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From en.wikipedia.org

Once again we are privileged to have another Guest Post from Ray Coggin. This piece evokes memories of mid-seventies railway travel to far flung away fixtures and its inherent vagaries and will ring many bells for those who have partaken in such delights. We would be delighted if you feel able to share your own memories of the delights of the ‘football specials’ from yesteryear.

One of the great things about following football in Britain has always been the FA Challenge Cup. It has given fans of all clubs, large and tiny, the chance to compete on equal terms in a competition that has thrilled millions all over the world since the gentlemen of the Wanderers beat the military might of the Royal Engineers at the Oval in 1871. The competition was the brainchild of Charles W. Alcock, the son of a Sunderland ship broker who resettled his family in Chingford. He wouldn’t have known at the time but he would nowadays be able to see the Emirates Stadium from the hill behind his house, it’s the glamorous looking stadium just beyond the Toilet Bowl building.

It’s never been a particularly inviting enterprise to drag yourself to Bolton on a cold wet Wednesday in January for a league match when your team is just above the relegation zone and fighting for not much more than not to be on Match of the Day last again, when you’ve already fallen asleep. For the FA Cup, it has always been different. 

In February 1973 Arsenal had already made it through to the fifth round by despatching Leicester at the second attempt and then beating Bradford at Highbury. Now a trip to Carlisle beckoned, the northern outpost of English football. Two pals from work and myself decided to make the trip north and take a sleeper train from Euston. I had prepared meticulously for our adventure and would leave no stone unturned, bringing everything ‘the man about town’ would need on what would seem like a Grand Tour. 

And so, it came to pass that armed with a large holdall containing some sandwiches, a couple of bags of crisps, a bottle opener and twenty bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, we set off on our journey. Our group consisted of Dave, a locomotive secondman based at Stratford in East London, Les, another secondman from Kings Cross and myself, also a secondman based at Kings Cross. The holdall was by definition quite heavy in its fully laden state and sounded like a bottle bank being emptied every time I put it down.

We met up at Euston among the early evening commuters on Friday the 23rd and went for a drink in the station bar while we waited for our train to be ready to board. There was some amusement at my luggage and the weight of the bag was something we had to take in turns to share the burden. Soon we were being settled into our berths on the Glasgow Sleeper by a chubby little attendant, about forty-five years old with tightly cropped hair, who when he found out we were all railwaymen seemed to go out of his way to give us extra attention. At least I thought it was because we were railway colleagues and not just three young men out for a good time.  For his efforts though, he was rewarded with a nice big bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.

We set off on our adventure as the train snaked steadily out of Euston and up the hill to Camden and on out of London. For the first hour or so the three of us sat in one cabin and made fools of ourselves laughing and drinking and making far too much noise. Our attendant politely asked us to “please shut up gents!” so soon after, we turned into our bunks. Sleeper trains were restricted to sixty miles per hour and the slow pace made a soporific rhythm that soon had us snoring. Before we knew it, the attendant was waking us with tea and biscuits as we were pulling into Carlisle. He told us to take our time, but he would be leaving us as we were going to be shunted into a bay platform and could stay there until about eight o’clock, while he and the train continued on to Glasgow. 

Eventually we got up and made our way out into the cold bright morning excited to have a look around. Dave now strode manfully along the road in front of Les and myself chanting “Trouble at Mill!” I seem to remember that it was hilarious at half eight in the morning with no one paying any attention. We decided that we should go and have a look at the castle as one way of wasting time until three o’clock. The holdall full of beer was still being lugged along with us wherever we went. Now a little lighter but of course the more we walked, the heavier it got. It went with us into the castle and then a café and then some shops and a pub as we clanked our way around what was then the County of Cumberland’s principal city. Oddly not much of it had been drunk or at least it didn’t seem so, until I thought that if we were being pursued by the authorities for an unspeakable crime, they only had to follow the trail of empty Newcastle Brown bottles. After a pint or three in a local hostelry we decided we should make our way to the ground and get ourselves a decent position on the terraces.

From picclick.co.uk

Soon the familiar aroma of stewed onions and hot dogs alerted us to fact that we were approaching the stadium. We bought our programmes and then began to worry about how we would smuggle our enormous bag of beer into the ground without being challenged. “Create a diversion,” suggested Les. “As you’re going through the turnstile, I’ll divert the bloke’s attention and just push through,” he said. 

