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Laugh? I nearly died. John Aldridge on Liverpool, Jacko Jones on Arsenal.

This is it: the big day.  The very big day.  The biggest day of biggest days of all biggest days.

For today is the day (the exact day, the very exact day, the precise day).  And already it has been celebrated by the most extraordinarily bizarre and eccentric radio broadcast about football ever.

Which is just right because 100 years ago today the most extraordinarily bizarre and eccentric piece of football journalism ever appeared on the scene.

Let me clarify, deconstruct and externalise.

Making the Arsenal – the book – begins on 16th January 1910 (one hundred years ago to the day in case counting is not your thing).  It begins with an extract from the Daily Chronicle in which Jacko Jones reports of the FA Cup match between Woolwich Arsenal and Watford which Woolwich dutifully won.

The first half of Jacko’s piece  considers which pubs one should drink in and where one should eat a jellied eel pie before the game.  Then it moves on to a detailed discussion of the hats worn by the men in the ground, before discussing the issue of ladies in the stand and taking a side-swipe at the king and his nickname (Edward the Caresser).

After that it is on to the kit the two teams wear, and their style of play.  “The players in Woolwich tend to a brusque coarseness, a disrespect of manners and a general inability to kick a ball more than three paces.  Most are Scots,” he writes, by way of a warm up.

Only then do we get to a description of the game.  “Rippon cannot hit a barn door (at least according to the man next to me), Lewis does not know the concept of “ball” (that according to the man next to me’s mate) and Compton’s passing can only be explained by the fact that he is colour blind (according to the man next to the mate of the man next to me).”

The report sets the scene for the book, and leads, inevitably to a confrontation between Jacko and the football editor of the paper, which in turn leads to… the rest of the book.

There’s an extract of the book on line now – a link is at the end.

Anyway, moving on to part two of my piece – the wildness of football reporting on Radio 5.

Radio 5 Live, I should explain in case you are of a non-British disposition, is one of seven national radio stations run by the BBC.  It covers sport, news and gossip.

On Fridays at 7pm it has a programme called 5 Live Sport which has Colin Murray as its host – a man who has utterly failed to grasp the fact that when two people talk at once on a radio station, the listener can’t actually work out what is being said.

With him are Perry Groves, in whose world we all live, and Pat Nevin.  And to discuss Liverpool they brought in John Aldridge, the ex-Liverpool footballer and ex-player manager of Tranmere.

Now I have to admit that I had no idea Aldridge was such a comedian.  I was driving while listening, and at least three times I nearly came off the road I was laughing so much.

First he talked about Benitez and whether he should go or not, and commented that when he had been manager of Tranmere Rovers he had done the decent thing and resigned when he couldn’t “see the wood for the trees”.   Indeed he did resign, but just before they went down.   We must be fair – he had done a great job there and taken the club to previously unknown heights, but they had then stumbled and he had walked out.

This parallel is a most amusing one.  Wait until Liverpool are going down, and then resign, Mr Benitez.  Yes, I could go with that.

Then he moved on to the need to bring in a strong English element to the team.  Of course the silly twirp running the show didn’t ask why Aldridge, as a man who played for Ireland, at the first club to put out a totally non-English team in an FA Cup Final (1986) would say such a thing. So the comment passed unchallenged.  But it gave me more chuckles and the need to stop for a quick swig of water.

But then we were moving on again, on to why Liverpool were currently doing poorly, having won 10 of their last 20 games.

The answer said Aldridge, was money.  And then over and over again he repeated the mantra.   Liverpool have no money to spend while Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have so much more.

He said it once, he said it again, and then again.  Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.  How could Liverpool compete without money?  There was no way to do it.  To run a successful football club you need to spend £17 to £20 million a year, every year, and sometimes up to £30 million.  Without that Liverpool can’t expect to compete.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, they all …   well you get the idea.

He went over it time and time again, never once pausing for breath or indeed a moment to think – hang on a minute Liverpool are bust, kaput, gone, zonked, dead in the water, broke, bankrupt, insolvent, in a panic…

Or hang on a minute, Arsenal don’t spend that much and we’re doing ok.  Well at least we are compared to Liverpool – even the doomers must admit that.

Never once did it even begin to hit him in the face that the reason Liverpool and Man U are in the mess they are in is because they have endlessly spent money they didn’t have, failed to develop world-wide scouting, and that they can’t be like Man City or Chelsea, because no one really fancies paying off the debts of a club that has gone 20 years without winning the league, has the banks knocking at the door, and this year has to face the anniversary of its darkest ever hour.

It was the sheer lunacy of the debate and the fact that the “chairman” of the programme did nothing to take us back to the straight and narrow world of true reporting that left my jaw hanging open.

