistics up to date also confirms that it's 17 consecutive seasons now since the Club from the wrong end of Seven Sisters has topped us in the league.

All the matches between the clubs, excluding friendlies, are covered with brief reports of matches from 1910 onwards, the year when Spurs finally caught up with us in the First Division. These fleeting glances into the past are quite often capable of bringing back some stirring memories plus one or two heart breaks.

One of the many things I learned about the Totts in the course of reading this volume is that 'a lamp-post in the High Road is the legendary birthplace of Tottenham Hotspur'. In which case I can only hope that if it wasn't destroyed in the riots and that dogs all over North London continue to show their appreciation of this 'legendary birthplace'.

This book has been republished by GCR Books who can be found on their website at - the ISBN for anyone wishing to order from their favourite local bookstore is 978 0 9559211 9 3 but I somehow doubt you'll find it cheaper online than on the publishers own site

Monday, 20 August 2012

A new season and a new number 9 for Arsenal

Highbury legends often wore the number 9 shirt because it is what center forwards do, or at least did. Great players including the likes of Ted Drake, Reg Lewis, David Herd, Joe Baker, John Radford, Frank Stapleton and right through to Alan Smith all graced the number 9 shirt and banged in the goals.

That is up until the 1994-95 season when under Premiership rules it became just another squad number. Since then it has had a rather chequered history. The incumbent in 1994-5, who had worn the shirt quite heroically for no less than eight seasons, was Alan Smith. However in the one season he wore it as a squad number he had a miserable injury prone time and netted just four goals. When Smudger retired through injury the following season he was replaced by another legend. But Dennis Bergkamp didn’t want the 9 shirt; he wanted and got the number 10, which rather forced the Merse to take over Smudger’s old number.

Now Merse is a much beloved Gooner and rightly so, but he certainly wasn’t without his problems and most of us, I imagine, still regard him as a number 10 which was his allotted number for so many seasons. After his addiction problems he had a resurrected career at Highbury but the 9 shirt did him no favours. Had it done so he wouldn’t be permanently stuck on his tantalisingly annoying 99-goal tally with the Arsenal.

We were all surprised to see a young French kid to be the next player handed the 9 shirt, however Arsene quite often 'knows' and for a couple of seasons Nicholas Anelka was challenging Wrighty for his place in the team. Anelka was an ace footballer but was also a totally miserable shit. Surely the only player in the history of the Premiership to sport a longer face than Van Nistelrooy and certainly the sourest-faced moaner to ever wear Arsenal’s 9 shirt. In all fairness it has to be said he top-scored for us with nineteen goals in a season wearing the 9 shirt, but as despised ex-Arsenal men go he’s well up there with the Cashleys of this world. Real Madrid were welcome to him and if there was a consolation for Arsenal it was the huge profit margin on a youngster Arsene had stolen from France. Two sesaons in the 9 shirt and at least he financed our state of the art training faciity.

To replace the Horse Le Boss landed us Davor Suker, seen as a short-term purchase due to his somewhat advanced years. Suker was a world class striker in his time, but not for us. He’d been the darling of the Bernabeu and top scored in a World Cup tournament but he couldn’t even hold down a regular place at Arsenal. His 11 goals in thirty-nine outings can best be described as meagre. One season at Highbury was more than enough before he departed to West Ham's home for ageing footballers. A fallow season for the nine shirt followed, which was hardly surprising really since the squad number remained vacant.

Next up we got the ‘Fox in the box’, or at least we thought we had. Franny 'Glass ankles' Jeffers came along to adorn our treatment table and pick up a few medals by virtue of being a squad member. He was a calculated gamble that didn’t come off and so was shipped out on loan before being moved on. To replace him we picked up an expensive grinning Spaniard who looked the part but flattered to deceive. Jose Antonio Reyes who when he was good was brilliant, but unfortunately the Premiership was not for him. His family couldn't settle, plus either he couldn’t be bothered or he was too thick to learn English. His desire to return to the Spanish sunshine was obvious despite his signing an extended contract. So Real Madrid did a deal on the eve of the transfer deadline and although technically only on loan to the Gallaticos no one seriously believed that Jose Antonio would ever return.

So the swap deal for Reyes saw a new number 9 appear on loan with a view to purchase. Julio Baptista a.k.a. 'The Beast'. Quite why anyone would call this pussycat a beast is beyond me. His party piece as I recall was trundling along like a runaway steamroller before crashing to the ground and damaging the turf. One decent game at Anfield was his lot and we can only be thankful that he was only on loan and not another failed over-priced purchase.

