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Found 6 results

  1. Happy birthday Dear Liamo/Chippy/Number 7 February 13th, 1973 is the day Liam Brady signed professional forms for Arsenal, on his birthday, after 2 years in the academy. Although a Man Utd supporter previously, he is an Arsenal legend now and always will be. He had 7 years as a first team player and a remarkable 18 years as head of youth development for the Gunners. That second career saw him bring through many players still playing for Arsenal today, and he was unusual in that David Dein appointed him in 1996 as an independent head of the Academy, not aligned to any manager so he could keep his job even if a new manager came in. Bizarrely that never happened as, although Bruce Rioch was still technically manager, he was a dead man walking as Arsene Wenger was set up to take over. Liam the boy And so two true Arsenal legends worked side by side for those 18 years, with Wenger proclaiming that the most important man at Arsenal was Liam Brady. Brady was keeping the competition high for the established players and, of course Wenger accomplishing miracles for the first team. I doubt if such an arrangement will ever happen again for such a long period. Always number 7 at Arsenal Now I know I reviewed Brady’s book not so long ago here, but I will keep this a bit different. Surprisingly, at least to me, Arsenal have only had 4 players win the PFA player of the year in Brady, the first, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, and yes, you guessed it, Robin Van Persie . As it is voted on by the players themselves it is the top accolade. Liamo is also an English Hall of Famer since 2006 and the FAI Hall of Fame since 2001. There is no other number 7 He is also immortalised in the Arsenal song We all live in a Perry Groves World in which Perry Groves gets every position except number 7 which goes to Liam Brady. I was at the Emirates a few years ago with my son when he asked me who was playing number 7. I immediately replied Liam Brady and a few old-timers beside me chuckled. He is the only player in the world nicknamed after his fondness for fish and chips and seemingly, after his sojourn in Italy, where he acquired more sophisticated tastes, he is not so keen on this appendage, only allowing close friends the privilege. And hey, I think the only 2 players to have an FA cup final named after them were Stanley Matthews and the birthday boy, Liam Brady. Liam created the Late Late Show And, just to mention that final, which was a very late win for us, and which presaged the famous away day victory against Liverpool ten years later, there was one big difference, as we were one goal up for most of that match and one more got us the win and the title. However in that 1979 final Man Utd scored 2 late goals and we were beaten, deflated, with our heads on the ground until Brady ghosted through the Utd midfield from well inside our own half, shimmying past players as if they didn’t exist, then got to the edge of their box and whipped the ball out to Graham Rix who blasted it over to Alan Sunderland and miraculously, fashioned a win from defeat because surely in extra time an elated Man Utd would have defeated a deflated Arsenal? No, it didn’t give me that enormous high of winning the league by scoring more goals than Liverpool to win the title in 1989. That was an improbability that probably will never happen again but that final sure ran it close. A Perry Groves World In his time at Arsenal we had three Republic of Ireland players who were truly world class, Frank Stapleton, David O’Leary, our man with the top appearances, and the wonderful Mr Brady, still many an Arsenal fan’s favourite player – just ask Nick Hornby. And when both Brady and Stapleton left within a short time of one another it was, for me, the lowest point of my Arsenal life. Our two focal points gone, simply because we hadn’t the ambition to keep them. Arsenal were famous for being stingy with our homegrown players and kept the good money for transferred players. That team, with Brady and Stapleton, were on the verge of challenging Liverpool, then the dominant team in world football, and we just threw it all away. A bit like selling Saka and Odegaard today, but at least today we have a big squad. In those days the same players turned out every week, barring injuries. St Valentine Brady? I had a look to see how Liam did on his birthdays for us but it seems he only played once, a game against QPR on February 13th 1979 in which he chipped in with the first goal for a 2-1 away win. Seems his birthdays were not football days but as he was born the day before Valentine’s day I wonder if they would have called him Valentine if his mother had bothered to wait one more day . Valentine Brady? I am not sure that’s a top footballer's name. And his wife might have said, you have to spend the day with me romantically rather than going around chasing a ball on your birthday. I am not sure how Terry Neill, Jack Charlton or Giovanni Trapattoni would have taken that as an explanation. St Valentine Brady does look to have red hair? Incidentally both Bacary Sagna and Phillippe Senderos have their birthdays on Valentine's Day. Would Arsene Wenger have accepted that excuse from them? Women can be terrifying, you know. He played beautiful football The only time I met Brady was in Eason’s in Dublin (a major bookshop in Dublin) where he mistook me for a shop worker and asked me a question about a book on the shelf. I readily obliged anyway. It was the days before selfies and anyway I have never asked anyone for a selfie. You can eat all the chips you want now, Liam A happy happy birthday to so many fan's favourite player, to an Irish legend, the creator of the Arsenal academy in its modern version, and a man who will always be talked about as a top legend at Arsenal. 