Category Archives: Book Review

Reviewing all Arsenal related books

Almost Invincible – The Perfect Christmas Gift

Christmas is on the horizon, and buying the ideal gift is troublesome to say the least.

If you have a Gooner to buy for though? That means you always have a present in mind for them to unwrap.

There is plenty of merchandise that would put a smile on their face. Jerseys, training kit, stationary, everything up to and including their very own Gunnersaurus.

I’m here to tell you that my book, Almost Invincible, is the answer you’re looking for.

Don’t believe me?

Let Bob Wilson, Arsenal icon, convince you;
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Not enough to sway you? What about the words of Arsenal goal machine and title winner Alan Smith?

Arsenal legend Alan smith endorses my book!

My book has even won rave reviews from one of the best writers in the business. Amy Lawrence, Guardian and Observer journalist, had this to say about Almost Invincible;

This book thoughtfully details an historic campaign for Arsenal; a team full of character and a season that required a band of brothers to succeed.”

My book looks in depth at the title-winning season of 1990/91. A season that saw points deductions, a 23 man brawl, our captain being sent to prison – and a league campaign that saw our squad rise above it all in a spectacular fashion.

One single loss was incurred in the face of these huge setbacks. A loss that should never have happened.

I delved deep into the annals of the British Library to take from newspaper excerpts, player interviews and more. I also enlisted the help of some esteemed Gooners who were fans and enjoyed the season first hand, to get as close to the feelings and events that they went through.

This book is much more than just a stats book, or a focus on a season. This book was written to give fans a time machine with a sole destination – the incredible season of 1990/91.

Any fans who find this book under the Christmas tree will have the chance to enjoy that wonderful season.

So consider ‘Almost Invincible’ for the Gooner in your life, or leave a few hints to your nearest and dearest if you’d like it yourself!

You can find the book here or on Amazon here.

Invincibles Vs Almost Invincibles

Featured in The Gooner Fanzine

Comparing things is pretty big business. It harnesses our compelling need to put different versions alongside each other and gauge each and every characteristic – despite the flaws in the method.

We can’t help but do it, but comparing things has far too many variables to reach a conclusive answer.

Especially when it comes to football – and yet we are all guilty of it.

Ronaldo and Messi compared to Maradona and Pele or any other titan of the game is one that is often bandied around, but the nuances of time and the different permutations surrounding each generation render any result reached a moot one.

We do it with different teams too – even ones that wore the same jersey.

As Gooners, we are pretty spoiled when we visit the annals of our past, as we have a multitude of teams, players and seasons when success was reached and memories were encased in a gold-tinted amber. We can hark back to these slices of time and wonder how they would have fared in today’s game – and if they would have emulated some of our more recent successes.

George Graham helped us achieve a few of our brightest moments, but will always be remembered for probably the most dramatic title win in history. The Miracle of Anfield 89 has been converted into film twice and is never far away from any self-respecting Gooner’s recollection – and for very good reason – but was that his finest team?

Probably not.

Two years later, his Arsenal side reclaimed the title ahead of rivals Liverpool, conceded just 18 goals in the process over 38 games, and scored a hatful of goals to dispel any notions that his men were mere defence merchants.

They won the title with games to spare too – and perhaps the most compelling argument to sway anyone who thought the 89 team was better? The team of 90/91 did all this even with their skipper being sent to prison, being deducted points for the infamous brawl at Old Trafford – still the only case before or since where a team has been deducted points – and having a squad that was light in terms of numbers.

They played every three days for over a third of the season, and lost just one game. One. That sole ‘L’ in the league table came at Stamford Bridge where an offside goal and a tackle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an MMA Octagon took out our sole recognised centre-back combined to thieve points from GG’s team.

It is quite the story, and there was much more too. How did the squad keep the good ship Arsenal on a steady course despite missing such an inspirational figure in Tony Adams? How did the team cope despite being lambasted by the press for their part in the mass melee at Old Trafford? Above all, could they have gone ‘Invincible’ before Wenger’s fabulous side achieved it thirteen years after?

