Literally Arsenal until I die!

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I have supported the Arsenal since I could understand the rules of the game, was taken to my first game aged 10 and have been going on my own steam since I was 14. Now aged 47 I consider myself as passionate as the next Arsenal fan and have supported the team through many highs and lows but recently I have found my love of the club deepening.

I write about the Arsenal has a hobby but in November 2013 I was fortunate enough to be asked by the daughter of a true Arsenal legend, Geordie Armstrong, to collaborate on a book about her father. Hence I embarked on a journey that has left me pinching myself daily. I decided to build on the tributes sent to his family when Geordie after 10 years back at the club as reserve team manager, when he passed away so suddenly and tragically in 2000. He collapsed on the training pitch at Colney with his players, a pitch now so fittingly named ‘The George Armstrong Memorial pitch.’

The George Armstrong Memorial Pitch Stone
The George Armstrong Memorial Pitch Stone

Rather than writing a conventional biography I am telling his story by interviewing and obtaining contributions from those he influenced through his career. I have spoken with those he played with in the 1960s and 1970s. Those with whom he returned Arsenal to European glory and a domestic double, those he influenced as a senior pro and right backs he tortured with his pace and trickery. I have interviewed journalists who reported on him, fans who worshiped him and countless Players who he coached to successful career at Arsenal or beyond.

I hope the book when it is published in October 2014 will be a compelling read but I can confirm that it has enriched what it means to me to be a supporter of Arsenal FC. Why because it brought to life the reality of what Bob Wilson meant when he said “One an Arsenal man, always and Arsenal man” and how David Rocastle felt when he said “Remember what you are, who you are and who you represent.”  For those like George Armstrong and those like him Arsenal was not an employer but a way of life.

As supporters we often hear of the Arsenal way or of Arsenal tradition but to those who have played for the club or even just been coached there it is a reality and it has become obvious that to so many, Geordie Armstrong was the embodiment of what it meant.  Stewart Houston told me that on arrival at Arsenal as a coach it was Geordie who took it upon himself to ‘Arsenalify’ him. George Graham told me he brought him back in 1990 to imbue the ‘Arsenal way’ in the young professionals. Numerous players he coached felt they owe their ‘Arsenal Education’ to him.

Geordie delivering the 'Arsenal Education'
Geordie delivering the ‘Arsenal Education’

The Arsenal Education and the Arsenal way are about being winners but in the right way. On the football pitch from a young age it is about football intelligence and being ahead of the game in your thinking. It is about a thought process as well as technique and skills, but is also about respect and conducting yourself in a certain way. The Arsenal way is to develop not just better footballers but better people.  This is the ‘Arsenal Education’ that Geordie Armstrong and so many of his generation stood for and represented.

I sincerely hope my Arsenal is still his Arsenal and that we are still the club he served for 17 years and 621 games as a player and 10 years as a coach. Perry Groves summed it up to me:

“His enthusiasm and love for the game and for the club made him a legend in my eyes. He simply ate slept and breathed football and Arsenal.”

Geordie Armstrong was the Arsenal and the Arsenal was Geordie Armstrong. I fear that the game has changed so much that we may not see that club affinity in the future. I hope I am wrong and that as fans we can again feel a bond with our heroes on the pitch. For those like Geordie for the 13 years he was not at Arsenal whilst successful coaching elsewhere I suspect he would never have felt quite whole, like something was missing.  Some professionals like Geordie have a second chance to be at their spiritual home as a player and as a coach and trust me they like him, Wilson, Rice, Keown and others feel blessed. For them Arsenal was integral to their very being and I suspect it is to millions of Gunners around the world. However, when you claim you are Arsenal till you die think of Geordie Armstrong who literally was.

“Thank you George Armstrong for enriching my life and the lives of all those you touched.”  Bob Wilson

The new book ‘Geordie Armstrong on the Wing – Memories of George Armstrong, an Arsenal Legend, by myself in collaboration with Jill Armstrong (@Touchofpowder) can be pre-ordered here now.

Until next time

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

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12 comments

  1. for years I watched and loved the way George played his football.
    left wing, right wing and full back in every game he played.
    he gave every thing to the team and supporters,
    we could do with a player and a man like that to day.

    Spanish john

  2. Georgie
    Georgie Armstrong
    Georgie Armstrong on the wing

    Now in these flippant times this man does the word LEGEND credit.

  3. I grew up watching little Geordie Armstrong he was my favourite player he always seemed to give 110% . The saying Arsenal till I die rings truer with supporters I think . I got taken to Highbury when I was around 5 by my dad who once I was old enough to stand in the schoolboys enclosure took me to most games after which I went by myself .I think those first few visits condemned me to a life time of supporting Arsenal but it could of been any club .the impression a young fan gets on his first few visits normally means it will be there club for life ….No transfers away for us no sent out on loan to support the spuds for 6 months your hooked for life for most people the support of your team lasts longer than some marriages I know I couldent walk away from the Arsenal ever if I wanted to . They have a hold on me that I could never release . I have been like many supporters the other side of the world but still found a bar or hotel at some ungodly hour to watch our games or paid silly money for the English news papers for the results .This is what our support and the team does to us ..that’s all supporters not just us Gooners .Once hooked you have no choice your a supporter until you die. Im my case a gooner till I die ,its my life they are in my heart my soul and in my very being . im stuck with it like most other supporters until I die.

  4. I love watching the old footage, and so much was made of Charlie George, John Radford, Ray Kennedy, Frank McLintock, Bob Wilson in goal, and George Graham as a player. In each case, rightly so. But every time I watch, the player who impresses me the most was George Armstrong. His corners, his crosses, his dribbling, his footwork, all would have made him, despite being short, every bit as good a player today, when the best players in the world go to England to prance on the biggest stage. If Alf Ramsey hadn’t been so committed to “wingless wonders,” Armstrong could have been the kind of player to make England much better able to maintain the momentum of 1966. Considering the injury to Theo Walcott, Arsenal could certainly have used a player like Armstrong this season — not so much for speed, but for setup play.

    Because of the worldwide exposure, and his ability to take on anyone (including in the 1969-70 and 1970-71 Fairs Cup and 1971-72 European Cup runs), Armstrong would have been a much bigger star today, and it would be totally deserved.

  5. What a player, what a man.
    I remember watching ITV s the big match on a Sunday afternoon in 1970 on our black and white tv. I became aware of my Dad, who wasn’t really that fussed about his football suddenly watching intently.
    ‘Whose that little fella? Does he ever stop running, tackling back and working’
    ‘No he never does’
    ‘Well perhaps we have got a chance in this World Cup thing then’

    Almost criminal that Geordie never got a chance for England. Surely the biggest victim of Sir Alf’s wingless wonders. Massive mistake massive loss.
    Cliche I know but none of todays players are worthy to clean his boots, which would rather suit Geordie as I seem to remember he always insisted on cleaning his own.
    Can’t wait to get that book. Long overdue.

    Pete H

    1. Thanks Peter. Regardless of the quality or otherwise of my writing you will enjoy this book.

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