Petr Cech’s move across London has sated the media’s appetite for a transfer story as far as Arsenal are concerned. It will most likely be the weekend when the latest Chilean superstar will be linked with a move to the club. Even removing Alexis Sanchez and the goalkeepers from the equation, there are still seventeen players in their squad left for a good signing rumour or two.
In the meantime, West Ham are looking to fill their homegrown quota once more with a loan spell for Carl Jenkinson, another season with the ‘Appy ‘Ammers and Thursday night football stories to regale the grandchildren with. Lukas Podolski has still not signed for Galatasaray and the move, despite positive noises, is becoming Odemwingie-esque with security at the training ground reporting they’ve turned away an occupant who “just wants to play football“.
The clock has also begun ticking for the first genuine story that Arsène has been so impressed with Abou Diaby’s form in training, that he is seriously considering re-signing the player.
Speculation is nothing new. It’s been around for decades, the earliest I stumbled across was from the 1930s but I confess to not having looked too hard for before that. And for too hard, read not at all. It’s got to be fast approaching a century since the first rumour surfaced, if it hasn’t already passed and I think it would be a shame if there wasn’t a celebration of it. Perhaps there could be a blue plaque signalling the place where the newspaper was first printed, it’s bound to have been a provincial story, stoking up the enmity in the days of handlebar moustaches.
I am sure that Fleet Street would want to get in on the act. Think of the kudos that might attract. “The home of the first transfer rumour” or “Rumours you can trust since 1921“; a bit more seemly that proclaiming exclusives that are lifted from Spanish, Italian or some other international site. They could instigate an annual award, a trophy which passes from paper to paper for the best rumour, the most right, the best newcomer, etc. There could be an award ceremony. Televised, of course.
If pop will eat itself, the media has had a full banquet and followed by unwelcome flatulence.
Tales From 1990/91
I knew I’d settle on a title somewhere along the line.
Football’s changed a lot since then. It was always an international business but to those plotting the Premier League, it is merely travelling the course they predicted. There was still some reluctance to invest heavily in foreign players and Arsenal were no different in that sense. The calibre of player Arsenal were linked with underlined the paucity of native talent available. Despite the ultimate glorious failure of the World Cup, England wasn’t a hotbed of talent.
Before a ball was kicked in anger or frustration in the group stages, Arsenal were supposedly sniffing around the brightest lights. And Steve Bull. The Tipton Skin was his nickname although I don’t recall hearing Motty exclaim, “Bull! The Tipton Skin moonstomps over the Villa defence!”
Bull, away with England in Italy, was the subject of intense speculation having scored 52 in 58 in 1986/87 followed by 50 in 55, 27 in 48 and 27 in 48 as Wolves climbed the leagues from their nadir in the old Fourth Division. He went to Italia ’90 still technically a Third Division player (League Two now) and was destined for better things, a move to the bright lights of a big city or a new country. Genoa were most heavily linked. And a more ‘English’ man you could not have imagined as the media well knew.
But that didn’t stop the speculation. And he took denial to a new level. With no evidence to support the theory, he was quoted as saying, “I’ve also been told that there are rumours back home about me going to Arsenal but they aren’t true.”
Bull played his whole career for Wolves.
Also not joining Arsenal this summer were Gary McAllister and Rod Wallace, who would both go on to win the final Football League Division One title with Leeds in 1992.
One who was joining was Andy Linighan, Most readily springing to mind as the 1993 FA Cup winner, he had been part of Norwich’s seasons in the sun. The speculation had started before 1989/90 ended with a battle royale emerging between Arsenal and Crystal Palace emerging for his signature.
To the outsider, it seems like a no-brainer. Despite their appearance in the cup final, Arsenal were established in the top four and had been champions a year before but who said football was logical?
Linighan knew the problem. Arsenal had three excellent centre backs already. Adams and Bould had established themselves as the preferred choice but there was the small matter of David O’Leary as well. George Graham had shown himself to be singularly unconcerned by the opinions of supporters and was not bothered by O’Leary’s history with Arsenal, around a decade and a half in the first team by this point.
The rumours were starting that he was on his way, opening a lot for Linighan to come in and fight for a first team place. It was a tad convenient but also entirely believable that Graham did not want O’Leary. The Irishman had proven to have a mind of his own previously in contract negotiaitons, seemingly on the verge of leave the club a decade before. That independence wouldn’t have sat well with Graham.
But he was a pragmatic manager and O’Leary played well for Ireland, immortalised in The Van
Italia ’90 was still under way when Linighan played games with the press. Perhaps the whole thing was a scam to get a better deal from Norwich although his comments about a house move were scarcely credible. As the nation watched England defy the odds and grasp progress in the World Cup from the jaws of defeat, negotiations continued until Linighan signed.
Except it was announced on the eve of the World Cup semi-final, making the papers on the day of the match. It barely sent a ripple across the footballing pond which was about to be replenished with Paul Gascoigne’s tears. Which is probably just how George Graham wanted it.