Fanzine Review: The Gooner - Issue 141

When 'The Gooner' first hit the streets it was little more than a few pages knocked together by an enthusiastic Mike Francis and then photocopied on his office machine. Mike still plays a big part in this current glossy production but now each issue runs to 48 well-illustrated pages and at two quid it's regarded by many as being far better value than the Club's programme. Principally because it doesn't have to toe the party line and therefore can say whatever it wants, within reason. Probably because of its longevity 'The Gooner' has a fairly set yet fluid format, regular features are to be found in amongst a series of one off articles, cartoons, letters and match reports.

The front cover usually features a player, and this one has Henry enjoying his penalty against the Boro and Satanic Mills and is captioned 'Can we play you every week?!". The back-cover is invariable far less reverential, the latest issue has a delightful piss take relating to Rio Ferdinand's mobile. I understand that this spoof advert may have been somewhat different if Vodafone's Lawyers had a sense of humour, but that's another story.

Regular features start with 'Talking Reds' which is an accomplished editorial by Kevin Whitcher who is, hardly surprisingly, the current editor. Kev is usually on the ball and produces a worthy read to open the proceedings. The 'Highbury Spy' normally gets three pages to rant on about something or other. This time around he's praising Wenger and corporate boxes, laughing at Hughton, Rio Ferdinand and Naff Neville and slating Bri-nylon stretchy shirts, Philip Don, ex-Arsenal media pundits, the BBC and Ferguson's chewing gum…. 'A yob manager idiotically knighted by a fellow half wit who happens to be Prime Minister and he can't even put his chewing gum in his pocket until he finds a bin. What a disgusting filthy oaf Ferguson is' is how the 'Spy' sees it. That's about par for the course for the 'Spy' and most regular readers either love him or hate him. My own personal tip regarding the 'Spy', should you ever meet him, is not to attempt to out drink him.

Stevenson's Rocket is a regular irreverent swipe at those in and around the world of Arsenal as in….'Gilberto is so anonymous that he could give Anne Frank a run for her money in a hiding competition'. Stevenson's Rocket is probably regarded by some as a bit of competition to the 'Spy', just to keep him on his toes. Another popular feature, with me at any rate, is Well Played/Pile of Krappa. This comprises nominations, usually gleaned from the media and sent in by the readers. One of the 'Well played' items, for example, nominates 'Jimmy Greaves for saying recently in his newspaper column that Spertz have never been a great club even when they won the double they were STILL in Arsenal's shadow'.

The North Bank Times is a regular page put together by the editor of another Arsenal fanzine. Any similarities between the 'North Bank Times' and 'UTA' may not be entirely coincidental as can be seen in the regular slagging of those losers from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road. For example under the header of 'Cold Turkey' in this issue... David Pleat has backed plans for a mid-winter break. "I like the idea because it would mean delaying the start of the F A Cup, which would mean that Spurs would be in the competition a little longer than usual."

The Mickey Cannon slot is a tad more serious in nature but like almost everyone who contributes to this fanzine he's quite happy to have a pop at the Scum or Manure. This time it was…. "It's all very well for the Arsenal fans and fanzines to mock, but when the pundits start predicting doom and gloom at the Lane, you know that Spurs are really awful. The situation with Kanoute has been hilarious. Why did Tottenham think that he'd want to stay and fight a relegation battle with them?"

Match View of which there are seven in this issue covers, rather obviously, the matches played since the last issue. The reports are contributed by a variety of individuals and are generally slanted more to towards the events relating to each trip than the actual match itself. As in Alex Laidman's report from Everton…although it's an old stand it does have good acoustics for the travelling fans and year after year the atmosphere is excellent. "Make sure you drive your own car home!" and "Does the social know you're here" were just two of the classics provided by the Gooners. Each game warrants a page, more for European away games, and includes text messages sent to The Gooner at the time the match took place.

