One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

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

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.