A novel approach to the subject of Jon Sammels

By Kevin Whitcher

The Gooner chats to the author of ‘I am Sam’, James Durose-Rayner

‘I am Sam’ is a newly-released novel that features Jon Sammels on the front cover, and in the plot. The Gooner chatted with its author, James Durose-Rayner to get the story behind the book.

Front cover of the book under discussion

The Gooner: What would you say to Arsenal fans who pick up 'I am Sam' thinking it is going to be a book about Jon Sammels?
James Durose-Rayner: They are buying a novel in which the central character is a huge Arsenal fan. The story is dominated by a documentary he is making about Jon Sammels' time at the club, with a mix of factual recollection and opinion about the player. Jon saw the book before it was published and endorsed the way he was wound into the story. I think Arsenal fans will enjoy reading about him in the context of the book. So although it’s a work of fiction, there are a lot of references to fact where Jon’s career is concerned, which is a tale all of its own. I think the combination works well and hope readers will agree.

You were born in 1964, so I suspect were not fully aware of the whole Sammels debate at the time it was happening. How did you develop such a passion for the player that his tale has become a central aspect of your novel?
To me Jon Sammels was a smiling face on a sticker in a Figurini Panini book from the 1968/69 season whose name I had to be corrected by my stepdad.
"James it is Jon Sammels not Jon Samuels," he told me.
"Is he good?" I asked.
"Yes, but he plays for Leicester now," he answered.

It was pre-season 1971 and I was sat on the kitchen rug browsing through the sticker book that I was given by my stepdad’s brother who was offered a trial with Arsenal in 1969 as a goalkeeper, but who turned them down. He was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter who only wanted to play for one club. True story.
Me? In the sticker book I thought Terry Neill looked like my real dad - and that's when I thought. Yeah, Arsenal. My real dad (sounds bad as my stepdad was a brilliant guy) was also a big Sheffield Wednesday fan, but he always encouraged me to follow my club and one of the first things he told me was about Cliff Holton hammering a hat-trick for The Arsenal at Hillsborough in a four or five nil win for us in the mid-fifties, He also told me about Redfearn Froggatt, Albert Quixall and so on - but that's quite a different story. The Arsenal is what this is about, however, I remember it to this day and I was hooked. The Arsenal were always my team.

What you need to know is that I always wanted to do an Arsenal book, however my wife indirectly pointed the way after she had run out of books whilst we were over at the house in Cyprus. She had picked up an early bio penned by Bob Wilson and slung it after reading three pages. "I'm sorry James but I'm not that bored," she said.
I therefore needed to write an Arsenal story that anyone could read and a fiction based on fact story I felt was the best way of telling it.
I read ‘The Damned United’ and it was okay but ‘The Worst of Friends : the betrayal of Joe Mercer’, I thought was much better. However it would still never appeal to the independent reader or more importantly to the opposite sex, so I needed a different take. This was or is the big thing re: I am Sam. One online review explains the story and how fact and fiction interweave if you want more detail.

I looked for a player that could give me a story and Jon Sammels was the first that sprung to mind, but the book certainly never started off like that. The man that I found out Jon to be changed everything, as initially my story was going to be very dark. Did I know the history re: Jon? I'm a proper Arsenal supporter and have gone through the pains of being humiliated v Tranmere in 73 and totally brokenhearted v Ipswich 78 and yeah, of course I did. However there was also a lot I didn't know as I'm no different to the next man - I didn't know lots of things and that is where the research came in. There is nothing in the novel that hasn't been documented in the press or media or that has been told to me personally by Jon. Research and facts are key, but it is worth noting that it is better delving in the past archives at what was said 'back then' rather than the present as over time things get a little rose tinted. Ask your grandparents!
Did I ask Jon an opinion re: x, y or z? I did but not really as I knew from talking to him that he would only have nice things to say about everyone. He is just a lovely guy, but the book tells you that. In the end I just wanted clarification of a few things and I reckon I got that.

Did Jon make any contribution to the book himself?
I let Jon know what I was doing fairly early on, and he immediately texted me asking if there was anything I needed, I might wish to call him. There wasn’t as such, however after I had completed the spine of the book, I texted him to ask if he had an email address as I would let him see how the book was going. Strangely he didn’t as he wasn’t online. I was out of the UK at the time, and on getting back to the UK I rang him.
“I can’t believe you knew how I was feeling,” was one of the first things he said to me. With the book 95% completed, there were a few holes that needed filling and during a 90 minute conversation, he helped fill a few. Strangely, when asked questions about the team or big matches he tended to parrot quote the AFC history books rather than give me his version of events, however when it came to personal stuff, he was very honest to the point that I felt both upset for him and to a certain point embarrassed that I was an Arsenal fan.
The big thing that may come back to bite me in the arse was trying to answer ‘why didn’t sections of the Arsenal support take to him?’ I had trawled through the archives like you wouldn’t know and watch every match I could. This was a researched book even though I have a decent long term memory. I can’t remember what I did the other day, or that’s what the wife says!
From reading bits and pieces in the initial research I copped a conversation with some kid he was signing a shirt for who mentioned his relationship with the Highbury crowd, and he replied that he was a bit upset that was all he would be remembered for, however in his 140 page bio, he dwelled on this quite a bit. Charlie George mentioned him being a first class guy, but the most insular person he had ever known. Whether Charlie actually explained it that way or it was the guy who penned his bio, who knows? Confidence is a big thing and mind games are a big part of sport.

