Category Archives: Arsenal


Rogues Gallery: Terry Neill

Somewhere along the line, people in the game have to realise that the transfer market is dead. Terry Neill, 1982

A quote from an Arsenal manager and its not Arsene Wenger, but stunningly  fits him so well. Anyhow, Terry Neill, who had a up and down time at Arsenal playing for us from 1958 to 1970 and managing us from 1976-1983. I’ve actually meet Terry for an interview I did with him on a piece I did on Paul Vaessen as a friend knew him from a pub he frequented. Thanks to my mate Matt who told him:-

Terry, a mate wants to interview you about Paul Vaessen. By the way, he said you were a crap manager whilst at Arsenal though.

Thanks Matt. Though Terry got his own back, as he ordered a couple glasses of Large wine at £7.50 a shot (I could have got a bottle with dinner at Wetherspoons).

Anyhow, Terry Neill is, in many way a legend at Arsenal and also a man thoroughly detested by many fans who remember the last few years managing Arsenal. This is a man who was the youngest Arsenal captain (until Tony Adams took the record), the most capped player (until Kenny Sansom and Patrick Vieira surpassed him), youngest Spurs manager, youngest Arsenal manager, youngest sacked Arsenal manager, and a man who replaced two double winning managers in Bill Nicholson and Bertie Mee.

I’ve got to be honest, I never saw Terry player for us, as he made his debut in 1958. Therefore I asked a couple ‘veteran’ Arsenal fans on twitter about him. These were Cockney Green, Tony and Pete N. Tony said the following:-


Images via Revelations of a Football manager

Terry Neill joined Arsenal in 1959 from Bangor. Terry was a mere 17 year old and played for Bangor and importantly the boy Brigade, which are regarded as the cornerstone of Northern Ireland football’s growth.  A year later, Terry Neill made his debut on the 23rd December 1960 against Sheffield Wednesday as a centre half. When I met Terry, he told me that he was replacing Tommy Docherty* (I didn’t even know he played for us). Terry said he was pretty scared, as Tommy was Scotland captain, but came in and wished him the best which steadied his nerves enough to score on his debut. By the age of 20 (1962) Terry Neill had been made captain by manager Billy Wright. Terry later wrote of it:-

Although I was honoured to be given the job, I knew I was too young and inexperienced . I think Billy Wright saw me as a reincarnation of himself,a centre-half who was destined to lead the side from a young from an early age. With senior players like Joe Baker, George Eastham and Geoff Strong around, I did not find it easy, but I retained the job until Frank McLintock took over in the late sixties.

By 1968 Terry Neill was also captain of Northern Ireland.

Terry Neill played in the 1968 defeat in the league cup final to Leeds, but was injured for the 1969 cup final defeat to Swindon. Ian Ure took his place in the final and had a stinker (which was not rare). By mid 1969-70:-

The signing of the big blond Welshman John Roberts from Northampton – meant that Mee would soon end the Highbury careers of Terry Neill and Ian Ure.

Arsenal also had a new defender at the the back who was playing more regularly in the team, Peter Simpson.

Therefore, in July 1970, at the age of 28, Terry became player manager of Hull City. He also later became player manager of Northern Ireland. In his four years at Hull it was said:-

His success at Hull was two fold, in that the club came close to promotion and he proved adept at public relations. He was one of the first managers to make his side trot to the centre of the field before kick off and salute the crowd, a gesture unknown until the 70’s.

In his international career of 59 caps, Terry is remembered mainly for being the only player manager to score the winning goal against England at Wembley in 1972:-

By 1974, Bill Nicholson had decided to retire as manager of Spurs, with his last game in charge being a defeat in the UEFA cup final, in which the Spurs fans rioted (such a lovely bunch):-

Terry Neill then became manager of Spurs. For many an Arsenal fan though, Terry Neill’s time in charge was one we thoroughly enjoyed. In the season of 1974-5, Spurs had to win their final game to stay in the top division. Although we laughed at them finishing 19th, only one place and point above the relegation zone, our own torrid season had seen us finish a mere 16th place (we had been bottom in October). The following year, Neill got them up to 9th  (whilst we languished in 17th). Before the season had finished, Bertie Mee had handed in his resignation. Mee had wanted to stay on at the club, but Terry Neill wanted total control when he accepted the job. On the appointment of Neill, one author was moved to say:-

Mee’s replacement was a surprise [due to his lack of success at Spurs], although he followed the tradition of being an Arsenal man.

