That is the oft-used expression by people who are not fans of the beautiful game. They emphasise the last word of the sentence as if to compare football to a mere bout of dominoes.
They cannot understand what makes us so enamoured with the game, and it is difficult to verbalise, but 89 The Film does a wonderful job of encapsulating it on film.
I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the premiere. As an unabashed fanboy, this was manna from heaven for me, and being in the vicinity of my heroes is heady stuff indeed.
I met Jack Wilshere for a quick selfie and it was no surprise he was there. He’s a Gooner and 89 is special to us all. Moments like this are special to all fans. They keep the dreams alive in the dark days.
After getting my photos to splatter all over social media, there was a short Q&A with the likes of the gaffer himself, George Graham, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, the mind behind the film Amy Lawrence and the man who scored that goal – Mickey Thomas.
Then, the film started and it wasn’t just an in-depth look at the season. It was so much more.
The combo of youth and experience, the tactics of Graham, the amazing results, the tragedy of Hilsborough and much more, it didn’t miss a single drop.
I won’t spoil it, but there was a scene when the timely soundtrack and images smashed together to create something that was so beautiful, it makes nostalgia look like a home-filmed sports day. Slow motion adds to the moment and the goosebumps and wide smile that were symptoms of this perfect clash of image and sound took a while to wear off.
Amy Lawrence has taken the miracle of Anfield and encased it in cinematography Amber, saving it for future generations. This needs to happen.
It is easy to forget how the odds were stacked against Arsenal for that match. It is easy to forget we hadn’t won the title for 18 years prior. This film really makes you feel it all. It makes you remember why you’re a fan.
So do watch it. When you click on the TV and the current crop of players are frustrating you, this film will allow you to remember that hope may kill you, but it also makes anything possible.
It is much more than just a game.
89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November.
There are images and thoughts in your head that rarely become tangible. Those things that you stow away for when you’re having a particularly rough day, that lift the gloom.
Well, meeting Thierry Henry has always been one of mine. It sounds corny to use the word ‘dream,’ but it’s as close as I can get.
Much like every other Gooner, I have probably seen every minute of his beautiful career with our club. He is cast in bronze outside our stadium for good reason. To actually meet him though?
To do this tale of supreme Fanboy-ism justice, I must start at the beginning….
I have been plaguing Lee Dixon – another Gunners icon – with tweets. Desperate as I am to incorporate him in my project, I have tweeted him repeatedly, but to no avail.
Step forward the owner of Piebury Corner – Paul. He noticed my plight and said that the former Number2 had made an appearance in the restuarant recently and he could introduce me to him if I turned up to an event.
I was as good as there.
I booked my ticket, and was then told that another guest would be making an appearance.
Be still my overworked brain! As soon as the name was mentioned, I was a wreck, but I remained rational until I set foot on the DLR to make my way to the night.
Once in the train, my own personal highlights reel of Henry moments ran through my head.
His goal against United that looped over Barthez, his four goal demolition of Leeds United, when Jamie Carragher attempted to stop him and ended up as twisted as a pretzel……
I calmed myself by remembering previous events I had been to, where the headline act had pulled out inexplicably. This would surely happen again, Thierry must be overloaded with work…
I made my way to the venue – the Park Theatre near Finsbury Park – and stood outside. I waited for the stars to arrive like a pitiful autograph hunter, but I wasn’t ashamed. I just adored these men who had given me so much joy, and I dearly wanted to thank them. As I smoked what must have been my third cigarette in about fifteen minutes, I spied Tom Watts – perennial Arsenal host – lugging audio equipment into the theatre.
Not the best time to say hello, so I peered inside, where the ground floor bar was located. Standing at the bar, was none other than one part of the finest defence ever to grace these shores. Lee Dixon.
He was surrounded by people, and it was the wrong time to approach him, marker pen in hand, asking for an autograph, so I chose to keep my distance and gaze from afar, waiting for the prime moment to make my move.
It never came, so I made my way upstairs to where Piebury Paul was spinning some excellent tunes on the decks. I propped myself up at the bar and ordered a whisky. Then, Lee made his way up the stairs.
Once again though, I was foiled in my attempts to fawn over a Gunner, as he was ensconced in conversation as he walked past me, with none other than Le King.
They made their way to the corner of the room, and were untroubled as they remained in conversation. It was clear that this once again wasthe wrong time to approach them with my gushing sentiments, so I stayed in place, content to look from a distance at the men who have never been closer than they were at this moment.
