Book Review: Charles Buchan's Football Monthly - Arsenal Gift Book

Last updated : 19 November 2007 By Brian Dawes

Last year there was a 'best of' produced in the familiar format of an annual which covered all things for all fans. This year they've gone one better and produced an edition which is solely dedicated to The Arsenal, between the years of 1951 and 1973, and what an absolutely fabulous wallow in nostalgia it proves to be.

Any ex-readers of the Football Monthly have just got to buy it, or at the very least add it to their Christmas list. You just have to see it, if only to recall the pictures where black and whites were crudely converted to colour with the aid of hand tinting. Not only will you wince at the progression of hairstyles, shudder at some of the playing kits and gawk at the football boots, but you will no doubt ponder the total absence of Armani or Boss suited players. And when you catch a glimpse of the hordes of eager autograph hunters all patiently stood outside the Marble Halls you'll almost certainly attempt to pick out a spotty youngster you recognise. This you will then recall was a period when players actually met their fans, signed their autograph books and very often lived in the same street. No Arsenal player ever lived in my street, but as it happens, Denis Evans did live at the top of my Nan's road in Harringay.

Readers will also get a kick when they spot the old adverts featuring such gems as 'Arthur Rowe streamline soccer boots', My Goodness my Guinness, Butlins, Charles Atlas, Soviet Weekly, Subbuteo, Gigster drum kits, Dubbin and Esso Football badges. Plus numerous opportunities to 'be taller', in rather stark contrast of course to the modern day quest to 'grow longer'.

If you're too young to remember any of this black and white wonderland you can still glean some insight into the Jurassic Era with articles that feature the likes of Joe Mercer and Jimmy Logie - who apparently Arsenal heard about thanks to a Dunfermline barber. Then there's Jack Kelsey, Jim Fotheringham, Derek Tapscott and Bill Dodgin - who reveals the truth behind his move to the world's greatest club. David Herd, Joe Haverty, Jimmy Bloomfield. Cliff Holton, Denis Evans - famous for a classic own goal and of course living at the top of my Nan's road. Gerry Ward, Jimmy Magill, George Eastham and John Radford - on the fringe of full England status as it claims here. How Arsenal will beat Swindon and a couple of pages later how Frank McLintock explained to his five-year-old why he hadn't bought the Cup home. Bobby Gould, Jon Sammels, Charlie George, Ray Kennedy, Peter Storey, George Graham and the shy hero of Highbury Peter Simpson all have articles featured. As do Pat Rice, George Armstrong and Alan Ball whose £220,000 transfer fee was Britains biggest ever at the time.

And if that's not enough there are other more general features and a whole host of photos, both of teams and individuals These which will have you trying to name the players before you look at the captions and going oh yes, I remember him, even when you've cheated. After studying this little lot and enjoying the rather posed pictures you'll notice other stuff, like the absence of players names on shirts, the simple crew neck collars, shorts without numbers, in fact shorts that are just good old plain white. More probably though you'll pick up on the total lack of advertising on kit, quite often in fact there is not so much as a club badge to be seen on the chest of players, never mind shirt manufacturers logos. It was all just about the football back then.

Essentially then this is fabulous book for any big Arsenal kids, like myself, who have no intention of growing up. And if you know any old geezers from the Jurassic Era who support the Gunners you just have to buy them this for Christmas. If you do I can pretty well guarantee you they'll have their head buried in it until we play Portsmouth on Boxing Day. With has the added bonus of them not being able to bore you about how Christmas's are not what they used to be in their day. They're not of course, but then again neither is football.

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly - Arsenal Gift Book
Series editor Simon Inglis, Introduction by Jon Spurling
Retail price £14.99

Available from any decent bookshop and if they don't have it in stock just quote ISBN 978 0 9547445 3 3 and they'll order it in. Also available online from most of your favourite suppliers.