Tag Archives: anfield

Smudge – A Striking Dream

Alan Martin Smith earned his way into Gooner folklore in more ways than one.

You think of smudge, you inevitably think of the Miracle of 89, his goal at Anfield early in the second half that provided the platform for the most iconic moment in English football at the time.

However, the man who was the perfect foil for any striker was much more than this halcyon moment in Gunners history.

Smith won two Golden Boots in his time in an Arsenal shirt – the top scorer in the top league in England not once but twice. Some achievement.

SMITH

Two titles. Three cups, including his wonderful goal against Parma in the Cup Winners Cup Final in 1994 won us a European title that we had no right to win.

Smith was an expert in the opposition box. He obviously knew where the goal was – he was our top scorer for four consecutive seasons – but he possessed an almost peerless ability in the air. Smith was tall but not so much that he towered above those who battled him. No, the reason Smith invariably won most aerial duels was down to intelligence – and a fantastic leap.

Smudge always jumped at the right time, and it meant he ousted his marker more often than not. How many times did the striker flick on a lofted ball from Lukic or Seaman and the ball found his striking partner or a late runner in midfield such as Rocky, Merson or Thomas?

That brings us to his real skill. One that is often overlooked. Smith created so much for his teammates with his aerial threat. He grabbed his fair share of headed goals, but Smith gave so much more, and that was thanks to his first touch.

On countless occasions, Smith received a ball launched long and high, and he immediately brought the ball to heel with his feet or chest. If the ball was destined for his head, the ball mystically found a teammate. This meant that not only did Smith’s ball control need to be faultless, but he also had to know where his team mates were at all times. His awareness bordered on telepathy at times.

We had a striker that gave us perfect service for eight years. He fitted us perfectly and even when his pace – or lack of – became evident later on – because his first touch and his awareness didn’t need a lightning burst toward goal – he was incredibly useful throughout his time with us, not just in the earlier years.

Smith learned and honed his trade at Leicester, with a certain Mr Lineker at the club too. There were certain similarities between the two – both possessed a knack at arriving at the right time in the box – but it was their playing personalities that matched up neatly. Both had a huge appetite, but didn’t let it consume them with red mist. Lineker and Smith both flew under the radar with referees – Smith was booked once in his entire career, Lineker escaped any bookings from the match official.

That’s quite an incredible statistic, but it may paint a picture of a placid player who cared little for the team. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Smith was instrumental in our team from the moment he arrived in 1987. He left everything on the pitch and his goals, assists and keeping defenders busy was a cornerstone of our trophy success in 89, 91, 93 and 94.

Smith is one of our finest strikers in our illustrious history. A player who was selfless and never once gave us less than his best.

A player who is encased in amber for helping to bring us the best memories.

Thank you Smudge.

The Miracle of Anfield – 89 The Film

It’s only a game.

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.

 

Liverpool Vs Arsenal Preview

Liverpool Vs Arsenal

Sunday 27/08/17 – 1600hrs GMT










These two sides were separated by the finest of margins in the Premier League table last season, but that tiny difference saw the Reds claim the last Champions League spot, and it left Arsenal scratching around in fifth spot after finally succumbing to their awful spell from January to April.

Our fall from Europe’s elite competition was utterly deserved, and hopefully it was the wake-up call we needed, although after last week’s loss to Stoke – it may seem we have hit the snooze button again.

Last week saw some awful refereeing decisions which cost our side in a big way, but ultimately it was two familiar enemies that were our undoing. Our profligacy in front of goal and a lack of concentration at a crucial time saw the Potters once again take the points when facing us at their home. Old habits die hard it seems.

This match though, couldn’t be more different to last week.

Games against Liverpool guarantee goals. Goalless draws are as rare as a clean Paul Scholes challenge in this fixture, and even though our last win at Anfield was in 2012, we have a great chance to take the points away from Merseyside. 