Terry’s first bit of transfer business was Malcolm Macdonald  (or supermac) from Newcastle for £333,333.34. A man with an eye for goal and a big gob as well, he was a welcome change to the team.

His first game in charge was at Highbury against newly promoted Bristol City. A pitiful Arsenal turned up (nothing unusual in the mid 1970’s). Brian Glanville said of the game:-

Will Malcolm Macdonald succeed at highbury, where City, after a groggy beginning, were efficient, quick, lively, methodical, Arsenal were inept……Macdonald had to do what little he could with pathetic service. Brady, it is true, did not play, but he has the task of Atlas.

Although not a treat season for Arsenal, there was steady improvement, to 8th place. Better still, Spurs were bottom and relegated. Also, Supermac, after saying he would score 30 in a season, failed. By one goal. We also suffered 7 defeats on the trot at the start of the year (a club record).

Not a bad first season, but if Terry was doing anything correct it was buying a new and better team. Along with Super Mac, we also signed Pat Jennings (arguably our best keeper ever in my opinion for a paltry £45,000 (and selling Jimmy Rimmer for £65,000 to Aston Villa). Alan Hudson from Stoke for £200,000, Willie Young from Spurs for £80,000. Later he would sign Alan Sunderland for £220,000 and Brian Talbot for £450,000.Terry was making a team that was on a roll.

By the following season and the 2 that followed, Terry would get us to 5 semi-finals, 4 finals and one F.A Cup win. Arsenal were one the rise. As Tyler & Soar have said of that period and the 3 consecutive F.A cup finals:-

The Gunners contrived to win the one[Manchester United]  they were expected to lose and lose the two [Ipswich & West Ham] they were expected to win.

Spectacular defeat and victories were always with Terry Neill. The season of 1979-80 sum it up all so well. A semi final win in the F.A cup, after five attempts with League champions Liverpool followed a hollow defeat to West Ham in the final. Worst still was the defeat to Valencia in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1980. In perhaps Terry Neill’s finest moment, being in charge of Arsenal against Juventus in 1980 and being the first English club to win there. Especially after having drawn 1-1 in the first leg on which Juve striker Roberto Bettega had nearly broken David O’leary leg. As said in a previous piece on the game :-

Not only that, Roberto Bettega was the star of Italian football, so Neill’s comments “we had to take the studs out of O’Leary” in the first leg had created a cauldron of hate. After the first match, Neill had added, when speaking to the Italian press, “You must be ashamed. It must be difficult admitting you are Italian tonight”. O’Leary was incensed that Bettega’s tackle was ‘criminal’ and disgusted he didn’t even come to see him after the match.

Upping the tempo was Juventus chairman Giampiero Boniperti saying “Neill’s behaviour was unacceptable and he should be fired”. Animosity between the teams had reached such heights that Juventus’ General Manager warned Arsenal fans and players that “the atmosphere will be very tense. Feelings have been inflamed by newspaper reports of what was said at Highbury. We fear our fans may be planning something for Arsenal. They are very angry that Juventus players have been called animals”.

Bettega had also tried to diffuse the situation by inviting Neill and O’Leary onto his TV show he had at the time. O’Leary refused, but Neill did go. During the interview, Bettega asked about his violent reaction to the incident. Neill responded “I am not a violent man, but I reacted to the situation as I saw it. I don’t regret a word I said”. Hardly conciliatory.

Arsenal win was secured with a player called Paul Vaessen, a mere 18 year old sub in the last 3 minutes of Normal time.