Next up we got a sprightly and much loved centre-forward with a massive smile and the ability to find the net with all the instincts of a natural poacher. Unfortunately this number 9 was the unluckiest of them all and had his career wrecked by a vicious Brummie thug. As horrific injuries go this one was seriously career threatening and he was out for well over a season. Eduardo was never the same again and so he too unfortunately departed. His departure saw yet another fallow season for the 9 shirt with no one deeming it  worthy enough to wear.

In 2011-12 no less a player than the captain of Korea namely Ju-Young Park, took over the jinxed shirt, so that should have been good. Sadly no. He made just 4 starts for the Club and three of them were in the mighty League Cup. Apart from these and a couple of games where he came off the bench the number nine shirt was notable for its absence on the pitch. Just on goal for Park and demotion to the number 30 shirt followed this season. Not quite up to Ted Drake's standard then.

We've now arrived at another new season, 2012-13, and have yet another new player to wear the iconic number 9 shirt, perhaps it'll be best if we just don't mention anything to Lukas Podolski about the recent history of the shirt he'll be wearing. There was nothing much to shout about in his first game, but you know what its about time we had another top notch number nine and I happen to think Lukas will be just that. He has that look doesn't he?

Should the above blog look at all familiar that's because it's a rewrite of something I've twice updated for The Gooner fanzine, whose very fine website can be found here

Brian @Gooner48

Friday, 17 August 2012

Mystic Merse provides us with 10 Predictions for the new season

Ashley Young will continue to make numerous pathetic dives that even a ref with a white stick should spot but probably won't. He'll also (quite rightly) receive even more abuse than he did last season at all the Premiership grounds except Old Trollop.

Howard Webb may not be quite as bad as he's been in the past because word is that he was transferred to Arsenal as part of that Dutch chap's transfer. It's all a bit hush-hush though as you might expect.

Gareth Bale will hit the deck even quicker than last season with his new aerodynamic ears.

Podolski will be the most productive, effective and popular Arsenal number 9 since Alan Smith. Which if you think about it hard enough isn't that difficult.

That Dutch geezer with the glass ankles who used to play for us will get a very loud greeting (if he's not injured at the time) when Manure play at The Arsenal.

Abou Diaby will change the minds of many fans who've been slagging him off in past seasons (but you're still not sure if I'm winding you up with this one are you?).

Arsenal will yet again finish above Spurs in the League. (Although that of course is far more of a cast iron inevitabilty, rather than a prediction).

Some annoying little twat from a inbred two bob outfit will be non-complimentary about the mighty Arsene Wenger. He'll do this whilst wearing a baseball cap. (Once again that's more of an inevitabilty than a prediction).

Andre Marriner and Sir Chris Foy will be the worst referees to appear at The Arsenal this season, or anywhere else for that matter.

Arry Redknapp will be winding down a car window for an interview, which is a shame really because the interview will be for the managers job at a lower lower league club. And the director's office won't be a drive through.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Walley Barnes - Captain of Wales

A New Arsenal Book Review by Brian Dawes

A really interesting addition to the Arsenal Classic Collection can be found in volume 8, which is entitled 'Captain of Wales by Walley Barnes'. Interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this was no ghost written volume it seems, but rather his own work albeit in association with a journalist by the name of Ken Wheeler. As the title suggests Walley played for Wales, but only because he happened to be born in Wales to English parents. This being so because his father, a soldier by trade, just happened to be stationed there at the time that Walley was born. So his country of birth defined his nationality - such were the rules of International football in days long gone.

His rather strange Christian name was nothing more exciting than a spelling error and unlike many a modern football autobiography this one covers a rather interesting childhood which included such delights as snake hunting in India where he and his brother also owned a hill pony and a pet monkey. Barnes must have been tough because he had sixty boxing bouts in which he only lost twice. But he also later suffered serious injury when he wrecked his knee as a result of a vaulting horse accident, this at a time when he was a PT instructor and Sergeant-Major for the Army. Walley inhabited that strange world of Wartime Football where players were released by the Army or Airforce to play Club matches or to raise money in exhibition matches for worthy war-time causes. An interesting era in that the top players got to play with many of the best players around in representative elevens. Barnes for example at one time toured with such footballing elite such as Frank Swift, Joe Mercer, Bernard Joy, Matt Busby, Stanley Matthews, Raich Carter and Ted Drake in a F.A. Services XI that actually travelled Europe in 1944, with the war still in full flow.