We must first buck the awful trend of some dire results against bigger teams on the road first, and then concentrate on the fact we have one win – home and away – in the last six matches. 

Both teams are considered weak at the back, so it is a huge boost that we can include Laurent Koscielny back in our side. The Frenchman was suspended for our first two games, but can now come straight back into the team, which will make us far stronger.

Another name due to be recalled is Chilean marvel Alexis Sanchez. An injured abdomen has meant Sanchez has missed out against Leicester and Stoke, and we could really do with a firing Alexis in this game. Wenger in his latest press conference has intimated that he is fit to start, but the forward may not last the entire 90 minutes, so we must give him the ball early and put the Reds on the back foot from the first minute.

Jurgen Klopp isn’t able to include Philippe Coutinho in his side, and he will have the fact his men played in midweek in the back of his mind as he selects his eleven. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will stretch any team, and with Arsenal likely to maintain a 3-5-2 formation, so much focus will go on who is picked for wing-back.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will vie with Hector Bellerin for the right spot, although both have played on the left side occasionally. Sead Kolasinac has impressed so far and should be included, but will Wenger switch things up?

One thing is for sure, our away record against our rivals is nothing short of abysmal. If Arsene Wenger wants to send a message to say his squad is strong enough to challenge, the first port of call to convince us would be a win in a big game.

Start here Arsene. Show us all what you see.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsena

Liverpool Vs Arsenal – The Pre-Match Warm-Up

After nearly a month since our last Premiership match, Arsenal return to league matters today with a difficult trip to Anfield.

It was a 2-0 win over Hull city which was our aforementioned previous league game, but since then, the small matter of a humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich has resulted in a severe loss of confidence in the side. 

The dearth of matches may not be great for us fans, but it does at least give our players some much needed respite – from the physical demands and also the scrutiny they are under. Recent form and the title slipping away yet again before the business end of the season has seen disenchantment rise amongst fans, and the media have fixed their spotlight on the club.

This game against Liverpool doesn’t exactly give us the best opportunity to overturn our poor form against the so-called big clubs either. Our recent record at Anfield is poor, and Liverpool’s record against their Top4 rivals is strong in contrast.

This is illustrated by their excellent victory over tottenham in February, which was sandwiched between lacklustre losses to Hull and Leicester. Liverpool seem to have a problem geeing themselves up for the lesser lights of the league – but this means they will be primed for our visit.

Arsene Wenger confirmed in his latest press conference that Mesut Ozil missed training during the week through illness but should be available for selection. Aaron Ramsey has returned to first team training but a lack of match fitness should see him on the bench. Aside from Santi Cazorla, Wenger should have a full squad to pick from.

There can be no excuses this time around, as opposed to the corresponding fixture at the start of the season, when an inexperienced defence cost us in a 4-3 loss. We have nearly everybody fit and raring to go. Maybe a shake up in attack could do the trick?

Alex Iwobi is off-form, and Lucas Perez has displayed his readiness in every cameo he has made. A start for Lucas at the expense of the young Nigerian makes perfect sense for both players, but will Wenger choose to drop Iwobi?

Klopp is well aware of his side’s defensive failings, so Lucas Leiva may slot into midfield to add extra cover against our plethora of attacking options. The key will be Alexis and Walcott. If Alexis is on song, then it will take two defenders to contend with him. If Theo is on form and firing, then his pace is unrivalled within the Reds defensive numbers. 

the first twenty minutes will tell all. We are notoriously slow starters aside from those rare games when we finally click. Those halcyon matches shine brightly amidst the gloom, and we get about two of those matches a season. We have had one already with our win against Chelsea earlier this season, can we reproduce it again?

It is high time we bucked our trend against our big rivals. If we do not, then a battle to stay in the Champions League places becomes a dogfight.

After our recent match hiatus, the fixtures start to fly after this game. We need every single one of our players to finally find some form, and some spirit if we are to achieve anything this season.

It begins today at Anfield.