From 1980 to 1983 it all went downhill. Terry, a man who had ideas but often not the respect of the team, had arguments with Alan Hudson, after him and Supermac went on a drinking spree on an Aussie tour. His most famous fall outs with any player though was with Willie Young. Willie was a man who knew his own mind and never suffered fools Brian McDermott recalls:-

Willie was one of the funniest blokes I met in football. Even now, I look back to his arguments with Terry Neill and I just laugh. Once, in pre-season training, Terry decided to hire an aerobics instructor…….Anyway, Willie refused to do it. He just said ‘bollocks, I’m not doing it, boss. Terry said to him ‘Yes you are Willie, and if you don’t i’ll fine you £50’ This was actually quite a lot of money to a footballer back then. Still, Willie refused. Anyway Terry continued to up the fine, until it got to a full weeks’ wages, if he wouldn’t dance. At that point, Willie relented and said ‘Ok, Ok, I’m fucking dancing. Yippee!!!!’ and he jumped up in the air and waved his arms and legs around. Even the aerobics instructor nearly killed herself laughing.

By the season of 1980-81, Arsenal had lost Liam Brady for a derisory £650,000. In his biography So Far So Good : A Decade in Football, Liam Brady was critical of Terry, feeling that he promised to build a team around him but this never occurred. As Nick Hornby said in Fever pitch of Brady’s loss:-

After Brady had gone Arsenal tried out a string of midfielders, some of them were competent, some not, all of them doomed by the fact they weren’t the person they were trying to replace: between 1980 and 1986 Talbot, Rix, Rollins, Price, Gatting, Peter Nicholas, Robson, Petrovic, Charlie Nicholas, Davis and Williams… all played in central midfield.

The loss of Brady, psychologically seemed to hit the team, even though in the season of 1980-81 Arsenal finished a respectable 3rd place. The next few years for Neill’s were often called ‘the dark days’, as Arsenal signed player on the cheap, or worst, they signed Lee Chapman, even though Rix and Sansom told him that he was ‘fucking crap’ and should sign Garry Thompson. Although Arsenal get to two semi finals in 1982-3 (losing both to Manchester United), rumours had surfaced prior to the 1983 FA cup semi that the board (and David Dein especially), had been looking for a new manager. It was felt Arsenal had needed a change as Arsenal had suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to Spurs:-

Neill’s dislike of Dein had been well known and underlined in his biography, in which Neill said that Dein had started going for drinks with some of the vociferous elements of the Arsenal supporters, and also been saddling up with some of the senior members of the playing staff.

The season of 1983-4 would see Neill’s time come to an end. Terry seemed to be finding motivating the players difficult at best saying during this period:-

‘They  [the players] don’t seem to know what it is to hunger for goals and glory. On (some) days I think they just want to pick up their money and go home. But i’ll tell you know; we’ll finish in the top six again this season. Whether or not I’ll be around to see it is another matter.’ They did finish 6th, and Neill was not around to see it.

Terry’s downfall started with the defeat at home to Walsall in the league cup, almost 50 years to the day Arsenal had lost to Walsall in the FA cup.

After the game Terry said to the gathered press (whilst the fans screamed for his resignation outside) :-

I’ll never know how the team that beat Spurs [in the previous round at WHL] could then go out and perform like a bunch of pantomime horses.

A defeat to WBA and WHU followed and Terry Neill was sacked. Rumours flew that Arsenal were going for such high profile names as Jack Charlton and Malcolm Macdonald. Instead, we were left with Don Howe for 2 and a half years.

So, in writing this piece I was struck by how ‘unlucky’ Neill was. I was also taken by something Tim wrote about Neill recently:-

With Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup and facing Championship side Wigan, some people are already invoking memories of Walsall and Neill. Those comparisons seem a bit of a stretch. Wigan is not Walsall, Arsenal in 4th place is not the same as Arsenal in 16th, and Terry Neill won just one trophy in his tenure at Arsenal whilst Arsene Wenger has won eleven and we simply cannot discount Wenger’s record securing Champions League football.

Tim is correct in the league position and cup wins, but in his period in charge, Terry Neill got us to 7 semifinals in 7 years (2 Milk cup, 4 FA cup and 1 Cup winners lost). Of those Semi-finals Neill faced Liverpool twice, Manchester United twice, Wolves, Juventus and Leyton Orient. Of those, only Orient could be seen as an easy win. Wenger, over the same period, Wenger has had 17 semi-finals in 17 years (one a year, the same as Neill), losing 7 (two of these being to Middlesbrough and Wigan).  Terry Neill put us back challenging after the last years of Bertie Mee and he faced only one ‘poor’ team in the semi’s, whilst Wenger has faced Middlesbrough twice, Wigan twice, Sheffield United, Lens and Villarreal in 6 semifinals.

