One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

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

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