Book Reviews: Arsenal Players

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Geordie Armstrong On The Wing

by Dave Seager (@goonerdave66) in collaboration with Jill Armstrong (@touchofpowder)

Published by Legends Publishing

How many ways can you say, “He was a bloody nice bloke“?

Quite a few judging by the content of these two hundred-odd pages and most strikingly, not one of them feels forced or someone saying the right things because they feel they have to. That they chose to speaks volumes for the type of man George Armstrong was.

To younger supporters, he may just be an entry on the list of highest number of appearances but to those who know and loved him, he was so much more than that; the sort of friend everyone should have, the sort of player every supporter and team wants.

This is a labour of love for the family and author that has turned into what I hope they find to be a fitting eulogy to his life and career. You are left in no doubt about the depth of feeling for the man with the opening chapter about his funeral, culminating in a Charlie George’s answer to Tony Adams admiration for the binds that still tie the 1970/71 squad; “Yes Tony, but this Geordie Armstrong...”

You sense the emotional ties throughout the book but none more so than in the opening chapter, recollecting the end of his life in such a touching manner that you are set for a book that is a celebration of the life of a man who enjoyed living that life. Dave Seager, know to many as the blogger behind 1 Nil Down 2 One Up, achieved his aim of eschewing the traditional football biography and producing instead a fitting eulogy to the memory of the man.

Contributions come from a former teammates at all of his clubs, home and abroad, managers, colleagues and supporters. Most telling about the respect in which he was held are those of his opponents. His dogged defending was accompanied by a straightforward attacking philosophy; beat the man and get to the byeline, or as Alex Forsyth observed, Geordie didn’t see the point in beating a man more than once to get a cross in.

The changing face of football is highlighted starkly when Bob Wilson noted that Geordie was the double-winning side’s Mesut Özil. It’s hard to imagine any reporter having the brass balls to accuse of George Armstrong of “nicking a living”, let alone having the grounds for such a vile and snide comment. Or even having a job afterwards such was the respect in which the Arsenal legend was held.

Seager questions Geordie’s inclusion in 40th place on the official site in a poll for Arsenal legends, believing that he deserves more recognition. Alas time has passed and the ceaseless ubiquity of modern television coverage has dimmed memories. His answer comes not just in the internet age but further on where a number of the contributors, fans and players, note that whilst he was not the most skilful of players – not a Bergkamp, Nicholas or Henry – to have worn the red and white, he was one of the hardest working, honing his fitness and technique.

And few will have crossed the ball as accurately; wherever the forward wanted it, be that head, chest or volley, the ball invariably ended up there. The sort of player most often unsung unless he played in a team in its truest sense of the word. George Armstrong’s talent was such that he found himself in one where his work was truly appreciated.

But this isn’t just about the footballer even if that aspect of his life dominates the book. That he was a modest family man is made abundantly clear in the reminisces and the human aspect is emphasised not just by the loving memories recalled by the family but the motivation for the book, to give grandchildren some notion of the grandfather they never got to meet.

It’s a book that was a pleasure to read about a man who brought pleasure to thousands during his lifetime. And if there is a better, more fitting tribute, I can’t think of one.

If you can’t attend one of the pre-match launches and events organised, you can buy Geordie Armstrong: On the Wing from The Tollington, from the club shop or direct from Legends Publishing here.

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Stuck In A Moment: The Ballad Of Paul Vaessen

by Stewart Taylor

Published by GCR Books

It’s a tough book to review, let’s not beat about the bush on this one. Not because it is a badly written book, far from it. Indeed, the authors own experiences with mental health issues lend an empathy which make it a very well written book. It’s just such a desperately sad story. One where the world was at a boy’s feet only to be ripped away in the cruelest of manners and with such devastating effect on his and the lives of those around him.

And despite this, despite the anguish, there is barely a bad word spoken of Paul Vaessen. Not out of politeness either, there is a genuine affection for him, man and boy, which is obvious through the tragedy of his tale.

