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Tony Attwood – an appreciation

By Walter and Blacksheep

First, Blacksheep

The 22 June 1947 was a Sunday.

It was hot. In fact June 1947 was one of the hottest on record, and the summer proved to be a scorcher. It followed a desperately cold winter however and the wettest March we have had in Britain.

Harry Truman was president of the USA and was noted for not communicating with his public via 140 characters. He was, however, embroiled in a dispute with the Russians (‘Soviets’ then of course) who he accused of interfering in Hungarian politics. In England the Labour government of Clement Atlee were negotiating a major ‘Brexit’ of their own, this time with the soon to be independent state of India. In those days we had statesmen of the calibre of Bevan, Churchill and Gandhi – today we have Trump, BoJo and Putin.

But one event of significance not recorded by mainstream history was the birth of Tony Attwood, on this day in 1947. What follows is a short(ish) appreciation of our friend and fellow Untolder.

2115 days before the 22 June 1947 the Third Macedonian War had ended in defeat for King Perseus. Wars are rarely so good that we have three of them, so the Romans (who won) must have really enjoyed these.

I only mention this because one of Tony’s (many) interests is ancient history, and particularly the Roman Republic. On many a walk down the Holloway or Seven Sisters road he has extolled the virtues of Cicero. However, I’ve never noticed him employ one of that Roman’s most famous quotes (’ If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place’), which could of course apply to Arsenal. 

We talk about lots of things when we go to football – politics, dancing, Bob Dylan, history, love, literature, TV (especially those dark Scandinavian noir crime dramas) – and even sometimes football.

Tony is a wealth of knowledge on Arsenal’s history and that’s how we first became friends. First contact was made through the blog that he created with Walter, but it was the club’s history that fascinated me. Most of the history we get about Arsenal (and other clubs) is limited. It follows a basic pattern of chronology and lists the successes and failures.

Often this is mostly defined by trophies won (not in Spu*s, case obviously, this is listed in terms of videos made). The club history is also pretty much accepted as fact when in reality there is quite a lot we don’t (or didn’t) know.

One of our first conversations concerned not Herbert Chapman or Arsene Wenger but a largely forgotten (and maligned) figure in Arsenal’s past, Sir Henry Norris. Tony explained that much of what we know about Norris is one sided, often derived from one or two sources slavishly copied and represented as fact. In reality Norris should be regarded as one of the founding fathers of ‘modern’ Arsenal, up there with Chapman not forgotten and derided.

Tony and I connected then, over evidence and proper analysis. I am a historian, an academic historian no less, and Its part of my job to question what has been written in the past. Tony is a scientist (by nature if not by trade). He values evidence over speculation and here we are both in agreement. This blog is based on evidence (the referee reports, the scathing and witty critiques of the transfer window, the informed analysis of FIFA scandals or West Ham’s ground move are just a few examples). Users that comment without evidence are constantly reminded by Tony of the error of their ways!

On Untold and in person Tony brings a level of rigour to debates that make those debates worth reading or listening to. He is the first to admit when he is wrong and is big enough to change his opinion when presented with evidence. I don’t read newspapers any more, and certainly avoid most football websites; I read Untold because it is balanced, intelligent and well written.

Tony was instrumental in the ‘Arsenalisation’ of the Emirates; he helped seed the idea of the statues we have around the concourse. I may have suggested we create an Untold banner but without Untold (obviously) or Tony’s enthusiasm and sense of what can be done, it would have remained just that, an idea.

In everything he does concerning Arsenal (especially in the History Society that is part of AISA – the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association) you can see the love Tony has for the club. By contrast to some of the opinions expressed by comments posted on this site he can be critical of the club. We walk back after games and he is honest about what he has seen, and about the way the club conducts itself. But he is always positive and reflective.

Tony gives me a much-needed sense of perspective on Arsenal and football in general. After all he may have been a season ticket holder for so many years the impression of his bottom is visible in his seat, and he may also write and co-edit one of the most popular blogs on the club, but he lets go. Football is a hobby; if you take it too seriously then you miss the point. It is an escape from life not life itself, Bill Shankly was wrong about that.