Jon played a different type of game back then to what the football fan liked, especially the Arsenal fan. That’s a valid point, but not quite the point.
Football back then was an aggressive ‘man’s game’ with heavy tackles, racing around and diving in which was mirrored by the supporter who wanted nothing more than to go kick the other supporters head in. Although Jon gave his share of challenges – a fight with Alan Ball and the Rouen goalkeeper spring to mind, he was no Peter Storey. In fact his nature over the camera (check photo with Brian Moore in putting together ‘I am Sam’ on my website) is quite feminine, which is a valid point, but again, not quite the point.
Jon was no Charlie George or John Radford when he scored. Arms up in the air and shake your mate’s hand and a jog back to the centre circle and that was your whack. He did once do a somersault after the goal in the semi-final versus Huddersfield in 1968, but that was out of character. This too is a valid point as body language shows you care.
I watched Arsenal versus Liverpool 30/11/70 – his second game back after a cracked ankle and at him puffing and wheezing. I noticed this years ago when my wife bought me the 1970/71 VHS one Christmas. A professional footballer puffing and wheezing after walloping a shot over the bar? Mmm. What I didn’t know was that Jon was partially blind that game – a game where he was man of the match – and thought he was going to have a stroke. A couple of Panadols later and it went. Fans hate unfit and lazy players, but this was never the case. Jon was diagnosed with a hole in the heart at 62 years old. Jon never went in for over-elaborate flash goal celebrations or did the headless chicken act with no end product because he was managing his body. His sole thought was always on getting on with the game. This is the point, and it has never ever been mentioned before.
Jon said that he didn’t really want it making public, which I tried going around the houses a bit before I thought f*** it – It wants saying. I’m not having AFC history books making him out to be some guy that runs away because he’s getting booed. It needs answering. The hole in the heart crippled Asa Hartford’s near on record-breaking move to Leeds in September 1971. It was a really big thing at the time. Jon’s medical problem had sailed beneath the radar when he went to Leicester, but it was there. Asa was deemed ‘Goods not worthy’ yet Jon was one of the most graceful footballers of his era, hiding exactly what probably ruined Asa Hartford’s career. The undiagnosed hole in the heart problem helped create the body language which was the main reason that he was a target for the boo-boys.

Don Howe doesn't come out of the book very well, and I found the angle on him very interesting. Did you get this from Jon Sammels, the reportage at the time or conversations with other Arsenal fans you knew?
What you have to remember is the book is fiction based on fact. The fiction is in the characters such as Mr Arsenal (who we get to know as Lee), Sooty and Eddie etc. whilst the fact surrounds the documented Arsenal history.
It states in Chapter 18, ‘The Dividend’:
“Do you actually know him?” asked the suit as regards Sammy.
“Nope,” I replied.
“Then how can you be so frank in giving an appraisal?” he asked.
“I’m a ‘reading between the lines’ sort of person,” I replied. “You get close to someone then you lose the truth – that edge – for fear of upsetting the equilibrium that’s been formed. Sammy as a person was like that – an absolutely fantastic footballer and a true gentleman, however he would have very little on the negative side to tell you about any of his fellow pros.”

Regards Don Howe, Jon Sammels told me that Don was a brilliant coach who helped both Pete Storey and Bob McNab improve their game. He also told me that it was Don who brought him off at half time in the home tie v Cologne, which was very upsetting for Jon and the beginning of the end for him as an Arsenal player.
Jon is too nice a man to do any mudslinging, and you will find that as soon as you speak to him. That game v Cologne was a poor team performance full-stop where Bob Wilson, who I love as a man but who wasn’t even in the top six goalkeepers of his era, let in a goal direct from a corner. Storey was the only one to come out of that game with any credit, but Jon was made a scapegoat of sorts.
For me, Don Howe was a brilliant tactician that hand his hand forced pre-season 1970-71 due to key players having injuries.
You mentioned in the ‘Eternal Truths’ piece on the Gooner website re: Big Frank and the best 11: “In the long run. It can be a problem until eventually they find the perfect blend, which must be there. And it may just happen by accident. Maybe somebody gets injured and another player might come in and it might just be the perfect blend.”
That happened in August 1970. What should always be noted is that the best 11 doesn’t necessarily mean the best 11 players.

What is also true was that although Don was a well-respected coach and first class tactician he was an absolutely awful manager. The Mee/Howe relationship was not too dissimilar to the Mercer/Allison relationship at the time or to a lesser extent the Clough/Taylor relationship. One can’t work without the other and vice-versa.
Don’s tactical mistakes are well documented. The 1969 League Cup Final for one. He openly admitted that he made a mistake. Don Howe walked out on the club in May 1971 to try his hand at management, and posed in his dressing gown and slippers for all the press men. He said he didn’t feel wanted. He left the club taking half the back room staff with him, and caused the club some considerable trouble and embarrassment.
What has never really been said was that Don was interviewed for the Leicester City job prior to him going to WBA – who he got relegated in 1973. What has also never really been said is that if Don had joined Leicester City, Jon Sammels certainly wouldn’t have gone there. That may be reading between the lines and forming an opinion, but it is also fact.
In my opinion – and that’s all it is, Frank McLintock, who was never the best player for the Arsenal but certainly the best on-field motivator that the club has ever had, carried the side throughout the 71-72 and 72-73 season and then got kicked out by Bertie Mee before it became The Alan Ball Show. The history which surrounds the Double side is similar to the Invincibles. History tells us what a great achievement it was, however the harsh reality of both those is that in the same season with the right tactics and the right players Arsenal could have won everything. And by everything I mean everything.

The love life of 'Mr Arsenal' resembles a rollercoaster ride at times, and some of the stuff, such as the incident with the tall dwarf's wife in Foyles, will live long in the memory. On your website, you state, "To write about certain subjects, you have really got to have experienced them". Is this all out of your imagination or have you drawn from personal experience?
Jesus Christ that's a question my wife would definitely like answering! LOL
Yeah, you have to write what you know, and have experienced certain things. That goes without saying. I like most people can exaggerate reality, but the basis certainly has to be there.
Arsenal are the ultimate in cool. The city, the stadium, the history. I needed a comparison to show just how cool Arsenal and London actually is and I chose Birkenhead and the character of young Stuart and his family for that. London is a world away from Birkenhead and that’s what I wanted to put over, without slighting the north western town or its people. I also wanted to put Arsenal over in a good light, and I tried putting it over in that Mr Arsenal always came over as both polite and courteous, and despite his idiosyncrasies was a person who would never knock another man’s city or indeed his team. Arsenal are class. I really, really needed to put that over.
Mr Arsenal himself? David Beckham I thought has a link with Arsenal, and was probably the most iconic footballer of his era. Beckham in an Arsenal shirt would have looked brilliant circa 2000. That was what was in my head. The coolest player on the planet at the coolest club. That’s where that came from.
The Tall Dwarf is based on a real person called Lorenzo who frequents the Coffee Shop in Vrysoulles. The self-same coffee shop that in my head I relocated from Cyprus and on to Grays Inn Road in north London. In reality he does an awful lot of fumbling with his hands. Turkish George is in reality a professional gambler who went potty when he knew I’d labelled him that in the book, and the bald Greek Andreas – (Translation) ‘The kind old gentleman in the green suit’ was a Greek Cypriot terrorist pre 1974 who was shot in the back three times.
The lookalikes - Nicole/M. There's a bit of truth there, however it would be wrong of me to name names, but yeah they are based on real people. I looked for the girl next door look as opposed to stunning. The girl next door will always look after you and still look brilliant – the stunning one looks great but could lead you a merry dance, not that Jeanette did in the story however. I could say more on that but I won't, although Mark Randall springs to mind.
There’s a lot of my kids in the book when they were younger – at four and six rifling the mini bar at a hotel in Beijing and denying it or indeed with the teeth and cats in Morocco. I liked that bit - that was nice.