We agreed this might be a ruse. In the event I lifted the bag over the gate without anyone saying a thing. The terrace behind the goal was already beginning to fill and we found ourselves a space to the left of the goal about five yards back from the fence. The bag was deposited on the ground and we stood over it as the crowd gathered around us. I remember watching as the ground all around began to populate with friendly looking faces. Sheep farmers, truck drivers, vets and red-faced locals looked over in bemusement at us singing hooligans from London. As the excursions from London arrived, hordes of red and white clad Arsenal fans made their way in en-masse and soon we were a chanting mob packed together behind the goal at the Petteril end of the ground, named for the River Petteril that runs behind it. 

Disappointingly for us, we learned that our goalkeeper Bob Wilson who was probably one of the bravest keepers that we have ever had was missing and his place was taken by Geoff Barnett. Geoff Barnett was a decent keeper that was never trusted as a number one and had been signed as a rapid replacement for Bob Wilson in 1969 when Bob had broken his arm. So, although Geoff was a capable performer, losing Bob wasn’t a good omen. Sadly, Geoff was claimed by Covid-19 aged 74 whilst living in Florida in January 2021.

The game didn’t take the shape that we had hoped for as Arsenal struggled to get any sort of rhythm going. Roared on by the home crowd, Carlisle gave Arsenal no respect as waves of attacks pressed the league leaders. After about twenty-three minutes Ray Train, who had a magnificent match went into a tackle with Peter Storey that left Storey with a badly gashed ankle. Storey was replaced by Sammy Nelson. The incident seemed to unsettle the Gunners as Carlisle imposed themselves more on the game. Then Frank McLintock brought down Owen in the penalty area but referee Tony Morrisey waved away the claim with the home crowd baying for a penalty. From the clearance Arsenal built an attack as they surged towards us at the Petteril end and from the right of Carlisle’s area Pat Rice knocked a pass to the unmarked Alan Ball who smashed it into the top right corner of the net. 

Our crowd behind the goal leaped into the air and all surged forward as people stumbled over the beer bag. Horrified, I bent down to save it as bodies thumped down on my back. With a loud jangle of bottles, I managed to drag it in front of me again as we all straightened up. The jolly red faces opposite now glared angry stares and shouted expletives at us and gestured with their hands that they should have been two up, or something like that. Our joy was marred almost on the stroke of half-time when, with Carlisle continuing to press, a cross came in from Gorman on the left and Martin headed an equaliser past Barnett.

The second half continued much like the first as the second division side pushed hard to gain the advantage, until controversy struck again. A long ball down the left was flagged offside by the linesman but it went unheeded by referee Morrisey and Winstanley put the ball out of play for a corner while Morrisey waved away the protestations. The corner was floated in and Frank McLintock powered his header home from a similar position to that from which Martin had scored.  The 2-1 score remained in Arsenal’s favour and we gave a large sigh of relief at the final whistle.

As had become customary by this time, we remained on the terrace as the Carlisle supporters made their way away from the ground. We assembled outside and waited for the police to escort us back to Carlisle station, marching more like defeated prisoners of war than victorious football supporters deflecting the jibes and taunts from the locals. As if it was actually our fault that our team had controversially beaten them!

One of the advantages of travelling with railway staff tickets was that we could choose almost any train to go on, except for the football specials on which our tickets weren’t valid. It was also a time of great unrest on the railway and footplate staff were engaged in a work-to-rule protest. That was a perfect way to implement industrial action by diligently applying the railway’s own rules which were made to run the railway in a safe and efficient manner. Trains at the time ran a bit haphazardly due to the rules being applied rigidly. It was under such a situation that we now found ourselves waiting for whatever train to London would arrive first. We didn’t have to wait long before a delayed Glasgow to London express, running about ninety minutes late, rolled into the up platform behind a class 40 diesel. Les, Dave and I thought, happy days! This train was about twenty-five minutes in front of the one we were expecting and would clearly get us home earlier than expected. 

This, in time, proved to be something of a miscalculation. Now the class 40 with two-thousand horsepower at its disposal was not the type of locomotive that would normally have been assigned to a train of this type, as at this time these expresses were the domain of the much more powerful class 50’s. A pair of class 50s would have given five thousand-four-hundred horsepower and so right from the start there was a distinct disadvantage.