For those of you unfamiliar with Walley Barnes you'll need to know that he was a very versatile player but regarded as one of the greatest full backs ever to play for Arsenal playing both as left and right back. No mean feat when you consider all the fabulous full backs who've appeared for the mighty Arsenal. As it happens during the war years he also played every position for the Gunners other than centre forward and centre half, including a game as keeper. This after signing for Arsenal from Southampton where he played as an amateur inside forward (attacking midfielder) in 1943 aged 23. His move to Arsenal came about through Southampton's then manager Tom Parker the famous captain of Arsenal in the late twenties and early thirties under Chapman.

As a result of Barnes vaulting accident he was advised that he'd never play football again, but Walley just wasn't the type to take no for an answer. Although out of action for over a year he proved his fitness sufficiently to get back with Arsenal at a time when the team were struggling. It was Tom Whittaker who signed him and shoved him back in the first team almost immediately for a league match at Deepdale where he was up against the great Tom Finney.

It's at this stage in the book that he takes up the story of Arsenal's post war years of which he was a major part until the early fifties. It's a period that tends to be glossed over in many Arsenal histories and you suspect that quite a lot of what has been written about the period was sourced from this volume. It's not all just Arsenal as the title suggests but covers our league Championship win of 1947-48 and Joe Mercer's time at Arsenal. Weirdly Walley still worked for the Army and was medically classified as 'Category B7, fit for light duties only' whilst he was actually playing league football.

This isn't one of them but all the photos in this title are in black & white 

As you'd expect Walley's two highly contrasting Cup Finals and our League Championship season are pretty well covered. His exploits with Wales are covered a little too well for my taste as a purely Arsenal man but the clue was always in the title. Thanks to representative, club and international matches Barnes played both against and with many of the footballing giants of his day and he's always happy to sing their praises. Apart from the run of the mill there are many interesting detours that include two tours of Brazil and another in Portugal. His honesty about the comparative state of British football to that of more technically advanced nations is refreshing for this particular era. As are his thoughts on the possibility of the abolition of wage caps, the progression of football under floodlights, taking penalties, tactics for full-backs, the standard of referees and a whole lot more. Clearly Barnes was very much an intelligent thinking footballer whose thoughts were worthy inclusion in the volume.

Perhaps what nails the era for me was the anectdote of Arsenal travelled home by train from a 1-1 at Huddersfield on 10th April 1948. It was only when Dennis Compton purchased a paper at Doncaster station and studied the results and league tables that the team discovered they couldn't be caught in the league and were therefore League Champions.

So for me it wasn't just the footballing stories that made this title, such an interesting read, excellent though they are, but also how massively different life was back then.

Captain of Wales by Walley Barnes
Originally published in 1953 and this paperback edition produced in 2012 by GCR Books
Retail price £12.95

Most good book shops will order a copy in for you if they don't stock it - just quote ISBN 978 0 9559211 8 6. It's also available from all your favourite online sources but probably the best deal you'll find is from GCR Books themselves  where it is priced at £8.95

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Could we have an Arsenal kit please?

Above and below you'll see a couple of very crude photoshop attempts that feature the new kits without the sponsorship advertising or the club badges. The reason I've done this is that for me the true test of a top quality football shirt design is to remove the badge and advertising logos and then see if you can say which team would wear it. Both these new shirts fail this test miserably in my opinion.

Even though one of the above players is an Arsenal man that still can't make them look like Arsenal kits to my eyes.

The purple jobbie could be anyone's. If you had to guess which team I think you might think it was a Tottenham kit, but only because they've gone down the purple route before. I'd have guessed that its more like a Liverpool shirt because they have a strong tradition of unrelated random colour away kits.

The red, white and blue kit could have been designed for one of GB's Olympic teams or it could more probably be the new US National Soccer team kit. That said I think the design would actually look better over body armour on the sort of kit worn by an NFL team. Whatever.

It can't however be an Arsenal kit because only the shorts and socks look anything like a potential Arsenal kit. Arsenal do white sleeves, they've never done huge hoops on the sleeves and certainly would never consider blue hoops. Likewise you've never in your life seen a head and shoulders shot of an Arsenal player wearing a red shirt with a blue collar, because we've never worn those colours.