Does the Arsenal footage referred to in the book actually all exist? I am aware of some of it from the ITN archive, and the more obvious YouTube, but something like Sammels' goal for England under 23s against Austria - is that a flight of fancy or is it out there somewhere?
I read somewhere that a lot of the matches at Highbury were filmed for tactical use, although I have no idea how many. Maybe some of the old timers at the club could tell you how much.
ITN Archive stock a bit, but not much. Brazil, Ajax, Lisbon are all on the archive but Arsenal have never made it public by buying it all up. KRO filmed the Feyenoord match where Sammels scored his 20 yarder in front of 60,000.
The Under 23 goal was special as that is when Jon was at his peak and being tipped for full honours. It was a special goal because it was not only a goal for his country, but was taken on the volley and was described at the time as quite a Cruyff-esque finish. Whether it actually exists or not is another thing. I wanted to make a big deal out of this as it was special, as was how the lead character’s girlfriend went about getting it.
The finding the footage thing was a different way of putting Jon’s Arsenal career over, as he rarely scored a scrambled goal. My thoughts were if Youtube highlights can make a dog average player look amazing then maybe I could relay something similar with Jon.
In 1967 he had the world at his feet, but come 16 March 1968 and the 0-2 defeat v Wolves at Highbury, it was when he first noticed the mumblings from the crowd and then during ‘68 and ‘69 he sought a transfer away from the club and was regularly and mutually left out of the side, prior to him signing an incentive-based contract, which due to Arsenal’s Fairs Cup and Double success would make him and Frank McLintock two of the highest paid players in Britain. Jon’s agent was Ken Stanley - the agent to George Best.

The sequel to 'I am Sam' is 'ITV7'. Is this going to be the continuation of the story of the main character Mr Arsenal? Will it interweave with Arsenal past or present as your current book does? When is it likely to be published?
‘ITV7’ is happening right now and its spine is almost complete. It is a continuation of the characters, and you get to know more about Mr Arsenal and his life as ITV7 fills in a lot of holes to the I am Sam story. You also find out that his life has a massive twist right at the start. It is very much Arsenal-based, but not so much with a single story to tell a story, more a series of stories.
With ‘I am Sam’ I used ‘takes’ from a retired West Ham supporting journalist to give a different angle. With ‘ITV7’ I am using ‘takes’ from his ex-wife to give a different angle, which without sounding effeminate, means I’m writing it as a woman, which has been very strange to say the least. Strange, but rewarding as the story is quite nice.
The new characters that come along are based around some extremely nice Arsenal people on Twitter who have let me use their names – yourself for one. For example, in one instance they are doing a documentary based around The Invincibles and both yourself and Stevie Kell are being interviewed. It’s only minor characterisation, but it is 100% Arsenal. There’s also a nice story within it surrounding Arsenal beating Real Madrid at the Bernabeu which is told by his wife.
As I am looking at it, the story will run from start of this season until the New Year, although at the minute, things for Arsenal are on the up and if we can take points from Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs and Liverpool we might be in with a shout. Very long odds I know, but you can tell there’s a change in tactics, therefore I might let ‘ITV7’ run a bit longer. It takes about six months to go from finishing the story to publication. This is the major ball ache. Hopefully it may be out in the summer.

‘I am Sam’ by James Durose-Rayner is published in paperback by Clink Street Publishing and is available for £11.99. ISBN numbers is 978-1909477834.
A press release about the book can be downloaded here.

Questions for Jon Sammels
Jon Sammels has kindly agreed to be interviewed for issue 249 of The Gooner (on sale at the Monaco home match in late February). If there are any questions you would like to us to ask Jon, please either tweet them to @GoonerFanzine or if they are longer than 140 characters, email me - gooner.ed@gmail.com. The interview is scheduled for Friday afternoon, so get anything you wish to ask Jon to us by noon on Friday.

Win a copy of ‘I am Sam’
The publishers have offered us two copies of James’ book as competition prizes. To enter to win one, please answer the following question:
In which season did Jon make his first team debut for Arsenal?
a) 1962-63
b) 1963-64
c) 1964-65
Email your answer to goonercomp@btinternet.com by noon on Saturday. We will announce the two winners in the editorial piece on the Spurs match.

4th February 2015 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

James Durose-Rayner  12:59pm 4th Feb 2015

Many thanks Kevin. - Post No. 69695

Westlower  16:09pm 4th Feb 2015

Jon Sammels was one of my all time favourite players. Not a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals. Those lucky enough to be at Highbury will never forget that 35 yard scorcher against Man U & the clinching goal against Anderlecht. There was a small minority of loud mouth arseholes who got on Jon's back & he lost his confidence as a consequence of their despicable bile. What is it with some so called supporters? For those too young to remember Jon, the nearest I can compare him to is Ozil but with a more powerful shot. I haven't seen many footballers who could strike a ball as well as Jon Sammels. - Post No. 69711

Ron  16:53pm 4th Feb 2015

I echo everything Westie has said. Loved Jon Sammels and was there as a scrawny 15 yr old Westie at that 2-2 v Man Utd. Trouble on the North Bank that day - lots of it!! Malcolm Webster last minute place in goal. Can you recall? It was his 1 game as i recall? Could be wrong mate? - Post No. 69716

Badarse  16:59pm 4th Feb 2015

I remember quite clearly that the club recorded games for tactics. I would quickly look to the East Stand Upper platform-large camera gear meant TV, small meant club recording. Loved Sammy, and would still walk a million miles for one of his goals. He held himself upright on the pitch, skimmed over the surface with such grace, and had that thunderbolt of a shot. He was too advanced for the 'gertcha' type fan, a connoisseur, delicate and finely weighted passes, an artist. He could fit into this Arsenal team, but would get slated like Ozil. Could watch him all day. Could easily be a core stadium mural. - Post No. 69717