Time slipped by as I watched them, and it bordered into creepy territory but I couldn’t look anywhere else. The doors to the theatre room opened and we all made our way down the stairs. The room to which we all would be treated to Thierry Henry and Lee Dixon soundbites was comfortable, open, and small enough to invite feelings of exclusive conversation. It felt as if we were having a house party, sans loud music and alcohol, but two of the guests were so captivating that everyone crowded around to hear their stories.
Tom Watt, master of ceremonies, took to the stage, to introduce the former players, and then, Lee Dixon’s wife, Yolande, was invited in front of the audience to explain the reason why this event is taking place – which is Yorke Dance Project.
Soon, the Thierry stories were flowing, from his World Cup win, to his inauspicious beginnings at Arsenal, interjected by Lee to great effect. Of particular resonance was when Thierry credited not only Arsene Wenger, but the core group of English players, such as Keown, Dixon and Adams, for helping him become the player he went on to be.
Thierry was inevitably charming, but what really became apparent was his love for the club. He credits his comeback goal against Leeds United as his favourite goal as it was the only time he was able to “score a goal as a fan” and when speaking about the club, he sheds his media shield and his tone changes. It is him speaking from the heart, and everyone was hanging on his every word.
Lee spoke of his punditry work with Roy Keane to great hilarity, and was abundantly clear was the rapport between the two men. Born in different countries yet they share a common strand within themselves, and the respect between the two is born from the time they taught each other valuable lessons.
Ninety minutes passed quickly, and it was quickly wrapped up, so the crowd funnelled through the doors and up the stairs for a pie and a drink. I shuffled towards the stairs, my mind whizzing through the different anecdotes I had just shared with the men on stage, and also from being so close to them! As I struggled to the stairs, I looked to the top of them, and Thierry was swamped by the crowd as he signed autographs and posed for endless photos.
I managed to get to the summit, but the hubbub around Henry was manic. I was going to patiently wait for my slice of Thierry time, but I was at the top of the stairs and my frame was blocking people keen to get a pie. I sloped off, worrying that my chance may be slipping away to bathe in the glory of the King – and show him my Thierry Henry branded socks….
I took solace in my pie, which was obviously a Thierry Henry, and spoke at length to Paul, who was again presiding over music.
Whilst the music was pumping, I went over my newly revised gameplan. I would wait ten minutes for the crowd downstairs to dissipate, then I would swoop in for my moment with the King. Then, I would ruthlessly seek out Lee and tell him why his contribution is so important.
I polished off my pie, downed the remains of my second whisky, and made my move. As I went down the flight of steps, the previously packed room was ominously empty.
Panic rose through my stomach like an icy eel, and I took the second flight of stairs two at a time (not a big deal to the average male, but I’m closer to a hobbit than an average man). I headed straight for the exit, and Thierry was there, saying his final farewells……
DJ Spoony was responsible for all the audio equipment for this special gig, and he was saying goodbye to Henry, whose cab was waiting. There were a few other chaps involved in the conversation, but no needy fans harrassing him – aside from me.
I would never forgive myself if I had let this chance slip, so I had to let go of my polite sensibilities and thrust myself into their proceedings. I did this by inching ever closer, so close that it was impossible for them to ignore my large melon creeping into their eyeline.
Bless DJ Spoony, he was the man who acknowledged my crazed presence, and told Thierry that I wanted to say hello. For this Spoony, I thank you. This is where the story really pays off….
Thierry turned ninety degrees. Despite his cab running and him quite obviosuly having other things to do, he looked at me, smiled and offered his hand. I grabbed it like it was the last piece of chicken in the bucket, but I managed to remain dignified when I shook it – apart from the fact that I didn’t let his hand go…..
I spoke to him. These were the words I uttered:
“Thierry, you are a hero of mine. I want to say thank you for what you did for our club, it means so much.”
Then, Thierry managed to shake off my clinging grasp, and put his now free hand to his heart, whilst simultaneously saying “thank you for this.”
I watched him enter his cab, and then as the vehicle left the scene, much like a farewell in a big screen movie – at least in my head. I smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves, and then began to hunt for my raison d’etre – Lee Dixon.
He was on the ground floor, and again it was DJ Spoony who enabled me to speak to Lee. I told him of my book and that I would love his experiences within the pages, and he agreed to give me his words.
I grabbed a photo with him, and then made my way upstairs. Mission accomplished. The rest of the night went well, and I met some great people, but it was Thierry and Lee that will remain ingrained on my memory.
The journey home was a blur, and the highlights reel that runs in my mind of Henry’s greatest exploits, now has a fantastic ending, when I met him.
