Book Review: The Official Arsenal Encyclopedia

Last updated : 10 November 2008 By Brian Dawes

Arsenal are without any doubt whatsoever London's most successful Club and unless you happen to be looking for statistical data on matches played by Arsenal this is the most comprehensive A-Z concerning Arsenal Football Club available. It is not the first or indeed the only Arsenal encyclopeadia to hit the market but is by far the most comprehensive and also by far the best illustrated.

This extended edition, being some sixteen pages bigger than the original version of the book published in 2006, was revised and updated for 2008. It is an exceedingly well illustrated encyclopedia that manages to include a whole host of relevant pictures, plus some unusual ones, such as the ones of Johnny Hollins in the infamous green away kit or Frank Stapleton in red shorts.

To summarise it's fairly lavishly illustrated and contains over 500 entries. Starting unsurprisingly at A, where it opens with The Academy, follows on with Tony Adams and then works its way through to Zeppelin (as seen at Wembley during the 1930 final) and Zoo (tenuous or what?). 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 it 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 not absolutely but then no book ever can be. That said I felt they'd had enough time with this edition to include the likes of Adebayor, Gallas and Eduardo if not Nasri and Ramsey. As you'd expect a lot of players get their very own entry but given the many greats that don't I can't really see how players like Ian Selly or Owusu-Abeyie Quincy still rate a mention. Also included are 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 Anthem (which thankfully seems too embarassed to mention the Elvis dross blasted out pre-match), Anti-heroes (top marks for including Lee Chapman but minus marks for not including Cashley), Art Deco, Appearances, Ashburton Grove (but why this is still included as well as Emirates Stadium I'm not sure), Attendances (the best average attendance was 54,892 in the 1947-48 season until we moved), Autobiographies (which is a far from being a comprehensive list), Avenell Road (which actually has French connections) and Bargain Buys (Perry is included). It carries on via the Battle of Highbury, Birthday (Arsenal was born 25 December 1886 since you ask), Boardroom (David Dien is not mentioned in this edition), Boxing, Brief Encounters, Busts, Celebrity Fans (which fails to name drop the current Foreign Secretary who has a season ticket), 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 (still no mention of Vieira), Home Help, Hoof It (no mention that the horse wasn't found when the dismantled Highbury), Hundred Club, Inspirational performances (a nice memory jogger this one), Islington, Jumbotrons, Kits (worthy of a far larger illustrated section), 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), Voice of Arsenal, W M formation and the West Stand to name but some. So far I've found no mention of the squirrel, independent Arsenal websites, the Diamond Club 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.

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, but only if more care is taken over revisions. A reassessment of players is re required so the next edition will require revamping rather than the tinkering with updates this one received.

The Official Arsenal Encyclopedia

By Jem Maidment with a foreword by Arsene Wenger

Published by Hamlyn 2nd edition 2008

Price £16.99

Available for all your favourite bookstores or Club shops but if they need to order it in especially make it easier for them by quoting this reference ISBN 978 0 600 61888 1. It can also be found from your favourite online bookstores.