Ron  17:30pm 4th Feb 2015

Had the pleasure of seeing Jon quite a few times at Leicester. Lived in Loughboro for a few years and he was part of the team that contained Weller and Nish and Birchenall and other very smooth players. In many ways they mirrored the Arsenal now in that they could torch most teams apart from those that got into them and were tactically astute. Mind you Filbert Street was a goal start. Crowd in the back of the players shirts and very atmospheric. Maybe the best Leics team ever assembled by a lovely guy in charge - Jimmy Bloomfield. Fond memories. Good fans at Leicester C. Nice Club. - Post No. 69720

Badarse  18:01pm 4th Feb 2015

All true Ron. Do you or westlower remember the minor storm Keith Weller created when he wore those tights for a televised match? How times have changed. - Post No. 69724

Westlower  18:25pm 4th Feb 2015

@Ron, In 1969/70 Bob Wilson played 28 games; Geoff Barnett 11 & Malcolm Webster 3. That season we won 12, drew 18 & lost 12, For 51, Against 49, finishing 12th, 24 points behind Champions Everton who only lost 5 times. As we've said before that Everton team were outstanding. - Post No. 69727

Peter Wain  19:11pm 4th Feb 2015

"where Bob Wilson, who I love as a man but who wasn’t even in the top six goalkeepers of his era,". Name the five above him. Bob Wilson was an integral part of the double winning side and in that season was probably the outstanding goal keeper in the first division. Sloppy journalism - Post No. 69730

Ron  19:36pm 4th Feb 2015

Ha Id forgotten them but yes i recall his black tights. He was a preety buy wasnt he Weller. Couldnt half play though. Chris Garland was another signed from Chelsea. Good player. Silky but didnt like the hard stuff of the ties did he. Frankie Worthington of course. Frank loved the hard stuff as long as it came out of an optic!!Fantastic player though. Hes a very good after dinner speaker too. Not sure if he still does it but very funny and a real window into the 70s game. Shilton in goal. You think back and they ought to have won a flipping title but just lacked a course edge in the right places. In many ways its them that shape my take on the present Arsenal. My views on Wenger aside hes got the nucleus of a sqaud there that cd do really well IF he chooses to and puts aside his blinkers. Arsenal now, that Leics team, the QPR team that came runners up to Liverpool in 76 or whenever it was, the Albion team under Atko of 78 -80. Wolves circa 72 -74. The Totts team of 81-82. Ipswich of Robsons making. Football is littered with smashing teams teams who thought that the pure facets of the game alone could win titles. History in football teaches us much. Wenger chooses to disregard it. Hes not a fool but carrying on disregarding it makes him one in my book guys. - Post No. 69732

Ron  20:22pm 4th Feb 2015

Hi Peter. indeed Bob was mate but ive always considered Bob was a very competent keeper behind a very strong defence blessed with stacks of bravery to make up for any failings he had. Loved him. Having said that Banks Shilton Bonetti Clemence Jennings were all better i believe. Hard to call it though mate isnt it. - Post No. 69736

Westlower  21:30pm 4th Feb 2015

@Badarse, Yes I do remember Weller wearing tights.It was the beginning of the end of mankind when tights replaced stockings, boo hoo! Long live the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course our Sammy was one of us being a Mod in the 60's. Julesd thought he was the best looking player ever at AFC, until Martin came along of course. - Post No. 69742

Badarse  21:55pm 4th Feb 2015

Frank Worthington, the Doog, Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, our own Charlie George, characters of the game which added extra zest. The game now is sterile by comparison. I, as you know, don't blame anyone, it's just evolution. It's like the first week of August and all adults want to talk of is their sprogs A level grades, mundane, head down, never look at the sky. It's a big reason why my nature makes me enjoy whatever is presented. Yes, 24601, the death of stockings. Blokes were judged by whether they ever got to feel the flesh above the stocking top, not that many got to touch mine...until the second date. Sammy was the epitome of what a handsome Mod should look like. No surprise at all that he is still a gent, what a good man. As for my dear Martin Keown, he trade marked the look, 'a face like a bag of chisels', and never did anyone look better. Good choice julesd, and he still has it! Then there was Stepney and Corrigan, Ron. - Post No. 69745

James Durose-Rayner  22:18pm 4th Feb 2015

Ron 20:22pm 4th Feb 2015: ive always considered Bob was a very competent keeper behind a very strong defence blessed with stacks of bravery to make up for any failings he had. Loved him. Having said that Banks Shilton Bonetti Clemence Jennings Never meant any offence, but what Ron said echoes with Bob Wilson, with Bonetti at the top of them all.. Stepney? - Post No. 69747

Ron  22:32pm 4th Feb 2015

Yes, you cdt move for great and good keepers could you chaps. Stepney had his golden period for sure. Corrigan became better as he aged i thought. He was a calamity keeper as a young rookie. We scratch about for a top keeper now though the rule changes to offside and rules favouring attackers vis defenders for TV purposes has exposed them today i think as its made defending a nigh impossible task. 'Contact' sees a pen awarded doesnt it. Its ever likely defenders are prancing about like cats on hot tin roofs anywhere in the pen box while attackers max the rule changes and the poor reffing by diving and conning.Keepers have little chance to shine do they today. - Post No. 69748

James Durose-Rayner  22:41pm 4th Feb 2015

Bob Wilson rated Colin Brazier. There was also Phil Parkes of Wolves was okay - Gordon West England international - Springett of SWFC - Peter Grummitt Forest ...... - Post No. 69749

A Cornish Gooner  23:00pm 4th Feb 2015

Just read that Keith Weller started his career with Arsenal as a schoolboy. Never knew that. Sadly he died in 2004, aged 58. Agree Ron re. Joe Corrigan. Apparently he was a bit of a nervous wreck at the start of his career. Hence all the blunders. - Post No. 69752

Leggsy  4:11am 5th Feb 2015

He was one of my favorites as a young boy too and memory of the night Kelly he and Radford scored against Anderlecht is indelibly tattoed to my heart . Like others I was gutted by the negativity of some towards him ,for me the double side got old very quickly and went downhill rapidly after the 72/1973 season . I wish him well ! - Post No. 69762