Don’t make the mistake of believing this to be an apology for him either; there is no romanticism attached to the tale and how it unfolded. The warts and everything associated with his addiction, are laid bare. The rise from the south east London council estate to Arsenal followed by a descent if not into Hell, certainly towards a living one for himself, his friends and family.

The books structure fits the subject perfectly, a literary documentary with the text frequently interspersed with observations from family and friends through his youth, players, managers and coaches from his time at Arsenal. In his rise from the playground, Vaessen’s story is very familiar being a path trodden by many of his peers and predecessors. The odd scrape but at the forefront of everything there was a burning desire to play football. Strangely enough, this was initially hidden from his father, himself a former professional in the lower reaches, as the young Paul excelled at swimming to the extent that there are few doubts he would have succeeded professionally.

And in teenage years, the distractions that would haunt his later life first became evident.

But it’s because of football that we are aware of Paul Vaessen. The anonymous reporting of his death at the time would be less surprising – shocking even – if he had been the ordinary man in the street. Turin, 1980, made sure that term could never be applied to Vaessen. I defy anyone reading that particular passage of play to not have the hairs on their arm rise and remain erect as you trace the arc of the ball over Zoff and into the path of the onrushing Vaessen.

A moment to savour; blessing or curse for the player. Evidently a millstone around his neck, not personally but in the expectations it created in others. The conversation with Warwick Bean on this very point is illuminating, talking as he does from the experience of having his career curtailed through injury as well. That and the contrast in how football was then, how Arsenal was then and how the game and club are now. How players were and are treated, protected, are stark contrasts.

As it was, the injury suffered in a North London Derby at White Hart Lane negatively impacted his life from the moment it happened. The general consensus is that it robbed him of his half-yard of pace and never the quickest of players to begin with, that was the beginning of the end. His return saw him quickly become a focal point of the dissatisfaction with Arsenal at the time, leading to the bitterness towards supporters that never left him.

In co-operating with the book, giving it backing, the family took a courageous step. Football is still learning its lessons over treating current and former players with addictions with support given through the PFA and the likes of the Sporting Chance clinic. If other families know they are not alone – or rather as alone as they think – then we as society are learning. A small step in the right direction might be taken.

You can purchase Stuck In A Moment: The Ballad Of Paul Vaessen here
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scSol Campbell – The Authorised Biography

By Simon Astaire

Published by Spellbinding Media

It’s hard to review a book where sensationalism has overrun the remaining pages. Sol Campbell’s views on racism in the game and why he wasn’t considered for the England captaincy, have been debated since this book was serialised shortly after publication. The observations he makes are no different from those he has made before, in short they were nothing new but with a book to sell, no publicity is bad publicity. The problem is that in cherry-picking the controversial parts, the book is built up into something which it is not. It isn’t the manifesto of a would-be football politician, it’s the story of a boy who wanted nothing more than to play football. And was able to do that.

There was more to Campbell’s career than the much-publicised move across north London. He has suffered more abuse than most players on the basis of that alone, the perceived treachery haunted him even when he had moved to Portsmouth when the vile abuse received most coverage. That wasn’t the worst of it for him, his brother’s continued presence at White Hart Lane cut to soul more than any words could. It broke the bond between the pair and echoed the strained relationship with his father. Campbell is a complicated character as Arsenal fans are well aware.

The book is a testament to how successful Campbell was as a player. Following his transfer to Arsenal, the silverware he craved flowed, on the home front at least. It nearly followed on European fields as well, ten more minutes in Paris and his goal would have won the Champions League. Whilst that defeat brings sighs of a lost opportunity, to me losing in the quarter-finals two seasons earlier was worse. The final quartet in 2003-04 was arguably the weakest for a generation.