A lot of people joined the train at Carlisle despite many fans not having tickets valid for the train, but there were still quite a few seats available. Joining the train towards the rear, Dave, Les and I made our way forward towards the restaurant car clanking our way along with the holdall which still had a few bottles left for the journey home. The restaurant car was filling quite quickly, but we found seats and were immediately joined by three other men who had also just boarded. I shoved my still heavy bag under the seat as we all made ourselves comfortable as the train picked up speed and soon a tired looking attendant came and took our orders for meals and drinks. 

The train made its way south at a very moderate speed for around twenty minutes before it slowed down again and soon came to a halt. At first, we didn’t take much notice, but a few minutes passed and there was no sign of progress. We had already entered into conversation with our travelling companions and asked if they had been at the game which they confirmed they had been. Les asked our new friends what they thought of the match and did they, like us, think we were a bit lucky and had got away with it today? They all agreed that Arsenal had indeed been fortunate to win and avoid a replay or worse. On further interrogation, we discovered that these guys were no normal fans but, indeed, they were sports writers who had been covering the game. On hearing this, Les immediately asked who they had made man-of-the-match? Unanimously they all nominated Frank McLintock who had scored the winner. We disagreed and suggested that it should be Ray Train the Carlisle man who had given Arsenal a very uncomfortable afternoon. The others looked at each other and then the guy on my right said, “Probably, but it wouldn’t make a great headline in London as few readers would know the name, so McLintock would be a better seller”. We laughed at that sentiment as it seemed a bit wrong, especially as they actually agreed with us.

Our meals had been served and as we were clearly enjoying each other’s company a round of beers was ordered by my neighbour on my right and included us three, by now a little weary from our travels. More formal introductions were made and we now understood that beside me was Ian Hart of the London Evening News. Opposite me, sitting beside Les, was David Miller of the Sunday Express and on the other side of the aisle opposite Dave, was Frank Taylor of the Daily Mirror. We three made it known that we were railway footplatemen and didn’t waste any time explaining our position to our neighbouring members of the press in regard to the long running disputes with the British Railways Board. As is normal in most of these cases none of the men understood the reasons for the dispute or what in fact “working to rule” meant.

The train had been stopped for some time at a signal, somewhere in the wild Westmoreland countryside. We explained to our companions that there could have been a number of reasons for the delay. It could be a problem further ahead that was hampering our progress, we may have experienced a locomotive breakdown, or the driver had encountered a reason for not breaking the rules by travelling any further! The last explanation caused a bit of eyebrow raising, but eventually the guard came through the train to inform us that the loco had suffered an electrical fault. After discussions with the signalmen, it was decided to attempt to move again rather than wait for assistance, which could prove to be a long time arriving.     

Eventually the train began to move forward again, but didn’t gain much speed at all and twice came to a halt before giving up and waiting for assistance. This finally arrived in the form of a class 45 loco coming to rescue us all the way from Preston and eventually getting to the front of our train after a wait of an hour or more. During this period, the restaurant which had been in service for over four hours closed. They told us that they had run out of most things and there was no beer left! This was very disappointing news about the beer mostly, but at least we had eaten. 

Before the disappointment of no other round of drinks could sink in, Les piped up. “Ray’s got some beers.” Dave’s wide grin countered the look of surprise on the other faces. I had pretty much forgotten about the stash under the seat, but reached under and dragged the bag to under my feet. I reached in and pulled out a couple of bottles, handed one to Ian and one to Les. Again, I pulled out more bottles until we all had one each. “How do we open these, Ray?” asked David Miller. I fumbled in the bag once more and found the bottle-opener and passed it around the smiling, grateful faces at our tables. “Cheers Ray,” said Ian Hart, which was repeated by the others. I raised my bottle and echoed “Cheers lads, now here’s the bad news. There are two bottles left and we may have to fight each other for them unless they open up again.” 

We settled into conversation about the game we had all been at and pondered why Arsenal struggled against a team that would ultimately escape relegation from the second division by just one point that season. By now our train, although still on the move, was travelling slowly and losing more time. Our conversations had begun to be constantly interrupted by people trying to get some response from the restaurant staff as they began to look for refreshments. It wasn’t long before tempers began to get frayed at the lack of any supplies. Luckily, apologies and minor explanations proved to keep most of the anger at bay, for the time being anyway.

