Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday June 6 2008
With the hacks of Fleet Street and internet dwellers everywhere squealing with excitement/ frustration/ pedantic whingeing over any snippet of transfer rumour available, I thought it might be worth taking a sideways look at some of Arsenal`s worst transfer dealings. Just as a reminder that that superstar signing you beg and plead for could turn out to be another Juan Sebastien Veron, Marco Boogers or Andrea Silenzi. (I bet you`ve never heard of that last guy!)
BRYN JONES- In 1937, the all conquering Arsenal side were ageing, particularly star turn Alex James, whose rheumatism was beginning to play merry hell with his ankles. George Allison, buoyed by the success of the signing of Ted Drake, decided it was time for a new superstar. In 1937, he turned to Wolverhampton Wanderers` Bryn Jones, who had earned rave reviews for his creativity and was tipped to be British football`s next big star. Allison broke the bank, paying a world record fee of £14,000 for his services as a replacement to the ailing James. The British press called the fee a disgrace with Britain militarising itself against the growing threat of Nazism and the pressure was on Jones from the beginning. Though he scored on his debut against Portsmouth, Jones wilted under the intense scrutiny of the media spotlight owing to his transfer fee, whilst the Arsenal crowd- spoiled on a diet of constant success, began to turn on Jones for failing to fill James` boots. In order to remove him from the limelight, Allison gave him a reserve game on a Monday afternoon to get his confidence back. 30,000 turned out to watch him. There was simply no hiding place. By the time Jones began to deal with the pressure and cobble some form together, War broke out and competitive football was suspended. By the time war was over and football had resumed, Jones was 35 and found himself displaced by Jimmie Logie. He didn`t secure enough appearances for a championship medal in 1947/48. He left in 1949 having scored 8 goals in 76 matches.
IAN URE- The Gunners side of the early sixties had earned itself a reputation for having a soft underbelly, uncharacteristically; the Gunners had become generous in their defending. So in 1963, Billy Wright signed highly rated Scottish defender Ian Ure. Ure had eight Scotland caps by this time at the age of 23 and earned rave reviews at the heart of Dundee`s defence in their league title winning season of 1961-62 and their amazing run to the 1963 European Cup Semi Final. He moved to Arsenal for £62,500 that summer and actually only missed one game in his first season at Highbury. However, he did not shore up a leaky defence as Arsenal were a 60s version of Tottenham today. A forward line of Eastham and Baker were capable of conjuring up goals at will, often scoring four times and more in a game. Problem was, the defence was porous and would often end up shifting five and more in a game. In 1964, Ure suffered an injury which led to a shocking loss of form, and he picked up a reputation for calamitous errors. None more so than when he foreshadowed Gus Caesar`s nightmare by twice drastically under hitting back passes in the Wembley quagmire as Arsenal suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Swindon in the 1969 League Cup Final. Ure was immortalised in Nick Hornby`s Fever Pitch, "Arsenal's best-known player was probably Ian Ure, famous only for being hilariously useless." By the end of the Sixties, Ure`s reputation was in tatters, despite his 202 appearances for Arsenal, and with McLintock and Terry Neill emerging, he was sold to Manchester United in 1969.
