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  1. It’s only Ray Parlour’s birthday! This week we celebrate the Bulgarian National Liberation Day on March 3rd. Also International Women’s day on March 8th. Plus Mother’s Day in Ireland, where I am from, on March 10th. Am I missing something? Of course I am as March 7th is the one and only Ray Parlour’s birthday. The Romford Pele, probably our biggest joker, deserves a statue, a bridge and a stand named after him. You'll never regret buying this book Well maybe not but he brightened up all our days as a player who was very underrated but still managed 466 games, at least two hat tricks that I can remember against Werder Bremen in the UEFA cup in 2000 and against Newcastle that same year, and the only goal in the penalty shootout against Galatasaray in that year’s UEFA cup final. He also got 10 caps for England in 1999-2000 when England had lots of top players in midfield as Scholes, Gerrard, Beckham and Lampard spring to mind. And how about 3 league titles, 4 FA cups, a League cup and a European cupwinners cup? The boy was a winner. And I probably forgot to mention that he was an Invincible. Beg, steal or borrow, or even buy his book I reviewed his book “It’s Only Ray Parlour” here and it is one of the best football books ever. It is funny, but as it encompassed George Graham, Bruce Rioch and Arsene Wenger plus David Dein, he lived through the most sustained spell of success since the 1930’s. We became Arsenal again with Ray Parlour. It is a unique background insight to the collapse of Tony Adams, the bung era with George Graham and the tumultuous changes brought about quite gently really by Arsene Wenger. Read that book even if you don’t normally read books. C'mon City - get a draw Probably his greatest achievement as a player, though, was winning Arsenal player of the season in 1997-8. The list of greats there at the time was astonishing, Bergkamp, Wright, Anelka, Adams. Pettit, Overmars, Seaman, Platt, the list goes on. But it was the local boy who came through. Laugh and laugh again Although he is most likely best known as the prime joker on the football circuit, with hilarious anecdotes and a top career as an after-dinner speaker, he does deserve to be rated as a top class baller as all the above demonstrates. Few players got the amount of trophies he did, nor such a long career. A Villa and Spuds draw at the weekend would be nice But, if you do nothing else, search for his stories online. There are plenty of youtube videos to keep you laughing. Martin Keown trying to strangle Arsene Wenger, Kolo Toure’s trial, drinking on a plane and many other places, saying hi to two Tottenham mates as we won the title at White Hart Lane and nearly getting them massacred, the Igors Stepanovs prank played on Wenger, and many more. Our own Pele And so he is one of our own, a trainee from Romford who rose through the ranks to win titles and trophies with two different managers, who scored important goals in finals, and no matter who came to play for Arsenal, he always got plenty of games. And even captained the side against Inter when we won 5-1 at the San Siro. No wonder he was called the Romford Pele. So why was his book called “It’s Only Ray Parlour”? It was his famous goal against Chelsea in the 2002 FA cup final. Tim Lovejoy the commentator, a well known Chelsea fan, said, as Parlour came through at about 30 yards out, “It’s only Ray Parlour” who then proceeded to lash the ball in from that distance. The name stuck. Don’t underestimate Mr Parlour, there’s a reason he is called the Romford Pele! Thanks for all the memories and the laughs. Happy birthday, my son, and many, many more. Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current Max Liverpool Man City (h) Spurs (h) Villa (a) 63 96 Man City Liverpool (a) Arsenal (h) Villa (h) Spurs (h) 62 95 Arsenal Man City (a) Villa (h) Spurs (a) 61 94 Villa Spurs (a) Man City (a) Arsenal (a) Liverpool (a) 55 88 Spurs Villa (h) Man City(a) Arsenal (h) Liverpool (a) 50 86 We must win next weekend against Brentford as all the rest may drop points No change again as all five win. The teams have become relentless and are desperate not to give up any ground. That will change next weekend as Liverpool play City and Spurs host Villa. We must Bee better than them All made it hard work, particularly Liverpool who scored after injury time. I was disappointed with the way it was done though, as that is blatant cheating. Caoimhin Kelleher should not have accepted the ball from referee Paul Tierney or should have directly passed it to Forest. It is a topic I regularly return to in these columns, that cheating is accepted in football and no sanction is given to those who even blatantly cheat. We do no one any favours by accepting all the brazen cheating that goes on in modern football. We must be prepared to call out our own team too. I reckon Tierney made a mistake and was not trying to give Liverpool an advantage but the Liverpool players would have known that it was a Forest ball and should have kept to sporting ideals. Arsene Wenger and Arsenal against Sheffield United are the only team to make amends for a similar decision to this day, and probably we will never see such a gesture again. I doubt if Arteta or any other current manager would have done any different to Klopp but still Liverpool should hold up their hands and say that it was cheating. An offer to replay would be a fair gesture. Will it happen? Will it heck as like! Liverpool are fighting like demons One has to say that Liverpool are tenacious, always battle to win and will be hard to knock down. They could come through the tough battles ahead to win the league. They want it badly and that may be the deciding factor. Have the rest got their bottle? We will see. City, Villa and Spurs had tough moments but all pulled away from Man Utd who are now 19 points behind Liverpool and can only see them through binoculars. That fifth place, if it turns out to be good enough for Champions League, may be beyond Ten Hag’s men. Jayden Bogle has scored as many goals for Arsenal as Timo Werner for the Spuds But Arsenal did not make it difficult for themselves, the only one of the five not to. 3 goals up after 15 minutes and the game was long gone for the denizens of Bramall Lane. I have to say I feel sorry for them, Burnley and Luton. The top five are firing like Ferraris and points are so difficult to pick up. Sheffield United, with whom we have a long and chequered history, are surely doomed as are Burnley. They have an average of 0.48 points per game. If that continues they will get 5 extra points. 18 is dismal. Luton probably need a collapse of a team above them to stay up. They have an average of 0.76 points per game which over the next 12 games gives them 9 more points. Will 29 points be enough? You never can tell but I suspect their average needs to increase to stay up. Sad, but probably not much longer We could well be looking at the final top five and bottom three already. C’mon the Arse, we need to shake up these positions!
