I once described Eboue as a clown, and got lambasted like mad for it. What I actually meant to say was that I thought he had a wicked sense of humour like the best clowns – but no one wanted to know about my excuses and I was denounced repeatedly as a racist.
Perry Groves is another guy I’d describe in the same way, and fortunately he’s white, so I’m on safer territory here. But calling Perry a clown really annoyed my mate Roger, who thought there was no room for humour on the pitch, and by and large thought P Groves to be a prat. I would argue that we won more games when he was on the pitch than when he wasn’t – Roger accused me of including days when Arsenal weren’t playing in my calculations, just to boost the numbers.
I’m not sure when the song “We all live in a Perry Groves World” (to the tune of Yellow Sub) actually started – I obviously went to the wrong pub because I never heard it in the Duke of Edinburgh – but it suddenly started happening at the away games and I thought, “yeah – other people recognise him as a clown too,” and I meant it in the best possible meaning of the word.
Then a while back he made a revelation: when he was brought onto the pitch 20 years ago for the final game against Liverpool, George Graham gave him a detailed team talk which basically was: “Go out there and run around a lot”.
Perry did that very well – especially after the second goal went in.
Since then he has turned up on my radar next on two fronts. First his “We all live” book, which rightly was the football book of the year, and second his appearances on Arsenal TV, where instead of him burbling incoherently as I had expected (I just somehow never thought of him as an intellectual) he turned out to be one of the most astute analysts of the game in motion that I have ever heard.
Not knowing his voice I listened to his co-commentary and thought “bugger me” (not literally you understand) “who is this guy? He’s bleedin’ brilliant”). Step up Mr Groves.
So now we have a new book: Perry Groves’ Football Heroes. Subtitled “Twenty of the greatest goal-scorers, hardest tacklers and biggest rogues ever to grace the game.”
Having myself just finished writing “Making the Arsenal” (due for publication later this year, roll up roll up) I look on all new football books with disdain, proving to myself endlessly that I would have writ it better like.
But P Groves is fun. More, he’s funny. More still, he’s informative, and he brings back great memories. Take the chapter on Anders Limpar. Talking of the summer after beating Liverpool 2-0 in the last game Perry says, “George Graham realised he had to bring in new players, so he made three £1 million signings in the summer of 1990: David Seaman, Andy Linighan (neither of whom were going to keep me out the side) and Anders Limpar).”
In that little sentence you get the essence of the book. Maybe you remember that Linighan cost the same as Limpar and Seaman. Maybe you realised that Limpar arrived just when Groves was establishing himself as a central part of Arsenal. If so, clever you, cos I had forgotten.
There’s bits I am sure you won’t know though, even if you know everything. When the handbags game at Manchester came along and Arsenal got docked two points for pushing and shoving, lots of players got fined. George Graham (according to Perry) persuaded the board to fine him (George) too – to send out the right messages. Now that I definitely did not know. Nor did I know that when Limpar was at Everton he was idolised by one Wayne Rooney.
Tiny details, just bits and pieces, but that is what P Grove, writer, does as he tells you his story. He gives you the details that you missed in a way that very few footballers ever managed to. It’s good stuff.
Of course I hope “Making the Arsenal” outsells “Football Heroes” 10 to 1, but maybe you can afford to buy both. And “We all live in a Perry Groves World” as well. He is, as they say, the proverbial breath of fresh air.
Good on you Perry. I enjoyed every word.
“Perry Groves Football Heroes” published by John Blake Publishing £17.99 hardback.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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