At Arsenal we know about the occasional bad times, and while we don’t celebrate them, we remember them (at least if we know any history).

100 years ago (on 22 January 1910) Woolwich Arsenal told its supporters they were heading for liquidation.   (Jacko Jones coverage of the event as told in the Making the Arsenal (the book) is now on the web site – there’s a link on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk).

You might think that even if Liverpool and their ex-players can’t learn from that lesson, they could at least learn from Leeds.

Anyway, listening to the prattle helped me on my journey, and gave me a laugh.  And so I hope the Jacko Jones telling of the Arsenal liquidation meeting gives you a laugh.  It was indeed a chaotic meeting.

Making the Arsenal: book details, link to reviews, and link to an extract, plus details of how and where to buy it, are all here.

OK I know that’s lots of plugs for the book – but today is the 100th anniversary of the starting point for the book, so I hope you will excuse me just this once.

Next up: Billy the Dog’s preview of the away game at Notlob.  I am told that will be a much more serious piece.

Oh and don’t forget to vote for Untold Arsenal at http://soccerlens.com/awards/2009-soccerlens-awards/

Oh, and oh again. After the last piece “Eduardo” commented that I must be wrong about Jay Em-Thomas not having a number.  I took that info from the fact that on the player listing on the back of the programme he doesn’t seem to appear.   Maybe I missed it (I am not at home so can’t check).  But if he does have a numero, what is it?

(c) Tony Attwood

18 comments to Laugh? I nearly died. John Aldridge on Liverpool, Jacko Jones on Arsenal.

  • va fan

    haha thats so true! great article I was in stitches! aldridge didn’t say anything about liverpool spending? its funny when fergie says the prices are crazy so we won;t buy this jan to hide the fact that like their not the ones who spent a few 20-30 millions on players on barbietov and nanny jackson ow! crazy! well its best not to talk about things like that as they are not real! you know if you don’t mention it! it never happened! lol

  • walter

    Like Diceman1984 said in another comment: “Some people still have no clue whatsoever……”

  • hydrantekk

    Nice article :o)

    Jay Em-Thomas is wearing number 38 if I am not mistaken.

  • Hartwick89

    Tony,
    You brilliant bastard! I was just thinking(of course it’s 8:06 am) as I watch Stoke dictate the game against Liver, I am so lucky to be reading your pieces. I mean to say it is like reading the morning paper but only it’s free. If I may comment on Aldridge; he sounds almost as confused as Sir Arry. How can you have all English on the one hand and then cite money issues and not having resources like Chelsea. It would have been interesting to ask Aldridge, “If you could have unlimited resources what three players would you bring into Liver. Undoubtedly he would have said Puyol, Aguerro, & Messi. Double talk!
    Finally, it seems to me that the rumour is that the so-called top 4 has always been predicated on the fact that you can only be there if you have money to spend. Fans such as Everton, Stoke, etc. always complain that this is the reason they are not in the top 4. Well as the financial turmoil unfolds and teams that have run themselves into the ground through bad business practices should be a relief to them. But, this is again a falsity.

  • I think programme controllers and producers should be taken out back, forced to kneel facing the wall and given a good hiding – simply for short changing licence fee payers (yes, it’s our money) and using our licence fee money to pay pundits to appear on their shows.

    It seems like the only prerequisite of being a pundit is being able to put on a suit (don’t know about radio but I wouldn’t put it past them) – and go on air to talk nonsense. I honestly think the money could be better spent on training these bastards on basic communication and in some extreme cases, taking them back to school to complete some GCSE’s.

    Sometimes I feel like hiding behind the sofa in embarrassment at what some of these plundits (plonkers + pundits) come out with.

    And by the way Sir Tony, I love the way you shamelessly plug your book. I mean, if you don’t do it, who will

  • After the Radio 5 commentary on Stoke v Liverpool one of the station’s regular presenters said, “Why don’t we talk about football anymore? All we ever talk about is the finances!”

    I fired off a quick email (which they didn’t use) saying, “Why don’t we talk about football? Because you don’t talk about Arsenal.”

    But it is true. Most clubs have got financial issues, except us.

  • LRV

    I keep repeating that our English National Team, clubs with the so called “English Spine” and most clubs with English managers will forever struggle to win anything of substance because of their mindset, which solely consists of a lack of proper knowledge of football rules, an acute lack of understanding of football tactics (other than “get in their faces & rough them up”, “distrupt their passing game & don’t give them time on the ball”, and “good old route 1 football with heaven-tall ‘lanky’ footballers”) and an acrimonious lack of intelligent grasp of football financial management.