27 years, man and boy, dedicated to making Arsenal the best team in the land and almost succeeding. And maybe Wenger was right, the most important man at Arsenal during Wenger’s own glory years. And Liam Brady the man Happy 13th February, Liam Brady, the man who played the most beautiful football for Ireland and Arsenal. Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current Max Liverpool Man City (h) Spurs (h) Villa (a) 54 96 Man City Liverpool (a) Arsenal (h) Villa (h) Spurs (h) 52 97 Arsenal Man City (a) Villa (h) Spurs (a) 52 94 Spurs Villa (h) Man City(a) Arsenal (h) Liverpool (a) 47 89 Villa Spurs (a) Man City (a) Arsenal (a) Liverpool (a) 46 88 And so one change from last week – Villa lost and go bottom. If my target of 86 points to win the title is correct then they are close to dropping out. They have an away game against Fulham next and that does not look easy. The others would be expected to win, Liverpool and Arsenal away to Brentford and Burnley and Tottenham and Man City at home to Wolves and Chelsea.
  2. Born to be a footballer. Liam Brady and I have some parallels. We are both from Dublin, we come from large families, and being almost 2 years older than me, we grew up in that same milieu of Irish nationalistic Catholic forces controlling a poor country on the edge of Europe. He differs in that his brothers are all older and several were professional footballers before him. His uncles and outside family also played sport at the highest level in Gaelic games so it inspired the title of his book Born to be a footballer. Johnny Murphy, David O'Leary, Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady as young Irish kids at Arsenal He bumped up against the same Catholic forces early in his career as, when picked to captain Ireland against Wales at under 15, his school, run by the Christian Brothers, refused to let him go to represent a foreign game. He was expelled and forced to find another school exactly when studying for an important state exam. This was par for the course in the 60’s and 70’s, and in every area of society, the Catholic church held sway. Not so chippy about his nickname Around the same time he was chosen by Arsenal, despite, typically of an Irish kid at the time, being a Man Utd fan. He recalls an early occurrence during this time when the chief scout at Arsenal, his parents and himself were taken out to a fancy restaurant in London. His mother looked at the menu and said “he only eats chips”. And his immortal nickname was born, from fried potatoes and not an ability to chip the goalkeeper. The name never went away, although, reading the book, I am not sure he particularly likes it. This is how to win an FA Cup He broke into the first team at 18, under the mentorship of the legendary Alan Ball, and it wasn’t too long before everyone realized we had something special. If you do nothing else, look at a Youtube highlights clip to get an appreciation of what he could do on the pitch. The art of dribbling around multiple players has gone from modern football as has the degree of ball artistry that we could see on a regular basis. There was an excitement when Brady got the ball, a cheer from the fans, and an expectation of something different. Watch him ghost through several players near the end of the famous Brady cup final of 1979 against Manchester United, as Arsenal were on their knees when Man U rattled in two goals late on to almost destroy us. He took the ball well in our own half, with nothing on and players with heads bowed, and cut through Man U, bringing the ball close to the edge of the box, whipping it out to Graham Rix on the wing, who fired it in to Alan Sunderland, and one of our most famous late goals was created out of Brady’s magic. Juventus wanted him and the Arsenal board were greedy We all loved him but knew Arsenal were stingy with money, particularly with home grown players. When he bravely moved to Juventus in the early 80’s, there was little personal anger towards him. We hadn’t done anywhere near enough to keep what was probably the best player in the league. And so he went to Italy for huge money and a team brimming with many world superstars, Tardelli, Rossi, Zoff, Gentile, Scirea and Cabrini were integral parts of Italy’s 1982’s World Cup winners and Juventus had the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni as manager. It must have seemed an extreme ask of a kid from Dublin but Liam