A stunning introduction by Dicky Thomas (no relation) who describes amongst other things ‘the Steve McMahon memorial minute' sets an incredibly high standard and confirms that this is ‘a book with multiple happy endings, the wish-fulfilment fantasy that just happens, absurdly, to be true'. Quite obviously as a reviewer it would be clearly unfair for me to spoil the plot line by revealing the happy ending so instead, by way of a taster, I'll just provide you with a few of the multitude of fabulous quotes that caught my eye.
Amy Lawrence kicks off the ‘I was there' chapter with amongst other things ‘…rising optimism absorbed from the local folks who came out to wave us off. Old women perched on balconies in Aubert Park sporting their red rosettes, primary school kids shrieking encouragement through the fence in Drayton Park, and it felt like the whole of Islington was with us in spirit…..Things were a bit of a blur after Mickey Did It, as 4,000 fans tried to hug the other 3,999 and the crowd morphed into a bubbling mass of happiness'
David Hutchinson (the referee) ‘I was driving up the M6 with my eldest son Adam – an Arsenal fan.'
Peter Weeks ‘It was slightly uncomfortable to be sat amongst the Liverpool fans'
Alan Smith (yes that Alan Smith) ‘the tension you may expect on such an occasion just wasn't there.'
Martin Hayes ‘I was running behind Michael Thomas ready to follow up his shot. If Mickey had hit the post, I would have scored the rebound and be made for life!'
Mike Francis ‘Everyone says now that they were screaming at him to hit it, but frankly that's just bollocks because everyone was holding their breath and you try doing that and screaming simultaneously.'
Paul Davis (yes that Paul Davis) ‘We were right in amongst the Arsenal fans, about five rows from the front and it was a great atmosphere. People recognised us immediately and were coming up and asking us why we weren't in the directors' box, but I was glad we were where we were.'
Martin Cloke from a Paris suburb ‘I paced my room continuously, as Bryan Butler's words ebbed and flowed though the ether'
Paul Ackerman ‘…which is why the lights were burning early in at least one corner of Melbourne…'
Richard Stevenson ‘I suffer from Cystic Fibrosis and was in hospital at the time with the lung capacity of a chain-smoking Chinchilla. But when that goal went in, I worked my lungs harder in those celebrations than I had done in all my previous 14 years.'
Geoff Banwell (match linesman) ‘There was no offside and I'd clearly seen Alan Smith getting a touch on the ball. The goal was good.'
Michael Thomas (the man himself) ‘The anticipation of it all. That's what stands out for me. Everyone had written us off and we just wanted to get out there and do the business.'
Mark Jones ‘I can honestly say I have not celebrated an Arsenal goal ever again like I did that night. As the ball hit the back of the net, I just remember grabbing some bloke in front of me to stop him going over and then just going ballistic. It seemed to last for eternity, just screaming ‘Champions! Champions!' again and again and again. You can never get bored with saying that, can you?'
Rob Roach ‘The only sad note was that even then I knew that I would never experience anything quite like it again.'
Andy Gibbons ‘…The following morning was about as close to perfect as I've ever known'
If for some obscure reason you are able to read your way through this volume without emotional tears welling up every other page you clearly have no soul or you are simply not an Arsenal fan. Although it may be very unusual for anyone reviewing a book to publicly thank people for putting the book together, I feel I must. So here goes because I really would like to offer a huge vote of thanks to Paul Joseph, James Smither, John Stonestreet, Emma Palfreyman, Chris Parry and Andreas Silberman for all their hard work on a project that was well worth the wait.
Thanks must also go to the contributors who participated in the great event itself:
David Hutchinson (referee) Geoff Banwell (match linesman) David Pleat (co-commentator) Dean Chasney (Arsenal mascot) Alan Smith, Martin Hayes, Paul Davis, Gus Caesar, Brian Moore and last but by no means least Michael Thomas.