Also, I feel Neill did something Wenger has never done. Twice. Bought two goalkeepers that are in my top five in Pat Jennings and John Lukic for less than £150,000 combined. Wenger has bough Richard Wright and Lukasz Fabianski for £7,000,000 combined. If Terry failed it was his strikers in comparison to Wenger. I mean, none of his strikers ever scored over thirty (Wenger had RVP (and Adebayor, e.d.) and Thierry Henry to score more than 30 per season). Neill also wasted so much money (like Wenger has to……Francis Jeffers anyone). If you want to see just look below at my own calculations.

Terry Neill Successful signings Price Terry Neill Successful signings Price
Pat Jennings £45,000 Ray Hankin £20,000
Kenny Sansom £1,000,000 John Hawley £50,000
Brian Talbot £450,000 John Kosmina £30,000
Alan Sunderland £220,000 Peter Nicholas £500,000
Willie Young £80,000 George Wood £140,000
Malcolm Macdonald £333,333 Clive Allen £1,000,000
John Lukic £75,000 Lee Chapman £500,000
Vladimir Petrovic £40,000 Tommy Caton £500,000
John Hollins £10,000 Total £2,740,000
Alan Hudson £200,000
Tony Woodcock £500,000
Charlie Nicholas £800,000
Total £3,753,333

Ultimately though, I’ve got to say Terry gets a bad time from fans. Yes. His last few years were dreary, but when he started he came in with new idea’s (clapping the fans). He tried to revitalised the club, but as he told me when I spoke to him last January I said the following and got this response:-

I also asked about John Hawley and Ian Rankin. Spurling said their nickname by the fans at the time was the H-bums they were so bad. When I asked I thought Terry might not want to discuss them, but he was quite open.

“Oh, Ian Rankin. I think at that stage I couldn’t see the wood for the trees, a bit like the present boss. [my italics]‘** I asked what he meant; ‘well I wasn’t making the best signings for Arsenal, though Rankin was Don’s idea. When you manage a club, you get too close and can’t always see clearly.

I thought that was a pretty honest outlook on his and the present managers problems at a club like Arsenal.

*Tommy Docherty is one of the ‘characters’ of football. Most likely the third best scottish manager at Manchester United, until he was sacked for having an affair with the physio’s wife. Check David Tossell’s biography on him.

**During the interview, Terry was nothing but respectful of Arsenal, its fans and employee’s. Therefore, I am in no way insinuating that Terry had an axe to grind with his previous employers.


Wrighty wants Arsenal to buy Chicharito and here’s why

Chances are that you already know that Javier Hernandez Balcazar, better known as Chicharito, is the 25 year old Mexican striker who plays for Manchester United, who often comes off the bench, and who has a penchant for nabbing late winning goals. He is also a pacy forward who gets himself into great positions to score goals, is hugely efficient with his shooting because of that, and will make any team he plays for instantly better.

Chicharito burst onto the scene in a way that would become a hallmark of his career at Man U: he came on as a substitute for Wayne Rooney and scored a goal. In the Community Shield, against Chelsea, Chicharito was a half time sub for Rooney and immediately his pace gave Chelsea’s defenders the fits. A ball from Scholes played Hernandez in and the little wizard nearly opened his assists account with a reverse ball to Berbatov. He would later assist himself when a miss-hit shot bounced off his own face and into the goal.

Hernandez was kind of ridiculed for that first goal but it showed off one of his best assets, that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. How many times have we Arsenal fans heard the announcers say “cross comes in and no one is at the far post!” Chicharito is that guy who is constantly at the far post.