became one of the fans favourites and is still loved there today despite being ousted after 2 years by the arrival of Michel Platini, then probably the best midfielder in the world. Brady and Juventus - a love story Brady was incandescent with rage when told the news and said he would never play for them again. But on the last match of the season, there was a penalty given, and Brady, being the penalty taker, was urged by his teammates to take it. He stepped up and scored to win them the title in his last significant kick for them. But you can still trace the bitterness in this book as he recounts the story. He loved Juventus, the fans, his teammates, playing on the biggest stage in world football at the time. He and his wife learned Italian, loved the country, the food, and their fabulous villa by the lake. And it was all snatched away. But he spent many more years in Italy and is an iconic figure there. Italy took football very seriously One aspect that struck me on reading the book was how different the footballing culture was in Italy. England were dominating European football at the time but Italy had already embraced changes which Arsene Wenger brought with him a long time later, a good diet, little alcohol, top training facilities, etc. English football dominated despite the fast food, hard drinking and basic training culture prevalent at the time. Brady reunited with Trappatoni at Ireland All aspects of Liam’s life are covered here, from the early days with Arsenal and Ireland, to Italy and back to West Ham, where he seems to have had a very positive experience, on to his managerial days. First at Celtic, where a combination of many factors conspired against success, and then Brighton for 3 years. The Brighton years are a fascinating read of mismanagement at boardroom level as the club was laid low by greed. Brady did well considering all, but often had to dig into his own pocket to keep things going. He, however, kept in touch with all developments and played a role in getting the club back on its feet. He still lives there and is immensely pleased at how good management turned the club around to being probably the biggest success story, given their resources, in the Premier league. Anecdotal Bulgaria and other great stories Oh and by the way, there are several mentions of Bulgaria throughout the book as Ireland had them on the international stage, well worth reading. And also a good tribute to Paul Dickov, who Brady had at Brighton. He was full of praise for him. Brady always supported Arsene Wenger All the way through, there are references to funny and illuminating passages in his life. Pavarotti, silk pyjamas, Trappatoni’s 2 fingered whistle and his insistence that players must know their jobs and work very hard, his love of music, his “friendship” with Bono, the mentorship of Johnny Giles, his bizarre relationship with Jack Charlton, his media work and his struggles with Ireland’s most controversial football pundit, Eamon Dunphy, the early days with Arsenal, the amazing Irish connection, the amount of good friends he has in football, some surprising to me, and the list goes on and on. But don’t miss out on the funny story with Bruce Rioch. He spanned all our modern history The critical element to Liam Brady and this book, for football fans, is that he straddled all the important history, from Bertie Mee’s double to Terry Neill’s FA cup finals, both with the legendary Don Howe to guide them. Then the 90’s and the emergence of Arsene Wenger, with whom he built up a very strong partnership with Wenger famously saying that Liam was the most important person at the club. David Dein made an inspired decision to match Liam Brady with Arsene Wenger David Dein, the man who made the modern Arsenal, appointed Brady as Academy director in the mid 90’s, and insisted that Brady’s job was not to be connected to the manager’s, he could not be fired. He wanted someone who understood the continental values and culture that Wenger famously brought with him to change English football. The Academy kids could have continuity and safety because Brady was always a decent man and insisted on giving bad news to players and their families in person. All the Hale End stars bouncing bright for Arsenal now were first nurtured by Brady. Here he has produced a top class football book. It will stay as a classic of the genre forever, I feel. As a writer, a storyteller, an insight into 3 different worlds of football, the international, the pre-Premier League days of English football, and the all encompassing milieu and harsh cauldron of Italian football as it pushed along the modern game. Liam has shown a great talent as a chronicler of football and I hope he produces another tome for us to enjoy. But for us fans, it was the beautiful football he could produce, we were enthralled by the way he played, the grace, the movement, the balance, the goals, we couldn’t get enough of our wonderman. Johnny Giles said he was the most beautiful footballer Ireland ever produced, and I am going to say also for Arsenal. He was bello, stupendo, and in modo magnifico and definitely Nato per fare il calciatore.