    What then can you expect to hear from Aldridge, “the silly twirp running the show” and the so called P(l)undits? Afteral, you can only impart what you know. What do you think will happen if a blind man is selected to lead a group of the visiually impaired? No pun intended.

  • Diceman1984

    I had such a blast reading this piece I think I’ll go buy me a Lucas Neill….

    No, I’ll go spend all my income from the sales of my fringe players in FM2010 on a BIG NAME player….cause if I can do it there and win the league 10 times in the row Wenger could too..

    PS: for clueless people, this is me being sarcastic

  • N 1

    JET 38
    A legend in the making,I tell’s ya

  • Marc

    It just goes to show the major problem we have in this country when it comes to people facing up to reality and facing what is to anyone with something resembling more than half a brain the bleedin obvious. A year ago or so Wenger, a man who possess a degree in economics and is widely traveled predicts that the world wide economic downturn will affect football. His words are dismissed as those of a madman. You then get a scouser, whose City’s major contribution to the world is the export of murdering decent Italian people (or each other), suggest that the answer to Liverpool’s problem is spending more money. This after the near collapse of the world wide banking system and the worst recession for 70 years.

    On top of it all as Darius commented earlier, all at the expense of the tax payer. It really calls into question the benefits of democracy

  • Marc

    Can I just add that I hope Benitez keeps his job for a very long time. In fact I hope he is given the job for life.

    Bye bye Liverpool!

  • Paul C.

    What I love is how the entire media built up this transfer window and predicted all the big money signings when anyone with a brain (including AW of course) knew this window was going to be deader than dead unless Man City went on a spree (which they still might, setting off a few dominoes). Now, halfway through the window, the media are reporting the quiet nature of the month as if it is somehow a surprise, that “contrary to expectations” things are not happening. This of course is the same mass media that all thought this would be the year Liverpool won the Championship.

    Hmmm.

    But spending lots of money is the smart thing to do. Really. Honestly. It guarantees success. No question about it.

  • N1

    moderate 7:52 please

  • Simon Bailey

    marc, i should point out that liverpools’ main export(and contribution) until recently was piss. not a lot has changed.

    paul, of course it does, no doubt. if youve got it flaunt it, and if you aint, flaunt it anyway, no one is taking note anyway.

  • Samuel

    When you have rubbish in your team and only one class player ,Yossi benAyoun,then don,t expect to compete for trophies as at least 6 class players are needed in a team ,Liverpool only has one way of playing ,the old English style of push and run ,they cannot slow the pace right down and then suddenly explode Arsenal like ,simple facts of this waning club ,too much stuck in the past and too much debt .

  • neutral fan

    lol….

    @diceman : dude, u just follow the herd, say what other say,and say other people are clueless…good for u…coz i don’t think u have any brains of urs……

    nice one tony , specially ur comment….

  • Finsbury

    There have been some funny coverage of Arsenal on the Beeb in the last 24 hours.

    MOTD2: Keown was his usual diplomat. Rather then hype up the Gunners, he stuck to AW’s masterplan and kept it quiet, only commenting at length yesterday on the Villa game, when he was very good. Dixon said the Arsenal defence could improve, keeping it sweet with his Beeb buddies.
    But the presenter pushed his opinion, or agenda, ‘clearly it’s all becauese of Fabregas, everything depends on Fabregas…’.

    Fabregas & RVP have played less for Arsenal this season then Torres & Gerrard have for Liverpool. Keown just stared.

    And on the radio today I thought I ‘d listen to some comedy on 5live at lunch, & bingo, they had a discussion on the job AW has achieved already with this new team at AFC, in comparison to the disintegrating illusion of the rest of the EPL.
    They prensenters/guests described how every neutral football fan would love to see this team win the title. Of course though there was a caveat, the lack of English players makes it hard for ‘fans’ to support this team. Apparently.
    At Chelsea, they’re very happy they have Ashley Cole, for example…

    On referees:

    I was joking about the anti-Arsenal bias a few weeks ago. Over Christmas it seemed things were improving, players could tackle back and mistime tackles and not get booked anymore, our players were getting a little more protection. I guess we won’t get many penalties this season, but I do find it hard to watch games where Arsenal’s players are assualted with the full complicity of the referee, not even fouls are given. Game after game. I know Rugby is a hugely popular game in the NW of England, but how can you get mixed up & play Football and Rugby on the same field?

    Back in Viera’s day, it was bearable, Viera (or Grimandi and other lieutenants) would retaliate and just get sent off. If our current squad took that attitude, we’d have no players left.
    Every like for like foul is, er, a foul to the opposition, TR7 was lucky the referee was so weak minded he was talked down yesterday. It is ridiculous.

  • Finsbury

    Apologies for the poor spelling!