This amazing and inspirational side are one of the finest that Arsenal have ever had, but they get a paltry amount of limelight compared to the 03/04, 89 and even the 97/98 sides.

Never mind about were they as good as the hero’s of 89 – we should be asking whether they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Invincibles – arguably our greatest ever eleven.

You see? We can’t help but compare.

My book, Almost Invincible, does this extensively, and uses library newspaper records and the accounts of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Bob Wilson, David Hillier and Alan Smith to illustrate how they did what they did. It also features expert opinion from Guardian journalist Amy Lawrence.

Undecided? Let my book show you how good the side of 90/91 truly were, the side that was ‘Almost Invincible.’

Just go to the ‘My Books’ section above, or go to my Twitter bio, my handle is @JokAFC.

Book Signing Event!

By now, the majority of you are well aware that my book, Almost Invincible, is being released.

 

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It has been a labour of love for me. Writing my first book about a subject I feel so passionately about was a fantastic and frustrating experience. Fantastic because I got to relive every facet of the fantastic 1990/91 title winning side and share in the experiences of those that achieved it – and frustrating as I tried to make every single word as excellent as the displays on the pitch during that amazing campaign.

Now, the book will have a launch event.

 

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On the 12th of August, the day of our first game of the season against Man City, at 7pm, come along to The Gunners Pub, 204 Blackstock Rd. David Hillier, a member of the 90/91 squad, will be there to sign your books – as well as some special guests…

So, it’d be great to see you there. I speak to so many of you regularly through social media, so please come along so I can thank you in person for the support!

It is a dual event, with another Arsenal book – Royal Arsenal, Champions of the South – being launched too.  This is a fascinating window into Arsenal’s origins in the South of London, and well worth a read for any discerning Gooner.

It’ll be a blast, I hope you can all make what will be a memorable evening!

12 August, 7pm, The Gunners Pub.

Be there!

Almost Invincible – My Book, My Words

Previously seen on The Arsenal Review.

This is the story of how my Arsenal book – Almost Invincible – began.
The explosion of social media has had a large impact on everyone – and every facet of life. Everything has a completely different landscape now, from the way we communicate, to the daily trip to the shops, and our 9-5’s.

There are other ways that social media has left its mark too. It has given everyone a voice – for good or bad – and we can see that there are a multitude of writers who can charm or bewilder us, inform us or infuriate us. The keyboard is thy weapon.

I started blogging about five years ago. I was pigeonholed in a well-paid but mundane job that required no lateral – or any thinking – whatsoever. I was completely autonomous, lacking any real requirement to stretch my grey matter. It was pretty hellish to be honest, and I was trapped.

I needed an outlet. I couldn’t leave as my bills needed paying and I couldn’t find alternative employment with matching numbers. So, I started to blog. There was only one thing I found I could wax lyrical about, and it was The Arsenal.

A friend of mine on Twitter asked me to write for his website and I agreed, and slowly but surely, my follower count grew as I aimed to write everything BUT transfer clickbait. I wanted to show that a decent story and research works wonders.

I branched out and created my own site, where I put out regular content, and thankfully, demand grew for my words. I started to write sporadically for other sites and about football in general, rather than on a singular club.

I started to freelance, writing about everything from charity events to pipe-laying and civil engineering. I had the outlet, the catharsis, that my job demanded. Unfortunately, every day at work was a sure reminder that the dream I had when I was at school was still a fair distance away.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, in any capacity. The problem is with full-time work in this sector, is it doesn’t exactly pay well, so with a mortgage and child, this was just a pipe-dream.

Plus, I’m not well known for my patience, so writing a book seemed daunting. How could I dedicate myself for nine months to a year on one project?

This was different though. I wanted this more than anything, to see my words, my name on a book – for people to actually want to read it? It was my target.

So, I started my research. The first part was figuring out the subject. It was always going to be about Arsenal – it is the only subject I know anything about – but there are many Gunners books out there. What could I write about that hasn’t been covered before?