Bob Matthews  9:45am 5th Feb 2015

Loved Sammy,was a favourite of mine back in the 60s.Probably our first trendy pin up type player prior to Marinello and our Charlie. Could play as well, remember attending my first nld at highbury in 1967.They had a very good side in those days and we were just beginning to form the nucleus of our future 70/71 double side and they were favourites to win that day. We stuffed them 4.0 and Jon had a great game, i remember in the 2nd half with the game almost won Jon literally sitting on the ball in midfield as a piss take signifying how easy it all was.Loved him for that and could never understand the stick he took from certain sections. An Arsenal legend in my eyes. - Post No. 69768

Bob Matthews  10:36am 5th Feb 2015

**** me gently.You been on the Jamesons Jamerson - Post No. 69771

Westlower  10:45am 5th Feb 2015

@Ron, When I was working on Merseyside I once met David James who came into a hotel snooker room with Ian Rush & Steve Nichols. I couldn't believe the size of him, he's a real man mountain. Also met Pat Jennings while out shopping but he was a relative midget at 6'0". My ex American boss was Pat's next door neighbour but being a Yank didn't know about Pat until it was explained to him. Gordon Banks 6'1", Alex Stepney was only 5'11", Courtois is 6'6" so it got me thinking as to the height of Arsenal's GK's. John Lukic was Arsenal's tallest at 6'4", Lehmann 6'3, Furnell 6'1", Wilson 6'0", Ospina 6'0". Szczesny is reportedly 6'6" on Wikipedia, is that right? - Post No. 69772

Ron  11:24am 5th Feb 2015

HI Westie - id have had Scezney as about 6 feet 1 ish mate? Some of these footballers are far bigger than we think seeing them from the stands arent they. Oddly enough i was up in Liverpool a few Sundays back and was in a country pub near Formby Beaches and Glen Johnson came in with his Mrs and Kids. Hes a big guy but you d never guess it from the TV would you. Courtois looks a great keeper in the making doesn't he mate? i dont join the clamour for Arsenal to seek to buy Cech though. Hes been good but his best days are long gone i reckon. Yet hes only about 32 isnt he? Im a Begovitch fan and cant see why Clubs arent seeking to snap him up. Lloris is excellent too isnt he though obviously we ll never get him. - Post No. 69775

Peter Wain  11:36am 5th Feb 2015

Ron How can you rate Bonneti above Wilson is beyond me. He was the man who cost us the world cup. As for Clemence he was in goal when we won the double. I accept that Banks was better although his performance in the semi final of the cup against us was poor. As for Stepney I have seen better goal keepers on Hackney Marshes- the number of times he came for crosses and missed them were so numerous. Also in a one on one situation give me Willo every time. As for the defence yes it was good but he was an integral part of it and made some great saves. No in the 1970-71 season Wilson was the best in the league bar none. - Post No. 69776

Ron  11:53am 5th Feb 2015

Hi Peter - Respect. Agree totally that in that Season Willow was the best. I dont agree that across his career viz the others that he was better though mate, thats all. All keepers have lousy games though and Banks in the SF was in decline. Ive never blamed Bonetti for the WCQF. He was a very last minute inc due to Banks illness and Ramsey lost that match by taking Charlton off as it gave Beckanbaur total freedom to boss the game as he came out of his bunker once BC was gone. Muller also was something else. Maybe the best striker the World had seen at that time. Stepney? Yes he did go to pot but for 2 seasons circa 67 -69 he was quality. He declined as Utd rapidly declined post 69 i thought. I loved Willow mate but in the round his golden period was pretty short and he was around a long time before he was trusted with the green jersey. The others all played at the top for quite a while longer didnt they. - Post No. 69778

Seven Kings Gooner  12:00pm 5th Feb 2015

For me Jon Sammels, more than any other factor, was an unlucky player, he got injured pre season in 70 71 and without him & Charlie George (injured in the Everton opener) the team had made a great start to the season. However once Jon was fit he did come back into the side and played up to beginning of March 71 (10 or so games) He also played in the early cup rounds but by the time the team went on a long winning run where we won 9 in a row and quite a few just 1-0, Jon found himself out of the side. The team had evolved into an austere pattern of play - giving away very few chances and this safe pragmatic approach became the order of the day. Looking at it from hindsight George Graham was seen as a safer bet and could hold the ball well and could always be relied on for goals, in particular with his head. Mentally the team went into siege mode and very few players were injured on that final run in. If the teams had the size of subs benches they have today Jon would have been a even more important part of the team, although that said in my eyes he played a key role in that great season. Strange that a "Stroller" would be preferred to a hard working midfielder like Jon but there again the nickname stroller for me was misplace against GG - he was superb at WHL on that May evening and was voted MOM at Wembley 5 days later (Radford should have got it though) I think more than anything George Graham's mental toughness stood him above Jon Sammels. - Post No. 69779

Ron  12:08pm 5th Feb 2015

Great post SKG. Agree with every word. - Post No. 69780

Badarse  12:20pm 5th Feb 2015

Sir Chesney can only be one fathom and one and a half dipped big toes, 24601. Or continuing the biblical theme, four cubits and a stuttering vicar's christening finger. - Post No. 69782

jjetplane  12:39pm 5th Feb 2015

Sammels seems like a cult figure for the youngsters who watched him. We would all try to hit a ball as hard as Jon Sammels when we were kids. He looked pretty modish with the centre parting as so we little mods and skins just loved him. There was always a sense of identifying yourself with the players then. Fnny enough, I think Simpson was my favourite at that time. Mr Utility. Remembering that Manky match and yes there were a lot of what we saw as 'hairy northern tossers' in attendance. That was a great period and our 'little mob' mostly hailed from the flats behind the clock end. Nearly drowned in the crowd that day. All through it the iconic Jon Sammels was a real star. - Post No. 69784

jeff wright  12:40pm 5th Feb 2015

Contrary to what one person claims I was actually at home games during the late 60s and 70s when Jon was playing for us. I was only a kid at the time but still recall many things including the discontent that some supporters on the North Bank had with him . There is a tendency as time goes by to see things as being better than what they in reality were depending on results . If Wenger had won the two Euro finals that he lost then years from now these would have become the stuff of legend .Instead of no one remembering them.Henry will be remembered for his domestic exploits and not the chances that he missed in Paris against Barcelona. Revisionism can only be used when there is a basis for that to build on.You can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear . - Post No. 69785

radfordkennedy  12:59pm 5th Feb 2015

Great posts fellas....loved Willow and his bravery how in God's name he never got more kneck injuries is a mystery..I don't know if anyone else remembers a night cup game against Villa,when most unlike Bob he became involved in a very heated argument with their forward who I think was called Morgan,I honestly thought Willow was going to chin him.....on the subject of Villa I seem to recall they had a terrific keeper around that time,who in the close season kept wicket for Warwickshire but I can't for the life of me remember his name - Post No. 69788