Predicted Lineup; Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Lucas, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline; 2-1 Arsenal. 

Tony Adams Is 50 – Our Captain’s Finest Moments

Posted on Goonersphere

The 10th of October 1966 was a special day for Gooners of all ages. Not because of a significant victory or event that Arsenal had – but because it was the day that Tony Adams was born.

Who knew that on this joyous day, the child that was born in Romford would go on to become what many perceive as Arsenal’s finest leader in their illustrious history. 

Fired by his incredible will to win and defensive nous, Adams would break into the Arsenal first team in his late teens, and stay at the club which gave him his chance for his entire career. A one-club player is a rarity in the modern game, but the bonds which tied him to Highbury were unbreakable.

Making his first team bow in 1983, and then retiring in 2002, gave Adams 19 years at the club to forge a career which no one could possibly forget. His much-told battle with alcoholism intertwines with his first 15 years, but much like all the opponents he faced – he eventually defeated the demon drink too.

So, in all those years, and hundreds of games he played, what would be his finest moment? How can anyone possibly choose what is he brightest light amongst many? Adams played, and led, in many historic Arsenal matches, so to select a chosen few is beyond difficult. 

The glaring omissions are not an admission that they aren’t on a par with the ones I have selected. Just that there are far too many to mention. 

So, let me take you on a tour of Captain Fantastic’s amazing moments. Please buckle your seatbelt and keep your arms inside the ride at all times. The Mr Arsenal show is about to begin….

Anfield. 26th May 1989.





























Tony Adams skippered the Arsenal side which had no realistic hope of snatching the title away from dominant Liverpool. Arsenal had kept pace with the Scousers all season, however, Liverpool had a fine pedigree and the week previously had lifted the FA Cup. They were hoping to complete their second double, and the media and majority of fans thought that the Gunners didn’t have a hope of winning at Anfield  – never mind by two clear goals.

Someone never told George Graham and his boys though. The first half went according to plan for Graham- keep it tight, don’t concede. The second half saw Alan smith glance in a Nigel Winterburn set-piece and grab a precious goal, but they still had to snatch another to claim a ninth First Division title.

With mere minutes to go, the image of McMahon holding up a single digit to the rest of his teammates to signify that they had to hold out for one more minute to be champions again is burned into the memory of Gooners. Then, history was made.

Lukic throws out to Dixon. Dixon plays a ball to Smith, who heads onwards for an onrushing Thomas to ride a challenge into the box and slot past Grobbelaar. 

Sweet ecstasy. For some, it is a high that will never again be reached. What is clear though, is that for this titanic effort to have been made, the role of Skipper would never have been more important. Tony Adams led from the front, kept Aldridge, Rush and Beardsley quiet, and instilled in his men the belief that he held inside himself. 

Unforgettable.


1990/91

This could be perceived as Tony’s darkest season, as he missed eight games through his incarceration at HMP. His leadership was so unequivocal, so influential however, that even in his absence his teammates drew strength from him and his wishes. 

The team only lost once all season, and blew away the rest of their opposition as they won the title for the second time in three years. Not only this, but the rock-solid back5 was now complete and conceded only 18 goals. As a captain and as a defender, Adams was top of the pile.

Copenhagen, 1994. ECWC Vs Parma

Another game which Arsenal had no right to win, but this game was the archetypal performance from the famous Back5. Parma were studded with stars, and were widely expected to win back to back Cup Winners Cups. 

Arsenal’s back 5 though, were superb throughout, and nulified Zola, Brolin and Asprilla with tactics, physicality and anticipation. If there was one match to show someone who wanted to know about the finest defence that has ever existed in the UK, then this match would be what you show them. Absolute perfection from Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn.

Arsenal 4-0 Everton, 1998.

Still in recovery from alcoholism, and benefitting from Arsene Wenger’s new fangled nutrition tips and fitness aids, Adams was a new man. The team had overhauled a sizeable Manchester United lead at the top of the table and all that was left was to defeat Everton at Highbury to win their first title since 1991.