Well, the 1990/91 season jumped out at me. When people think Arsenal, they think of the Doubles in 98 and 02, they think of the Miracle of Anfield in 89, they think of Herbert Chapman’s innovations.

The title win in 91 seemed to fade into the background, and the more I found out, the more I wondered why this campaign wasn’t lauded as much as perhaps our greatest triumph – The Invincibles.

My Arsenal Book - Almost Invincible

I got to work and fleshed out a framework of the book, what the chapters would consist of, and I reached out to some of my friends on Twitter that were well versed, and they filled in some blanks – especially for the pre-season of 1990.

Then, I purchased the entire set of programme’s for that season, which was a pretty penny. The info proved to be invaluable though. I also became a member of the British Library, and paid a few visits to its extensive store of newspaper excerpts. The media even back then weren’t exactly hot on our club…

What was missing though, was a point of view from those who were actually involved in this great year. I again used social media and some useful contacts, and I managed to interview David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, David Hillier, Bob Wilson and Alan Smith. The Guardian and The Observer journalist Amy Lawrence also gave up her time to offer her knowledge.

It has really made the book extra special, and there isn’t a facet of this season that isn’t covered by every angle. It also means that if you read it, you’ll be left in no doubt why this team is perhaps one of our finest.

Now the book has been printed, and seeing it in the flesh has made my dream come true. It may not sell well, it might not be well received, but I’ve overcome my own lack of conviction, and achieved a dream. Not many can say that.

I’m so proud of the finished article, and I must thank Dave at Legends Publishing. I sent him the first three chapters and he liked what he read, and thanks to him I can call myself an author.

There will be launches of my book – titled ‘Almost Invincible’ – at locations around The Emirates, plus you can purchase it at – https://www.legendspublishing.net/product/almost-invincible-arsenal-the-class-of-1991/

I really hope you like what you read. Please let me know what you think via Twitter, my handle is @JokAFC.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

My Book, Signed by Me!

What a surreal moment.

Sitting in the garden of my publisher’s house, signing copies of my book.

Signing my book!

Stacks of my labour of love all around me, my name on the cover an exhilarating reminder of what I’ve achieved.

I’ve dreamt of this moment. To say I’m an author, to scrawl my amateurish signature on copies of my book that people have ordered.

To sign something other than to certify I’ve received my Amazon delivery is a little weird!

The very fact that people have spent their hard-earned cash on just the premise of my book – that has blown me away. It’s a real thrill – and you all have my gratitude.

As I trotted out my signature over, and over, and over again, I then started to worry.

What if people don’t like it? What if they read it and then droves of 1-star reviews flood in declaring my work an odious turd of a tome? People pleading for a refund for the time they spent turning each page?’

It could happen, but I’ve still achieved my life goal.

I’m still an author.

I’d be destroyed if you don’t like it. The title-winning team of 1991 are the object of my closest affections – all I aim to do with this book is give them the adulation their spectacular efforts deserve.

I sincerely hope you all finish reading the book and come away knowing how good they really were – one of our finest, if not one of this land’s greatest. For that one season, they simply couldn’t be stopped by footballing means – or by points deductions or the skipper being sentenced to jail.

They were a phenomenal team, and the book hopefully highlights every glint of their shine.

Signing, signing, still signing. The ‘D’ in my signature becomes a little embellished.

A few special dedications for people who have helped push me.

Over 200 copies of my book stand before me – all with my signature. These were hours I won’t forget.

It may not sell well, but the fact it’s sold any is still strange to me. The book I’ve spent the best part of a year researching and writing – I now have my hands on it – and I’m signing it.

It’s finally here.

There will be two launch events, keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter – @JokAFC – for all the info when it gets announced.

You can still order, just go to – http://www.legendspublishing.net/product/almost-invincible-arsenal-the-class-of-1991/

I hope you enjoy the book!