We limped into Preston and the dead engine was towed off by the 45 and we gained an electric loco and made better progress. By now some of the terminally bored and irritated Arsenal fans on the train had become a bit raucous and constantly walked up and down the train, some the worse for drink, and began to be a nuisance with chanting and annoying other passengers. The kitchen had been broken into and some things found and removed amongst which was a roast chicken. Instead of devouring the whole chicken they began to use it as a football and started kicking it around the restaurant car. While this was going on some people including us began to protest and succeeded in convincing the chicken ballers to leave our carriage. 

From twitter.com

Things got worse when we were diverted via Wolverhampton making extra stops there and at Birmingham New Street where police were waiting on the platform. They boarded the train, but the rowdy young men had the sense to lie low until the police left, satisfied that there was no action to take. However, on leaving Birmingham around one in the morning and remember we had been on this train already for five and a half hours, the rowdy behaviour immediately began once again. As the train gained speed somebody pulled the emergency communication cord and brought the train to a stand-still. The guard made his way through the train to ascertain where the cord had been pulled. Back in those days the communication cord didn’t sound an alarm anywhere, it simply had the same effect as the driver’s brake lever, it applied the brakes. Our guard was able to reset it and after a delay of about eight minutes we got going again, only for the cord to be pulled again. Back came the guard but this time Dave, Les and I made ourselves known to the guard and offered help. We found the cord had been pulled in the first-class coach forward of ours and after coming to a stand, opened a door and reset the valve on the end of the coach. This happened four or five times between Birmingham and Coventry, but each time from a different coach. Each time whoever found the opened valve, indicated by the hiss of escaping air, reset the valve and we made our way again. We had spoken to the angry loco crew who walked back to investigate and they agreed to our assistance and as soon as the brake pressure rose again they would continue. 

Eventually we arrived at Coventry and the train was boarded once more by the waiting Transport Police. Dave, Les and I had returned to our seats, but the police were looking for troublemakers and carted people away, marching the protesting prisoners along the platform. It would appear that they had boarded the first class coach next to the restaurant where we were sat. For some reason, a director of the Arsenal Football Club who had been sitting in a first class compartment in the preceding carriage, allegedly consuming some of his personally sourced alcohol, had demonstrated his angry objections to the police incursion only to find himself being frogmarched along the platform with the other captives to the amusement of our press corps friends.

Once more the train restarted its weary journey, thankfully without further interruption by piratical passengers. Now though it was so late that any semblance of a routing path had disappeared into the ether. Passengers who had boarded the train in Glasgow must by now have lost the will to live! They had briefly visited three cities that weren’t in the plan when they started out and now experienced frequent signal stops to allow trains that were still somewhere near their schedule to take precedence. Now Rugby and Northampton would be added to the list of detours before we finally limped into Euston station around half past three on Sunday morning. 

Our journey had been a marathon and exhausting. We had practically forgotten the football match despite progressing in the F.A. Cup. The disruption and the drama on our train was tempered slightly by the honour of meeting Frank Taylor, a Munich survivor from the terrible crash of ’58. Luckily for me, David Miller was going my way and offered to give me a lift home in his car that was parked at the station so the now empty holdall and I finally got home around half past four in the morning. 

128 Drinks to “A Slow Train to London”

  1. 1
    Bathgooner says:

    Great stuff, Ray. A fine tale of yesteryear.

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Great stuff and both a trip back in time and a reminder of what it used to be like to follow Arsenal on the road ( or in fact on the line!) . I’ve been to Brunton Park and was amazed how rural it was around the ground. Not the grim industrial environment I had expected . I didn’t lug any beer with me though !
    Thanks for the memory Ray .

  3. 3
    ClockEndRider says:

    An epic tale, Ray -That Palin bloke had it easy!

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    An engrossing read, Ray. The past really is a different country.

    A burst of Flanders and Swan’s The Slow Train in honour of your return journey.

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    The new season has already begun.Arsenal won their first game of 2021/22 today .
    Details are attached in Jeorge Bird’s excellent report
    Report – Jimi Gower hits brace; Davies makes debut as Arsenal U18s thrash Chelmsford City

  6. 6
    Las says:

    Thanks Ray, very fine writing.
    Enjoyed to the last bit.