Adams was still captain, and the sight of him marauding forward to collect a lofted Bould pass still promotes goosebumps. He flicked the ball down with his chest, before depositing a thumping, left-footed volley past Thomas Myhre. 

Adams, whilst skilled in defending, was not known for such finesse, but as he celebrated in a beam of sinshine with his arms out wide, the goal signified a transformation. He had shed his demons, he was just bathing in the enjoyment of it all. My personal favourite.

There are many other memories that still resonate. His winner in the FA Cup in 1993 vs Spurs to exact revenge for the 1991 defeat. Holding the 2002 Premiership aloft.Winning the Cup double in 1993.

It isn’t only the silverware which makes his career a perfect example of how to beat adversity and achieve sporting immortality. Every game he played, every time he led his men, he gave everything to the cause. It showed in every tackle and airborne challenge he made. 

The fact he was so dedicated, and stayed with us for his entire career, means that we should never forget about our Captain. 

Happy Birthday Mr Arsenal. 

What Makes A Great Goal?

Amongst the usual levels of vitriol that is the norm for the Gooner fanbase, a spike in consternation has been seen across the social networks.

Arsenal over the summer, have been conducting a survey, asking fans to vote on the clubs greatest goal.

The results are in, and quelle surprise – the list that has been voted in has caused fury with some glaring omissions and what most would see as errors.

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Continue reading What Makes A Great Goal?

Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal – Don’t Stop, Attacking. Hold Onto That Winning Feeling. Match Review

Wow. Previous matches between these two top-flight stalwarts have resulted in a plethora of goals. So fans everywhere hesitantly hoped for an entertaining fixture.

Well, it is safe to say the tradition lives on after this six goal thriller.

Liverpool, the home side, snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat with a late Joe Allen goal. Can Arsenal feel hard done by with a solitary point after looking to be on course for a massive away victory? On the face of things, maybe so, but this match had so many different facets.

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Continue reading Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal – Don’t Stop, Attacking. Hold Onto That Winning Feeling. Match Review

John Lukic – The Overlooked Legend

Published in the Gooner Fanzine. Pick up yours outside the Emirates every matchday!

With a club that has the proud stature and backstory peppered with luminaries and glorious occasions – it can be forgiven for the majority to disregard certain former players and consign certain matches to the part of the brain that is covered by a shroud which makes recollection difficult.
Much has been written and spoke of regarding our goalkeepers of late, with the esteemed Petr Cech finally seeing sense and ridding himself of the shackles from West London. Comparisons inevitably are drawn up against our former glove incumbents – and what a glowing list we can boast of. David Seaman, Jens Lehmann, Pat Jennings, the wonderful Bob Wilson, Jack Kelsey just to name a few. These names dovetail with success and are synonymous with the club we all adore.

As moments go, there are few that can match May 26th 1989 at Anfield. Forever entwined in our lore, with a quite excellent book and film to highlight just how momentous the match and season really was, there can be no doubt that all who were involved throughout that domestic campaign and especially during those fraught ninety minutes in Merseyside should have their names permanently etched into our tapestry.

Continue reading John Lukic – The Overlooked Legend

Anfield ’89 – the Greatest of our Triumphs?

I’ve found it difficult to start this blog. I’m not writing about a certain player, or infuriating media bias or even emotionally fuelled nonsense, which is a speciality. The subject of this piece is something that a churlish, phlegmatic approach is not respectful enough, nay, wouldn’t be fit enough to lace Mickey Thomas’s boots. I need to don the white gloves, lower the harsh, fluorescent lights and type in hushed taps. This event deserves revered glances, the best seats in the house. If it were a celebrity it would undoubtedly have a ‘ An Audience With ‘ show on PrimeTime TV, the crowd filled with the Hoi-Palloi of acting talent. Continue reading Anfield ’89 – the Greatest of our Triumphs?