Almost Invincible, The Book of Arsenal’s 1990/91 Title

I’ve written a book, and it’s been over a year in the making.

You can pre-order ‘Almost Invincible’ here and if you do, you get your name in the book and a signed copy.

Now that’s been mentioned, why should you buy it?

It looks at Arsenal’s epic title-winning team of 1990/91, and the horde of problems that beset George Graham and his squad. Despite all the obstacles in their path, they still went through the season with just ONE defeat, and the book looks at how they deserve far more plaudits than they currently get.

It features from the squad Alan Smith, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, David Hillier and Nigel Winterburn, as well as Sir Bob Wilson and journalist Amy Lawrence. It looks at every aspect of the season, from pre-season, transfers and every league and cup match.

The infamous brawl at Old Trafford that saw us docked points – still the only occasion before or since that this has occurred – our Captain Tony Adams being sent to jail and how the squad coped and the sole loss that never should have happened are all under the spotlight.

I started writing this book as I feel our club has a history like no other, and this title-winning campaign is amongst the finest things our beloved club has achieved in its illustrious past.

I’ve always had a fascination with words and it’s been a legitimate aim of mine for years to author a book, so if you notice me getting a little giddy at times on social media, then you now know why.

Plus, the book is designed to raise awareness of possibly the greatest unit it has ever assembled. Hence my frenzied tweeting.

We should be shouting about it, but it has faded into the background in amongst the perceived brighter lights, and this shouldn’t be the case. That is what my book is here to address.

We had the top scorer in the league. We had assembled the finest backline these shores have ever had the pleasure to see. Our team was complete, and the scary statistical similarities to the Invincibles of 2004 only embolden the fact that they achieved this with a far smaller squad – and a more testing fixture schedule.

With more games in less days, a far more competitive league with more contenders and Liverpool still the giant it was from the 80’s, Graham’s team worked miracles.

Don’t believe me? It’s all in the book, which you can pre-order here.

This team broke the monopoly of Liverpool and left the domestic game open. The Premier League era was dawning and Arsenal’s title-winning team of 90/91 were the ones who sent the old regime toppling.

The Miracle of Anfield 89, The Invincibles, The Double-Winning teams of 1971, 1998 and 2002 and the FA Cup winning team of 1979 are all fan favourites, but this particular campaign really does rank amongst the finest.

I hope that you’ll come to appreciate the lustre of this team. If you were a fan back then and were lucky enough to enjoy the season as it unfolded, or if you were like me and love the club so much that you want to know as much as you can – especially the good bits – then my book will fit the bill.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but you can pre-order my book here.

Thank you all for your support.

My Gooner Storybook

Hi guys and gals. 

Some of you reading this have been reading my dribblings for years now, for some, this is your first.

Either way, I’m eternally grateful that you’ve chosen my site. You will probably know that my site occasionally features some eclectic content. It does say so at the top of the site, to be fair!

Well, I’ve been writing these strange short-stories for years. They don’t normally get many readers, but I think they are important. Let’s face it, there are a myriad of choices if you need a match preview or you want to catch up on the latest team news. 

If you want to imagine your favourite players in a murder mystery though? Where do you go for that?

Content and writing needs to be different. It needs to stray from the lines every now and then. 

So, I collected them all and crammed them all in a cheap e-book. It is perfect for those who want a good read on the toilet, you can read one short story per sitting!

In all seriousness though, I hope you’ll take a look at it. It will at the very least, rid you of boredom for a while. It has plenty of tales in the book and will keep you busy for a wee while. 
Let me know what you think and as always, thank you for reading and sharing! 

​Queen of Cups – An Arsenal Book Review

This book forms part of a trilogy of unique books revolving around Arsenal football club, and the final part of this trio of tomes really lifts the lid on some incredible Gunners stories.


The story is so jam-packed with incident and drama, that it had to come in two parts, and both are as enthralling as each other.