  3. A Midsummers Nights Dream Last time we had just come out of the 70’s. We had beaten Liverpool and Juventus in semi’s. We gave Valencia a tough game in the Cup Winners Cup final. We played 70 matches and somehow came close to winning the league, losing a few at the end because of all the hard replays against Liverpool. We were ready to come out of the blocks. I was dreaming of a red and white year for 1980-81. We signed Kenny Sansom from Palace, who was a superb full back and all round footballer. He was one of the best England full backs ever and would go on to be an Arsenal legend. Sadly, his is also at the end a tragic story and one day I will write about that. But his transfer was surreal. We had just bought Clive Allen and he went to Palace in a swap without ever playing. Rumours were flying that the Allen transfer was a setup. And we had kept Liam Brady. He was training with the team. Except there came a nightmare. A Shakespearean twist. Kenny Sansom, a great buy from Palace The Merchant of Turin Gianni Agnelli II had other ideas. The immensely powerful Fiat owner who also owned Juventus decided Brady was his man. It was an easy sell. Arsenal were being stingy and Brady was on a low wage even compared to some others in the squad. He was PFA player of the year and Arsenal player of the year for the past 3 seasons. It was crazy but Terry Neill (managers decided wages in those days) figured that Brady would never leave because he was pure Arsenal. He was on £300 per week and that suddenly jumped to £3,000. They gave him £250,000 just to sign on! Nobody on this planet would turn down that class of money. Agnelli made Brady an offer he couldn't refuse The annoying thing was that almost certainly if Neill had made him Arsenal’s top earner which he deserved as the best player, he may well have stayed. Arsenal, to this day, have kept this reputation of not wishing to spend money, a constant moan of the fans (letting go staff on low wages during Coronavirus being an egregious example), and this was just stupid. Brady was 24, recognized as one of the star players throughout Europe and should have had one of the top salaries in England. Instead he was a long way short of even being the highest paid at Highbury. I was very disappointed with Arsenal and a bit fed up. We can’t be a big club without the ambition to keep our top players. It Was Not As We Liked It I was looking enviously at Forest, who were willing to splash the cash for the best. The Spuds had brought in World Cup winners in Villa and Ardiles, Ipswich had brought in Thijssen and Muhren and others and were playing great football. Liverpool or Man U never worried about buying the top players. We sold our best. As I have said, in those days the manager had great power and our duo of Neill and Don Howe were letting us down. Bringing in Sansom was great as Rice and Nelson were coming to their end and John Devine had finally nailed down a place as full back. Our miserly attitude was the problem. Sansom, while a superb player, was a fullback and was no substitute for Brady, who ran our midfield. That was the low point for me, not Brady going. I don’t really remember much anger at him. He would have had to be crazy not to go. What we didn't want to see- Brady for Juventus I feel that this decision ultimately led to Neill losing the support of the Arsenal fans and the dark days that I could feel coming. We were just short of being great and we should have kept Clive Allen and Brady alongside Sansom. We were Arsenal. Where was our ambition? Our courage? Gone missing when we needed it. The Tempest The first match of the season showed this, beaten by West Brom and then a draw against Southampton reflected our lack of bottle. Ipswich, Forest and even Aston Villa, showed you could challenge Liverpool, but not us, it seemed. Beating them over 4 hard matches the previous season seemed not to matter to the Highbury elite. We could, and should have been challenging. I was fed up. For the first time, I started looking at other teams and saying, why is that not us? This, for me, was the low point since I started following Arsenal. Okay, we beat Coventry and had our next match against the Spuds, who had flown out of the traps and looking like they could even win the league. We beat them 2-0 and Pat Jennings played superb as did our whole team. But the Tottenham hooligans had caused dreadful scenes before the match and it left a sour taste in the mouth. Fan violence is disgraceful and has no place in football for me. I don’t go to matches to be afraid but that was standard in those days and still today, there is a huge security presence at football matches. Have a laugh with the opposing fans but why hate them? They are you, they love football, only that they support a different team. Arsenal have one of the better reputations in London for this but it is more being the best of a bad bunch and we also have our nasty boys, willing to hospitalize opposing fans. Sickening. Was a Winter’s Tale coming? So, what happened in our matches? We came 3rd to Aston Villa and Ipswich so we did well, I suppose, but we won nothing. Spurs sent us home crying 1-0 in the League Cup 4th round and Everton gave us tears in our eyes in the 3rd round of the FA Cup 2-0. Spurs got their revenge also at White Hart Lane in the league 2-0. Spurs won the FA Cup, beating Manchester City in a replay 3-2 in a great final, with Villa and Ardiles playing superb. It is hard to claim supremacy in London that season because they won that and knocked us out of the League Cup. They finished 10th but with a trophy. And we had lost 3 and drawn one of our last six. For the first time, I wasn’t hopeful for the next season. We had our chance to make a statement and we didn’t. That moment, at the start, when we lost both Brady and Clive Allen, signalled to me that we just weren’t serious about being a great team. The people at the top didn’t want us to be Arsenal.