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    Bravo the Grand Tour to Carlisle.

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    Fabulous job Ray. One wonders what time those journos filed their copy! Did you stay a railwayman your whole career?

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    Meanwhile, in Rome, Come on the England!

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    Good stuff so far. Be great to get a second goal before half time.

  11. 11
    Countryman100 says:

    Looks like I’m on my own here tonight. Too late for Matt.

    Good first half from England but need the second goal.

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    We’ve seen the good and less good side of England in that half .
    We look very dangerous going forward but we are very conservative in possession and a couple of times they caught us on the break. But at 1-0 up you wouldn’t change the formation. Maybe just tweak the positivity button

  13. 13
    Countryman100 says:

    In Foden, Saka, Grealish, Sancho and Maddison we have a truly talented core to this English team.

  14. 14
    Countryman100 says:

    The slab head has struck!!

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    We are Harrying them to death! 😃

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Game over. Get off everyone on a yellow card.

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    Time to get your coat TTG!

  18. 18
    Countryman100 says:

    Luke Shaw has had a top game

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Sensational, marvellous performance. And Saka, Foden and Grealish never got on the pitch! We have an England team to be proud of.

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    Well said C100
    That was a terrific performance. Ukraine weren’t great but nobody else did that to them. THIS is the golden generation not the Beckham / Owen / Gerrard era

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    I hate to be a killjoy, but that was a sterile game of football, with England basically playing out the last 84 minutes. Three cases of poor defending for goals two to four. I accept you can only beat what is in front of you, but a much more dynamic performance will be needed to get past the Danes in the semis.

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

    Bit harsh Ned. I thought the team selection was spot on and the execution excellent. I’ve been very critical of Southgate’s choice not to make more use of the glittering talent on his bench but the team plays to a plan and all look fully bought into it. If this is sterility then I wish we had had a bit more of it for the last 25 years. Of course the next game brings further challenges but England have hugely exceeded my expectations.

  23. 23
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Ray, great piece. I’ve been to Carlisle oddly enough and it’s actually quite a nice market town as they go. Anyway, enjoyed the story and the memories, both yours and the ones it evoked in me.

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    You were right C100, 4AM to watch us play Ukraine was a step too far 💤💤💤

    Watched the game later and agree England were very efficient for the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half and punished their mistakes well.
    On to the semis we go. Watched the Denmark game too, I know they are the romantic or feel good story of this tournament but in all honesty they are not that great either. As long as England don’t let the occasion get to them they should win.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Palace have confirmed Patrick Vieira’s appointment as manager.


  26. 26
    TTG says:

    I’ve been very critical of Southgate , mainly when it looked as if he might omit Saka and Grealish from the squad . I thought his team selection against Germany was too conservative but he was proved to be right . Last night I really thought it was one of the most emphatic performances of the competition so far. Ned is right that once we had scored we played within ourselves but we had several gears to go through and in tournament football terms we got exactly what we needed including getting all yellow carded players except Maguire, who arguably needed the minutes , protected by early substitution. We also have a plethora of options out wide with Sterling, Saka , Sancho , Foden and possibly Grealish . Our biggest problem would be if Kane was injured . Pickford hopefully had his brainfart in innocuous circumstances .
    Denmark have momentum but nothing like the range and depth that England have and at Wembley England should win . Italy will probably await in the final and that might be a very tough game…if it happens!

  27. 27
    Countryman100 says:

    A very happy July 4th to all US based holic’s. You make a tremendous contribution to this blog. Enjoy those hot dogs!

  28. 28
    bathgooner says:

    England and Italy are the two best teams in the Euros. Short of an upset in the semis which is more likely in Italy’s match against a hitherto stuttering Spain than for England whom I expect to swat Denmark aside fairly easily, that should be the final. I would expect England to win that final by a tight margin.

    However and more importantly, where are the defensive midfielder and creative midfielder that this Arsenal squad desperately lacks? I hope that the silence on this front and the distractive noise about yet another overpriced centre-back (or is he seen as the solution to the defensive screen?) and back-up LB are indications of covert operations rather than languid inefficiency.