He’s also that guy who seems to have a voodoo curse over Chelsea. In 13 appearances against the Pensioners he’s scored 8 goals. Chelsea is the team he most likes to score against, with Wigan a second best 6. That said, he never scored against Spurs, City, or Arsenal in 15 appearances

Team Apps Goals
Chelsea 13 8
Wigan 6 6
Stoke 9 5
Liverpool 7 3
Spurs 6 0
City 5 0
Arsenal 4 0

In four years at Man U, Chicharito has only played 4662 minutes of Premier League play. There are 3420 minutes in a single season, which means that Chicharito has only played 1.3 seasons of football yet he has an astonishing 37 goals in that time. That’s a goal every 126 minutes. To put that in context, Robin van Persie averaged a goal every 135 minutes for Arsenal and Olivier Giroud averages one every 202 minutes.

In all competitions, Chicharito has made 149 appearances for United and scored 59 goals. In 7975 total minutes, he averages a goal every 135 minutes. He has also only been subbed on 67 times in those 149 appearances, meaning that he has 55% starting rate. And he has been subbed off 38 times meaning that he has only played a full 90 for United on 44 occasions. 30% of his total games for United have been a full 90.

In that regard he’s similar to Lukas Podolski. Podolski has 68 appearances for Arsenal, 16 of which have been late subs, 42 of which have seen the German player subbed off, and 10 times he’s played the full 90. Well, ok, not really that similar since Podolski has played the full 90 in less than 15% of his appearances.

He is also similar to Podolski in that he is an absolutely clinical finisher. Over his United career he has a 4 shots per goal average, converts a whopping 25% of his total shots, and gets 49% of his shots on target. Podolski is actually slightly better in terms of finishing needing just an average of 2.9 shots per goal, scoring almost 30% of his overall shots, and yet only putting 42% on target.

Podolski is also better at providing for his teammates, both players have a total of 13 assists for their teams, but Chicharito has played nearly twice as many minutes.

But all of those stats miss out on the real reason why Wrighty has his eye on Chicharito. Yes, he has pace. Yes he has a decent scoring record. Yes, he fills the box with great runs and is always hungry to score goals. But he probably catches the eye because he has won or rescued the game for Man U 25 times in his 4 years at the club.

Those numbers break down to about 17% of his appearances result in something dramatic that he does. Podolski has a similar but slightly lower percentage at 14%. During Gareth Bale’s £100m season at Tottenham he scored 9 winning Premier League goals for a return of 26%, or 1 in every 4 appearances he was scoring a winner. That was a wild season too. Without Bale, Spurs would have dropped 25 points that year and instead of fighting for 4th place, would have been in 9th. Still, 17% is not bad, it’s a little better than scoring a winner in one in six appearances.

Questions over how Chicharito would fit into the Arsenal system and whether he would start or sub are all legitimate. How would he fit? Well, in the games he scored goals he often started as the center forward with Rooney in behind him. It’s a small lineup but takes advantage of his pace and movement up front.

Wenger seems reluctant to play with a Bocephus sticker on his 442 and has instead opted for a 433 or 451 since the breakup of the Invincibles. Chicharito is not a hold up forward so he won’t be able to do what Giroud is doing for Arsenal this season. And questions over whether Chicharito can dribble past players on the wing remain since he has never shown himself to be much of a dribbler for Man U and he’s also not got the wicked cross of someone like Podolski. However, Liverpool and Everton have used variations on 352 to great effect this season and none of the forwards they are deploying are hold-up players (Lukaku could be but they don’t really play that way). There are times when Arsenal have so many players in the opposition box that it looks more like a 244 so maybe a switch to 3 at the back would be an improvement.

I will say that Chicharito’s reputation as a late game sub winner isn’t really justified. He does much better when he starts:

Total Games 149
Starter 82
Sub 67
Games he scored in as a starter 33
Games he scored in as a sub 15
% as Starter 40%
% as sub 22%
Games won as Starter 15
Games won as Sub 6
% winners as Starter 18%
% winners as Sub 9%

My gut doubts that Arsenal will sign Chicharito unless something very strange happens this summer. Still, there have been a number of interesting transfers between Man U, Arsenal, and Chelsea over the last two years and I can’t rule anything out. Chichi is 25 years old, entering his prime, United are going to have a new manager and management team, Hernandez is only contracted until 2016, he was just very harshly treated by Moyes, and is demanding more playing time. A move seems very likely to me. To Arsenal?

I’d love to have him.