Three months before Paris, Campbell had left Highbury at half-time during the home defeat to West Ham. Speculation was rife at the time over a breakdown and whilst that was extinguished some time later when he returned to first team action, he was certainly under pressure in his personal life. That it took its toll on him is of no surprise; footballers are often put onto the pedestals reserved for gods with little or no appreciation that they are nothing more than fortunate human beings.

It’s that aspect which comes through during the book. The self-analysis he plunges into brings an understanding of the man and the anxieties his introspection brings. For an intensely private person, one who shied away from the pages of Hello or other glossy magazines, it is an interesting exercise. Was it as cathartic as he hoped? The early days before a professional career beckoned about the casual and inherent racism he encountered suggest he was a man always feeling the wall against his back. Sometimes you sense this was misplaced but the accumulated effect of the isolated incidents leaves that as no surprise.

Campbell’s story conveys the pressures which come with the job and Simon Astaire deserves credit for capturing this brilliantly, whether it is the time spent at Arsenal or World Cups with England. The episode at Notts County would be funnier were it not for the fact that the white chargers upon which the knights in shining armour arrived turned out to bed sheets over donkeys. And those suits quickly turned rusty with Campbell’s fixation a broken window which remained neglected at the Meadow Lane.

There is a fine line being trodden in the narrative between introspection and hand wringing. Astaire guides Campbell astutely along this tightrope. Campbell was not a typical footballer, at heart a shy person. Not without fault and at times a little too self-absorbed to notice his own, this is anything but a dull tale.

Click on this link to buy Sol Campbell – The Authorised Biography.
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Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top

by Philippe Auclair

One player who as much as anyone encapsulates the Wenger era is Thierry Henry. Player and managerial success are intertwined into Arsenal – and in particular Highbury – folklore.

Thierry Henry’s career at Arsenal is beautifully captured by Philippe Auclair in his biography of the legend. It is a brave man who takes on analysing and dissecting the life of someone who means so much to so many, whose goals contributed to arguably the most successful era in the club’s history.

In England, we are used to reading the nefarious tales of footballers and whilst Henry cannot be accused of descending to such low standards, this book does not always paint him in angelic light. Auclair explores the challenges as well as the glory. The lows, highs, trophies and disappointments. He deconstructs the inner workings of club and country; whilst not exploding myths exactly, he certainly makes the foundations wobble. Henry’s journey is fortunately not straightforward and it allows Auclair to present a rounded character assessment of the club’s record goalscorer.

In that sense, the prose glides across the surface as easily as the maestro in full flight. His career is plotted with great care and assessment, the machinations of his transfer to Juventus, the tribulations that led to Wenger saving a troubled prodigy. That move was repaid, a mutually beneficial moment for manager and player. The parting of the ways brings a temporary sadness, revived in a fairytale finish with that moment against Leeds United.

As Henry’s path through life is forged, one startling aspect is how relatively unaffected by fame he became. An intensely private man, he never sought the spotlight and was surprisingly in control of the public perception of the man, on and off the pitch. Auclair could have been dazzled by the feats for a club close to his heart and his country. There is an impressive distance between writer and subject which is not something one might have ordinarily expected.

Often a biography can reveal aspects of a person which are best not aired, making the halo of heroism’s shine a little duller. This is not the case, it isn’t a book that will make you love the man more but you will certainly have a deeper understanding of him. Auclair’s work is certainly something which should be in Christmas stockings all over the Arsenal world.

Follow this link to purchase Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top: A Biography

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In The Shadow Of A Giant

by Mel Charles

Think of Mel Charles and it is pretty much a racing certainty that one of the first things that will pop into your head is the fact that he was John Charles’ younger brother. It’s alright, Mel knows it, does not mind it and indeed used it as a motivator throughout his career to try and show people, “Yes, he’s bloody good but I’m not half bad either”. Like his older sibling, Mel was a versatile player, comfortable in central defence, attack and at right half which gave him what is now called, a half-decent career. If you wonder how good he was, FIFA picked him for their team of the 1958 World Cup. As the record goes, Now That’s What I Call Quite Good.