If you read this site regularly then you already know that Tony writes well. If you are an AISA member (and if not why aren’t you? – join today!) then you get the history pamphlets which offer, as I suggested above, a more informed understanding of our club. You can also read Tony’s day-by-day accounts of Arsenal history. I’d direct you towards his Making the Arsenal novel, which imagines the birth of ‘modern’ Arsenal through he eyes of a journalist (Jacko Jones). I loved it and I think it really shows Tony at his best, writing with a passion for the club, its history, and a sense of fun. Take it on holiday with you this summer.

Tony Attwood is a generous man. I don’t mean he always pays in the Swimmer (where we share a pint and food before games), but that he is generous with his time. He is always helping others; offering good advice, writing letters, helping with my wife’s CV when she was unemployed, just being a sounding board when its needed. He listens, and that’s a rare talent.

Apparently he can dance quite well too.

And from Walter

As my fellow writer Blacksheep just pointed out in this article Tony is a great person in real life.

But before I get to that I want to set the record straight and with these historians on board this is important. I want to make it clear once and for all  that it was Tony who started Untold Arsenal on his own.  I found Tony thanks to one of my sons who could really appreciate the humour that Tony used in his first articles. I came to the site following his link and was hooked from the first article.  I even remember feeling a bit homeless when Tony didn’t publish a new article for a few days and I thought he had stopped.

The first months of Untold was all Tony. I only joined him in a hesitant way later that summer. On the day of my 25th wedding anniversary my first article on Untold was published. I had answered on a request from Tony to write about a funny and terrible trip to Arsenal. Not even hoping to get a reply, Tony published the article. I must say I was over the moon to see my article published. Now I can only feel a bit embarrassed  about the article.

He mailed me that day to thank me and to encourage me to write. We got in touch by mail and more and more I thought to myself: why not? I think Tony must have had a hard time at times as I am not a native English speaker and so my phrases get mixed up from time to time. But the only thing I heard from Tony was : “I hope you don’t mind I have changed a few words” in the article. I was glad Tony prevented me from making a fool of myself more than once.

When after one of those referee horror shows I wrote an article about refereeing and mentioned I was a referee the Untold referee train came on the tracks.  Once again Tony encouraged me to make it my own. Of course I got lots of help over the years from other people who worked mostly behind the scenes. But my name was above the articles so I got the praise ….or the abuse. 

As you can see what Tony has done was encouraging people to do something. And that is a great gift I think. I have always felt privileged to be a co-editor of Untold but if it hadn’t been for Tony his encouraging mails and messages I never would have done it.

After half a year of writing for Untold I came to the Emirates with the supporters club that now has me as their chairman. Tony insisted on seeing me and that was the start of a really great friendship not just in the virtual world but also in the real world. The way Tony welcomed me in the Emirates (and my kids who had come along) made me feel so warm inside.  It still is a great memory for me.

Over the years I have learned to know the man behind the writer a bit. Not that I know him as well as his relatives. But I can say that I have learned to appreciate him as a human being. For the petite histoire I can even say that Tony has slept in my bed. Not with me but with his partner (before some of you get strange ideas about our friendship). Tony and Mandy came over to our house a few years ago and I showed him around in Antwerp. As we didn’t want them to sleep in a hotel and spent lots of money, we invited them at our house. For me and Carine it was a great few days. We had lots of interesting and some funny moments. Passing the house where then club captain Vermaelen grew up, visiting museums, visiting a real ghost town, getting locked up in a football stadium….. (I still get a red in the face when thinking about that….)

In the first years when I wrote for Untold Tony said on each occasion when I saw him that he felt bad about not being able to give me something back for my work for Untold.

I think I can say to him that he has given one of the most valuable things one can give to another person: friendship.  Oh so important in today’s world….. And on top of that…. He has in an indirect way given me the friendship of other people from Untold. Tony has indirectly made it happen that I was in Wembley when we won the FA cup last month. If it wouldn’t have been for Tony and the Untold blog I would never have known Andrew who made that other childhood dream possible.

So Tony if you ever look back and think what have I done in my life…. I would say that giving friendship and making friendship happen is one of those things. If all people would be able to do this a bit more we might live in a better world.

