Red Letter Days by Jon Spurling
Arsenal Book Review by Brian Dawes
Jon Spurling is not new to writing about the Arsenal and his past works have all been great reads, so I looked forward to devouring his latest work and wasn’t disappointed. This one is called ‘Red Letter Days’ and it is a book, which to quote the sub title, pinpoints 14 dramatic events that shook Arsenal Football Club. These are milestones which have grossly impacted on the Arsenal history line and which have been absolutely fundamental, if not crucial to our Club’s development. If you’re an Arsenal fan and are not yet fully aware of them all I’d regard it as somewhat remiss of you, but entirely forgiveable because Jon doesn’t stick to just the obvious trophy winning highlights. Rather he concentrates on the key events that lead up to them.
The chapter headings are clever if not always obvious and point us towards such major characters as Henry Norris, Charlie Buchan to begin the journey which takes us through to George Graham and Wenger in the later years. Having followed the club myself over land and sea, and Leicester for many decades I can personally attest to the quality of detail in such sections as that which described the Fairs Cup semi-finals against the emerging Cruyff’s Ajax and more importantly the classic Stoke City FA Cup semi-final and replay which lead to our first Double. These are but two examples which include so many quoted gems from the likes of Frank McLintock, Peter Storey, Geordie Armstrong which make the pages alive with insight and descriptions from key characters within the events. Although the book gives the likes of Henry Norris, Joe Mercer, Bertie Mee, Frank McLintock or George Graham the credit they richly deserve it also suggests that others such as Ronnie Rooke, Dave Sexton and Bruce Rioch, to name but three, should receive wider recognition for their contributions.
Apart from the many delightful quotes it’s the almost throwaway asides that I like best. For example would any current manager order a player, about to play his last 45 minutes of football for the Club, to down a large glass of whiskey at half time? Certainly not Mr Wenger. And almost as amazingly the very same manager late on in the most crucial game of a particular season: ‘walked down the tunnel and poured himself a double brandy.’ (to quote the text) because he couldn’t stand the tension. I’ve not told you the names involved because I’ve no wish to spoil what I can guarantee to be really good read for all Arsenal fans even vaguely interested in our Club’s history.
One particular paragraph I will share however, in order to illustrate that some things just never change over the years was is one: “The occasionally negative headlines irritated George Swindon so much that he went to see Whittaker about it. Whittaker’s response was, ‘I’m surprised at you George, worrying about things like that. It’s part and parcel of playing for Arsenal – always was, always is, and always will be George. I’d ignore it if I were you.’
One of Jon’s previous books, ‘Rebels for the Cause’ is, in my opinion, one of the best Arsenal books ever written so it’s no surprise to me that Red Letter days which is yet another immaculately researched volume containing many fabulous quotes and well-considered viewpoints has provided us with yet another fabulous Arsenal related title to both learn from and enjoy.
Published by Pitch Publishing
Available from all your favourite online sources and decent booksellers everywhere. But for a really good price this title is currently being offered at 30% discount by Pitch Publishing. http://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/content/save-30-sports-books
Waterstones book signings by Jon Spurling in the near future are on November 22nd at St Albans from 11am -1pm, November 29th at Enfield from11-1 and on December 6th at Chelmsford 11-1