Date:Sunday November 19 2006
We've been privileged to have had some sublime players in recent years.
True stars of the global game, players who have produced football that has been a joy to watch.
And going back to the George Graham era, when I first started watching the boys, we had mister Arsenal, Tony Adams, Anders Limpar, Rocky Rocastle and 'Smudger' Smith. Heroes of their day, legends of The Arsenal.
But for every Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, or Ian Wright, who always play sublime passes superb finishes and get you 20+ goals a season, there is another set of players, without whom those glorious successes may not, and probably would not, have happened. I'm not talking about the Tony Adams`s or Patrick Vieira`s of the team, I'm not even talking about the Ray Parlours of the team.
I'm talking about the forgotten ones. The ones who often are lambasted by the crowd. Who, when their name is read out over the tannoy by the match day announcer, there's a noticeable groan by sections of the crowd.
The ones who are considered 'not good enough to play for The Arsenal'.
You'll know them. They're still here today. Players like Justin Hoyte or Emmanuel Adebayor. But Hoyte is young and finding his feet, and Ade clearly offers something to Arsenal when he's on the pitch. Alexander Song is a better example though. Relatively little has been seen of the guy, but he has gathered a stigma of being hopeless, and gooners seem to be filled with disappointment at his name on the squad list for matches.
Going back to the George Graham era (and at the same time fast-forwarding to the present say, in a Marty Mcfly stylee); Perry Groves was a similar figure. He was a mixture of a comedy figure at the same time as being a player who had a little bit of malicious intent displayed toward his being there. Not blessed with great talent, he was just as likely to trip over his own feet, or the ball, as he was to put the ball in the back of the net. But he popped up with some crucial goals in the 88-89 title winning season. And he played with his heart on his sleeve. And his heart was, and is, red and white. Today, El Pel is back in the fold of gooner-dom with his newly released book 'we all live in a Perry groves world; and he's also got his thought on little Cashley too. He's now a cult hero amongst us gooners.
Who among you remember these guys: Andy Linighan, 'Steady' Eddie McGoldrick, Christopher Wreh, and the much maligned Gilles Grimandi? Those of you who do will probably think something along the lines 'oh, Christ, yeah...'
Let's Start with Andy Linighan. Unlucky enough to play for Arsenal at the same time as Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Martin Keown. He was always going to find it hard to win the fan over when alongside that company. And he wasn`t the most popular of players. But if there is one defining moment of his career at Arsenal, it is surely the winning goal he headed in the replay of the FA cup final against Sheffield Wednesday, where he played the latter parts of the game with a broken nose, having taken a blow to the face. Yet when his moment came, he smacked the ball in past Chris Woods to win us the cup. Interviewed after the game, and asked about the state of his nose, Linighan replied 'well, I won't be picking it for a while!' Classic stuff, and Mr Mustchin, if you read this, this needs adding to the random quotes list. After the final, which was a drab affair admittedly, Des Lynam, at that time THE don of English football, signed it off in his trademark smooth and suave style concluding with 'Arsenal beat Wednesday, Thursday, through late-night Linighan.
Eddie McGoldrick was blessed with possibly THE most anti-climactic nickname ever. 'Steady'. Hardly one to put the wind up opposing fans as he ran on the pitch. Also, at that time, when he played for Liverpool, he was the only player to come on as a sub (in the uefa or cup winners cup, I believe...) and then be subbed off himself, this taking place without him having suffered an injury. The ultimate in embarrassments for a footballer surely? Yet, he too, had his day in the sun. In an FA cup tie against Leeds, Arsenal were 2 goals down. We were going out. Steady Eddie came on. For the remaining portion of the game, I remember McGoldrick running the how and bossing the game, taking Leeds apart. This was unheard of. 'He just doesn't do this - he's crap!!!' I thought at the time. Talk about a turn up for the books. He inspired The Arsenal to a superb fight back, and a 2-2 draw. When the equalising goal went in, me and my dad leapt up in delirious joy and I turned round to celebrate with the blokes behind me. I bear hugged them and leapt up and down with them. It was then I realised I`d just been going mental with Rory McGrath and 'that other bloke who was on KYTV. The blond one. If you know his name, good luck to you. I don't. A great recovery. And it was all down to Steady Eddie. The remainder of his arsenal days were nondescript, nothing to speak of. But for that night, he was the hero of the hour.
Moving forward to the Wenger era, we have Chris Wreh, he was George Weah's cousin wasn't he? 'He must be good then, Wenger's got another steal here...' we thought when he signed for us. Ummm, nope. He wasn`t what we'd hoped he would be. We were waiting for barnstorming runs of power skill and pace, with a goal at the end of it. Yet we wouldn`t get them from this player. He may have been affiliated to George, but he didn`t play like him. Yet he too, had his day. In the semi final of the FA cup against Wolves in the 98 double year, arsenal and wolves were battling it out in a tough fought, tight encounter. But Arsenal had been fortunate enough to nick a 12th minute goal through Chris Wreh, put though by PV4, and he passed the ball into the back of the net. It was to prove the only goal of the game, but it was enough to send us through to the final, where we beat Newcastle and then went on to tin the double. He may have made few contributions of note to the arsenal cause, but without that goal, who's to say we'd have made the final?
Finally, Gilles Grimandi, who was French. But he was different from our other French players. He didn`t have any skill. How could this be!!! He could have been English, and Grimandi was one of those guys who helped perpetuate the myth that Arsene preferred French players; even of they were not as good as their English counterparts. As how else could you explain him being in the team? In that same 97-98 season, Grimandi scored what proved to be the game winning goal against crystal palace at Highbury, reported by arseweb like so: 'Grimandi, with back to goal, met it as it fell and hit it on the turn, first time, into the far top corner. I think he was as surprised as anyone. In the course of the last month he's gone from 'Not fit to wear the red & white' to potential player of the month.'. By the end of the season, we'd won at old Trafford, and secured the title. By one point. That game at palace, which could have finished 0-0, would have resulted in 2 dropped points. Possibly resulting in us finishing an agonising single point behind ManYoo.
Point of that being that, for all the heroics of fan favourites like Wrighty and Anelka (at that time), It's also all about the most unlikely guys who pop up and get that odd scuffed goal, or in Gilles' case, a spectacular volley. You don't expect it. You don't believe it when it happens. And they still won't win a place in your hearts.
Yet these guys deserve to be acknowledged. It's contributions such as theirs that secure trophies, every bit as much as the 20+ goals from a Thierry Henry or a Nicolas Anelka. You can`t rely on one guy the whole time, it's always said. We need someone to take the weight off Henry, it is said today. And these guys chip in. Not consistently. And not spectacularly, always. But play their part they do.
And they could be anyone in that squad. If we win a trophy this season, who's to say that somewhere along the way, there won't have been a crucial goal scored by song, or a goaline clearance by Hoyte, in a narrow 1-0 victory. Should that be the case, they'll be heroes just as much as you`re chosen favourite player. Yes, the skilful one. The one who does the 'dribbly things and flicks'.
So next time you're at the grove, and thinking about moaning about that guy in the team who 'shouldn`t be out there' think about it. Boo him, and you might make him retreat into his shell. Give him support and cheer him, and who knows, he might get that goal that could prove oh-so-crucial come season's end. When you're gloating about the trophy we've walked off with. His part played will have been just as big as anyone else's.
Article submitted by Wingston75
Date:Sunday November 19 2006
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