When Drew brought up the idea of writing something for his 70th birthday I was somehow shocked and amazed. Yes I knew he was getting on a bit but Tony 70??? He looks much younger than 70.  He will probably feel 70 the day after one of his dance parties but it was not more than 5-6 years when we stood on the pitch of the Emirates representing Arsenal Belgium! Another great memory I share with Tony.

As I have done so many times in my articles over the years I love writing about the person behind the writer/footballer and so I tried to do this for Tony this time.

Tony is a great Arsenal supporter (in the real sense of the word), he has changed history not just for Arsenal but also for me in person. His blog stands out compared to all the others. And he is still going strong as you can read over here on Untold every day. Keep it up, Tony!

Happy birthday Tony, here’s to the next 70 (you might even live to see Spu*s win the league then!).

PS: This article was written and published without Tony knowing anything about. Otherwise he might have told us not to do it. But we think he deserves this more than anyone else.

53 comments to Tony Attwood – an appreciation

  • Lanz

    I hope I am the first to comment on this! Happy 70th birthday to a man who has brought us exceptional pleasure in getting more balanced views of things about our beloved club. Wish you outstanding health and more laurels in all endeavours.

    More Untold! More!!!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY , TONY ! As you may well know that ,70 is the new ….errr…
    60 ?

    Thank you , Tony for starting this blog , which was like a lifesaving beacon in the doom and gloom that had engulfed most of us during that dark and negative period in our history. While it’s still quite negative out there for most , us AKBs understand it very much better.

    It would seem only natural and karmatic that I would gravitate towards this blog, seeing that not only was (and is) positive ,funny , but also logical and evidence based.

    While in all probability , I may not have ended up as a sad,pathetic and robotic idiot like most of **** , yet ,I may still have been wondering how come things had gotten so bad with the EPL , the BIGMOB and all that crap that they were trying to ply on us. And what the so called experts and commentators were saying was nit what I’m seeing on the screen.

    Thank god , for this blog and to Tony , Walter , Drew , Andrew and each and every one of those classy contributors whose articles have not only enriched us and this blog with their musings , humour and knowledge, yet also made us oldies pursue the truth. For this , thank you again , Tony for drawing us all together.

    And in celebratory mode , I shall endeavour to add to the festivities in my usual style . You lot have been warned !

    Again , Tony , have a smashing day and cheers !

  • Lanz

    And what an article! Yes, it might make Tony blush but I won’t get over so soon some of the punches in it. The US president and 140 characters, Spurs trophy issues, etc! Well done Walter & Black sheep. I wonder whether any of you has read about Arsenal having learnt their lesson, hence beginning negotiations with Aaron Ramsey?

  • ARSENAL 13

    June 22 1947….

    WOW….

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A man joins a very exclusive nudist colony….

    On his first day there, he takes off his clothes and starts to wander around. A gorgeous petite blonde walks by, and the man immediately gets an erection.

    The woman notices his erection, comes over to him and says, ‘Did you call for me?’

    The man replies, ‘No, what do you mean?’

    She says, ‘You must be new here. Let me explain. It’s a rule here that if you get an erection, it implies you called for me.’

    Smiling, she leads him to the side of the swimming pool, lies down on a towel, eagerly pulls him to her and happily lets him have his way with her.

    The man continues to explore the colony’s facilities. He enters the sauna and, as he sits down, he farts…

    Within minutes, a huge, hairy man lumbers out of the steam-room toward him, ‘Did you call for me?’ says the hairy man.

    ‘No, what do you mean?’ says the newcomer.

    ‘You must be new,’ says the hairy man, ‘it’s a rule that if you fart, it implies that you called for me.’ The huge man easily spins him around, bends him over a bench and has his way with him.

    The newcomer staggers back to the colony office, where he is greeted by the smiling, naked receptionist, ‘May I help you?’ she says.

    The man yells, ‘Here’s my membership card. You can have the key back and you can keep the £500 membership fee.’

    ‘But, Sir,’ she replies, ‘you’ve only been here for a few hours. You haven’t had the chance to see all our facilities.’

    The man replies, ‘Listen lady, I’m 68 years old. I only get an erection once a month. I fart 35 times a day…

    ( Then again , there probably be some who would take more baked beans. For health reasons , on course !)

  • MickHazel

    Happy birthday Tony, and may you have many, many more.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Outlasting , out classing your enemies –

    Towards the end of the Jashan for Parsi New Year, the Priest asked: “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?”‎

    80% held up their hands.