The thing is that throughout the book, even when talking about the times that he fell out of love with football, Charles cannot quite believe that he had the career that he did. Starting out at Leeds United, at the same time as brother John, he succumbed to homesickness and returned to Swansea for a job outside of the game. The local team, Swansea Town (now City) signed him up and Charles set about making the grade as a professional.

This is a tale of bygone days. The high jinks of today are not a lot different from those that Charles and his team-mates got up to back in the 1950s and a decade later. The crucial difference is that the media turned a blind eye to it, as Charles says they wanted to keep in with the players. Even so, it did not stop Charles getting hauled over the coals by George Swindin during his Arsenal days for having a pint. Back then, and probably now, the club expected players to abstain. THe intervening decades probably made up for that…

When Charles signed for Arsenal in 1959, it was for a record fee between two clubs. For a short while, he joined brother John as the most expensive British players following the latters move from Leeds to Juventus. Typically, it was the elder sibling who shaded the values. His move from The Vetch Field to Highbury was by no means straightforward, a bidding war with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and a late move by Newcastle all in the mix. Arsenal won though, offering the most. At the time Charles was happy with the move to London and still holds a deep affection for the club.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and he now views the move with more than a tinge of regret. Injury wreaked havoc with his stay at the club and mixed in with the rise of Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham team of the time, give him a sense of what might have been had he gone a further seven miles North in the capital. That Tottenham signed Dave MacKay having failed to sign Charles is probably little comfort to him.

Even so, Charles had an excellent scoring record for Arsenal, netting 28 times in 64 games. He left in February 1962 for Cardiff City where he linked up with brother John for the only time in club football. Despite this, Cardiff were relegated and Mel’s career entered into a descent. Ironically, leaving the professional game for a short spell once his Cardiff career ended reignited his love for football and he briefly returned to the Football League with Port Vale before once more dropping into the non-league game.

This is an enjoyable yarn. Charles rarely has a bad word for anyone, recognising his own character has its flaws which contributed to personal differences. One thing shines through is his pride in his own achievements and those of his more famous sibling, even if the latter did deprive him of the opportunity to wear his white suit to Sophia Loren’s party when John was in Turin. It is an honest account of the life a footballer in post-war Britain, the lengths that the military would go to in order to accomodate National Service. You sense the peak of his career was Sweden 1958 but to an outsider, he achieved much more than that. And yes, Mel, it ain’t bad for a boy from Cwmbrwla.

Click to purchase In the Shadow of a Giant

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Fighting For Football
From Woolwich Arsenal to the Western Front:
The Lost Story of Football’s First Rebel
by George Myerson

John ‘Tim’ Coleman turned out for Woolwich Arsenal at the start of the twentieth century, racking up 196 appearances between 1902 and 1908. In those times, Coleman found the net on 84 occasions, becoming a crowd favourite as a playmaking inside-right. At the time Coleman signed from Northampton Town, Woolwich Arsenal were in the Second Division (now The Championship) pushing for promotion to the top flight. It was an aim that was achieved in 1903-04 season. He was a prodigious goalscorer, averaging a goal every 1.45 games in his first two seasons at the club, the second of which ended with Coleman netting 23 times in 28 games and Arsenal promoted.

Yet his is no ordinary story, a fact highlighted in the Prologue relating the tale of reports of his death during the Great War causing a national show of grief which only ended with his wife and children photographed receiving a telegram from him, alive and well. The news that he had not become a casualty was greeted with widespread relief such was the regard in which he was held.

Myerson reveals this life to be less than ordinary, highlighting the manner in which clubs would find ways around the maximum wage, the lessons of which resonate today with talk of salary caps: they simply do not work. Shops were bought for players, all with intention of circumventing the maximum wage and a precarious one year contract that left the players with no control over their futures as the clubs.