Thanks as well to the lucky chosen few, who were actually there, and of whom I will remain eternally jealous:
Amy Lawrence, Pete Beamont, Jason Dawes, Chris Casrils, Paul Spencer, Peter Kyriacou, Andy Goodman, Andy Gibson, Barry Hughes, Mark Jones, Darren Constantine, Mike Francis, Robert McEneaney, Keith Young, Geoff Sutton, Mario Christou, Gareth Morgan, Charles Ashmore, Andrew Starr, James Le Blanc, Korel Onder, David Futerman, Barry Smith, Mark Rix, Kelvin Meadows, Steve Cassidy, Alan Knowles, Derek Blythe, Jonathan Adler, Mark Maclean, Jon Kenealy, Andy Munro, Paul Kavanagh, Peter Levinger, Matthew Rosedon, Mike McLoughlin, Mike Walsh, Sarah Turner, Rob Furness, Dean Goodman, Dave Higgs, Maureen Hewlett, Steve Summers, Ian Crane, Nick Rowe, Simon Stern, Thomas Fallon, Jarvis Garrett, Peter Weeks, Jeremey McReddie, Brian Griffith, Angelo Thomas, Rob Roach, Nick Perl, Nick Hill, Mick Bowles, Robert Grainger, Allan Fenn, Nigel Martin, Annelies Schonk, David Richie, Linda O'Brien, Nick True, Tim Howarth, Mark O'Connell and Jamie Estrin
And finally those who were there in spirit whose contribution to this delightful volume shows just how the Gooner Nation reacted world-wide:
Simon Gray, Alistair Coleman, Jerry Chandler, Mark Jocelyn, Charlie George, Bob Wilson, Alf Goonit, Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran, Simon Mercer, Jimmy McGovern, Mick Worrall, Peter Ashplant, Kim Wood, Brian Dawes, Martin Delahoussaye, James Tate, Dr Paul Hirst, Glenn Davidson, Matthew Fox, Paul Ackerman, Martin Cloke, Jeff Adams, Lisa Beere, C L, Richard Stevenson, Paul Simcox, Raffi Ouzounian, Kieran Dovey, Pat Ryan, Angus Nanan, Steve Ayres, Rob Instone, Phillip Lavis, Stacey Collins, Andy Watts, J R Cansick, Peter Myson, Adam Leigh, Nigel Samson, David McArdell, Bob, David Moulder, Adam Reading, B J W, Laura Neighbour, Julian Harris, Matt Crone, Yvonne Milsome, Daniel Sieff, Jon Hossain, David Showell, Robert Ireland, Chris Athanasi, Lucas, Paul Harding, Cliff Buddle, Conor Henry, Peter Sear, Chris Adsett, Nick Jenkinson, Chris Newton-Dunn, Chris Reason, Henrik Rademacher, Gary Green, Neale Coules-Milller, Derek Adams, Bill Stephens, Alan Jacobs, Andy Irving, Jamie Lowen, Leong Von, David Gale, Tony Sandell, Christopher Collins, Anonymous, Paul Dawes, Karl Cooksey, Adam Maddox, Brian Marsh, Ronan Smith, Tyson Anderson, Douglas Lister, Richard Mays,Peter Boor, Paul Eblett, Steve Campfield, Adrian Raffil, Pete Mountford, Gary Turner, Lar Kirwan, Tim Mitchell, Jari Kivinen, Martin Langston, Fred Harding, Peter, Ian Snelling, David Connick, Simon Nichols, Tim Mitchell, Andy Smith, Matthew Twomey, Dennis Baggarley, Justin Malz, Mick Dallender, Craig Dallender, Graham Stokes, John Andrew Turner, Diana Betts, Lee Pimble, David Kerr, Steve Crouch, Dan Moore, Brian Goddard, Alan Crockford, Vic Fitzwalter, Richard Leeming, Jeff & Craig Fisher, Mickey Burne, Johnny Lithby, Mick Gould, Dr Richard Race, Peter Northcott, Kevin Whitcher, Ian Tredgett, Nick Jackson, Dave Lynch, Stephen Gray, David Joiner, James Baldwin, Graham Hewitt, Anders Borg, R Compton, Dani Gault, Ken Banham, Andy Gibbons and Michael McQuillan.
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