    The Priest then repeated his question.

    All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

    “Mrs. Batliwala ? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?”

    “I don’t have any,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

    “Mrs. Batliwala that is very unusual. How old are you?”

    “Ninety-eight,” she replied.

    “Oh, would you please come over in front and tell us all how a person of ninety-eight years of age not have an enemy in the world?”

    The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation & said: ‎” None of them is alive. I have outlived all the bastards and bitches.” ‎

    ( And so shall we overcome !)

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY

    TONY ATTWOOD

    You and the Team have produced a marvellous blog, for us mere mortals to continually read.

    May you continue to keep us informed for many years to come,

    Thank you Tony and the Team.

    Dear Brickfields Gunners, 07:35 post

    Was that story TRUE or MADE-UP?, I’m thinking of crossing off the Nudist Camp venture off my Bucket List.

  • Kentetsu

    Happy birthday, Tony! It is a pleasure reading Untold every day. I wish you remain in good health and keep doing Untold for many years to come.

  • Josif

    Happy birthday, Tony! Best wishes in an attempt to make (not just football) world a better place.

    Hopefully we’ll all witness your 100th birthday and your celebration of 100th Untold Arsenal Anniversary.

    If you think that’s too optimistic, just remember that according to Blacksheep, you missed out on Third Macedonian War for just 2115 days or little less than six years. 🙂

    Joke apart, thanks to Walter and Blacksheep for acknowledging Tony’s birthday here.

    I would just add that 22nd June is a holiday in Croatia. On this day in 1941, the first partisan unit was assembled in Sisak so this day is called The Day of Anti-fascistic Fight. Any resemblance with Tony’s work on this blog is completely accidental.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ BennE – 22/06/2017 at 8:03 am – I’m not sure , but maybe , just maybe in another’s Bucket List , it full fills a few off that list ?
    That having said , go into the sauna alone or don’t eat the baked beans !

  • I have just spent an hour writing an article to go on line this morning, got ready to publish it, and then found that the above had been written on the site.

    What can I say. I am overwhelmed. Utterly overwhelmed.

    And for once, unable to write another word.

  • WalterBroeckx

    BennE, you can also go when younger…. 🙂

  • Seydlitz

    Happy birthday Tony,I have been a gooner for over sixty years and like yourself witnessed the ups and downs of our great football cub.I really appreaciate untold for its quality articals and the many replies which they generate I hope this will continue for many more years.

  • When I saw the words “Tony Attwood – an appreciation,” I got worried. I expected to read something full of memories and tinged with sadness.

    Thankfully, that is not the case, and may it not be so until well after Arsene Wenger builds the replacement for the Emirates. Happy Birthday, Tony – or, as they say on Poland, Sto lat!

  • Gunnerjoe

    Happy birthday Tony from a fellow celebrant

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Tony,

    Happy birthday, may it have all you wish for.

  • nicky

    Happy Birthday, young man!
    You write, dance and visit Oz from time to time. You are not old. You’re a fraud.
    You have another 20 years before you’re old. Savour them….

  • Magneto

    Happy birthday Tony.

  • Brian

    Tony

    If you were born 6 days after the 3rd Macedonian War
    I venture you are much, much older than you appear

    Pray what is your secret?

  • Brian

    ooops 6 years……

  • Jack

    Happy 70th birthday Tony. Wishing the journey ahead to be more joyful….

  • Jack

    😀 you may have to introduce the readers to the Parsi nuances. Those who are not familiar with India may not get the context of the joke

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Jack -22/06/2017 at 9:58 am – There are many versions of this joke , and it has been tailored to their respective audience , but the gist of the joke still remains .

  • Gooner S

    Happy birthday Tony.

    Have a great day.

  • Marcel Bogaerts

    Happy birthday Tony!

  • Rantetta

    Happy 70th Birthday Tony Attwood.

    Thank you for Untold Arsenal.

    Blacksheep and Walter, thank you.

  • ARSENAL 13

    @BennE,

    Membership fees of 500 for an exclusive colony sounds a bargain. You could do with holding a few farts…..😬

  • With all this junk media(recycled news),I was on the brink of becoming an AOB.
    Then I clicked on untold and behold I found the gospel of Tony and the rest is history.
    Happy birthday mr. Tony all the way from Uganda.