Image and phrase "Cesc la Vie" copyright and Tim Bostelle, no use without permission

Follow up to yesterday’s Liverpool-Arsenal article

Yesterday’s article has sparked a lot of debate, some name calling, and an interesting reaction from Arsenal fans on both side of the supposed divide. I want to follow up on a few thoughts.

1. The release clause: I think the Liverpool fans’ absolutist position on Suarez not having a release clause is based solely on the PFA interpretation. But it’s important to remember that the PFA ruling is just one interpretation. The other interpretation is that John Henry has bragged that Suarez had a release clause, Suarez and his team of lawyers believed they had a release clause, and Arsenal and their team of lawyers believed he had a release clause. What never happened was an actual test of that clause, through the courts, which Henry knew that Suarez wouldn’t do in a World Cup year. So, based on my evidence, I firmly believe there was a clause and that Liverpool refused to honor that clause. Based on the other side’s evidence, likely the PFA interpretation, they say there was no clause. Since we will never see this tested in court I can stand by my interpretation and be correct and so can they.

2. There’s a common misinterpretation that I am arguing against Arsenal spending money. This is almost certainly because I included the paragraph at the end about Arsenal’s bad luck with injuries and had earlier ridiculed Liverpool’s spending. This misconception happens because certain arguments about Arsenal and spending have become cliched. But here’s something you might not know: one can hold two beliefs simultaneously. For example, the argument that Arsenal’s injury record hurt our chances in the League is rock solid. But so is the argument that Arsenal should have bought more this summer and perhaps even in January.

The fact is that I have been calling for Arsenal to spend money for two years now, to the tune of £100m+. This is money that the club have (they don’t have to rack up debts) and with their public proclamations of newfound financial ability and dry powder have fashioned into a golden albatross to hang around Wenger’s neck. One could, then, read my lamentations about Liverpool’s spending not as a cry against spending but a cry in favor of spending because it is, it is again both.

Part of the reason Arsenal had such a huge problem with injuries in midfield was because, as Wenger himself admitted, Arsenal didn’t rotate enough. Ramsey, in particular was a huge miss and Wenger said ”Maybe we overplayed him a little bit, we should have rested him before he was injured.” Since I know how this works and that you won’t like that quote you can also go back to early December, before the injury to Ramsey, and see that Wenger knew Ramsey was getting tired. He even rested him on the 11th, just two weeks before he picked up the strain.

And there were a lot of injuries all at the same time, plus Giroud was caught with another woman, Flamini’s suspension, and suddenly things went from bad to worse. Some of that is down to luck, some of that is down to the fact that we didn’t buy a Luis Gustavo or Sven Bender in the summer, some is down to overplaying certain players, some is down to buying Kallstrom in January and having him come to us crocked. It is all of those things and spending some money would have helped a lot of them.

3. Here’s what I want to say about Financial Fair Play – Swiss Ramble thinks Liverpool will make it just fine under the FFP tests because they will be able to include their Champions League money, their increased revenue from partnerships, and their increase in prize and television money. Still, though, he was clear that they will not be able to write off the stadium planning money and that they will need to include the accounts for the last two years and their losses of £90m. We have to see how much more revenue they are bringing in with their new deals but I almost wonder if they will be able to spend a little on transfers and still break even? What they won’t be able to do is lose £50m again next season and not run afoul of FFP.


The reaction to this article has been interesting. I wrote it in a very open fashion which encourages multiple interpretations because that is how I feel — I see almost every side of every argument about Arsenal at the moment. This open writing allowed people to read into it whatever they wanted. For the Liverpool fans they wanted something to get upset at because that’s where their comfort zone is. For others they could read into my article a sense that financial prudence is the right way to go, or that financial prudence is the wrong way to go. But what is truly fascinating is that in over 100 comments I didn’t read a single person griping about my assertion that Arsenal should have done more to keep Cesc. It was, for me, the most controversial position in the whole piece and yet no one seemed to notice because they were too busy arguing contract law and the morality of spending money. 

But winning the League isn’t about moral arguments or arguing contract laws, it’s about having the best players, keeping the best players, and getting the best out of those players. Something that Arsenal haven’t done well for at least 4 years now.