One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

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

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

Sunday, 8 July 2012

RvP - Return of the Broken Cannons

Arsenal fans hate summer - No Wonder, this is becoming a little repetitive and more and more difficult to defend to ourselves.

The fact is that each summer as fans we become more polarised in our views. watching CFC win the Champions League in the most dull CFC way possible and then seeing Ashley Cole stick it to us in the after-match interview - only makes us even more polarised.

The model we have is simple:

* Sell a big player each summer and re-invest that exact mount in a replacement not as good.

* Coach and develop said players to stay in the top 4.
* Report Profits to gleeful shareholders twice a year
* The fans who sustain the self sustaining - we charge highest prices in Europe
* Hope to god Arsene Wenger does not get sick

Only this time our model is really laid bare as RvP is different. He loves Arsenal more and demonstrated it with how he performed. No Cesc style sulking or timely hamstrings. He said it knowing the gap in the club would be split wide open.

For me the player is an irrelevance - players come and go.

My favourite Arsenal player was Vieira - he went. Not only that - today he continues to undermine Arsenal from his well paid perch at Man City. He is obviously advising on how to build an Arsenal XL version at the Etihad Stadium.

For me no coincidence that it's Arsenal v City in the 'birds-nest' - Iconic venue with huge revenue opportunities for both clubs. The boards are probably closer than we dare to think. And why not. City are really sustaining the self sustaining model of Arsenal with hard up front cash.

But when Arsenal get off the plane who will the Chinese fans be clamouring over in our team. Balotelli, Kompany, Aguero, Tevez Toure will be mobbed and Arsenal will have meek little Theo doing that little timid hand clap.

There is no Marquee players at Arsenal any more. No Cesc, No Henry, No Vieira, No Bergkamp No Cole No Gilberto - No Stardust,talent yes but star quality no.

OK I get the whole we make stars thing but really. Is sport like that?

Really at £7 for a hot dog at the Emirates is that still acceptable?

When football is off season my second favourite sport is NBA Basketball. The best teams have what you call a Big 3 - Three marquee players that you build your Team/Franchise on.

One star attracts another star.

Great example is the Miami Heat and Le Bron James. He took the Cleveland Cavaliers (his home town team) to the NBA Finals and got swept 4 games to nil. He allowed his contract to run down and he went to Miami to play WITH Dwain Wade and they in turn attracted Chris Bosh. 3 all star players in one team

Le Bron - D-Wade and Chris Bosh Celebrate - Miami had their big 3 players. This year they won the NBA finals.

Now not everyone agreed with how the Heat went about their business but for me it's the fact - that a team is identified by its players.

I love RvP the player. As a man he was a superb captain, leader and player who pulled together the dressing room. I will go as far to say he, single handed held the club together all season - Characters like that are not easy to find.

The way he plays the technique the spirit. He takes corners, free kicks, penalties. He defends the front post on corners as well as anyone. He is our best crosser, passer, in open play he is our best shooter.

Easily the best all round player in the Premiership. Arsenal is built for him. We saw when playing for Holland with other ego's around him and a team not built for RvP in Euro 2012, that he can look very normal and feel the pressure of expectation like anyone else. That should of been a warning but the humiliation of losing 3 games may actually have been one of the catalysts to move on.

You ask the 25-30 year olds today why they support Arsenal and I bet it was because of Henry, Vieira et al. Players who delivered who epitomised the Arsenal spirit.
For me it was Charlie George.


Charlie - He won my heart at Wembley in '71 and fought off another player I admired - Colin Bell.

A Man City hard running cultured midfielder - a dashing England international that we could do with in England's midfield today

 Colin Bell - top player

My dad soon sorted me out though and Arsenal won the day. Point is that it's how fan-bases are grown. Players, trophies, stardust attract.

Good Players attract. We all say it's the club that matters and yes that is true but we debate players and it's players that draw us in and keep us hooked.

RvP does that job for Arsenal today - but after him what is left. What becomes our flagship.
Do we need one?

What we do need is a set of players that are at the right standard. I am growing up and realise I cannot get attracted to players long term. They will continually disappoint you as to them it's a job but to us as fans it's our life or a big part of who we are.

We identify with our team and it hurts to see Arsenal as a club where no one seems to want to stay - and many choose other clubs as a better choice to joining ours.

Why is Arsenal not the place to be - Are we resting on our laurels?

My fear is Arsenal have not grown as they should of. I have said repeatedly we are a sleeping giant.

We moved grounds and we were sold a dream, In fact the dream did not need selling we could see it every week. The Emirates is beautiful and I for one thought at last we can compete. The big players of Milan and Barca will want to come to us and they cannot steal an Henry again.

Its not happened. YET - But I still applaud the ambition.

What concerns me is Arsenal are not Arsenal XL but Arsenal Lite top to bottom.

* We have grown our infrastructure but we have not grown the people infrastructure round the club.
* Coaches are Old School when once we were ahead of the curve
* Medical staff are being mocked due to our injury record
* Chelsea and Spurs, even Brentford are stealing our youth coaches - standards are falling at Hale End
* We are left with Charlton's cast off coaches who have mixed reputations.

We don't look as forward thinking as our rivals. We have no succession planning we have old coaches and an even older Board. We look like a club waiting to be sold.

Our training ground is still good but once we were the best and now we have been passed by MUFC, CFC, even Norwich. Spurs are about to go past us with their new training complex.

The training ground is the players' office. That is where they can be themselves with no outsiders allowed. How that is run, how players feel define how BIG the club is. If you see your office crumbling at work and there is a new shiny building nearby that will pay you more and give you a better career opportunity and make you feel positive - what would you do. Fine details but crucially important.

My fear and my feedback is Arsenal are NOW a big club with a small time mentality. Do we know HOW to make the next step?

Players sense that. They sense when a club is retracting and in a short career they move. Remember when SOL left Spurs for us. At the time it was an obvious move. Today that move now could go either way - how long before an Arsenal player looks at Spurs and thinks they are moving forward at a greater pace than Arsenal

Its those indicators and the fear of being overtaken that is enveloping our club support.

Wenger has lost his transfer mojo and we need to sell our way out of that down period. Once that has completed only then can we re-build.

Can RvP wait - Can we wait. We have no choice. RvP has.

In some ways he is a hero. He has laid bare what we have all been struggling to articulate - what I do know is that no organisation can be successful with out common goals, clear strategy from the top down - a direction that is followed by all.

We do not have that so I fear we shall free wheel and bob along even more dependent on the one Marquee Person left at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger

Maybe that was the plan all along.....

Clive P @clivepafc