Book Review: 'Charlie George - My Story'

Last updated : 31 May 2005 By Brian Dawes

But by the time he finally played for the first team we all knew who he was, what a player he was going to be and that he was one of us. Charlie has always been one of us, a Gooner, but with all the skills, panache, ability, class, speed, technique, strength and power that we mere mortals lacked. Unlike many ex-players however he's still one of us. If you go to Arsenal away games it's quite a regular occurrence to spot Charlie travelling or sitting in the crowd alongside the other away fans. There are still numerous Gooners, like me, who want to shake his hand but I hadn't realised quite how popular he was outside Highbury until I went to Derby for a game and the great man stepped out to huge applause from all the fans in the stadium.

Until I read this book I didn't appreciate how much of a fan Charlie was. Well put it this way, could you name any other footballer aspiring to League football who would forsake playing in a reserve team match by pretending to be ill and instead travel down to Bristol, without the Club's permission, to watch the first team play an F A Cup tie? No, neither can I!

Charlie is a Gunner who only played 179 matches and scored just 49 goals for the Arsenal and yet there cannot be a more popular hero ever to have stepped onto the Highbury turf and reach legendary status. His premature departure and differences with Bertie Mee were a crying shame and this book helps us to put that into perspective.

Personally I'm envious of Charlie for any number of reasons. Firstly he got into White Hart Lane in 1971 while I was locked out, despite the fact that he probably arrived much later than me. Charlie got to score a hat trick against Real Madrid, while I only ever did that playing Subbuteo. Even more impressively he actually got to tell Don Revie to go f*ck himself, in person. He realised his one boyhood ambition, while I didn't even get close. Not only did he play for our first double side but he also got to come back and work at the Club he left all those years earlier.

The book starts with ‘that' goal at Wembley on May 12th. 1971. It was my honour and privilege to be standing behind that particular goal knowing from the millisecond it left his boot that it was goal bound. Nothing will ever top that goal no matter how long I remain an avid Arsenal fan. The goal that won our first double, scored by the local kid playing for his local team. It just had to be Charlie who won us that match, especially after he'd gifted Stoke a goal in the Semi-final and nearly screwed it up for all of us. Hollywood couldn't have invented it.

Naturally the book covers his early years, his time at Highbury, the Fairs Cup, the double and the premature break up of the side. It also covers his almost completed transfer to the Scum, his days with Derby and his admiration for Dave Mackay. Here too can be found his theories about and his justifiable dislike of Don Revie, plus his disenchantment with Bertie Mee. Charlie shares my abhorrence of the dirty bastards who played for Leeds during his time and goes on to name other filth merchants. Also covered are his gambling, home life, throwing up, his marriage break-up, chasing a dog down a street whilst naked, his spell at Southampton, his time in Oz, Hong Kong and the States. You'll also learn of his disappointment at being prevented from joining Clough at Forest. His love and appreciation of Wenger's team. His minimalist adventure as an England international, his numerous injuries, his lawn mower, his favourite players, his drinking adventures and his love of Arsenal and family.

I was also pleased to read that one of Charlie's favourite goals is also one mine, against Newcastle in front of the North Bank late in the double season. My only minor quibble throughout is that Charlie felt that the average punter couldn't appreciate the particular skills of Ray Kennedy, speaking as a very average punter that's just not so Charlie.

This volume might be regarded by some as being a fairly typical football biography, but nothing about Charlie George is or ever was typical. Even as football rebels go he was a class apart and it's great to be taken back to that era when players were not multi-millionaires, could still represent their local team in front of their mates and could actually relate to the Club they played for. Charlie comes across as a genuine individual, and just as you'd have imagined, a top geezer. But then being one of us he would be, wouldn't he?

Charlie George - My Story
Price £16.99
ISBN 1 8441 3696 5
Published by Century