  4. George Graham was integral to both teams Red Devils vs Red Angels I could very easily have been a Manchester United supporter if it hadn’t been for the famous Swindon Town defeat of Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup. Watching a team dominate, keep trying despite half of them recovering from flu, I felt sorry for them and wanted them to win. I became a Gooner that day. And I was on my own. Most people in Ireland were Man Utd and my older brother Joe certainly was. My dad was more of a GAA fan and brought us to many games but from that moment on Arsenal were my biggest sporting love. I was lucky for them as trophies followed in quick succession. As soon as I followed them, they became a big team again. A toothless Nobby Stiles celebrates The European Cup in 1968 Strangely enough Man Utd went into decline after their fabled win over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final. It can only be put down to one factor in my opinion, Matt Busby, the extraordinary creator of the Manchester United legend retired shortly after the Benfica win, probably because the stress of doing everything there was very draining. He had to control everything, wages, transfers, finances, the ground, in those days managers had far more to do with far less staff. So Arsenal went up, United went down. We sent them down This was reflected on the pitch in our games with them as we drew and lost in 1969-70 but hammered them 4-0 and 3-1 in our magnificent double year 1970-71. The amazing thing was, virtually all of their superstars were still there, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and the rest but they were a mediocre team, finishing 8th both seasons. We went from 12th to 1st and I definitely believed I had handed Arsenal the lucky gene. We were back, we were Arsenal, and we were winners. Matt Busby - the genius behind Manchester United For United, relegation was the next step in 1973-74. And who started them off on that journey? You guessed it, we beat them 3-0 on their first game of the season. George Graham had switched to them but made no difference. Their huge stars had gone but they still had big names such as Willie Morgan, Sammy McIlroy, Martin Buchan and Lou Macari who helped them go down. They did manage a point off us in the return but that was the start of them being beaten by us in a significant fashion in my era. It seemed impossible for such a team to go down but they had finished 18th out of 22 the year before and then the Arsenal destroy them in their first match. It clobbered the belief out of them. The richest, most glamorous club in the world go down It was their last relegation and truly they were the biggest side I had ever seen relegated on the pitch, not by a ban like Juventus, for example. They were the richest club in the world, fans everywhere, glamour stars of which the greatest was the unbelievable Georgie Best, the best player I have ever seen, but he was unable to cope with fame. Watch the Youtubes to see things you have never seen before, he could do everything, all while getting kicked unmercifully. I believe that Matt Busby going meant the last chance for Bestie also went. He protected him. George best - the most exciting footballer I have ever seen Busby was their Herbert Chapman. He made them the greatest in England. He believed, as did Chapman, in European competition. Early connections between two greats They had 2 great managers in my era, Busby and Ferguson, and we had 2, Graham and Wenger. Later on we will get to them as they are integral to the story. But let us take a trip down memory lane first to give you an idea of the connections between 2 of the greatest clubs in England and certainly the biggest rivals in my time. Newton Heath and Woolwich Arsenal played out their rivalry in the 2nd division for many years. In 1898 we played an extraordinary 3 matches all finishing 5-1 with them winning only the middle one. In 1906 we both met in Division one for the first time and they won 1-0 with the wonderfully named Alexander Leek Brown Downie scoring the goal. They had become Manchester United and we were still Woolwich Arsenal. They have the edge They have the edge on us in wins, 100 to our 86 and 50 drawn. They have more trophies as you all know