His bronze-set form sits outside the Emirates as a constant reminder of his record with us, but Gooners don’t need a reminder. Meeting him was just as good as I had envisioned – but it could have been perfect……
The annals of Arsenal’s goalscorers requires sunglasses. Absolutely bursting at the seams with eye-scorching gold, the history the Gunners have with lethal finishers is famous. Some of the English game’s finest strikers have plied their trade in the red and white and we have more often than not had an accomplished frontman at the vanguard of our team.
Charlie Buchan, Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake, Ronnie Rooke, Derek Tapscott, David Herd, Doug Lishman, John Radford, Frank Stapleton, Ray Kennedy, Frank Stapleton, Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp. This is just a sample of the delights we have been able to savour and who have given so much in terms of goals.
Opportunities, when they present themselves, must be grasped firmly. Regret is a poison that can be avoided as long as these chances are taken when they arise.
Meeting bonafide Arsenal icon Ian Wright is one of these very opportunities.
Thanks to a good friend ( Josh, I owe you! ) and Barclays, I was invited, along with a group of Leicester City and Spurs fans, to meet heroes from each respective club, offer our opinions on our prospective title chances and get some snaps alongside the most shiny of baubles – the Premier League trophy.
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…..
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?
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!
Arsenal’s fan base is burgeoning. Season ticket waiting lists are long. Membership numbers are high. The worldwide representation of Gooners amongst social media has never been in ruder health. Our club – as a business – is thriving.
What exactly is attracting these young fans to our club? If they wanted glory, then surely the club down the Kings Road in blue would fit the bill?
Also, our young talents at the club are struggling to break through. These fresh faced imports from across the globe are brought in and we then wait in vain for them to break through the embryotic sac to the first team in a blaze of glory – to be heralded the ‘ Next Big Thing ‘. Plain and simply – we have waited a long time for a youth prospect to really fly the flag for our investment in our youth teams.
Our club has had some shaky moments in recent memory. Times when supporters faith has been rocked and the future aims of Arsenal have been unclear.
In times of uncertainty, allegiances seek a constant to cling to, a port in the storm if you will. When there was no silverware on the horizon, when our club was changing ownership, there was always a star in the inky black sky that we could rely on.
Whatever happened, supporters always knew that the pitch at our home ground would be glacier-smooth. Comparable to a bowling green, which only serves to help our artisans clad in the Arsenal jersey to ply their trade far more effectively. It aids our play and our team.
Who do we have to thank for this masterful turf? The Head Groundsman of course – Reece Watson. He and his team work tirelessly to keep the pitch exactly as our team require it. I was lucky enough to be able to quiz him a little and get some valuable insight into what is required to keep the grass at The Emirates so smooth and refined.
The ‘Invincible’ season has seen documentaries, interviews and spawned countless items of merchandise, and for good reason. The team which went unbeaten through a domestic season achieved footballing immortality and will forever be used as a barometer to which all future teams will be measured up against.
Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires consistently grab the majority of the plaudits but every single meber of the squad was equally vital to permanently etching themselves in the record books.
One of these luminaries is Sol Campbell. Some would argue the very moment he chose to jump from the wreckage that is tottenham to our outfit meant he instantly earned a place amongst the greats, but it was his displays in defence during our incredible run that gilded his name in gold.
Some players were born to lead their fellow man. Some have that special strand of DNA that is intrinsically linked with earning respect. That talismanic effect is absolutely vital in team sport and is mandatory if glory is to be achieved.
Our greatest ever Skippers are remembered thusly due to what they won. Tony Adams of course won nearly everything on offer and his effigy outside the Emirates is a reminder of what he did for the club. There is another that is hewn from the same granite though. Whilst his tenure at Arsenal was not the same length, the Double he helped win in 1971 helped to sculpt the club into what it is today and ended the clubs longest wait for a domestic trophy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, an interview with Frank McLintock.
The Dearth of Coaching is the Murderer of Football
The response that met England’s World Cup 2014 humiliation from the once vociferous Three Lions fans spoke volumes. Ironically, their silence should have been the thorough answer that the F.A needed to radically overhaul what is a decrepit and dated manifesto.
Normally following their beloved national football team from pillar to post, the crowd of less than 56000 at Wembley for the Euro qualifier against whipping boys San Marino was a statement from the normally loyal legions. Mediocrity has been suffered long enough.
Many have attempted to answer why England cannot match up to expectations, even with supposed ‘World-Class’ superstars peppering their squad.
Some have surmised ( including myself in a previous blog! ) regarding a lack of a winter break that recent World Cup winners Spain and Germany enjoy.
Others speculated on the muddied waters of the Premiership, citing a flooding of foreign players that smothers the chances of young English players.
The F.A have a mess on their hands. They need to see what is at the fulcrum of the problem. That would be the huge lack of coaches at all levels.