  29. 29
    Cynic says:

    Guendouzi reckons he’s leaving Arsenal. I don’t really know how I’ll cope with the shock and loss.

  30. 30
    Dorset Mick says:


    I hope that Guendouzi has a large car. Perhaps he could give Cedric, Kolasinac, Torreirra, Xhaka, and Willian a lift to the airport.

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    I could lend him mine. We can get three in the back . I’d keep Cédric
    This is not a great time to conclude deals but I would expect a lot to happen as soon as the Euros end . We might sign two of the ( victorious ) England squad – White and Johnstone . Not many big deals have been concluded by anyone yet .
    A big issue is how cash-strapped most European clubs are

  32. 32
    TTG says:

    Interesting that Georgson , our set piece coach has moved to Malmo and we have hired Nicolas Tover , from Manchester City to replace him. I was never convinced that we had improved our set piece work offensively and defensively .
    It is being reported that we have agreed a deal with Brighton for Ben White

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    Guendouzi is reportedly having his Marseilles medical today.

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    Correction- Our new coach is Nicholas Jover and he has a very interesting CV having worked with Manchester City, Brentford and the Croatian national team

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    The year-long loan with an obligation or option to buy is likely to become more common. Corriere dello Sport says Marseille is close to agreeing to a deal with Roma to buy Pau Lopez for a one-year loan fee of 500,000 euro and a 15 million purchase if he plays a set number of games, and that Roma is closing in on signing Under on a one-year loan with a 12 million option to buy. On the Xhaka, it says ‘the while smoke is getting closer’. There is still a 5 million euros valuation gap but Corriere dello Sport implies that Xhaka’s determination to leave will mean Arsenal blinks first.

  36. 36
    bathgooner says:

    TTG @32, I saw that. It is with some relief that our ‘set piece coach’ has (been?) moved to pastures new. I was not convinced that our set pieces have improved recently and they have been extremely poor for a disappointing number of years. The only way is up – surely?

  37. 37
    Cynic says:

    We need this guy to do our transfers

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Good news if we can move Guen on.
    Best of luck to him.

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    I thought we’d improved defensively at set pieces but not offensively, although not sure what the coach can do when players keep booting the ball over the bar or into the wall.
    Though even that is better than some of our routines.

  40. 40
    bathgooner says:

    Too right, Cynic @37!

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

    From the announcement this afternoon, the new league season will be kicking off to full capacities and even away fans.

  42. 42
    bathgooner says:

    I hear that Runarsson has signed for Turkish side Altay Spor. If so, that is excellent news.

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    Matt Smith has joined Doncaster Rovers on a season-long loan.

  44. 44
    Silly Second Yella says:

    We don’t need no edu


  45. 45
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best of luck to Matt Smith. And to
    Runarsson (though I’m a bit dubious
    about this one til it’s announced).
    Things moving along it seems.

  46. 46
    North Bank Ned says:

    The terms of any Runarsson deal will bear scrutiny, especially if it is a loan and not a permanent move. He is, I understand, on £40,000 a week with us until July 2024. I doubt many if any clubs would match that for the epitome of a dodgy keeper. I am wondering how much of a bill we will be left to pick up.

  47. 47
    bathgooner says:

    An excellent analysis by our friends at SheWore that may explain why there has been so little noise about incoming (apart from the eternal problem of not finding the quality we want at a price we are willing to pay):

    Arsenal have to sell before they buy

  48. 48
    TTG says:

    Great point re Runarsson Ned.
    We will pay virtually all of his salary throughout his contract or buy out his contract .

  49. 49
    bathgooner says:

    Ned @46, another criminally inept piece of contract management. I hope everyone involved in these decisions has been held to account for them by being directed to leave the building.