with only the FA cup being our lead. They are close though with 12 to our 13. Let’s hope a great spell is on the way for us with the Arteta young guns and we climb closer to them. Their 3 Champions league could be a target although it certainly doesn’t look possible from this viewpoint. We need to improve to catch up with them. A miraculous ten years would do nicely. Cup winners courtesy of Liam Brady I want to mention another time and a match that will always stick in my memory. Arsenal vs Man Utd in 1979, the FA cup final. It was yet another time when we proved their nemesis. We had all the Irish players with Liam Brady being the finest. He played superb, we were 2 goals up on 86 minutes and they were ready to go home crying. But Gordon McQueen lashed in a header and then Sammy McIlroy scored a peach and we were on the floor like Tyson Fury, eyes rolling back in our heads just like him, unconscious. Somehow Brady, Rix and Sunderland crawled up off the Wembley floor, decided we were Arsenal, we give nightmares to Man Utd, not the other way round, and scored a goal that gave me the highest level of delight I had up to the point as an Arsenal supporter. From strolling around the ring, giving Utd an odd clatter around the head to show our superiority, to being hit by a sucker punch that sent us down burst like a sack of spuds, to gathering all our pieces together and showing we were champions, it was the greatest single match I had experienced to that point. 10 years later I was to experience another fantastic moment against Liverpool but I have covered that before. This time we climbed the Wembley stairs as giants and Man Utd? It must have been sickening because if it had gone to extra time all the belief and momentum was with them. Brady gave us that little bit extra to make us win within that tiny crazy moment that was left of injury time. Alan Sunderland destroyed the ecstatic Man Utd fans Next week I will go up to the modern era, George Graham, Arsene Wenger, and the manager who was scheduled to come to us before George Graham, Alex Ferguson. The most unbelievable rivalry, the ups and downs, the earth shattering defeats, and the joyous wins.
  5. Arsenal vs Valencia Happy face, happy heart Broken, broken, broken hearts Ah, Valencia, I spent a memorable holiday there and loved it. But I can say one thing with something close to certainty, Unai Emery would probably still be manager now if the form we showed in beating Valencia in the semis of the Europa League had carried on to the Final. It didn’t and maybe it sometimes can be good to lose as I feel he didn’t fit Arsenal. He seemed a gentleman, very knowledgeable on football and his record in Spain was exemplary, as was his record in Europe. But Chelsea destroyed us, he never really recovered, and it paved the way for Arteta to take over, a manager that does fit Arsenal, even if he has his detractors. Unai Emery is part of this rivalry, though, and I will return to him in this blog. Emery's heart was taken out by Chelsea The thing is, Valencia are not a team we have played often. I will give you the bare statistics as they tell you almost nothing – 7 games, 3 wins, 3 losses and one draw. So, even stevens? Absolutely not. They have broken our hearts more than once and more than twice. And without the master from Spain, Mr Emery, maybe every tie would have gone their way. First Cut is the Deepest Let’s take the draw, the first match. We matched them, yes? Eh, no. It was the European Cupwinners Cup of 1980. It was our 70th match of the season, yes, you read that right, numerous cup replays against the great Liverpool and others meant Arsenal were tired, stretched and were beaten by West Ham in the FA cup final only 4 days before. Valencia had the exquisite Mario Kempes and the sublime Rainer Bonhof amongst others. But we had beaten the Masters Juventus on our way to the final. Liam Brady was our great and was now about to prove it on the big European stage. But their leader was the extraordinary Alfredo Di Stefano, often touted as the best player ever, as their manager. Despite his reputation, and his star names, they played it cagey, keeping a tight rein on Brady, giving away few chances. So yes, we got a draw 0-0 but they won on penalties, such a rare thing at the