Despite an illustrious career with Arsenal, Coleman left as the club struggled financially in their chase for the title having reached the promised land of Division One. A dark cloud hovered overhead as he was, unusually, named as a joint beneficiary of a testimonial, the club taking longer than was decent to hand over his £250 monies such was their parlous financial state. By the time he had received it, Coleman was already at Everton and larger battles looming in his near future.

Ahead of the First World War, Coleman was involved in the PFA’s fight for recognition with the FA. Matters reached a head when in the summer of 1909, the FA sent out letters to all players informing them that they had to pledge allegiance to the game and forgo any union rights. The Manchester United players rejected this and as a group went on strike. Tim Coleman was the sole Evertonian to do so and put his future at risk, eventually returning to the club for one last season. That the players won their fight was just the beginning of their struggle. Coleman would find himself moved to Roker Park at the end of a campaign where his punishment was to be omitted from the FA Cup ties that Everton participated in during that season.

He enjoyed his time at Sunderland but it was only to be for one season. In 1911-12, he was able to live with his wife and children who remained in London whilst he journeyed around the football heartlands of the time. Joining Fulham, then in the Second Division, seemed to be ideal for him, not least for reuniting him with his former Arsenal manager, Phil Kelso. Yet he would only enjoy three seasons before the financial affairs of another London club would cause him to move once more. This time he joined Nottingham Forest, just in time for the Great War to be declared in August 1914. There was some irony in Coleman’s last professional match. Arsenal had moved to Highbury and he returned as part of a Forest team that succumbed 7-0 to The Gunners, his final tally was 186 goals in 404 professional appearances.

Despite time and some scarcity in Coleman’s own records, Myerson produces a good history of the Footballers Battalion and their struggles during the War. Reports of inter-regiment and Army cup matches are utilised as are the Battalion records which documented their various battles. Ironically, Coleman won his only playing medal during this time, as well as the Military Medal for valour.

That was not the end of his story in football. Upon returning from The Great War, he stumbled through various non-league teams in Wales and England before commencing on what should have been a glorious coaching career. The early part of the 20th century had a distinctly English feel in Dutch football. Coleman pitched up at SC Enschede, the forerunners of FC Twente.

In 1925, he guide them to the Dutch title with a brand of fluent football, tight in defence, expansive in attack. However at the end of the season, the economic downturn bit and Coleman made his way back to England, out of football and into labouring. Having survived the First World War, he succumbed during the Blitz of London, dying trying to repair a bomb-damaged Power Station. A sad end, highlighting the difference with today’s players whose comfort at the end of their careers he played a great part in.

This is a wonderfully written biography and so much of it highlights other players of the time, particularly their strengths in other fields. Colin Veitch, for example, played a part in the PFA struggle and found time to be a theatre director in Newcastle, Labour Party activist whilst also being a musician and composer admired by amongst others, George Bernard Shaw. Coleman’s Sunderland colleague, Leigh Richmond Roose held a doctorate in medical biochemistry. Compare this with today’s players who are held to multi-talented if they can chew gum and walk at the same time.

A pity that for whatever reason more archive material is not replicated for it would have enhanced the reader’s appreciation of Tim Coleman’s struggles and the world in which he lived. Perhaps that could be managed when the paperback version reaches print?

You are heartily recommended to purchase this book and can do so by clicking here

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vaFirst Among Unequals by Viv Anderson & Lynton Guest

Rejection by Manchester United as a youngster did not harm Viv Anderson’s career in any way. League champion, European Cup winner – when it was a proper Champions competition – League Cup winner, England international; his list of managers is a veritable Who’s Who of English football: Brian Clough, Don Howe, George Graham, Alex Ferguson, Ron Atkinson.

No grudges are borne against any, Anderson leaving most on good terms although you suspect that Graham took a while longer to forgive due to the acrimonious circumstances in which he left Highbury, his fee set by a transfer tribunal.