Bob Matthews  13:14pm 5th Feb 2015

Raddy.... Jim Cumbes (Not sure about spelling) is who i think you refer to - Post No. 69789

Ron  13:17pm 5th Feb 2015

R/K - Yes. It was Sammy Morgan. He put the H in hoofball didnt he. The Keeper was Jim Cumbes for the Albion mate. He succeeded John Osborne in goal for WBA as i recall. Very good cricketer for my favourite County Cricket team who i get to see 2-3 times each Season at the most beautiful New Road ground. Idyllic place to see cricket indeed. - Post No. 69790

maguiresbridge gooner  13:35pm 5th Feb 2015

Ron, Lloris? maybe we nearly did, along with the rest. - Post No. 69792

radfordkennedy  13:42pm 5th Feb 2015

Bob Matthews...Ron..of course Jim Cumbes well remembered guys,WBA was it Ron,I was nearly right, I get to see Gloucestershire a couple of times a year,but I have heard that your ground is a wonderful place to enjoy a pint and watch a game...incidently Ron what in God's name was young Morgan doing against the Aussies,he took guard on off,the ball pitched on off,with no swing or deviation off the seam and he left it!,quite bizarre - Post No. 69793

Ron  14:04pm 5th Feb 2015

R/K - You got me thinking with Cumbes mate. Yr right he did play for Villa as well. I cdt recall that. Recall Charlie George sticking one past him at WBA. I think it was CG s first goal, though cd be wrong on that.Just googled Cumbes! Never saw the Cricket, though do you reckon some of these batsmen now some times for get what type of cricket theyre playing? They seem to get caught between ltd overs of whichever variation and the longer game hence the odd methods? - Post No. 69795

Westlower  14:22pm 5th Feb 2015

Alexis Sanchez & Ox out of NLD. - Post No. 69799

Bard  15:17pm 5th Feb 2015

Interesting post Jeff. I think memory plays tricks. Most of our memories are selective and subjective, especially when you look at the football past. Among the many I well remember Henry's misses in that final. To my mind it was those that put him in the second division of strikers. Great players, like great managers are at their best under the greets pressure. Its why our boss is in the second division of managers. Good but not at the highest level. No shame in that but as you suggest memories are selective. - Post No. 69801

Ron  15:33pm 5th Feb 2015

Henry certainly made a pigs ear of those chances didnt he Jeff! Bards point is a good one. Was Henry genuinely 'World class'? Well, he s got a WC winners medal from when he was young in 98, but for me, no he never was. Like Bard, he was a level down from it (for me). Theres a lot of sentiment over him that leads to the hype and vastly overused plaudits about him. He was a very good domestic league striker no doubt. Great career. Its an arguable point over whether there was a World class player in the 2004 team really in my view, yet today as you say many make out that it was a team full of them. I still say that our 1991 team would have beaten them in 3 maybe 4 games out of every 5. Some of us have questioned the use of the term 'invincibles', yet were they? Again iver never been sure though they never lost a game in a Season. Does that qualify them? Again, for me no, it doesn't. Far too many draws. 12 i recall. I suppose it comes down to what one gleans from the use of the word 'invincibles' doesn't it. I think far more was needed from that team to justify it.The Wenger years have for sure created so many conundrums and double takes on many factual matters and its down to each of us to take our choice. Has he ever been a 'great Coach'. Not even got near it for me. No Euro CL title, no back to back league titles, no lesser euro trophy. Hes just been a very good Coach. Memory does cloud reality at times no doubt about it, but in truth as humans some of us more than others know we re gilding the lily on certain points, yet just cant get over the line to be totally and unequivocally honest if its uncomfortable/unpopular to do so when discussing matters closest to our hearts such as AFC. - Post No. 69802

jeff wright  15:37pm 5th Feb 2015

Very true Bard we are guilty of doing selective thinking .It's difficult though to imagine supporters in the future fondly recalling that Arsene always managed to qualify foe Europe during his tenure with that record being currently being used as a main plank of his façade to justify his management . However in the future the fact that he never actually won a trophy by so doing will erase this from memories , especially with other events since superseding the long losing run of Euro fixtures . Football is and always has been a results game and all of the oles by the theatre crowd at the Emirates basking in another whipping being handed out to some ordinary team of road-sweepers will never change this fact. - Post No. 69803

jeff wright  16:08pm 5th Feb 2015

A complex issue Ron this world class that is bandied about ,I personally think that the number of players that you could call real world class through-out the history of football is rather small .The Invincibles were not so in the LC the FAC or the European one either and as you say 12 draws is rather a lot in the league almost a third of games played . However ,it was the failure in the Euro one that was the biggest disapointment with the Invincible side with us having won many league titles but no European Cup on our CV. Although of course Mee and GG did win the Fairs and Cup Winners ones. Wenger's had two chances to win a Euro Cup the Ueffa and Champions League one and blew both of them. That can't be left out of the equation when assessing his claims for greatness when he is compared with the managers of other English clubs who won the big eared jug. Clough won it back to back.Regarding Henry he played a peripheral part in France's world cup win and had a mare, along with the rest of the French players, when they tried to defend the cup in 2002 departing in the first round after winning just one point. Hardly the stuff of legends. Henry was a top man in the Prem but Shearer scored scored more goals than him and he was not world class. Sanchez is a top man also but again is he world class? He struggled to get a first eleven place at Barcelona where he was up against some other top players and was replaced by Suarez who looked world class in the Prem but not so great alongside Messi and co. - Post No. 69804

Peter Wain  16:31pm 5th Feb 2015

Surely you have to define world class before saying someone was not it. I cannot agree that the 2004 did not have world class players. In my mind Henri Bergkamp Adams Cole Pires and Keown were all world class as was Bob Wilson!!! - Post No. 69806