time that John Motson, for the BBC, kept explaining what was going to happen. Kempes missed the first and then we had Brady, very reliable from the spot. Except that night. The stars imploded. He missed. And then all the way to the 6th man and a very nervous Graham Rix needed to score. Pereira sensed his nervousness and saved quite easily. Valencia are our daddies from the start. Heart-breaking to lose 2 finals in a few days. Are you listening, Liverpool? Other teams have lost 2 trophies one after the other in heart-breaking fashion. Mario Kempes somehow missed And so the next time, Arsene Wenger had appeared. We probably had the best team in Europe yet were struggling to prove it in the Champions league. It was April 2001, the quarter finals and we had all our big stars except Bergkamp, Kanu substituting for him. They had a good team but not up to our class and so we beat them 2-1 at home after they went one up first half with Robert Ayala. Henry and it’s only Ray Parlour scored 2 in 2 minutes to give us a win. Ayala’s goal was the decider as they won the return 1-0 with a second half goal from John Carew. Again they are our daddies. We should have beaten them but somehow Wenger couldn’t do it in Europe most of the time. Heartbreak city. You have got to remember we had such a sublime side with players all clubs wanted. Liam Brady also missed Don’t go breaking my heart And so next season we got our chance for revenge. We had got through to the second group stage and played them first at home. We had Bergkamp back but we limped along to a 0-0. Then the return? John Carew scored on 34 to put them through. Eh, no, then Henry scored on 49 to put us through on away goals. Finally we will beat them? Nope, John Carew again on 57 to put them through. We learned to hate him, the big, lanky Norwegian. And so they did it again, stop sending us home crying, Valencia. Big John Carew -go away And so to our man, Emery. The poor guy suffered tremendous ad hominem attacks for us. Attacking his pronunciations, his strange English, his histrionics on the side of the pitch, in fact any personal attack that was possible. He quite rightly complained that Arteta was given far better treatment than he was despite similar results. And he was up against Valencia in the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2019, who each time before had beaten us like puppies. Owner of a lonely heart He was an expert on Valencia having managed them for several years and got them regularly into Champions league. He showed this expertise with Arsenal and a team we wouldn’t recognise today despite it only being 3 years. Cech, Kolasinic, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Koscielny, Mustafi, Aubameyang, Maitland Niles, Ozil, and Guendouzi played. But it all started out as normal – they scored after 11 minutes with Diakhaby and the curse of Valencia was still alive. Emery, despite his knowledge of the club couldn’t save us from another defeat. Except he could, Lacazette scored 2 shortly afterwards to give us a chance and then Aubameyang on 90 to give us a real chance of making the final of the trophy Emery was the master of. Not a total eclipse of my heart And so the second leg in Valencia. Surely we could finally beat them in a tie? Unbelievably they did it again on 11 minutes with Gameiro opening the scoring. I couldn’t take any more of Valencia, they always seemed to break our hearts. But this time Emery was too good for them as Aubameyang was on fire. A hat trick on 17, 69 and 88 meant it was one of his best matches. Lacazette got another on 50 so that another from Gameiro didn’t matter. We had finally got it, the win we wanted over Valencia. The bogeyman had been slain and it was Unai Emery, in his finest moment for us, who did it. To my mind, he was our most unpopular manager since Bruce Rioch but over those 2 matches he was good. Of course, Chelsea trashed us and he then tarnished that memory. Terry Neill couldn’t beat them nor Arsene Wenger, but Emery did. At least thank you for that memory. You didn’t deserve, nor does anyone, the personal attacks. 3 goals to break the Bats hearts And so, what next? I am sure we will meet them again. We have finally got on top. Let us hope that the Valencia curse has finally gone away.