Anderson’s admission that his memory is not entirely reliable is a clue to this yet he provides an entertaining tale, a reflection of his career which is never less than honest. Given that he was the first black player capped at international level by England and the era in which he played, you would expect racism to have been a central issue.

It is not, explained early on that Anderson feels he never experienced excessive overt prejudice as a player. Perhaps he did but I suspect he was more capable of pushing it to one side than he gives himself credit for. Certainly Newcastle fans get an unworthy mention on this subject but at the same time praise.

His story makes clear that from a young age, he was utterly besotted by football and the rejection by the club he supported cut deep and was a spur to prove himself at his local club, Nottingham Forest. Anderson was a key member of the side in their Golden Age noting that training was always with the ball rather than concentrating on the physical aspects of the game. Sound familiar?

This was Anderson’s time as well. Victories at home and abroad are remembered less well than the walks Clough preferred before the matches on foreign fields. Clough is remembered with affection, my favourite recollection of the man disparaging the sign in the tunnel at Liverpool: “This is Anfield – so f***ing what?” should surely become a footballing legend. Forest though, queered their pitch with Anderson for churlishly pulling out of a charity match to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the club’s first European triumph.

As Forest’s grip on the English game waned, Anderson signed for Arsenal having been ‘tapped up’ by Don Howe in person. His enjoyed his time at Highbury, sad to see the demise of Howe following the then manager’s conversion to the theories of Charles Hughes. Anderson makes no bones about how this contributed largely to ‘The Don‘s’ downfall. It left him subjected to the delights of George Graham’s regime.

Tying together the back four proved an effective method of instilling defensive discipline in the players and it is apparent that they knew that the potential for good times was there. For Anderson, the lure of Manchester United proved too strong and the transfer was conducted through the back pages, a turn of events the player regrets.

It also proved to be the start of persistent injury problems which would adversely affect his international career. Anderson was capped 30 times for England but only made one appearance in a finals tournament, the 1980 European Championships in the final group stage match against Spain, the right back berth being favoured more towards Gary Stevens of Everton.

That Anderson failed to win the FA Cup is down to Arsenal. His departure from Old Trafford to Hillsborough mirroring that of his exit from Arsenal; both teams went onto win titles shortly after Anderson left!  His managerial career began at Barnsley where he started the job of turning the club around following Mel Machin’s reign. It lasted one season before he joined Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough.

The duo forming a management partnership is no surprise, they emerge as firm friends from the book. Anderson admires the way  in which Robson ‘took out’ Vinnie Jones without so much of a blink of the eye. The details of his fracas with John Fashanu show the Wimbledon man in an appalling light, their fight followed by a suggestion by Fashanu that an affair be concocted between himself and Anderson’s then wife to make money out of the media.

Anderson is critical of the England 2018 World Cup bid, particularly the failure to invite black players to the Launch Party although the FA saw fit to invite the BNP. Despite this, he is still supportive of the attempt to host the tournament and recognises the potential for good that it has.

If you are too young to remember Anderson, think Sagna’s defensive nous with Eboue’s attacking flair. Possibly the best right back the club has had in since Pat Rice was playing. Click to buy here to buy this enjoyable yarn.

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41aTgcXXCHL._SS500_Cesc Fabregas – Young Gun by Tom Oldfield
John Blake Publishing Limited

It seems that you have only arrived on the World Football stage if a book or books have been written about you. It says much about the modern game.

The problem with all of the books is the subject matter. Unless there is official co-operation, the information has to be drawn from media interviews. And that is a big problem when the subject is only in their early 20s.

Whilst no-one can deny that Fabregas is an exceptional player, does he warrant a biography? There is a story to be told but this is not it for quite simply it has been written too soon. His meteroic rise through the Arsenal ranks is but one part of the story but equally fascinating would be the story of the various tapping up incidents from Real and Barcelona. That will only be known when the official version is released.