Author James Durose-Rayner began with ‘I Am Sam’ and the second book was titled ‘ITV7’ and both books feature different generations of The Arsenal. Intertwined with the unearthing of some incredible Gunners stories is a compelling fictitious storyline that chunters along at breakneck speed. Queen of Cups is no different, and readers will be shocked at what has been dug up about the North London club – and also how the story whizzes from one escapade to another.


Main protagonist Lee Janes has gone from a wheeling-dealing mess of a man to successful entrepreneur in the space of these books, and this final part sees his empire that he created open up avenues that could change his and his family’s life – for better or worse. It teeters between tragedy and glory with each turn of the page, but the acumen of Janes and his wife ‘M’ keeps the good ship on course – most of the time.


The dynamic between the main characters and the extended family is a delight to read, and it feels all too real. The vernacular is familiar and it allows you to identify with each of the people on the pages you read. It means that whatever befalls these fictitious characters, you are wishing only the best for them. The author has managed to tie the reader in to the twists and turns of each day that unfolds, and it means pages fly past quicker than an Alan Hudson through ball.


The former footballer above is a huge part of this book, and the whole thing benefits from his presence. Hudson was a maverick of the game in the 70’s, and his short spell at Arsenal is the focus of the football part of the book. ‘Huddy’ as he is affectionately known, features in both the fictional storyline and the in-depth look at the Arsenal team of 1976-78.


The England midfielder’s talents were matched only by his outspoken nature, and were it not for his tendency to speak his mind and some awful injuries, Hudson could have been a great of the game. Durose-Rayner obviously picked Hudson’s brains about the goings on at Arsenal during Hudson’s stint there, and the book explodes into life with the musings of Hudson.


I have had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Alan Hudson many times, and Durose-Rayner has him nailed on in this book. Hudson is the oil which makes this book pur – much like his displays on the pitch in his pomp.


The Arsenal team in question were tantalisingly close to silverware on many fronts in 1978, but the failings of Manager Terry Neill are unveiled whilst the Lee Janes storyline continues to gather pace, and the facts that are on show in this book are jaw-droppers not only for Gooners – but for football fans in general.


No spoilers, but the errors of Neill are tantamount to sabotage at some points, and some of the players the Gunners could have obtained were it not for the club dithering on price would have made a team of superstars. I implore supporters of any team to read this book just for this!


Those who enjoy a good yarn won’t be disappointed either. The author has made sure Lee Janes and his wife ‘M’ and their busy life really propels you to read more. This book though, has two engines and it benefits from the extra kick.


The two turbo-boosted engines in question are the aforementioned Alan Hudson – and M, Janes’ wife.


Emily Janes ties up loose ends, is an angel with kids, ensures her husband is always priority and is talented in front of camera. 


This story really is of women empowerment. Whilst Lee is the business guru who ensures the opportunities never dry up, you get the distinct impression that were it not for Emily, things would capsize rapidly. She is an absolute dynamo in every area, and you cannot help but root for her.


Whilst reading this, it was all too easy to fly through six or seven chapters. Whether it be the failed attempts of Arsenal to sign Trevor Francis, or the crumbling of a lifelong friendship between Janes and Sooty, you simply want to find out more.


This being the final part of the trilogy means that there will be no more of Janes, but more importantly, does this mean that the author will stop producing what is essentially an excellent idea?


Football stories are fantastic to read, but if it was a book of just this, then you would soon tire of page after page of stats and transfer faux-pas. The combining of the fictitious and the factual means this is a football book that is so different to the rest. I dearly hope people give this a whirl.


If you do, then start with the first part. Not because the rest of the trilogy won’t make sense. No, Durose-Rayner makes sure you could start in any order you please thanks to his savvy intro’s.


It is because you really don’t want to miss anything.


Arsenal are a fascinating club to look back into, but such is the depth of research that is on show, all clubs from this era are heavily featured, so there are no shortage of nuggets of info to feast on.


The storyline too, has so much packed into each book, that you would kick yourself if you didn’t read the other two books.


So, to surmise, this book is a continuation of an excellent trilogy. Football fans will love it, and those who enjoy feasting on tales.

