Tag Archives: book

30 Year Anniversary – Class of 91

Almost Invincible.

Thirty years ago, Arsenal, George Graham and his multi-talented but miniscule squad began a campaign that should be ranked amongst our finest achievements.

The end result was the First Division Championship – but the sheer scale and number of obstacles put in the path of this ‘Class of 91’ adds a deeper lustre to this particular achievement.

As it’s the 30th anniversary of this amazing side, my publisher and I thought it would be good to re-release the book – with some extra content and some new content and info from members of the team themselves – to commemorate it.

You can order this Special Anniversary Edition here.

True, football was vastly different to the sport as we know it today. From the contrasting levels of physicality within matches to fitness regimens, diets and everything in between, football back in 1990 presented different challenges to nowadays.

It doesn’t lessen what the Class of 91 managed though.

There were still 38 opportunities for failure – and for Arsenal to avoid this 37 times out of that 38 is on a level with The Invincibles team.

Does that sole loss really create a gulf between the two incarnations of Arsenal? Is the fact that the Class of 91 succumbed to a ridiculously unlucky loss a telltale sign that Wenger’s team of 2004 was markedly better? Because the rest of the numbers points to Graham’s men as the superior team.

More goals scored, less conceded. A far smaller squad to navigate the season with. These are big indicators regarding the merits of that side that came so close to achieving the immortality that The Invincibles now enjoy.

Thirty years is a long time, but it isn’t the length of time that has dimmed the spotlight that should always be focused on this side. It is that one little ‘l’ that stops the Class of 91 being talked about in the same vein as The Invincibles.

That loss was inflicted on a mire of a pitch, with our skipper incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It was given to us with a shockingly brutal tackle on Steve Bould, which then forced George Graham to call upon a fresh-faced David Hillier (a midfielder) to act as a band-aid in the centre of defence in the absence of the injured Bould. This loss was thrust upon Arsenal by an offside goal and a flood of fixtures beforehand that left this threadbare squad exhausted.

This side overcame a points deduction too, after the infamous Battle of Old Trafford.

It is tough to find another championship-winning side that has had to overcome more – and was victorious in such a comprehensive manner. You could even argue that the competition in 1990-91 was far more competitive than in 2003-04, when there were only two other contenders. Thirty years ago, Liverpool were the all-conquering champions and had dominated the last twenty years or so. The First Division also had an exciting Crystal Palace side with a forward line to send fear into any defence. Manchester United were assembling something that resembled a challenge and even Tottenham had true class in their side thanks to Gazza and Gary Lineker.

There were more thrills and spills on the way of course, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you.

So, Almost Invincible – the 30th Anniversary of the Class of 91 – is out now. New cover, new content – but the story will still tell you all about this amazing journey Arsenal had that year and how they overcame insurmountable odds to earn the title – and what should be a permanent place in footballing history.

http://bit.ly/ArsenalClassOf91

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.

Competition Time! Win Signed Copies Of My Book!!!

My book, Almost Invincible, has been released.

 

It covers the tumultuous and enthralling title-winning season of 1990/91 – and you can win a signed copy!

 

I’ve got two signed books for you to win, and it’s ridiculously simple to have your chance.

 

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All you have to do is retweet the pinned tweet on my Twitter profile – you can find it here.

 

Or, you can share the pinned post on my Arsenal page on Facebook, which you can find here.

 

The book would be the perfect Christmas gift for the Gooner in your life – or you could keep it for yourself!

 

So, just follow the above instructions and you could have a rare signed copy before Christmas!

 

What are you waiting for?

 

If you don’t win, then you can buy a copy here!

 

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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!

The Arsenal Shirt – Part of the Fabric of our Club

Some things go hand in hand with a football club.

It can be their rickety stadium, their vociferous fans or it could be one of their luminaries that changed the sport. Whatever it is, there are things that embody a football club. It is their brand and they should cherish it.

Probably the most iconic thing about a football club is their jersey, and Arsenal’s red and white combo is instantly recognisable the world over. No matter the manufacturer of the kit, the white sleeves and red torso on the Gunners shirts are part of the fabric of the club.

Never has this been clearer, than recently when pictures of next seasons kit were leaked – reportedly.

Arsenal's reported new kit from 2018/19

The outcry on social media was fierce, and it propelled a legend or two to comment on the travesty that is our projected home kit for 2018/19. Ian Wright tweeted and posted on Instagram to decry this planned jersey, and rightfully so.

While it maintains the red and white we so hold dear, the manner in which the design is welded together leaves many to think that a lack of care was put into the process that Puma implemented when they gathered round the table to discuss the Gunners shirt.

The relationship with Puma has been a rocky one to say the least. The designs which have been thrust upon us have split the crowd, and for every hit (this seasons black and pink number is quite fetching) there has been a glaring miss (the abomination that is this seasons away kit).

It has led to many of us musing on whether the kit is actually cursed, the ugly piece of kit may well be doing all it can to put its own bad juju on proceedings.

Stories of parts of the kit coming away in the wash and fading of colours have done nothing to inspire confidence in Puma’s wares, and we have all harked back to more recent successes that our players have worn – the yellow kit from Nike’s last season with us was classic, and faithfully upheld our values in the most fitting way.

Arsenal's away kit from 2013/14 - a beautiful design faithfully upholding our values

Then we see teams like Newcastle United sporting the very same designs that we are now wearing – it gives off a fair whiff of laziness coming from Puma’s direction. We are The Arsenal, and we shouldn’t be sharing designs with anyone.

The shirt should be a form of muse for our players. It should inspire new heights for our men, and instill a sense of awe and fear in our opponents. It should also be aesthetically pleasing enough to push us into forking out the copious amounts of dough to purchase them – it would be very insightful to find out sales figures for our blue kit this season in comparison to others.

The book – The Arsenal Shirt – by James Elkin and Simon Shakeshaft did a fantastic job of highlighting what the shirt means to us all. There were a few amid the outcry recently that questioned the level of response toward what is essentially only a shirt, but if you read this wonderful book, it tells you with every glorious page turn, why our shirt is so important.

Some may see it as trivial, but every part of our club’s history is what makes us The Arsenal. Every strand is woven intricately into what comprises us, what makes us unique. We need to hold our values dear and protect them, otherwise the current hunger for business will engulf the character of each and every club.

The new shirt may well be used next season, and it will still sell, but hopefully, Puma’s social media presence will pick up on our displeasure and go back to the drawing board.

If not, then we can cross our fingers that from the season after, our new kit manufacturers ensure they are well versed in Arsenal lore before they put pen to paper.

It isn’t just a shirt, it never is.

It’s part of who we are.

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!