  6. Our best of our crop The home grown team Martinez VS Jennings Rice Adams O’Leary Cole Dixon Toure Campbell Sansom Saka Fabregas Storey Brady Ljungberg Cazorla Vieira Pires Radford Smith Rowe Bergkamp Henry This week I turn my attention to our best home grown players. The rules being, like last week, that they have to be brought through from the younger age squads and also in my fan timeframe from 1969 onwards. Again it is incredibly hard but I have made my choices and this week, as promised, I will go head to head against the bought team I chose last week. Martinez was the only choice in goal It is hard to find a keeper from my period 1969 to today. We don’t bring them through homegrown. Graham Stack never made it and he was my second choice. Wilson, Rimmer, Jennings, Lukic, Seaman, Lehmann and the rest were bought. So step forward Emilio Martinez, a true Arsenal man who dedicated a great part of his career to us. He only had one great season but what a season. He never let us down. And he won’t let down this team. But on the head to head from last time I have to put him behind Pat Jennings. So one-nil to the buys. Defence was far harder to choose Pat Rice against Lee Dixon? Well, this is difficult. Rice was such a great servant for us and Northern Ireland, but Dixon probably had that touch of class above him so I am going to go 2-0 to the buys as they race into a big lead. Pat Rice -one of our greatest servants Ashley Cole vs Kenny Sansom and Cole has to be the choice. 107 England caps. Lots of trophies and surely an England all time great. He shades Kenny Sansom in a tight race as Sansom was superb. 2-1 to the buys. Cole: Not so popular because of his (bad)choices Martin Keown couldn’t get into this team as a centreback despite being a giant of a player but our 2 longest serving players, Tony Adams and David O’Leary did. And I am going to give it to evens with Sol Campbell and Tony Adams leaving Kolo Toure and O'Leary out. So now it is 3-2 to the buys. No, I am not going to tell you who these legends are Midfield even harder Saka vs Ljungberg, oh no, how can I make this choice? I am going to give it to Saka for one reason. He is our best player at the moment, causing danger all the time whilst getting kicked unmercifully. Ljungberg was never our best player because, well, we had extraordinary players like Bergkamp, Henry and Viera in his time. So now it is 3-3. I couldn't leave these two out Fabregas vs Cazorla? Gus, why did you start this? This is impossible. Looking at great players we have bought vs players we have brought through and they are all brilliant. But I think I will go Fabregas, he was a genius, he stepped into the boots of Vieira, despite being a different sort of player and we didn’t really feel the difference. And now the homegrowns have made a comeback, 4-3. We did bring through some great players, didn’t we? The genius Spaniard that was Fabregas But now Peter Storey vs Patrick Vieira and I am so tempted to go for Storey. He was truly tough, but he made himself available all the time and was incredibly under rated. Alf Ramsay didn’t pick him for England for a long time regarding him as a clogger. When he finally did towards the end of his career, he said he had made a mistake and should have been playing him all along. He was like Roy Keane, he drove the team on and was always available for the ball. We could do with such a player now. But still, Patrick Vieira is Patrick Vieira. I have to give it to him. Now it is 4-4 and it is looking tight going down to the wire. Probably the most underrated player we ever had - Peter Storey Robert Pires vs Liam Brady? I hope you now realise how difficult this is. Two legends, guys we will love forever. But I am going to give it to Brady for the same reason I gave it to Saka. He was our best player in the team winning 1st division player of the year. And so now the homegrowns have got in front late in the game – 5-4. Brady- our best player of his time Attack was also a hard choice I put Smith Rowe in that Bergkamp role as I feel that is where he can be killer for us. Scoring goals, creating assists, making a danger all the time around the box. He could turn out to be a world superstar. But John Radford, despite being a super forward, and always being a threat, was no Henry. Frank Stapleton and Ray Kennedy were my next choices. At least the front two are easy. Bergkamp and Henry. I need say no more. And so the buys wing it at the end 6-5. I would love to see this team playing against the other in real life assuming all players are at their best. I suspect the buys might just shade it again but you never know. John Radford - a seriously under rated striker Some of the decisions were so hard. But I had to choose 11 for both sides. For the home grown team in defence there were Sammy Nelson, Terry Neill, Martin Keown and others who didn’t make it. In midfield there was a huge choice, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Graham Rix, Jack Wilshire, Charlie George and lots of others were considered. In attack we aren’t so strong, though. Ray Kennedy, Kevin Campbell, Niall Quinn and Frank Stapleton spring to mind but none are like the legends up front of Bergkamp and Henry, one of the strongest partnerships ever at any club. Nketiah and Balogun, or Biereth could make it and displace the two I chose but I can’t see them being better than Henry/Bergkamp. Let's cheer for our own So there you have it. I have chosen my best bought team and compared it to the home grown. My conclusion? That the bought team is a little better than the home grown. That buying well is the key to a great side, but bringing on your own gives far more satisfaction and fun for the fans. The Arsenal chant of “He’s one of our own” reverberates throughout the decades. And for sure they will play football the Arsenal way. And hey, let’s raise a goalkeeper or two.
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