Tag Archives: Legends

What’s Your Favourite Goal?

Goals are the currency of football.

Never mind the abhorrent amount of money that flows through the veins of the game, it is goals that keep the heart pumping, the turnstiles rotating and the clubs breathing.

When the ball hits the back of the net, for scorer and fan alike there is no greater feeling. They make the difference between glory and failure, ignominy and memories made. They encapsulate entire era’s, they symbolise icons and halcyon times.

They are also entirely subjective.

Just look at any Goal of the Month poll. Whether it be long-range screamer, thumping header or intricate team move, there are advocates for all. There are always football hipsters who will vocalise the attributes involved in a 6 yard finish, and the purists will always vouch for a twisting, turning solo goal, seeing opposition defenders sprawled on the turf with twisted blood.

Goals are enjoyed by all, but ask anyone what their favourite goal is and no matter their allegiance, they will always give a different answer.

It can be a long range, top-corner botherer, it could be a 20 pass manoeuvre that exhibits the finest one-touch passing before a slick finish bewilders the goalkeeper. More often than not though, it will be the occasion that elevates a goal from crowd pleaser to unique moment forever captured by all minds.

Look at Michael Thomas and his last minute heroics at Anfield in 1989. His run was astute, yep, but there was a bobble and a touch of luck before he put the ball over the lunging grasp of Bruce Grobbelaar.

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Pure it wasn’t, but you ask Gooners what their favourite goal was, and a large swathe of us will plump for it.

Thierry Henry’s effort against Liverpool in 2004. Champions League and FA Cup exits had left us raw, and we were on the rack against an inferior Liverpool team. Step forward Thierry Henry, at the time probably the greatest player in the world.

He picked up the ball about thirty five yards out and began to lead a merry dance, so fleet of foot and rapid that two, three, four Liverpool players attempted and ultimately failed to grab possession or even to stop Henry in his tracks.

Jamie Carragher left in a broken heap on the turf. The roar of the crowd as belief seeped in once again. The goal this time was beautiful, but much more than that, it was when we stayed on track during our greatest test in the Invincibles season.

The point here, is that as long as the net is rippled, we will greedily lap up all and sundry in terms of style of goal. We always appreciate a stylish effort, and if it grades high in technical skill then we will fondly remember it.

But should we progress to the Europa League final and one of our players knocks in the ball with his left butt-cheek? It will be held in the highest regard.

Aaron Ramsey’s winner Vs Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup Final. Andy Linighan, 1993. Charlie Nicholas, 1987, Eddie Kelly, 1971. Some goals were far more aesthetically pleasing than others, but each share a parallel – they won us something. They etched our name on silverware – and for that, they are also etched into our minds in indelible ink.

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My personal favourite? Sylvain Wiltord’s effort against United at Old Trafford, 2002. His finish was snaffling up a loose ball after Ljungberg’s effort was saved. But it was everything else that makes it unforgettable. The stadium, the opposition, the fact that we had gone ahead and then won in a ground that gave precious few points away – the fact that it won us the title on enemy ground.

Not the prettiest, but it was pretty effective!

What about you – what’s your favourite goal?

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.

Stars on Canvas – Gunners Paint For Charity

Some say football is an art form, but some Arsenal legends have taken it further – by producing art themselves – and you can win their work!

One-off artwork by Arsenal players and legends, Paul Merson, Ian Wright, David Seaman, Bob Wilson, Sol Campbell and Jordan Nobbs is up for grabs in online charity auction, Stars on Canvas, from November 15 with bids starting at just 99p.

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Stars on Canvas is a collection of unique artwork created by more than 250 stars of TV and film, sports personalities and musicians, as well as respected artists, illustrators and cartoonists.

View the Stars on Canvas collection and find out how to bid atwww.starsoncanvas.org.uk

Each and every canvas will be sold in aid of Willow, the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days –www.willowfoundation.org.uk

Martin Keown – The Rash and Much More

The famous Arsenal back 5 is renowned for being perhaps the finest exponent of defending hailing from these shores in the modern generation.