It is the way the writer has given the reader both that means this is a must-have for your collection

A Close-Up With an Arsenal Book Author

The author in question is currently finishing up the culmination of his trilogy. The exploits of the main protagonist Lee Janes in the two books that have been published thus far – ‘I Am Sam’ and ‘ITV7’ – have been just as riveting as finding out some hidden truths about the club we all support.

I got the opportunity to question the man behind these books which combine glitz, glamour, drama and Arsenal so seamlessly. The writer is James Durose-Rayner, and these questions take a look at how his latest book – number two of the planned trilogy – ITV7, came to be written…..

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Interview with James Durose-Rayner

Q – James, where did the idea come from for this trilogy?

JDR – When I was growing up we didn’t have the distractions that children have now and football (as it was with my mates), was my life. Everything revolved around it – ‘Football Focus’, ‘On the Ball’, The BBC’s vidiprinter, ‘Match of the Day’ and ‘The Big Match’ at the weekend, whilst every snippet of football was acquired from the tabloids throughout the week… and if you were lucky, Harry Carpenter’s ‘Sportsnight’ would show highlights of some midweek match, before the full circle was upon you again.

I was a 1970’s kid (Sweet’s Fox on the Run, Steve Harley’s Come up and See Me along with long hair, flares and platforms … in Junior school) and my team was the soap opera that was Arsenal – a team that kept you on the end of your seat forever wondering which team would show up at 3.00pm Saturday. You need just look at the years between 1970-1980 to understand the topsy-turvy life of an Arsenal fan.

Loving football, I have read literally hundreds of football biographies, some quite excellent and some quite pitiful.
It wasn’t until I had read ‘The Worst of Friends – The betrayal of Joe Mercer’ by Colin Schindler that I fancied writing a football-based book. In my mind, this was a much better effort than David Peace’s “Damned United.”
(Ask me why and I’ll gladly give you a damning appraisal in two sentences!)

I thought of a biographical account of a player, but I knew that I could never be able to piece together an honest account. Why? Because a player – no matter who he is, will never tell you the truth as I would have wanted it.
Therefore, I needed an angle, and it was my wife who indirectly gave it me when she had run out of books whilst we were out of the UK.
She had picked up a 1971 autobiography penned by Bob Wilson, had begun reading it and a few pages into it she slung it. “I can’t read that rubbish,” she said.
My wife takes a semi-interest in Arsenal in that she is happy for me when they win, but that is about it. As for football, she isn’t that bothered – and there was that said ‘inspiration’.
I had to write a football-themed book that could be read by anyone – male or female as well as people who don’t even like football.
The subject? Jon Sammels.

Q – It is often said by authors that a lot of their own life experiences go into the book. Are you lucky enough to be able to claim credit for any of the fantastic instances that occur in the life of main character of the book?

JDR –  I am extremely fortunate (if that’s the right word) to be blessed with varied life experiences at either end of the spectrum. And when I say that, I don’t say it lightly – and as my wife would probably tell you, my life is all about ‘extremes’ whether it be love, hate, happiness, sadness, wealth, poverty. I’ve embraced the lot and I’ll tell you now – feeling good or being ‘nice’ blows any of its antonyms or opposites away, which is one of the reasons both ‘SAM’ and ‘ITV 7’ went the way they did.

My life was similar – certainly not the same – to that of the main protagonist in the stories when I was in my late teens – early twenties, although I certainly never had the financial trappings that he has, as that would come in later life.

If I were to have constructed the characters from scratch they would possibly all possess similarities with one another and one of the things that I have learned through life is that each and every one of is so very different. This is the main reason I love to base my characters on or around real people.

Write what you know.

That’s the best advice anyone could give to someone wanting to write a book.

Q – This is one of the few Arsenal-related books out there that intertwine fiction and rich Arsenal history. Was this always your intention or did the trilogy start off with a single intention?