  50. 50
    TTG says:

    Thanks for that article .
    Arsenal’s ineptitude in recruitment has left them in a very big hole with lots of underwhelming players paid far too much and therefore unsellable.
    If you add this cash to the amounts lost in the Sanchez/ Ozil / Mkhitaryan contract renewals / transfers debacle and on Ramsey and Welbeck who walked away for nothing this is an area where we have wasted biblical amounts of money . A very back of the envelope estimate which Ned may have better figures for would be that with good contract management we could have saved ( earned ) £150 million plus . What we could have done with those funds doesn’t bear thinking about . I’m assuming in those figures we would sell Mesut and save that extraordinary salary we paid him .
    Hard to know who to shoot first ? Gazidis , KSE , Chips Keswick or even Wenger? It’s certainly true that Wenger’s prevarication led to us not completing a sale for Sanchez ( we tried to buy Lemar for £90 m on transfer deadline day ! ) but my first bullet would be aimed at Stan . He should have had proper oversight of this area. Hard to excuse this level of cock-up

  51. 51
    OsakaMatt says:

    Guen to Marseille is official, good luck
    to him.
    And thanks for the link @47 Bath.
    It was a good clear piece as you say

  52. 52
    OsakaMatt says:

    Italy then.

  53. 53
    North Bank Ned says:

    I hope the reports that OM is obligated to buy Guendouzi for around 11 million euros next summer are correct as his Arsenal contract and season-long loan expire at the same time. Foot Mercato, the French site, says Marseille reckons it has got a bargain given Guendouzi’s potential. Whether it has or not, probably depends on how crazy Guendouzi is.

  54. 54
    North Bank Ned says:

    Spain must be kicking themselves that they spurned so many chances. Sixteen shots but one goal against Italy’s seven shots for their goal.

  55. 55
    scruzgooner says:

    emi brilliant at the copa américa. saved 3 penalties…all good saves of average or worse kicks, but the biggest part is guessing which side to jump.

  56. 56
    scruzgooner says:

    and ray, top piece. i’ve pulled a backpack full of ale around on a mountain overnight…not a lot of fun, but great rewards…

  57. 57
    OsakaMatt says:

    All the risk is Marseilles so a safe deal for us and a good piece of business in the current market. If I was OM (the French one) I would tell everyone we got a bargain too.

    And then there were 26 😉

  58. 58
    bt8 says:

    Hey Scruz, Enjoy that ale, it sounds like you have truly earned it. Greetings from near Snoqualmie Pass two states north of you.

  59. 59
    Cynic says:

    Marseille reckons it has got a bargain given Guendouzi’s potential.
    It’s his potential to be a gigantic arsehole they need to be concerned with.

  60. 60
    bathgooner says:

    There appear to be very different interpretations on the Guendouzi deal from both clubs. OM are adamant that they have an option to purchase at the end of the loan period. I understand that we believe that it is an obligation to purchase.

    Given the level of competence shown by the Arsenal over recent years, I suspect that the details in the small print result in it being the former. Perhaps we should have sent Lord Frost rather than Theresa May to negotiate the contract?

  61. 61
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@60: It had better be an obligation. Guendouzi becomes a free agent next summer so can leave for nothing.

  62. 62
    TTG says:

    I started to believe Edu was a liability a while ago.
    A post on Le Grove has this para which I hated but is largely true
    ‘ Then you look at Edu, without a doubt the worst transfer executive the game has ever seen. When you see him talk you realise he knows absolutely nothing about a game he has been involved in for 30 years. Sold our best GK, and one of the PLs best for £16m. Cant get a fee for Bellerin. Cant get a fee for Maitland-Niles. Cant get a fee for Mavropanos. Had to pay Mustafi to leave. Had to pay Sokratis to leave. Cant get a fee for Kolasinac. Cant get a fee for Guendouzi. Cant get a fee for Torreira. Spent the whole summer “negotiating” for Partey, only to pay the release clause on deadline day, something he couldve done on day one of the window. Failed to sign Aouar. Failed to sign Buendia. Tried to get Brighton down from £50m to £40m for Ben White, they are now at £55m. Paid Mesut Ozils contract in full. Signed Willian, Mari and Soares off his mate Kia.‘

    Selling well as Arsene did for so long ( possibly because he had Dein beside him ) is a massive part of Edu’s job but he seems hopeless at it as evidenced above . Ozil’s deal was presented as a loan with Fenerbache paying about 35% of his salary . I’ve been told they paid nothing …not a cent . How good do you have to be to get a deal like that ?
    As for Guendouzi the fee is pathetic and if it’s an option to buy we are in deep doo doo.

  63. 63
    Bathgooner says:

    All very sad, TTG.

    There’s a biblical parable in there about an owner failing to look after his possessions properly seeing them fall irreversibly into rack and ruin as a result of leaving them in the hands of unsupervised incompetents.