Spanning two decades, David Seaman, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Lee Dixon were assembled by then Arsenal boss in the late eighties, and were hewn into the offside-trap using, tough-tackling, impregnable unit we know, and Arsene Wenger then went on to prolong their careers with his modern dietary methods and free-thinking that was a breath of fresh air – and revitalised them.

They won league titles and cups, and the greatest strikers of that era cite them as the most difficult they faced in their time – and rightfully so.

Martin Keown is not mentioned in the same breath, although in terms of defensive merits, he more than held his own.

Keown is one of the club’s legends, after his two spells at the club and 332 appearances and being the last member of the ‘old guard’ to represent the club – and earning a place in the ‘Invincibles’ side in the process.

His first spell at the club only lasted two years and 22 matches, before going to Aston Villa and Everton. Keown returned to the club in 1993, and while Bould and Adams were still the first choice pairing, Keown’s instincts and backline nous were an important part of the squad.

Keown was one of the best examples of a specialist man-marker, earning him the nickname of ‘The Rash’ as strikers couldn’t get rid of him. In an interview with the Telegraph in the past, Keown admitted that he hated man-marking, but being so good at it meant he could never escape the task.

Because the Back 5 were a unit, Keown may not eat at the top table of Arsenal legends, but if anyone deserves to be there, it is the man who bullied Ruud Van Nistelrooy. That moment, one that the media chose to beat us with, is actually embraced within the club and our fanbase, we hold it up as an example of our fierce will to win and how our men never backed down. Keown may look back on that moment and cringe, but none of us Gooners feel that way.

Keown’s will to win, his fierce desire on the pitch was ill-at-odds with the man we see now in front of the camera, but it was this competitive spirit that drove him to become one of the best defenders we’ve seen.

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Off the pitch, Keown is a well-spoken, educated man with a lexicon that is alien to most ex-pro’s. What isn’t well documented is that even in his spare time, Keown researched opponents and his own weaknesses, often with his son Niall, himself a pro footballer. The England international was never happy with his own game and pushed himself to be the best he could be, and Arsenal benefitted from his hunger.

Keown played for England for over a decade, but only amassed 43 caps. This shows the depth that England had in his position, but in his prime, Keown was among the best the country had, and he should have earned more during his career.

While our back 5 earned the right to be lauded and put on a pedestal, Keown should be remembered as fondly. He may be regarded as a legend amongst the club faithful, but Keown was one of our finest and can stand shoulder to shoulder with his peers.

Keown, in his erudite way mixed with his Arsenal experience and his unmatched desire, could have been the perfect coach to school our young Guns in what is ‘The Arsenal Way’ and what it means to play with the Cannon on your chest – not to mention how to defend stoutly.

Four FA Cup wins, three titles, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup, a League Cup was his haul of silverware in an Arsenal jersey, but perhaps his finest accolade was that he was kept by Wenger as part of the Invincibles squad, even in his latter years. He was not as fresh, as strong, or as quick as Toure and Campbell, but his positioning, his decision-making and his experience was enough to see him as part of the squad.

Martin Keown was much more than a specialist man-marker, but ask players of his generation about how tough to play against him it was. Ask Thierry Henry, Pires and Bergkamp how difficult it was training with him – that is a legacy.

What Is A Legend Anyway?

I have an infatuation with words.

 

There is always a better word to describe things. Much like the late Robin Williams describes in the film, ‘The Dead Poets Society,’ why use the word ‘tired’ when you can use ‘fatigued.’ Why use ‘happy’ when you have the word ‘overjoyed.’

 

The beauty of the English language is that we have so many to choose from, picking the right one is an art form of sorts.

 

The ruination of the word ‘legend’ though, is something that is blighting everyone’s lexicon – and everyone is guilty of it.

 

Now, you can use the word ‘legend’ to describe a friend who volunteers to make the cheese on toast for everyone. Or the guy on your night out who is the designated driver. It’s been devalued to a huge extent.