JDR –  I write as am writing a TV series – ask West Ham supporter Brian Allan, as that is the very first thing he picked up on.
Whilst writing ‘SAM’, and without sounding effeminate, I fell in love with the characters, and as I got towards its end I knew I had to carry it on, therefore I had it in my head that it would become a trilogy – a three-part series that would have an ending.

Q – With the current infatuation surrounding transfer links on a constant merry-go-round, did you ever worry that a book looking at a historical aspect of Arsenal would suffer as a result of not focusing on more modern matters? Or did you know that there were sufficient Gooners more than hungry to learn more about the club?

JDR – Worry, hah! My interpretation of the word ‘worry’ is much different to most, so no I was never worried. Book sales was never an angle that particularly bothered me even though ‘SAM’ went straight to the top of the Sports Fiction charts – a writer writes – or should write – for the love of writing first and foremost and never ever for the money.
As regards modern Arsenal – there are authors and potential authors out there who can or could cover that subject, much better than me.
I have said previously (to 7am kick off blog) that I could easily knock a 200 page “picture book” up on any aspect of Arsenal in just a few weeks; however, I would get no gratification whatsoever from doing something such as that and I would just see it as another task that I didn’t want to do.

Q -The amount of things I’ve learned from reading the first two books ( I Am Sam and ITV7 ) borders on encyclopaedic. How much research has gone into each book?

JDR – This is where either book could stand up to any factual book on Arsenal.
The story may be fiction, however the factual content is 100% and far more intense than any Arsenal or football book that I’ve ever read. I made a point of breaching certain subjects that have neither dared be mentioned nor that ever been covered before – but before that, you have to be certain that these things actually happened and extensive research is all part of that.
‘ITV 7’ and in particular Arsenal’s 1958/59 season was the most extensive and interesting piece of research that I have ever undertaken – and bearing in mind that I’ve been responsible for over 200 magazines and reading through the small print of numerous 1000- page contract documents and the like – that’s some statement.

Arsenal passing on Gordon Banks and John Collins and totally missing out on Dave Mackay, whilst in pursuit of John Charles’ younger brother. The Denis Law to Arsenal saga. The failed bids for Phil Woosnam and the mistreatment of Jimmy Bloomfield and his being passed over by England. The missing out on Jimmy Greaves, the tight-fisted nature of the Arsenal board… I loved it and I could have happily written an 800-page book on that season alone.
The elder generation of Arsenal supporters can often look back in time with both starry eyes and through rose-tinted spectacles; when in reality the past is anything but.

Q – The first book was an in depth look at the underrated and often maligned Jon Sammels. Was he a favourite of yours, or just a player that you felt never received the adulation he warranted?

JDR – That is a brilliant question, Dan.
No, he was never my favourite player.
Strangely my favourite player for Arsenal pre-Supermac arriving was Alan Ball – a player I give quite a rough ride to.
To me Jon Sammels was a sticker in a 68/69 Panini sticker book that I had been given.
Being only six at the time I mis-pronounced the name as ‘Jon Samuels’ and my dad informed me that not only was his name ‘Sammels and not Samuels’ – he also played for Leicester City.
When the mass marketed VHS videos of Arsenal came out during the 80’s I collected anything I could get my hands on and one match that always stayed in my mind me was the 30th November, 1970 match of Arsenal 2, Liverpool 0. Jon’s comeback match.
I’d previously read about Jon being ostracised by a section of the crowd and I found myself looking at that and other footage to see why?
(Players being ostracised by the crowd is nothing new. Possibly the greatest ball-playing winger of his era in Alan Hinton was dogged by it at Wolves, Forest and Derby – and even though Ramsey supposedly hated wingers – Hinton was capped by England)
For years I thought nothing of it until I wanted a subject for a book and Jon’s name came up in a book I was reading …..as after protracted contract negotiations he became one of Britain’s most highest paid football players in 1969/70.
That was it. The research started and the book was more or less written before I actually spoke with Jon himself who confirmed three or four things that I was unsure of.
I would tell anyone out there that ‘SAM’ and ‘ITV 7’ are a more comprehensive account of Jon Sammels Arsenal career than his own biography…. And it gives a valid reason why the player was ostracised by the crowd.

