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Waxing Lyrical About Wrighty

Can words do justice?

When a search for fitting superlatives leaves you exhausted, does that mean that a tribute would be a bad idea?

In terms of an Arsenal figurative Hall of Fame, any who deservedly roam this imaginary building – bedecked with marble of course – can transform a blogger into a gibbering wreck. How on earth can you surmise a player’s career when it affected so many people’s lives in a positive way?

Any attempt would be foolish – but isn’t it important to remind ourselves (even if it doesn’t do them justice) how good they really were?

Some names instantly conjure up memories. Such was their impact, a mere mention of their moniker and fans begin to wax lyrical about a specific moment or goal.

Ian Wright  is one of those players.

So good we named him thrice, Wrighty joined Arsenal after forming a destructive partnership with Mark Bright at Crystal Palace. The Eagles were not expected to pull up any trees, but their attacking might – aided by Geoff Thomas in midfield – ripped up the rulebook and made clubs take notice.

Luckily enough, Arsenal was to be Wrighty’s destination – and he started how he finished as a Gunner.

With a goal.

The occasion was pretty low-profile; a 2nd round Rumbelows Cup game against Leicester City. Wrighty wasn’t even expected to start the game, but Alan Smith’s ankle didn’t pass a fitness test. Our new striker had only signed that very week and he was instantly thrust into the eleven.

No pressure then. Well, it never showed on our star striker anyway. He grabbed the goal that gave us the initiative for the second leg and Graham cooed about his latest acquisition in the papers. The Scot mentioned Wrighty’s pace and his ability to make something from nothing. These talents were always on display in our red and white, and they made him a nightmare to defend against.

Wrighty has spoke about his energy levels as a youth and how they never really dipped as he got older. It meant that not only was he a delight to interview – as well as magnificently candid – but it required opposing defenders to maintain their concentration for the whole of the ninety minutes.

One slip, one lackadaisical jog back to hold the line?

Wrighty will get you.

His pace has been mentioned, but the reason that Wrighty was able to ensure his name amongst the pantheon of greats not only at Arsenal, but of the Premier League, was because his talents were the perfect storm.

His energy levels, his pace. They meant that defenders had to keep an eye on him constantly. But his positioning was chief among reasons why he was always in place to capitalise on a sublime pass or a fault by an opposing man.

Once he got these opportunities though, he still had to finish.

Wrighty has spoken about his inherent ability to put one in the onion bag. I distinctly remember a comment about his finishing, where he declared that the secret was to shoot when the keeper isn’t expecting it. He regularly fired a shot towards goal far earlier than convention would dictate. Most would carry nearer to the goal, but Wrighty’s belief in his talents meant he would try his luck quickly.

It’s fair to say it worked.

He was much more than a predator though. His finishing deserves its place among the best, but in his own personal highlight reel we can see that he is no one-trick pony. If variety is the spice of life, then Wrighty’s collection of goals is like Scotch Bonnet chili.

Chips? He had more than a Glaswegian street on a Saturday night. Outside of the box? So many efforts filled with venom ripped into the net from distance. Then there were the little indicators that genius was at work. The improvisations, the flicks that left a defender looking around for the ball and the player.

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Image credit – Arsenal FC

 

Wrighty’s career is impossible to really visualise into words. His relationship with Gooners is infatuation on both sides and if the next statue outside The Emirates was of Wrighty, arms aloft with his trademark grin, would anyone object?

Not a chance. My words might not do him justice, but his legacy will live on through us and the club.

 

Thank you Wrighty.

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.

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.

​Giroud Haunted By Arsenal Ghosts

Published on The Arsenal Review

Every club has its heroes, and invariably, those that live longer in the memory are those that grabbed goals.

Lots of them.


Strikers are the glory-getters. The successful ones will forever live on with a golden hue tinging every montage that is on a reel in supporters minds. Strikers always hold a special place amongst fans.


Arsenal in the last three decades have enjoyed a glittering blessing from deities that have bestowed a shedload of goals upon Gooners. The rollcall is not only a who’s-who of top flight attacking – it is the equivalent of the Hollywood Boulevard paved with stars.


Alan Smith. Ian Wright. Nicolas Anelka. Thierry Henry. Robin Van Persie.


The names above make the boots of whomever is chosen to wear them, a little harder to wear.


We as fans, have been spoiled. We now want our strikers to continue this miraculous tradition, and any who fall short are immediately resigned to a lesser status. We are still able to recognise their strengths, but they will never measure up unless their exploits match up to our heroes of old.


So Olivier Giroud had one hell of a job when he joined from Ligue Un winning Montpellier in 2013.


The hirsute Frenchman has been castigated by pundits, journalists and even our own fans for his unique brand of histrionics on the pitch and sometimes, for being just too damn handsome – like it makes his game a little weaker because he takes time on his appearance.


Numbers do not lie though, so let us see how Giroud measures up.











In total goals for the club, the bearded one falls short of course. Olivier has grabbed 69 goals thus far in 164 outings in a Gunners shirt.  Alan Smith had a haul of 86 goals in 264 apps, Robin Van Persie had 96 goals in 194 outings, Ian Wright smashed 128 goals in 221 games and King Thierry a breathtaking 174 goals in just 254 games. Only Nicolas Anelka scored less, with 23 goals in 65 games.


All of these players had differing durations at the club though. Of course their goal total will be affected by longevity, so the real stat worth poring over is goals per game, right?


A goal every 2.37 games for Giroud so far, compared to 3.07 for Smudge, 2.82 for Anelka, 2.02 for RVP, 1.72 for Wrighty and 1.46 for Titi.


So Giroud’s exploits so far hold up well against the strikers who helped forge the club in its current image.


Giroud still falls short though. Despite his higher amount of substitute appearances than the rest, despite the fact he had the best efficiency rating in the Premier League last season – Giroud is still found to be craning his neck up to the heavens when he looks at the strikers who came before him.


Giroud is hampered by the fact he has never broken the 20-goal barrier in a PL season as well. That level is the unspoken barometer when gauging what makes a complete striker, and as Olivier has never breached it, he has often been maligned. 


What is often overlooked though, is his hold-up play, his awareness for his teammates, his front-post prowess. Giroud in many respects is one of the best in what he does.


Until Giroud manages to be a major part of a side that wins the league though, or a side that challenges seriously at the very least, he will forever be in the bracket that lies below the true greats. It is only in the deepest heat that diamonds are created, and the ones who came before Giroud either lifted trophies regularly or their goals held the rest of the team up a la RVP.


Giroud is a fine striker, and one that we should attempt to retain the services of. He can get to 100 goals for the club in the near future and that will push him a few inches nearer to Gunners immortality – but he still has some way to go to stand alongside Smudge, Wrighty and Thierry.


Win a title, keep doing what he has done since he joined. He will always be fondly remembered, but the word ‘legend’ is bandied around far too liberally and has lost its impact a little.


It takes a hell of a lot to gain that status. 

At The London Football Awards 

On television, an awards ceremony is glossy. It is a conveyor belt of celebrity and headlines. The awards themselves are designed to highlight some exceptional work by a chosen professional in their field., and when the trophies are presented, we get to hear a snippet about the winner’s story on how they got to sit at the summit.

Football awards are no different, especially now the professionals are as close to megastars as the thespians who walked the red carpet at the Oscars recently. The big names need no introduction, but the awards ceremonies are there to do exactly that. They are the glitzy fanfare for deserving individuals that have excelled in their chosen sectors. 

And for the biggest awards, we can hear that fanfare from any given place in the world.

I was kindly offered to attend the London Football Awards on the 2nd of March, at Battersea Evolution. I was to be an official member of the press and gain some soundbites from the attending football glitterati so the charity at the root of the LFA’s – the Willow Foundation – could gain some valuable testimony on the wonderful work they do.

It meant that I was to be given license to speak to some of my heroes. It was an offer I could not refuse.

As I entered the arena, there were a huge number of dedicated Willow volunteers working their magic in the final preparations for the event. I was given my press pass – I was unashamedly proud when I saw my name on it – and I was directed to the press enclosure where the pro’s would walk past on their way to their tables for the night.

I spoke first to Bob Wilson – Arsenal’s Double-winning keeper and all-round gentleman – and the man who started the Willow Foundation spoke warmly about the growing stature of the awards and how their prominence is on the rise. 

Footballers past and present were coming and going and it was a lot to take in. The majority of the players time was spent ahead of us in front of the plethora of camera’s lying in their path, but I was quite content to bask in the light of these stars. I’ve always wanted to be a member of the press and this was the legitimate experience.

A man who I have spoken to on a number of occasions stopped to talk about the LFA’s, and Alan Smith was as warm and forthcoming as ever. He praised the idea of celebrating the clubs and players from the capital and the often unheralded work Willow do for those who need the aid most.

Perry Groves, Lee Dixon, David Seaman and Ian Wright. These were just a few ex-Gunners who attended the event, and David Seaman was quite gracious indeed with his time. His wife and Willow Ambassador Frankie Seaman stopped to talk and she told me that he always has time to give answers to the press, or anyone who asks him, such is his kind nature. Our former goalkeeper was with us for quite some time, and commented on everything from Arsene Wenger’s future to the rotation of Petr Cech and David Ospina. 

For the record, Safe Hands will not speak out against Wenger as he declared the Frenchman the ‘best coach I’ve ever had.’ Also, he thinks the rotation of our goalkeepers is needless. To hear this straight from the source, undiluted, was a real treat.

Gary Mabbutt, Tony Cottee, Gary Lineker, John Motson, Tom Cairney, Eni Aluko, N’Golo Kante and Antonio Conte were just a taste of the names who were at the night. There were far more, but with only an hour to grab as many comments as possible, it is inevitable that some get through the net.

These awards are a real fillip for London’s teams, especially as all aspects of the game are considered in the awards categories. 

Here are the Awards and the Winners from this special night:


Premier League Player of the Year:

N’Golo Kante


London Manager of the Year:

Antonio Conte



London Young Player of the Year;

Dele Alli



London Goalkeeper of the Year;

Hugo Lloris


EFL Player of the Year;

Tom Cairney



London Women’s Player of the Year:

Jordan Nobbs


London Community Project of the Year:

Fulham’s Feltham Young Offenders Institute Scheme.
The London Football Awards were a real success and next year will be even bigger. Let’s hope that Arsenal manage to bag a few next year! 

Meeting Smudge

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.

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