Book Review: 'The Official Arsenal Encyclopedia'

Last updated : 23 November 2006 By Brian Dawes
We are London's most successful Club and unless you happen to be looking for statistical data on matches played this is the most comprehensive A-Z concerning Arsenal Football Club in print. It is also a very well illustrated encyclopedia that manages to include a whole host of relevant pictures, plus some unusual ones, such as the one of Johnny Hollins in the infamous green away kit.

To summarise it's fairly lavishly illustrated and contains over 500 entries. Starting at A, where else, it opens with The Academy, follows on with Tony Adams and then works its way through to Zeppelin (not Led) and Zoo. As with most self-respecting encyclopedias it wouldn't like to miss out on any letters of the alphabet and thanks to the X in X-rays this one succeeds. Y was a little easier than X thanks to the fact that we had the biggest Willie, while for this particular letter it also opts for the Youngest Gunner, Youth Cup, Yellow (as in away colours) and the rather more obscure Yuletide Matches.

Is it up to date? Well yes, pretty well, because it includes Theo Walcott and mentions Tomas Rosicky in passing. As you'd expect a lot of players get their very own entry, as do managers, different nationalities, various trophies (for the Fairs Cup you need to look up Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), Grounds, Other Clubs and loads, loads more.

The loads more includes Anti-heroes (top marks for including Lee Chapman), Art Deco, Appearances, Attendances (the best average attendance was 54,892 in the 1947-48 season), Autobiographies (which is not a totally comprehensive list), Avenell Road (which actually has French connections) and Bargain Buys (Perry is included). It carries on via the Battle of Highbury, Birthday (born 25 December 1886 since you ask), Boardroom, Boxing, Brief Encounters, Busts, Celebrity Fans, Clock End, Cricket Connections, Crossing the Divide, Darlings of the North Bank, Debuts from Hell, Fanzines, Fan's Forum, Fever Pitch, Free kicks, Gooners, Gunflash, Guest Players and even Gunnersaurus. It also has pieces on Hard Men (I'd have included Vieira), Home Help, Hoof It, Hundred Club, Inspirational performances (a nice memory jogger this one), Islington, Jumbotrons, Kits, Murals (North Bank and Tube station), Museum, Media, Music, North Bank, One cap wonders, Penalties, Pubs, Radio, RedAction, Shareholders, Schoolboy's Enclosure, Sponsors, Training Ground, Time Capsule, Transfer Milestones, Traditions, Testimonials, Unsung Heroes, Underground, Upsets (best to skip this bit), W M formation and the West Stand to name but some. So far I've found no mention of the squirrel or the Metropolitan Police Band but the important stuff is all seemingly included, like The Gooner – Arsenal's best selling fanzine, which is what really matters.

I enjoy books such as this because you can always learn something, so for example, did you know where ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit' came from? Most of you will be aware of this Latin inscription that featured on the Club crest for so many years. It translates as ‘Victory grows out of harmony', but did you know that it was Harry Homer the programme editor of the day who coined the quotation to sum up our title-winning campaign of 1947-8?

It is a problem for any encyclopedia to strike a perfect balance of priorities. And as is the way with most Arsenal information recent history takes some sort of priority over the distant past. For example Bob John with his 467 appearances at a time when there was no League Cup or European Competitions gets hardly any more space allotted to his Arsenal career than that hapless failure Glenn Helder. I find that a shame but overall the key players and important aspects of the Club get the space they warrant. No one will agree with everything written in a book such as this, I'm not at all sure for example that I would describe Highbury host Paul Burrell as brilliant. And while its good to see the likes of Gary Lewin and Fred Street getting well deserved space I fail to see what Anelka did to get one of only ten full page photographs. But such minor quibbles have to be balanced against a great job well executed in a work that is an absolute Arsenal information goldmine. My guess is that it will remain a major reference source of the Arsenal for years to come.

The Official Arsenal Encyclopedia
By Jem Maidment with a foreword by Arsene Wenger
Published by Hamlyn
Price £16.99

Available for all your favourite bookstores but if they need to order it in especially make it easier for them by quoting these ISBN numbers: 0 600 61549 9 or 978 0 600 61549 1. It can also be found from your favourite online bookstores for as little as £10.16 (I try not to advertise specifically but a clue would be Brazilian jungle and big women).