Inside the back cover is something headed The 91st Minute, this includes the latest Gooner referendum which is taken from the Online Gooner website. It also features cartoons and anything light hearted that's short and has taken the Editors fancy. In all I counted six cartoons in this issue which included the regular 101 Uses for a Spurs Fan by Michael Murphy, a neat two page centre spread for a story board that features 'Dwight Hart-Lane' and another pop at Rio by the invariably funny Ron Hill.

The Gooner is inevitably well illustrated throughout, this particular issue contains over 50 photos of which eight are in colour and three others are of tasty looking women. Babes are part of the Gooner culture these days and any excuse is used to provide a break from the usual footie photos. Sometimes the contributors almost seem to write the article around the photo rather than visa versa.

The topics covered in the one-off pieces contributed this time around were 'Is Gilberto Silva the new Gilles Grimandi?', this is a piece which suggests that more is required of our Brazilian World Cup winner. 'Keeper of the Faith' attempts to evaluate Jens Lehmann's worth to the team. 'Old Ashmore's Almanac 2004' is where Charlie Ashmore dons his gypsy gear and pitches his tent in the centre circle to gaze into his crystal ball. Not altogether seriously he makes some alarming predictions, one of which is that Abramovich will tire of buying players and instead will buy the entire Spanish League renaming all the clubs Chelsea FC. Which of course mean that one of his predictions for March is that Chelsea FC will be the first Spanish team to be relegated.

Money (That's What We Want) is an article that explores some interesting possibilities for funding Ashburton Grove, I quite like the second choice which amounts to Prince Harry getting a fat cheque off his Gran. Waking The Library advises us of plans in hand at Highbury for a fans day against Manchester City in February. She Came in through the Transfer Window questions the wisdom of Arsene Wenger not dipping into his transfer budget whilst assessing our current squad and Youth prospects who will be required to play out the season if no new players are purchased. Go Mad in Tottenham for a Fiver! is all about an Arsenal fan who visited the dubious end of Seven Sisters Road to see how bad things really are at the Lane.

An interview with former Arsenal star Brian Talbot under the heading of Mr Indefatigable quite rightly rate three pages, which is more than the more usual couple of pages afforded the average one-off piece. How Would You Spend £10 Million? Is the question asked by another contributor who then puts himself in Arsene Wenger's shoes to do a little shopping in the transfer window. The Road to Walsall (& Beyond) follows Paul Merson to his latest Club and compares this particular old boy's problems with that of his ex-skipper.

The quality of articles is usually, but not inevitably, of a high standard, mainly because there are invariably more articles contributed for each issue than there is space to print them. The Gooner has survived successfully, in my opinion, because it's open to all viewpoints and each contributor is therefore able to spout his own opinions. There isn't an editorial line to toe and all views are both accepted and printed. It's not at all unusual for articles to be met with a counter article in this magazine, or a swift stinging reply via the letter pages where there is more often than not something contentious to be found. The readers letters sometimes slate contributors and unusually the letters pages, under the heading of Off The Post, are selected and edited by a different contributor each issue. This time out the letters and responses ran to four pages. To encourage sufficient letters for lively debate the 'star letter' gets highlighted and also wins a free subscription.

I think the 'The Gooner' is great, you might argue that I'm biased because I write for it, and you'd be right. Then again the reason I that ever submitted anything to 'The Gooner' in the first place is because I've always rated it as the best Arsenal fanzine and see no reason to alter my opinion just because they happen to publish some of my ramblings.

There were no freebies in the latest issue but issue 140 included a free calendar and last season they ran a series of Gooner Legend cards. The Gooner can be obtained on match days from the fanzine sellers around Highbury, but ideally I prefer to read it on the morning of a Saturday match and finish it during lunchtime at the pub. Having the Gooner land on your doormat on match days provides the perfect antidote to those long hours of anticipation that somehow always precede any Arsenal game.

The Gooner
Price £2 and sold around the ground on any matchday, it's often available at away games as well.

Subscriptions (for which you'll receive the next ten issues) are:
£20 for the UK or BFBO addresses
£27 (42 Euros) Eire & Europe
£34 The rest of the World

Cheques payable to The Gooner at the following address:

The Gooner
BCM Box 7499
London WC1N 3XX

Website: http://www.onlinegooner.com