  2. Thanks for the trophy, Arsenal Today, we will play Luton who we once did a big favour for, we gave them their only major trophy in 1988, the League Cup. And that was with the bulk of the team that would go on to win the league in the most dramatic fashion ever at Anfield the following year. We do not want a repeat of that 3-2 scoreline tonight, we need a win to keep the pressure on the top teams. Of course, it also means Luton will stay in deep trouble near the bottom. You're welcome, Luton But for a team who we first played in 1897, we have only played them 48 times, mostly because they were down the divisions and we weren’t. We have 27 won, 11 draws and 10 losses so they have given us good games despite their different status. We beat them 6-2 in 1898 for our best ever win and we would love that tonight. They beat us 4-0 in 1957 and then in the next match in 1958 they beat us 6-3 and those 2 wins in a row are far better than we have managed against them. In fact virtually all games have been tight with one goal separating the sides. They are no mugs and they seem to like playing well against us. And one nil to the Arsenal has never rang out against them as the last time we beat them by that score was 1970, long before the chant started. Oh, Nigel, what have you done? I mentioned above their first and only major trophy and it has to go down as one of the best League Cup finals ever. And why? Because Luton didn’t understand that Arsenal are the elite side and cheekily whacked in a goal by Brian Stein after 13 minutes. That was very foolish as that will wake up Arsenal who will go on to loot Luton of goals and win easily. Eh, no. It took until the 71st minute for us to get a goal from Martin Hayes who had come on as a sub for the wonderful Perry Groves. And then Smudger Alan Smith hit a goal from a tight angle and it was all over. It was even more over soon after when Arsenal got a penalty as Rocastle was tipped over in the box. And then Michael Thomas, our penalty taker, hit the ball into the back of the net and it was 3-1 with minutes left. Eh, no, again, because Nigel Winterburn, not known as a goalscorer, took the penalty for some reason and the magnificently named Andy Dibble made a fine save. Michael Thomas was our penalty taker, Nigel Still we were 2-1 up with minutes to go and we were the big shots, aristocrats of the English game. Except on 82 minutes, Danny Wilson scored from a bit of a scramble and we had to go again. On 90 minutes, substitute Irishman Ashley Grimes went on a run down the wing, got to the byline and hit a sublime pass for Brian Stein to knock it in past Lukic and we were done, looted by Luton. A great final that little Luton won. I guess all you older Arsenal fans remember that rollercoaster well as we did the opposite to Liverpool the next year. 60 years unbeaten We do have an up and down record against them. We played them first in 1897 in Luton and won 2-0. We remained unbeaten against them until 1957. It was a regular looting and pillaging for us. Kenilworth Road, thank you very much. But in 1957, they beat us 3-1 at Highbury and went on to win nine more times over the next 33 matches to date. They also drew 9 times so they have had a good record against us considering the gap between the teams. Neutrals are hoping Rob Edwards can keep Luton up If I am reading the sentiments of football fans correctly, Luton is the one team that most neutrals are hoping stay up. They have had a fairytale return to the Premier league because they were like the homeless people you barely notice on the streets as you walk past with your head up in the air as you are Arsenal, you don’t know what it is like to drop down into the gutter four times until you are spending another 5 seasons scrambling around in non-league. The bottom was hit, money and fans almost nonexistent, and even getting into the bottom tier of league two seemed impossible. Financial irregularities meant local support was difficult to obtain as was money itself. They crawled out of the gutter But they turned themselves around with that grim determination that our own Ian Wright had when he found himself in jail at 21, and his dreams of being a pro footballer in tatters. He said, no, I will make it, and so did Luton. They got relegated from the 1st division just before it became the Premier League and this is their new pinnacle, the holy grail that never seemed likely when it all went wrong. But they are here, they are battling and maybe, just maybe the fairytale will continue. Will their proposed new ground ever see the Premiership? If Sheffield Utd go down, they will come back, they always do. Burnley I think also. But Luton? This may be their last shot at the big time. The Championship is probably the most difficult quicksand to get out of in football. Big names have gone down into it never to reemerge. Brentford have given them a path to follow, but can they also get on it? At this moment it looks unlikely. Their ground holds a tiny 11,500. Their proposed new ground will hold 19,500, growing to 23,000. But it is scheduled for 2026. They may not be able to see the Arsenal there, then, if it all goes wrong. One nil to the Arsenal? Rob Edwards seems a decent football man, with a lot more managerial experience than Mikel Arteta, despite being younger, but he needs to get Luton to win with enough regularity to stay up. I doubt if tonight will help him but our record against them suggests a tough game and one we really need to win as all the big teams will most likely beat them. In our predictions Dani has gone 3-0 and I have gone for our first one nil to the Arsenal since the chant began. A win will make me happy no matter how we get it. We do not want to be looted by Luton.
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