PETER MARINELLO- The Scotsman with the Italian sounding name, Peter Marinello made a huge impression when bursting onto the scene with Hibernian as a teenager. Such were his silky skills and cocksure swagger, that the British Press labelled him "the Scottish George Best." An Arsenal side high on grit and determination, but lacking in virtuoso swagger (bar the irrepressible Charlie George) bought into the hype and signed him for £100,000 in January 1970. It was the first time Arsenal had ever paid a six figure sum for a player. Marinello was still a teenager. However, under the burgeoning weight of reputation, Marinello failed to produce anything approaching his potential. In fact, the only way he came close to matching Best was with his heavy drinking and celebrity lifestyle. Marinello had always been a notorious party animal, but with the eyes of the world upon him, Marinello turned to booze to ease the pressure. Marinello played no part in Arsenal`s 1970 Fairs Cup triumph and only managed three games in the Double winning season of 1970/71. A troublesome knee injury contributed adversely to his sagging morale and he was sold to Portsmouth in 1973. But the pressure would continue to tell as he continually suffered injuries. In 1994, a failed business venture left him bankrupt and he suffered a nervous breakdown. Marinello it seems, was born under a bad sign
CLIVE ALLEN- In the summer of 1980, Arsenal purchased exciting 19 year old striker Clive Allen from Queens Park Rangers. Allen had scored 28 goals in the Second Division in the 1979/80 season with Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal snapped him up for a whopping £1.25m in May 1980. A world record for a teenager at that time. (See, we weren`t always misers in the transfer market). Having played a grand total of three pre season friendlies, Allen was sold to Crystal Palace in a part exchange deal with Kenny Samson coming the other way in July 1980. Allen never played a competitive match and remains one of the only British footballers to make two transfer moves in one summer. Rumours persist to this day that Allen was 'parked` at Arsenal deliberately. QPR Manager at the time Terry Venables had had a falling out with Crystal Palace`s Chairman and openly refused to do business with him. The story goes that Arsenal wanted Samson and Palace wanted Allen. But knowing that Venables would not sell Allen to Crystal Palace, a surreptitious deal was allegedly brokered to park Allen at Arsenal, allowing Crystal Palace to buy him from us, leaving Arsenal free to bag Samson. This story has never been confirmed and both Samson and Allen strenuously deny it. Nevertheless, it remains one of Britain`s most beguiling transfers.
JOHN JENSEN- Maybe the inclusion of John Faxe Jensen is harsh. John was by no means the most bewitching talent to wear red and white, but his Arsenal career was by no means a disaster. Indeed, he is considered something of a cult figure nowadays and still speaks very highly of Arsenal now he has carved out a fruitful career as a coach. Jensen was a trier and football fans love a trier. However, it was more a matter of who he replaced that merits his inclusion. Jensen built up a good reputation as a central midfielder in his native Denmark, winning Danish player of the year in 1987. He scored the decisive second goal in the Euro 92 Final against Germany, prompting George Graham to dust off the chequebook. The problem was, Jensen, a reliable, hard working, yet uninspiring midfield player, had been bought to replace the skilful, soulful David Rocastle. It marked the transition from Graham`s team of swashbuckling youngsters into the turgid demise of plaintitive and unattractive football. (Graham originally identified Geoff Thomas as Rocastle`s replacement, a player famous for a hilariously botched one on one attempt playing for England which hit the corner flag). However, the Euro 92 Final pile driver gave us all false expectations. Jensen famously could not manage a goal for Arsenal, often treating woodwork, goalkeeping gloves and advertising hoardings to generous amounts of ball activity. The Arsenal crowd would ironically shout "shoooooooooot" at his every touch (nowadays, that joke has gone too far now that it`s ritualistically applied to any Arsenal player within eighty yards of goal). After 98 games, Jensen finally registered his first and only Arsenal goal on December 30th 1994, when he curled a delicious shot into the top corner. Arsenal lost the match 3-1 at home to Queens Park Rangers (in a season we would finish 12th), but I vividly remember that Highbury was in a state of bizarre celebration. "I was there when Jensen scored" we all sang. But this was no longer mocking irony or cruel disbelief, a feeling that we had genuinely witnessed a special moment was palpable. Anybody else who was at that match would say the same I would venture. Jensen left Arsenal in 1996 with an F.A. Cup medal, a League Cup medal and a Cup Winners Cup medal (though he was injured for the final). Not a bad haul, but Jensen unwittingly marked a period when Arsenal had gone from inventive young upstarts, to turgid bores. That said, Jensen`s Arsenal career was anything but boring.
So there you have it, the next time somebody posts a You Tube clip of some South American wonderkid (aka the next Maradona, the next Pele, the next Che Guevara) or the next time you suggest a signing that Arsene should be breaking the bank for, heed the stories of the aforementioned.LD.
Date:Friday June 6 2008
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