Q – The life of Lee Janes is steeped within football, but it is his domestic life that is made for the front pages! Where did he come from – true inspiration or someone you know?

JDR – No, he’s definitely no one I know.
In my head I thought of a type of person most Arsenal supporters would have wanted to be and I thought of David Beckham circa 2004 in an Arsenal shirt.
Around that time Beckham was a player who had Arsenal written all over him.
And the job – which football fanatic wouldn’t want to be in football?

And his wife and girlfriend? That took some perfecting!

I purposely made the main character an opinionated and conceited womaniser, with my idea to make people (especially the female reader) initially despise him; however there was a bit of method in my madness.

Consider the recent game versus Leicester City and the last minute goal.
All game the decisions have gone against you and the opposition end up going one up before half time due to one of those decisions, and now part of the crowd are either silent or against you. You keep continually battering away but keep getting repelled before pulling a goal back to silence the hecklers? But you know a draw will never be enough….
Then how satisfying is it to get a winner in the last minute?
Priceless.

That was the formula for ‘SAM’ and ‘ITV 7’.

Q – The last book of the trilogy – Queen of Cups – is in the works. What can you tell us about it? Is it close?

JDR – The spine of ‘Queen of Cups’ is being put together now.
It mainly covers the 1976-80 seasons – The Terry Neill years – which I have to say are as interesting as the 1958/59 season; however, as with ‘SAM’ and ‘ITV 7’ it touches on various other eras – including bits of Billy Wright’s time at the club and of course the club’s current timeline.

What the story outside of the football will hopefully show you is that the main character isn’t necessarily Mr Arsenal or Lee, but the woman he married – who rather strangely is the focus of 90% of emails I receive!

Q – The books carry a theme in regards to the Arsenal content that is sprinkled liberally within the pages, and that is the jawdropping nature of the revelatory facts. Is there any particular fact that really made you stop in your tracks? ( my particular favourite was that we were close to signing Denis Law! )

JDR – There are lots of facts that I didn’t know too.
In the 1958/59 season I was unaware that Arsenal went to Saltersgate in December 1958 with a view to buying Gordon Banks for £7,000 but passed on him.
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s we made several approaches for Peter Shilton, but the club wouldn’t part with the money his club asked for.
Two of the greatest keepers of their respective eras.
We had a failed bid for Allan Clarke and were also involved in an Ian Ure / Geoff Hurst swap, but both fell through.
What I will say is that the period between 1975 and 1980 were as – if not, more interesting than any period in the club’s history as regards transfer bids being knocked back and Arsenal making bum decisions and failing to get their man, with the ‘overall’ Clive Allen transfer saga summing up the indecisiveness of the club – as there is a lot more to the story than an Allen / Sansom swap.

James, I continue to wait with bated breath for the culmination of the first two books with the arrival of ‘ Queen of Cups ‘ and I thank you for your time and insight.

I heavily recommend ‘ I Am Sam ‘ and ‘ ITV7 ‘  for all Gooners. It genuinely has something for every taste and is wholly different to any Arsenal book out there currently. A heady mix of drama and Arsenal history and you can pick up this tasty word cocktail here!

‘ITV7’ – An Arsenal Book Review

Sequels are usually a bad thing. The general rule of thumb is that when revisiting a good thing, you will either lose what you were chasing or you will fail to capture what was good about the original. Die Hard 2 was a great film, but did it come remotely close to the thrills of Nakatomi Plaza in the first Bruce Willis action-fest?  The same goes for most mediums. Super Mario Bros 2 was abysmal when compared with the first game with the squat Italian plumber. Ditto for the second series of Twin Peaks and the disappointing second series.

So, the lesson to be learned is that if you have a good idea, don’t be tempted to revisit, as it’s never the same.

Continue reading ‘ITV7’ – An Arsenal Book Review