Bard  17:04pm 5th Feb 2015

Good debate. PeteW that is exactly Jeffs point our views of greatness or the past teams and their achievements is all subjective. I would go along with Bergkamp for his euro performance for Holland but none of the others are world class in my book. My rather narrow view is that greatness requires stand out performances at the highest levels of the game. I don't think the PL is a particularly high class league but I'll accept its exciting. I would also add that its a term bandied around rather casually these days. it should be a club to whom only the elite belong. - Post No. 69808

Badarse  17:05pm 5th Feb 2015

Peter Wain, I stand alongside you regarding the term, 'World Class'. It has to be defined, which is virtually impossible. You have to be competing at the highest level, but is there a time limit? Some insist it has to be sustained over a long period, as with your comment regarding Bob Wilson, you can add qualifiers which sharpen the classification like, 'he was the best in the league that season'. I have always swerved away from the, 'Who was the best?' question. This question is in the same genre. It is so damnably difficult to be absolutely certain. The factors are manifold. If you disqualify players for various reasons there is the danger there wouldn't have ever been a world class player. I think it's enough to recognise that a player was special, even then it is a sliding scale, a spectrum of talent, so this one is, the next just below is also-but a little less so, the next isn't. It then begs the question who is judging and what is the criteria. I think by this stage the beauty of the concept has evaporated and we are assessing like a machine, and ticking boxes. In 2004 a team became Invincible. They achieved this by completing a league programme undefeated, never done before or since, at this standard. They are the 'Invincibles', unequivocally, deserving or not is an altogether different topic. World class players were quite clearly in that team, in my opinion. - Post No. 69809

Seven Kings Gooner  18:18pm 5th Feb 2015

Ron : Talking of WC players, you said in an earlier post that Joe Baker made you a Gooner and not an O's supporter - Joe's first league goal was away to the Orient, privileged to see it in the flesh. He spun on a ball edge of the box and in a blink of the eye it was in the back of the net. People think we "old uns" embellish our views but I can honestly say some of Joe's goals were the best I have seen. I always remember his hat trick in an evening game against Villa and his third, an Eastham chip towards Sims waiting arms only for Joe, as planned, to get there first and just flick it over Sim's outstretched arms - it was a thing of subtle beauty. I would love to know his one on one with keepers ratio, I bet it is better than 2 out of 3. Had Joe gone to a top team he would scored 50 in a season. - Post No. 69813

Ron  20:27pm 5th Feb 2015

Good posting here guys. Am i right in thinking that the concept of World class has crept in say over the last 20 odd years? it fits with todays tv soaked game if so. Im sure we just used to talk of 'great players' didnt we? WC is like an elephant to me. Cant be described but you know it when you see it. Many get close and do things in an instant or maybe do things across a few games but so few just continue to make us slowly shake our heads in disbelief. I think Jeffs right saying that a tiny club of players reach the exalted status. Baddies right saying where do we start and where do we finish and how elastic is the spectrum? The term WC ought to be sensibly dropped. It does nothing for football as i see it and it matters little. - Post No. 69815

Ron  20:58pm 5th Feb 2015

H SKG - Lucky bloke you are. My recollect of Joe is shaped by matches attended as a young kid and anecdote. Dad and my Unc used to rave over him and Geoff Strong. I was 9 at my first match ever away at Villa and we lost. I just badly wanted to see him score and i recall Macleod did. Joe was gone in about 3 yrs after that. I'm only guessing but i bet i saw 7 or 8 of his games tops. Recall goals in big wins v Sheff Wed or S Utd or both, being 4 or 5-0 wins if memory serves me right.A lost game to Chelsea where he scored at Highbury though Chelsea always used to belt us didnt they back in 60s or it seemed that way to me mate. - Post No. 69816

Badarse  21:10pm 5th Feb 2015

Am sure it's a recent term Ron, 20-25 years? It means in recognising the superficiality of the status the young need cutting some slack. Nowadays a term hits the streets and it is common parlance in a trice. Then people pick it up and run with it. If you baulk at the concept or pronouncement you are the odd one out...well I am, constantly. In this instance it's a vague and sensationalist term, as most are. It also denigrates a player, his whole career, even the man.So a common hero to us, Joe Baker, WC? Nope! So are we still dreaming and eulogising over someone who isn't as good as that newcomer, in that current team? It just sort of reduces everything to a points table. It's why I try to resist from playing this particular game. My only advice to the young is back away from these nonsense terms, and avoid the angst with which they bring. Joe, Sammy, PV, Bergy, Frank, Keown, Adams? They were all the greatest. - Post No. 69817

Professor Keating  7:24am 6th Feb 2015

Phenomenon/phenomena criterion/criteria. - Post No. 69820

Badarse  7:44am 6th Feb 2015

Professor Coward, should have read are, not is, so criteria not criterion. Go west! - Post No. 69821

Westlower  8:18am 6th Feb 2015

Let's hope Arsenal will disprove the theory that they are a one man team in the NLD. Alexis didn't come on until the 62nd minute in the reverse fixture that ended 1-1. We've won the other 4 games that Alexis didn't start. Our neighbours last finished above us in the league in 94/95. The accumulative points difference since then is +362 in Arsenal's favour. Keep that trend going you rip roaring, goal scoring Gunners! - Post No. 69822

Seven Kings Gooner  8:22am 6th Feb 2015

Ron : You are right about Chelsea winning at Highbury - saw us lose 0 - 3 to them (They got relegated that season)and then saw them win 2 - 4 a few years later, my first and last game ever in the Clock End - it p*ssed down! I think that was the game Bobby Tambling scored all four. - Post No. 69823

Badarse  9:38am 6th Feb 2015

SKG, went to Stamford Bridge in 1958, only saw the ball when it went up in the air-they didn't score against us that day, it ended 0-0. It was a big deal for me, my first visit to an alien ground. This little boy was amazed at it's dinginess. The dog track, fencing, lights around the track, and not a patch on Highbury. I suppose I realised I was a lucky boy right there and then in being an Arsenal boy, and Highbury being our home. Fifty seven years later I feel exactly the same way. - Post No. 69826

