Book Review: Rebels for the Cause - The Alternative History of AFC

Last updated : 02 October 2003 By Brian Dawes

So it's both refreshing and pleasing when one appears which approaches the subject from an entirely differing angle, especially when it's a well researched work and written from the heart by an obviously dedicated fan. Jon Spurling's recent publication is such a book but I doubt if it will win him many friends at the Club, in fact I'd put money on it, a whole brown paper bag full. Subtitled ‘The Alternative History of Arsenal Football Club' it's almost certainly a publication that Arsenal F C would have preferred to have remained unwritten, I somehow can't quite see this one making the shelves in the Club's shops, however much it deserves to do so.

I found Jon's book to be a rollicking good read, which not only informed but also occasionally caused me to laugh out loud. There is possibly little here that's not already appreciated by those in the know, but it's great fun to see it all in the one volume. For many however I suspect this book will be packed with unexpected revelations. The story line also managed to make me wince with some delightfully colourful descriptions of tackles and I remain pretty well gob-smacked, although not entirely surprised, by a number of the shenanigans covered within these pages.

If you are an Arsenal fan, as I assume you are, but have only a vague idea who David Danskin, Jack Humble, Henry Norris or Wilf Copping were, then this is an absolutely must read publication. If you want to know why Spurs and pretty well all the Northern Clubs, together with their fans, hate us so much this publication goes a long way to explaining all. If you have even the slightest tendency to dislike that jealous bunch of losers from N22 you'll just love the early chapters.

When I'd finished reading chapter two I decided that should we ever get to move to a new home at Ashburton Grove then Henry Norris's bust has just got to stand alongside that of Herbert Chapman in the entrance halls. If only to piss off any visitors from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road. In order to find out why this should be I can do no more than recommend you read ‘Rebels for the Cause'.

Some of the principle characters covered by this entertaining tome include David Danskin, Jack Humble, Henry Norris, Wilf Copping, George Eastham, Charlie George, Willie Young, Malcolm Macdonald, Alan Hudson, Alan Ball, Charlie Nicholas, George Graham, Tony Adams, Paul Merson, Arsene Wenger and David Dein. They all earn their place, which in some cases is a dedicated chapter, for vastly differing reasons. You might argue that some ‘rebels' deserve their place more than others, you might argue that the notoriety of some might be exaggerated. You might in fact argue that some don't deserve a place in the book at all but that won't alter the fact that Jon Spurling has a tale to tell about them all. And he does so in a manner that invokes vivid memories of both the good and bad days of Arsenal Football Club.

If, like me, you are the sort of fan who thinks it's hilarious that the Club may have aided and abetted Tottenham's relegation back in 1928. Or if when you recall Charlie George laying on his back at Wembley it brings a lump to your throat. Or if you recall singing ‘We've got the biggest Willie in the land!' If you are the sort of Gooner who detested Jimmy Carter and Eddie McGoldrick, or in fact if you ever stood on the North Bank terraces you'll almost certainly love this book, at the very least you'll enjoy reading it. However if you're a relatively new Arsenal fan who doesn't quite understand what I'm on about you seriously need to read this book. If you don't you may never get the point about, what for many, The Arsenal is really all about.

Rebels For The Cause : The Alternative History of Arsenal Football Club
Jon Spurling
Published by Mainstream Publishing
Price £15.99

You should be able to order this title from any decent bookstore if you quote the following reference number ISBN 1 84018 735 2

Your favourite online bookstore will no doubt also oblige but if you're off to Highbury in the near future the Matchday Fanzine & Memorabilia Stall in Gillespie Road, opposite the North Bank entrance, are currently selling the Jon Spurling's book for a bargain £14.50

You can also buy online using a secure server from Mainstream Publishing