 

So, what constitutes a legend?

 

I had this very discussion while attending our recent Arsenal Legends versus Real Madrid Legends game at The Emirates.

 

There was a generous helping of bona fide Gunners players who had achieved glory with our side.

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Bobbi Pires, Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn, Jens Lehmann, Gilberto. These men had won big trophies with our side, and also had amassed plenty of appearances in a Gunners shirt.

 

Then there were players who had won titles with Arsenal, but their name was not as familiar as the above. David Hillier, Perry Groves, Jeremie Aliadiere. They had played their part in campaigns, they had made their mark and the title medals in their possession are proof enough that they should be held in high regard.

 

Some would say – and have via social media – that some of the players who lined up against Real Madrid on this game that raised funds for The Arsenal Foundation, didn’t warrant a place.

 

The legend status comes in varied forms though.

 

Tomas Rosicky won very little in his time as a Gunner, but he is held in high regard by the Gooner faithful. He stayed when all and sundry were jumping ship, and if it weren’t for injury, his career at Arsenal would have been very different.

 

David Hillier is a youth product of the club, and played a huge part in the title winning side of 90/91, which was his breakthrough season.

 

There are inevitably players who are the first we recall when harking back to halcyon times, but every single player who was on the pitch for the Legends fixture came back for the love of the club, and to raise vital money for a worthwhile charity.

 

It was great to see them all pit their wits against Real, who had the likes of Raul, Morientes, Campo and Butragueno. There was precious little goalmouth action, but the chance to see our heroes again is always one we should relish.

 

They are all players who have donned the jersey and gave their all, and now have returned to give more for a good cause.

 

To be called a legend is a high honour, even in these times of varying impact of the word, but each one heartily deserve it.

Play With A Legend

They say never meet your heroes – but what about playing alongside them?

 

That was the unique opportunity I had. If you’ll forgive me for my honesty, I was like a giddy child. It was one of those slices of time when you need to take a step back and check that it was actually happening.

 

Thanks to Play with A Legend, it actually happened, and I’ve got memories that I can pass down to my kids and further. I can tell them all about the time I played football with a bona fide Arsenal legend.

 

This wonderful organisation have struck gold. Ahead of selected Arsenal home games, Play With A Legend, which was co-founded by former Gunner Perry Groves, have set up a match at The Arsenal Hub, next door The Emirates, offering fans the chance to play alongside their heroes. You can get the same chance I did – to play a match with a real, tangible Arsenal icon!

 

Arsenal in the Community, who are housed in the Arsenal Hub will benefit from every Play With A Legend event held and the facilities at The Hub are perfect with the synthetic pitch providing the perfect setting to see your hero strut their stuff.

 

Back to my experience, and I was on a team, facing off against none other than Nigel Winterburn!

 

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Yep. The Arsenal left-back who was instrumental in us winning at Anfield in 1989, a flawless title win in 1991, Two cups in 1993, the Cup Winners Cup in 1994, and a Double in 1998. A heavily decorated legend.

 

I played in goal and it was the ideal window to watch the master at work. Some may think that age may have robbed Winterburn of the professional touch, but after mere minutes, everyone could see who the pro was. A fine touch and excellent positioning, perhaps the most surprising thing was his fitness. Nigel disclosed that he was still in training, and was stepping up the pace due to the Arsenal Legends matches, and it had obviously paid dividends.

 

After the game, we all got changed and headed upstairs, where ice-cold refreshments were laid on and guzzled mercilessly. Nigel came in and we had a revealing Q&A session, and we all were given the opportunity to get his autograph, a signed photograph and a few selfies, to commemorate the occasion.

 

Head over to the site to find out more and to book your place and make your childhood dreams come true – if you’re an unashamed fanboy, this is nirvana. Click here:

www.playwithalegend.com/arsenalhub

 

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Forget about never meeting your heroes, it’s something you won’t regret!

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!