  • Goonermikey

    I can only echo the appreciation of the authors. Until I stumbled across UA, I felt like I lived in a media vacuum surrounded by unsubstantiated opinions. Tony saved my sanity!

    Have a fantastic day Tony, you deserve all the plaudits you get.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Happy Birthday, Tony! Thanks for being a fine steward of my Arsenal internet home!

  • Nitram

    Happy Birthday Tony.

    You helped to create an Oasis of appreciation and reason in what has become a dessert of hate and lies, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

    Some great comments but the early comment from Brickfields Gunners: 22/06/2017 at 7:15 am resonated with me particularly.

    I also liked the following from Goonermikey:

    “I can only echo the appreciation of the authors. Until I stumbled across UA, I felt like I lived in a media vacuum surrounded by unsubstantiated opinions. Tony saved my sanity!”

    Well said both of you.

    Have a lovely day Tony, keep up the good work, and whatever you do, ‘never let the buggers grind you down’.

  • Richard G

    Thank you Tony for your positivity and humanity, your fun and your sincerity…
    Keep it up for us, for Arsenal and not least, for you…

  • Gideone

    By nature, nuture or both, I belong to the class of people who hold on to ‘Sustainability’ as a life-and-death issue. So I was quickly disillusioned with the unsustainable ‘successes’ of many clubs, hence my love and support for Arsenal. But you will agree with me that even then, Arsenal is seen as a pariah by the press and their manure-fed acolytes.

    I saw in UA an oasis of common sense and a conregation of rational people (never mind the ocassional trolls who stray here).

    Happy birthday Tony!

  • Shard

    Happy Birthday Tony.

    It’s been a long time since I met you, or indeed since I was a regular on your fantastic site, but I will always appreciate the work you have done here on Untold. Wish you the very best.

  • Dear Brickfields Gunners, Walter Broeckx & Arsenal13

    Thank you all for your Varied advice, unfortunately I absolutely love Baked Beans, so I’ll have to practice silent ones, then behave innocently. Especially if I’m around Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man UTD and Man City Fans

  • Ando

    Happy Birthday, Tony
    Untold is quality, mate – Quality
    Much appreciated
    Cheers
    Ando

  • Gord

    Happy Birthday Tony.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Happy birthday Tony.

  • Phil

    Happy birthday Tony, and thanks mate!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Happy birthday Tony,hope you have had a great day, and thanks for this site

  • Eric

    Happy birthday Tony,
    Immense work you and the UA team have done over the years (ranging from Arsenal to really anything or everything).
    I wish you to be able to continue doing all the things you love for mannny decades to come.
    Thank you

  • LRV

    A very Happy Birthday to you Tony.

  • Tjekem

    Happy Birthday Tony!
    Untold is my oasis in this climate of negativity about our great club. Thany you.

  • olad

    happy belated birthday Mr Tony…..

  • Brickfields Gunners

    BennE -22/06/2017 at 6:46 pm – While I understand your love for that stuff , it does have its drawbacks ! Anyway I hope that going to the moon/space is not on your Bucket List .
    Some disturbing footage here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZgD89VYkVc

  • Nigel

    A belated Happy 70th Birthday Tony. Hope you had a great day. I was 70 last August and can vouch that you are as old as want to be. Think old, you get old, think young and you enjoy life much more. Thanks for founding Untold Arsenal which all true Arsenal supporters enjoy. Wishing you many more years of good health and Untold.

  • Menace

    Many happy returns Tony. Bless you with good health & happiness.

  • Brad

    Happy 70th Tony!

  • GoonerBlo

    Happy Birthday Tony! Wish you all the best.

  • goonersince72

    Happy Birthday, Tony! Many, many more so you can continue this tremendous AFC supporters site. And continue to remind readers that we are supporters.

  • Damilare

    Though late to the party (or after party), I must congratulate Mr. Tony Attwood on his 70th (Landmark) birthday. I wish you good health, sound mind, peace, long life and prosperity.

    Blacksheep & Walter, that was perfect.

  • Pat

    Happy birthday Tony! Glad to see you’re a 1947er like me. Hope you had a great time.