I happen to think both kit designs are really good designs, but as designs for random football clubs somewhere else on the planet, anywhere else other than Arsenal. If they didn't have the badge and sponsorship branding slapped on them would you even recognise them as belonging to our Club? Obviously you would now because you're familiar with the shirts, but does either design shout Arsenal at you? For me they shout not an Arsenal shirt, because the overall kit matters not when it comes to shirt sales, no one in the marketing department is banking on the socks and shorts sales.

Unlike some I don't blame Nike because someone somewhere in the Club had to sign off on these designs. Clearly it was no one who appreciated the Arsenal traditions. Someone had to propose a design brief, although quite what that was is hard to say judging from the results. And when Nike came up with the proposals someone with the aid of a white stick had to choose from a range of styles. I'm all for equal opportunities but I really don't believe Arsenal kits should be chosen by using braille.

So I won't be buying either of them, because both shirts, which I might have purchased, fail totally as Arsenal shirts for me. Quite apart from which I'm not even sure the geezer on the right even looks like an Arsenal player.

Brian @Gooner48 on Twitter

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Unofficial London 2012 Olympic Football Quiz

There are no prizes, just a chance to show off your extensive football knowledge and to possibly conclude just where this competition really ranks in the footballing world.

How many over-age players may compete for each nation?

Answer - just three

Apart from the over-age players what is the age limit for the squad?

Answer - under 23, even though many countries no longer run under 23 sides and some countries qualified on the basis of under 21 competitions.

There have been 24 football tournaments at the Olympics thus far. Seventeen of those tournaments have been won by European teams. So how many European teams have been allowed to compete in the London 2012 Olympics?

Answer - just 3 teams: Great Britain the hosts, Spain and Switzerland

When did Britain last enter a team for the Olympics?

Answer - 1960

Other than Uruguay which teams will GB, minus the Irish and Scottish players, face in the group stages?

Answer - Senegal & United Arab Emirates

What Olympic connection do Griffin Park, Brentford - Lynn Road, Newbury Park, Ilford - Champion Park, Dulwich & Green Pond Road Stadium, Walthamstow have?

Answer - they all hosted matches for the 1948 London Olympics

Name all the South American teams to have won the Olympic Gold medal

Answer - only 2 South American teams have won the Olympic Gold medal: Uruguay & Argentina - Brazil have competed more often but have only managed a silver medal.

Who were the first ever winners of an Olympic Gold in 1900 and the latest in 2008

Answer - the first ever winner, in Paris 1900, was Great Britain, Argentina won in 2008

Take a really wild guess at the second ever winner of an Olympic Gold in 1904

Answer - the second ever winner was Galt FC representing Canada

How many nations that have won an Olympic Gold no longer exist as such

Answer - Winners that no longer exist as a competing nation: Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czchoslovakia and East Germany

Which Club team represented GB in the 1900 Olympics?

Answer - Upton Park Football Club represented GB in the 1900 Olympics

 England's 1912 Olympic team

How many teams will be competing for the Football Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympics?

Answer - 16 teams will be competing for the Football Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympics.

Which two nations share the most wins with 3 Gold Medals each?

Answer - the two nations which share the most wins with 3 Gold Medals each are: Great Britain and Hungary.

What's the nationality of the top scorer for a single tournament and how many did he score in the six games he played?

Answer - the all time top scorer in a single Olympic tournament was a Hungarian named Ferenc Bene who scored 12 in the six games (1964). His Club side was Újpesti Dózsa.

Who is the manager of team GB

Answer - Stuart Pearce.

How many of London's stadiums will be used for the London Olympics

Answer - just one - Wembley

How many English players are represented in the team GB squad

Answer - 15 English plus 3 Welsh players

Who are the oldest and youngest players in the GB squad

Answer - Ryan Giggs (38) and Jack Butland (19)

Two Premiership teams have two players each in the team - can you name them?

Answer Manchester United and Chelsea

Can you name the only Southampton player in team GB

Answer - Jack Cork

Ryan Giggs the GB team captain

So there you go - a totally pointless quiz but I hope it might leave you better informed

Having attempted to answer all the questions you might conclude that this is an over-hyped, pointless, unnecessary and somewhat meaningless international competition for under 23's. If all goes well however some players such as Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey might see it as the possible peak of their careers.

The eventual Gold medallists, whoever that might be, will no doubt big up its importance on the world's football stage. While other more cynical fans, myself included, might claim it should be ranked somewhere below the Capital One League Cup but maybe just above the FA Carlsberg Trophy.

However you rate it - its your call

Brian @Gooner48 on Twitter