DVD Review: Arsenal - The Official History

Last updated : 11 November 2003 By Brian Dawes

.... Geoff Strong, Ken Friar, Terry Neill, Don Howe, Jon Sammels, John Radford, Tom Whittaker, Malcolm MacDonald, David O'Leary, Pat Jennings, Brian Talbot, Charlie Nicholas, Alan Smith, Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, David Seaman, Bruce Rioch, Ian Wright, Emmanuel Petit, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould. And those are just the talking heads that feature on this 170 minute DVD. The list of goals and matches shown is even more impressive.

I chose to view this DVD in chronological order over a couple of evenings, but you can jump to various bite size segments which have Chapter headings such as Chapman 1926-34, Bertie's Boys 1966-76 or It's Up For Grabs Now 1986-91. I was reasonably sure that I was going to enjoy it even before I saw it because I'm such a sucker for anything on Arsenal's History. But in all honesty I have to say that this really is a pleasurable trip down the nostalgia trail and immense entertainment for any Arsenal fan. Not only that but having actually watched over four decades of Arsenal's history at first hand I have to say that it's been fairly thoughtfully edited. There's no player who's been overly hyped and those featured are worthy of inclusion. No single team gets to hog the limelight, but their importance in the Clubs history can be reasonably judged by their alloted time on screen.

As you might expect this is a potted history that outlines the Club's progress starting with the earliest days in black and white. The first match action comes from a game at the Manor Ground in 1911 but like most football stories the background dialogue, although very illuminating and thoughtfully put together, is just a seriously good excuse to relive the good old days and to see a billion or so enjoyable goals. And what goals; Liam Brady at the Lane, Charlie George for the Double, Jon Sammels against United, Michael Thomas at Anfield, Adams against Everton, Wiltord at Old Trafford and one or two recent ones from Cardiff. I could extend the list considerably, because there is a lot of action, but it might spoil the pleasure should you stumble across one or two that you'd long forgotten about.

There are also some rather painful goals against shown that I'd rather not have seen again. Particularly those at Wembley in 1927, 1932, 1969, 1980, Cardiff in 2001 and so on. But it sometimes does you good to recall how the pain of the time was washed away by later triumphs. Well no you're right actually, it's just bloody annoying to have to sit through them but they were after all part of our history. Still why waste good viewing time with other teams goals when we could have viewed so many more of our, personally I'd have shown more classic Arsenal goals instead, but then I'm just a totally biased fan. Quite rightly though such defeats are run through with a certain brevity, while there is an inevitable tendency to dwell in happier times and on major triumphs.

Some random thoughts as I watched included; The 1927 Cup Final goal was definitely an o.g. and down to Dan Lewis, never mind that new keepers jersey excuse. 7-1 in a War Time Cup Final was impressive. I spotted Jimmy Hill in black and white, and quite a few more non-Arsenal characters who went on to other things. Anyone who comes close to naming all the Arsenal players seen in all the clips should be on Mastermind. All those various kits to recall as well, remember the green and blue away, the all red shirt, the yellow run over by a tractor job, the red collars, hooped sox? What would Arsene make of those 1930's training sessions? How sweaty were those Arsenal shirts at the end of the Final in 1971! I'd all but forgotten that Pat Rice ever scored with his left. The state of those old pitches and weight of the old balls! Nice to see Lee Palmer and his, now historical, banner in close up at Old Trafford. So many brilliant goals and records that are made to be broken. One of which has already been broken; Jermaine Pennant is already no longer our youngest player. There's a lot here to see and think about and a lot that will be worthy of repeated viewing.

So let's say you're considering this as a Christmas gift. My advice would be that if you know any Gooners over the age of thirty this will be an delightful present which will take them on an enjoyable nostalgia trip. If you know any Gooners under thirty this will be an ideal gift that will enlighten them further about their favourite team and will also remind them of the numerous shirt changes we fly through season by season. Should you know any Gooners under 15 then you should consider this to be an educational gift that will benefit a young enquiring mind. If you are a Gooner I recommend you add it to your Christmas list. If you know any serious Gooners over the age of 50 at all costs avoid watching it with them because they will bore the arse off you by telling you how Kelsey, Armstrong and Brady were the greatest thing since Alex James or sliced bread.

Oh yes and another good reason to get a copy would be if you're not quite word perfect yet on some of the matches……….

Arsenal come streaming forward now in what surely will be their last attack... a good ball from Dixon… finding Smith... to Thomas... charging through midfield... Thomas… it's up for grabs now…THOMAS!… right at the end... an unbelievable climax to the League season!

Granada AFCDVD4 DVD £19.99
Granada AFC04 Video £14.99

Now in the Club shops and most other Video and DVD outlets, other than the Old Trafford Megastore and some other places of dubious taste.