Seven Kings Gooner  10:05am 6th Feb 2015

Badarse: I think all good players are capable of producing world class moments and naturally we tend to remember them much better. JB certainly produced WC moments as did George Eastham, if you pushed me over the 55 years I have watched Arsenal I think the Arsenal players that I would call World Class would be Jack Kelsey, Kenny Sansom, Liam Brady & Patrick Vieira. Henry, Pires, Baker, Eastham, Adams, Campbell, Frank, Alan Ball would just "bubble under" WC. I am sure you can think of a few others. - Post No. 69827

Ron  10:52am 6th Feb 2015

Morning guys. First time i went to the Bridge was a season or 2 after the double season. Ray Kennedy knocked 2 in! He was a great lad for us, was Ray wasn't he guys. Cant recall who scored theirs but we won. I was surprised at what a dump it was Baddie too. Its a decent place now though has to be said. With some real fans there it could be quite atmospheric. As it is, if it wasn't for the visitors support you could hear a pin drop save for the gentle clapping when they score. Poor atmospheres abound now but its bad there, really is. Mourinho recognises it too doesn't he. The last time i went was the 2-0 loss, 3 or 4 years back. The better pubs round there now are nearly all home fans only for some reason. Its a rubbish day out now so we never go because of that, plus the tickets are a rip off to go there. No great loss. An Anfield, a WBA, Goodison, a Villa Park, a Hammers or an OT day are the best away day out days now by far in my view. Ive done my last WHL visit now after my friends young Son copped it off some spud low life 2 years back. Have to say the London stadiums are all generally pretty low key places to go now, including our own for the most part despite its comfort and convenience. Manch City is a soulless, drab place too with a muted atmosphere. - Post No. 69830

Westlower  11:50am 6th Feb 2015

A lot of reflections from the old warriors, so to continue the theme who has a story to tell about any of these unsung hero's? Danny Clapton, David Herd, Tommy Docherty, Billy (Flint) McCullough, Jackie Henderson, Bob McNab, Eddie Kelly, David Court, John Roberts, Jimmy Robertson, Terry Anderson, Willie Young, Alan Hudson, Brian Kidd, Tony Woodcock, Paul Mariner, Alan Sunderland, Graham Rix, Brian Talbot, John Hollins, Steve Williams, Tommy Caton, Brian Marwood, Andy Linighan, John Hartson, Stephan Schwartz, Paul Davis. - Post No. 69832

Ron  12:05pm 6th Feb 2015

Westie - John Roberts was a tough lad wasnt he. Always recall the Lazio brawl night in the press. Was it 1972 ish? JR chucked two players over a car reportedly! Bob Wilson wrote in one of his books that Frank Mac decided that he had to intervene keenly into the melee at the back of the hotel and punched out 4 or 5 himself and they were only the players on his side!! ha. Good old Frank! - Post No. 69833

maguiresbridge gooner  13:21pm 6th Feb 2015

Badarse, don't forget the bubble cars. - Post No. 69834

Badarse  16:40pm 6th Feb 2015

Ha ha SKG, am not being drawn into WC assessments but I think in the mob just below, as in your category, I would put Charlie George and Paul Davies, Rocky too, and the beat goes on. 24601, John 'Garth' Roberts, (who remembers Garth in the Daily Mirror?), he could have thrown the car over the 'Animals of Rome', (newspaper headline still locked into my mind). David 'Doggy Court, a good solid lad, remember him scoring twice (I think), in the early sixties when we came back from 3-0, and 4-2 down when I was at WHL. Oh, and Steve Williams could play a bit too. - Post No. 69842

Peter Wain  17:21pm 6th Feb 2015

No Badarse Willo was the best that season and if he had played against West Germany instead of Bonnetti we would have won the world cup. Bob Wilson had duel nationality and could have played for England. The goal keepers we took to Mexico were Banks Bonnetti and Stepney and apart from Banks Wilson was better than either of the other - two by some margin in Stepney's case. As for being world class well Wilson was in my book as the Fairs Cup and double were the first trophies I saw us win. After the debacles at Peterborough Middlesborough and Blackpool and the awful Jim Furnell Willo was world class in my eyes. Shame the injury he got meant he had to retire prematurely. - Post No. 69847

Ron  17:45pm 6th Feb 2015

Peter - ive no problem with you being immovable over Bob mate, well all love him, but the WC in 1970 was before Bob prominence in the Double season. Bobs profile as a keeper wasnt at its height until during and after 70/71.On Bobs own admission he chose Scotland largely as he didn't see himself as able to dislodge the keepers that you mention. Hes a very bright educated chap is Bob and im sure his own reasoning and honesty must tell you some thing mate. - Post No. 69851

Badarse  18:01pm 6th Feb 2015

Good post Ron. Not exactly disagreeing with you Peter Wain, I really admire Bob, he was an intelligent man as well as a great keeper. Wrote a thesis on football if my memory serves me well, was at Loughborough College. I think he was lacking in profile until we forced our way onto the front pages as winners. He was clearly ahead of Stepney and Bonetti, and a little behind Banks. I don't subscribe to the, 'Bonetti lost us the WC',either. Those chants, in 1970-71 season, 'You lost us the WC!', were unacceptable. We made unforced subs which changed the pattern of play. Blame the manager? No, that's just football. - Post No. 69852

Badarse  9:25am 7th Feb 2015

Griff: So, Badarse is Tom Smith.-Mel: What? Tom Smith? No, he said toxic. Toxic because it's poisonous.-G: Oh, so if he left his name lying about and someone picked it up and ate it, then they'd die?-M: No, he meant whatever he says, because he's Badarse some just criticise him and ignore what he says.-G: Well, do they?-Some do. He mentioned something a day later and a couple wanted to just take him out.-G: What, to the pictures?-M: No, not that way, just to moan at him.-G: Oh dear. That's not very nice. Did they realise he and others knew what they were doing?-M: I think so.-G: I think he should have said his name was scotch mist, not Tom Smith.-M: Why's that then?-G: Well then he would be invisible and people wouldn't see him, or moan at him.-M: Yeah, I see.-G: If you were an ice cream Mel, what flavour would you be? - Post No. 69862

Moscow Gooner  9:56am 9th Feb 2015

Radford/Kennedy - it was the 4th round of the Cup in early 1974. Morgan was sent off for following through and catching Willow in the face with his boot. A huge Villa contingent came down that day - 41,000 in the ground at a time when we were struggling to get 30 K in the league. We lost the replay: Villa were then fighting relegation from Division Two. We were heading for several years of mid to lower table mediocrity.. - Post No. 70051

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds