Tag Archives: smudge

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.

wright_record_0
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.

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.

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!

​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.