So when asked to review his first book I was certain it would be written with a true fans understanding of what it's really all about. I was also delighted that he'd got it published but somewhat worried about reviewing it because it would have been so awful if I hadn't rated his heartfelt gift to Goonerdom. As it happened I needn't have worried because it's an expansive and enjoyable read that has the inevitable happy ending.
OK so sixteen pages of introduction may be considered verbose by some but bear with it because the anecdotal material and Bernard's eloquent prose are both delightful once you allow yourself to flow with it. You may feel you want to cut to the chase but this is the story of a season that was a roller coaster ride that was by no means all down hill. The book has been written with the intense passion of a fan who picks up both the rhythm of the team and mood of the fans week by week, warts and all. Fortunately the diary format doesn't gloss over the bad and difficult times, such as they were, which is all too easily done when viewed through the rose-tinted end of season celebrations.
Retrospectively it was, of course, a classic season but we are reminded here about all the hiccups and hurdles on our journey to Nirvana. It's the little throwaway lines that make or break a book such as this and Bernard slings in a sufficiency of astute observations to make it a very worthwhile read.
If you can relate to any of the following there's a seriously decent chance you'll enjoy this publication. Sol Campbell's trip down Seven Sisters Road, our annual pilgrimage to Boreham Wood, Henry v Van Diver's Opta stats, Ken Bates ballerinas, Dixon missing the biannual hostilities with Le Saux, overpriced Chelsea tickets, Japp Stam surprising yet pleasing departure, match tickets going on general sale, our new anthems, September 11 in Mallorca, Wenger's contract concerns, Bertie Mee passing on, the splenetic ire of Spurs fans, Sol's coming of age at White Hart Lane's public lavatory, Spurs fans wrecking their own team coach, Con Digital, fickle Arsenal fans and the Highbury library, the ongoing Patrick Vieira saga, Pat's panto penalty at the Stadium of Light, Arsenals 25 shots to Charlton's 9 not quite being matched by the match goals tally, the 'Barthez is a Gooner' ditty, 'Henry es la gran duda del Arsenal', fruitless European forays, Fowlers training ground tiffs, broken trains to Ipswich, Ashburton Grove, our Worthington Cup fiasco at Blackburn, Di Cannio's diving, Graham ****ing Poll selected for the World Cup and berated by Titi, the Geordies ending their London hoodoo, van Bronckhorst's unjust departure at Liverpool courtesy of Durkin the gherkin, our ten man heroes at Anfield, Sol's debut goal and Cole's winner against Chelsea.
Like I said if any of the above means anything at all to you, you'll realise it only takes us as far as December 2001 and that the best of the 2001-2 season was yet to come. 'Arsenal on the Double' takes you all the way to May in what is justifiably described as a terrace take on a glorious season.
Arsenal on the Double - Bernard Azulay
Priced £9.99 Published by Mainstream Publishing September 2002
The Arsenal Fanzine Stall not far from Arsenal Tube Station in Gillespie Road will be selling this title on matchdays.
Any decent bookseller will order it in for you if you quote the following reference ISBN 1 84018 683 6, or you can order on the web from Sportspages or Amazon