Criminal goings on in and around the Emirates…

By ‘DI’ Blacksheep

The confirmation that the police inquiry into the mysterious death of Alexander Litvinenko included a visit to the Emirates Stadium (where they found traces of the radioactive plutonium that killed him) got me thinking about football-related crime scenarios. I am a historian that specializes in the history of crime and punishment (although usually crime that happened in the 18th and 19th centuries, well before modern football became as popular as it is today).

In recent years the rapper Reckz (real name Ryan Gray) was stabbed outside the stadium by Taylor Fernandes-Nelson, who was later jailed for 15 years for the murder. In 2012 at Westfield Shopping centre a gang fight ended up with Nii-Azu Kojo-Smith (19) being charged and convicted of killing a Liam Woodards who was an unconnected and entirely innocent bystander. Kojo-Smith was apparently a promising young football at Arsenal who had been involved in coaching others.

You might not know that Chuba Akpom’s cousin, Antoin (20) was killed in a street attack in Leicester in September 2013.

Tony and I recall an incident last year when we passed a house on our way to the ground that was guarded by police. I later discovered that Richard Conroy was charged with shooting Leeanne Foley, a 32 year-old woman thought to be his partner. The case is yet to be formally heard by a court.

When I used to stand on the North Bank in the late 1970s and early ‘80s one of games I least looked forward to was West Ham. I remember being kicked down the steps out of the ground by a young Hammer who objected to my ‘lefty’ pin badges as much as my Arsenal scarves and this post reminds us just how brutal the 80s were for hooliganism. It wasn’t just ‘a bit of a laugh’, people (like John Dickenson) died.

But to end on a lighter note the real ‘crime’ associated with the the club is the murder of a footballer who dropped dead on the pitch during a friendly between Arsenal and the Trojans. Of course this was a fictional murder, which formed the plot of the Arsenal Stadium Mystery (Dir. Thorold Dickinson, 1939).

The film stars Lesley Banks as Detective Inspector Slade and the Trojans were played by Brentford FC. Many of the Arsenal team (including such legends as Cliff Bastin and Eddie Hapgood) play roles in the film and George Allison has a speaking part.  He says “It’s one-nil to the Arsenal. That’s the way we like it”.

The ‘live’ football was recorded during Arsenal’s final game of the 1938/9 season so was actually the last match before the outbreak of war. I’ve got a re-mastered copy and it is a decent movie and worth a watch if can see it.

So, in true ‘Crime-watch’ style, do remember the Emirates is a very safe place (despite the occasional idiot with a flare!); 60,000 people troop in and out of the stadium 30 or so times a year with no trouble – so don’t have nightmares!

but keep ‘em peeled…


All the Arsenal pre-seasons from 1990 to 2014 remembered- with more regularly being added, on the Arsenal History Society site.



14 Replies to “Criminal goings on in and around the Emirates…”

  1. For those who come here whose English was not made in England.

    The expression ‘but keep ‘em peeled…’, means ‘keep your eyes open’ or a perhaps a little stronger ‘be on the alert.

  2. In all those years I have been going to Arsenal matches I have never seen any real trouble, In my very quiet neighbourhood of Dollis Hill area though a young Irish lad was knifed to death and his dad critically injured after watching Chelsea vs. Arsenal match in a nearby pub Ox & Gate. Allegedly it was two young Chelsea fans responsible.
    Hope we beat them on Sunday.

  3. Yes second that thank you Colario from Belgium. I was wondering what I should keep peeled 🙂 really was

  4. Not mentioning any names, but I can think of at least four ex players and one manager who were involved in criminal activities .

  5. The tribal violence which seems to reside beneath the surface of most football clubs today, is a sad reflection on the way moral standards fell during WW2 and have never regained decency.
    Pre-war, there was rivalry of course between clubs, but nothing like the hatred that exists today.

  6. For all those days when colario is not around:

    One can use the search by typing the “phrase” and “definition” after it like so:
    keep ‘em peeled definition

    into your browser and it will come up with the answers. 🙂

  7. The eighties was a horrible era, in London, the far right, semi no go areas in what would be quite interesting and cultural areas. Hooliganism is glamourised by some , just a bunch of likeminded having a bit of a dust up, but they fail to look at what was really involved. I know an ex hooligan pretty well, now a responsible grand father, who regrets it all. He left it all behind as his mates were being pressurised into becoming foot soldiers in organised crime networks.
    As for crime around the area, quite an interesting family have been active around there.

  8. Until its use here I had never given the term ‘keep em peeled’ or its full phrase ‘keep your eyes peeled’ much thought.

    The home secretary responsible for introducing the first public police force in the UK was home secretary Robert Peel.

    I naturally thought that the phrase ‘keep you eyes peeled’ would have come from the use of his name. The first police in London were known as ‘peelers’ at that time. They were also known as ‘Bobbies’ (a friendly term for a police man) as is ‘the bobby on the beat’ meaning a policeman who walks the street.

    Back to ‘Peel’ never assume. I checked on the original use of ‘Keep your eyes peeled’ and found I was right not to assume. For the use of the expression does not come from Sir Robert Peel.
    Here is a link to the true history of the phrase.
    If you are interested in info about the English language then the website comes recommended by me.

    From the link: ‘The figurative sense of keeping alert, by removing any covering of the eye that might impede vision, seems to have appeared in the US about 1850.’

  9. The moronic eff wit behaviour was shown at its worst in the Football Factory. Those days are not totally gone as societies have this element. Thankfully the Emirates is well policed and stewarded.

  10. sorry to press a point;
    in the early 60s Shaw taylor was the host of ‘Police 5’ which was a long running TV show where the police appealed for witnesses/info/etc from the general public. His ‘catch phrase’ was Keep ’em peeled.

  11. Only on Untold could you discuss football & word origins. For what it’s worth my understanding of “eyes peeled” did come from Robert Peel, but I’ll defer to the majority opinion.
    Colario, you almost got “Bobbies” right. It’s actually: Robert (Peel)>Bobby>Bobbies.

  12. Eyes peeled didn’t have something to do with The New Avengers, and a certain Emma Peel? 🙂

    Eye’s peeled is common slang in western Canada, to keep a look out for. Has been for 50 years anyway.

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