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  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. Three managers to top them all George Graham -deserves a statue George Graham Player 308 apps Football League First Division: 1970–71 FA Cup: 1970–71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup: 1969–70 Manager 9 years Football League First Division: 1988–89, 1990–91 FA Cup: 1992–93 Football League Cup: 1986–87, 1992–93 FA Charity Shield: 1991 (shared) Football League Centenary Trophy: 1988 European Cup Winners' Cup: 1993–94 Mikel Arteta Player 150 apps FA Cup: 2013–14, 2014–15 FA Community Shield: 2014, 2015 Manager 5 years FA Cup: 2019–20 FA Community Shield: 2020, 2023 Terry Neill Player 241 apps Manager 7 years FA cup 1979 Arsenal managers through and through In my lifetime we have had 3 Arsenal managers who played more than 100 games, won at least one trophy as manager, and who were fulltime managers of this great old club. Terry Neill, George Graham and Mikel Arteta. Now, all of you out there know who the current best one is – George Graham, who is ranked behind Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger. He took on the Liverpool machine and came out on top, who were the best ever English team at the time. He won 8 trophies at Arsenal as a manager, which puts him well ahead of the other 2. Arteta has won 3, an FA Cup and 2 Charity Shields, and Neill has just the one, the FA Cup in 1979. Of course, only Arteta has the chance to overtake Graham. I wonder how many Arsenal fans feel that he will? Am I really hearing Arteta out? The Arteta out brigade have already started with our current bad run, so if that is an indication getting George’s nine years will never happen. Even Terry’s seven won’t. I am, however, optimistic that Arteta is the right man at the moment. Of course, he now cannot afford the bad runs that he has had at the end of every season so far. We must finish strongly to collect trophies. I suspect that if he doesn’t get Champions league or a trophy it’s possible the Arteta out crew will get their wish. Certainly no European qualification could see him out for good. Terry Neill took us upwards Terry Neill never had that pressure. He took over in 1976 as the club were struggling. Relegation was somewhere on the horizon as the great double team were broken up and Bertie Mee lost his mojo. Neill took us up the table, got us 3 FA Cup finals in a row and a Cup Winners Cup Final appearance. His two best league efforts were 3rd and 5th. But competent rather than spectacular was the lot of Arsenal’s youngest ever manager. Bizarrely, Arsenal were his 3rd club despite being only 34 when he took over at Highbury. He had already managed Hull and a team from North London, I can’t remember their name. Terry Neill - a top class defender As a player, Neill didn’t win anything at Arsenal, and was gone just before the Mee/Howe axis started winning things. He did manage 241 games and was highly regarded as a top notch defender. He had 59 international appearances for Northern Ireland, way more than the other two. Arteta didn’t even manage one for Spain. He was our youngest ever, he had way more caps, and he had one of our greatest days under his belt, the 1979 FA Cup win over Manchester United, the famous Liam Brady final. Overall, one of our own, and he could be seen on matchdays escorting VIPs. He deserves more recognition And, of course, he also had a huge hand in creating the extraordinary amount of Irish at Highbury, cementing a massive fanbase across the pond. Ok, he is number 3 on this list of players/managers at Arsenal but for me, it was a colossal boost watching all the Irish superstars strut their stuff. Terry Neill - a fan till the end Will he get a statue? Probably not but he remained Arsenal through and through all his life and was one of our most dedicated followers, always being seen around the Arsenal on matchdays. The rookie could beat them all Mikel is number 2 and he has a long way to go to catch up with George Graham. Will he? Maybe not but I feel he will get somewhere before he has to leave. The only one on the list who was a rookie, and he did make rookie mistakes, allowing Aubameyang and Ozil a latitude that he shouldn’t, have, but he learned, and if he has learned how to finish strongly this season, then we might be celebrating. He needs to stay in touch, as at the end City may have lots of high pressure matches like last season. Arsenal capitulating made that easier for them last time, and they won the league easier than they should have. That, above all else is his benchmark, stay in touch and finish strongly. Mikel -Our captain, my captain He won the FA Cup and the Charity Shield at his first attempt, a wonderful achievement. His immediate predecessors were 2 greats, Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger, and he has done better than any Manchester United manager since Alex Ferguson in fashioning a team in his image, consistently getting better. When an immense manager goes, such as Arsene Wenger, the void becomes a giant chasm to fill. Arteta has the capacity to fill that void. Will he get a statue? Time will tell. Graham conquered all And so George Graham, the mighty tactician, disciplinarian and creator of a team that moved together like puppets, always catching teams offside, with a magical midfield of Rocastle, Merson and Thomas to feed the strikers. He gave us probably our best day ever, when we went to Anfield in 1989 needing to win 2-0 for the title, and won in injury time. It never got better after that. George Graham - an elegant player The critical thing about George is that he made Arsenal great again over many years. The last such time was the 1940’s. His nine years with our only 2 League Cups, the only European Cup Winners Cup, and the only ever winners of the Centenary Cup, plus 2 league titles and an FA Cup means he is number one on this list and number 3 overall in the pantheon of prodigious Arsenal managers. He didn’t get many caps for Scotland but won trophies as a player and was a vital member of the Double winning side of 1971. Tactics, discipline and teamwork He was responsible for bringing many top young players through at Arsenal and Leeds. He had one defining belief, that you get the best possible player for every position even if it means removing a fan favourite as he did with John Lukic, replacing him with David Seaman. Football was chess for him, you had to stay ahead of your opponent by thinking ahead of them. Can any of them get a statue like the legendary Herbert Chapman? Will he get a statue? He deserves one. The scandal that removed him certainly seemed to have a lot of extenuating circumstances, and an honest review of that could see him getting the recognition at Arsenal he deserves. And so there you go. We had 3 top players that became top managers, something that not many teams have achieved. Liverpool had 2, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, but I cannot think of any other top team that had trophy winning managers who also played for them. Good old Arsenal, we always lead the way. And if Arteta knocks out George Graham, boy would we be happy.
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