Lack of co-operation from Fabregas, his family and friends comes early on with his childhood skated through. Problematically, the rest of the book follows suit, good performances dwelt on, indifferent all but ignored. No analysis of his development in the Reserves, the hours of practice required is apparent in the book.

Surprisingly, it feels like the Euro2008 triumph of Spain is almost an inconvenience. Little emerges beyond a rapid run through of the matches. There is a welter of material in the Spanish media with several daily sports newspapers to choose from. More could have been written about what is, after all, the high point of Fabregas’ career so far.

The issue that I have with all of this is that nothing new emerges about the man. There is no breakthrough in his personality, nothing new about his career, how he developed his skills. Perhaps I am too “close” to the subject and have read the same interviews as the biographer. If that is the fault then the book is in trouble since Arsenal fans are the target market.

It’s a book that I tried hard to like but ultimately feel that it is a rushed project. If you don’t know much about Fabregas’ media interviews or have trouble remembering the matches he has played in, click on the title to  purchase Cesc Fabregas – Young Gun.

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To Cap It All

by Kenny Sansom

When Ken went up to lift the Littlewoods Cup,
We were there, we were there

It seems a long while ago but 1987 ought to have been the beginning of medals in the Sansom trophy cabinet. Instead that sunny April afternoon represented the pinnacle of his club career. The 1980s were a barren spell at Arsenal and Sansom’s time at the club was the filling in the sandwich of the finals of the late 1970s and the League titles in the period 1989 – 91.

The book exudes a need to be liked, frequently admitted by Sansom himself. In keeping with his character that shows through, it is a jaunty and enjoyable read. Despite being raised by a single parent with an errant father away from the scene early in his life, Sansom appears to have had the carefree childhood and appreciates the grounding his mother gave him, along with the luck that he had to be born with a talent for football. The enjoyment of the game never really dies, merely subsides towards the end of his career.

Playing for Crystal Palace at the time when the ‘Team of the 80s’ was building was clearly enjoyable, typified by the high regard he still holds for Terry Venables and Malcolm Allison. His time at Arsenal is appreciated but dealt with honestly, especially the period immediately after joining Arsenal in 1980. Despite proclaiming that he, Rix and Brady would have been a dream back three – the stuff of nightmares surely Kenny? – his perception of the club at that point is accurate,

Some people think the ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ years began after the arrival of George Graham, but we were in dire straits long before. Lots of our games under Terry [Neill] were awful, and only brief touches of brilliance gave us short reprieves and kept the diehard fans coming to support us

His fall from grace and subsequent departure are treated the same. Whilst George Graham shares the blame for the manner, Sansom holds his hands up to accept that he should have done things differently. Even so, being stripped of the captaincy with Tony Adams outside Graham’s office to hear the arguments is hardly a masterclass in winning friends and influencing people.

Throughout this time, he maintained his position as England’s left back, rightly a massive source of pride to the extent that all of his England appearances are listed in the back of the book. It is the absence of club honours that makes this all the more impressive.

His betting and alcohol addictions are crammed into two chapters at the end of the book but are a continual theme throughout the book. The latter is made all the more remarkable considering that he never touched a drop until his estranged father appeared in Basel for the 1981 World Cup Qualifying debacle. Once he had tasted it, his descent into heavy drinking was rapid.

Through it all, there are few occasions where his finger points to anyone other than himself yet you cannot help but wonder whether his path would have been the same were he playing today instead of being submerged in the drinking culture of the day. He readily acknowledges the pain he caused his family during these times, something that would have been hard for him to admit to himself, rather more painful to hear the brutal honesty of his children.

That he is coming out of the other side of these addictions is a credit to his desire to turn his life around. One hopes that his children are enjoying happier times with their father. And Kenny, stop worrying about your weight. Just be happy.

You can buy the book at Word of Sport by clicking here, something that you are heartily recommended to do.