    Unless the correct quality of signings are added to the squad THIS summer, it’s hard to see a turnaround in the short term. However the hired help have wasted SO much money that if I were Stan I would sack everyone involved in our disastrous contract management over several years and our recent hopeless signings before I sanctioned any more expenditure.

    Private Fraser is right, I fear.

  64. 64
    TTG says:

    As you know I’m optimistic about Arteta’s chances of improving the side but it’s dependent ( as your enclosure yesterday showed ) on us selling off much deadwood and boy have we got some…and the only people we can sell are ones we don’t want to. Saka has pushed ahead of £75 m Sancho and Foden who would probably fetch £100m ….so what is Saka worth? Edu would probably sell him for £20 m .
    We have a nucleus which is brilliant and worth a lot but we need to keep them and we have accumulated internationals who are almost unsellable . Look at Torreira- when we signed him he was hugely coveted, had enjoyed a great World Cup but he couldn’t get in the Atletico team and nobody on the continent seems to have any cash . Torreira pleads to go to Boca but they’ve not got two pennies to rub together . If we sell him it will be for €6m and we might have to pay his wages .
    Having surplus stock at this time is not a good thing for a business .

  65. 65
    OsakaMatt says:

    Not a very cheerful catch up read with
    my morning coffee gents 😁
    I thought to see some happy posts
    about England making the final of a
    major competition!

  66. 66
    Silly Second Yella says:

    happy posts?

    Are you blind and stupid simultaneously?

  67. 67
    OsakaMatt says:

    So, wallowing in misery with the
    intolerant and ill-mannered.
    Feels like a Trump campaign rally.

  68. 68
    Potsticker says:

    Make Arsenal Great Again!

  69. 69
    TTG says:

    A real absence of celebration mainly because most of us were so drained by the game and it ended relatively late here.
    I thought England became the better side . Pickford gave an extraordinarily jittery performance. His kicking is reckoned to be his great strength but he shanks half of his kicks into touch , his punching is far from secure and he should have saved the free kick .
    On the positive side Saka did well and set up the goal but the standout players for me were Sterling , Kane whose diving was seen to good effect when he was isolated and I thought Walker played very well. He is excellent defensively , Southgate is a good in-game adjuster of tactics and subbed well although Grealish won’t be happy . Imagine a team that can bring on Foden, Grealish and Sancho if they need to !
    The Italy game will be very tight. They are a fine side from a great football country but struggled against Austria and were slightly outplayed by Spain. Home advantage will hopefully make a massive difference . My grandson has invited me to watch it with him because he wants to share the moment . Although it means a hour drive back late at night that is the sort of experience you are meant to share .
    It’s coming home !

  70. 70
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, fingers crossed TTG.
    Agree the final looks very tight, and have
    to hope our strikers have their finishing
    boots on. I was only 2 the last time we
    made a major final 😁

  71. 71
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent piece by Raheem Sterling, about his upbringing and the dedication of his Mum and sister. Nice little nod to The Arsenal as well. Sometimes I do wish that folk who pour bitter scorn on some players would take some time to find out their back story and how hard they’ve worked.


  72. 72
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the link to Sterling’s inspirational story Countryman. Great stuff and worthy of our admiration for sure.

  73. 73
    Cynic says:

    For those who want to air their views on the running of the game, the DCMS survey is here. The survey closes on July 22nd.


    A few unnecessary questions at the end about sexuality but at least they never asked if I believed in Jebus.

  74. 74
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@71: Thanks for the link. What caught my eye was Sterling’s mother’s assessment that taking up Arsenal’s offer to join the club as a schoolboy risked him getting lost among all the other young talent at the club. I wonder if that would have been true, or whether he would have made it through. In the light of Sterling’s subsequent career, you cannot say that she made a wrong call.

  75. 75
    North Bank Ned says:

    I thought Saka’s running and movement against Denmark was outstanding. England is going to need a lot of that to find a way through that seasoned Italian defence on Sunday. As OM says, it will be a tight game.

  76. 76
    TTG says:

    Thank you for attaching that beautifully written story about Sterling . We almost signed him when he went to Liverpool from QPR . I heard very worrying stories about him and his off-field life but I’ve had to reappraise the young man as a player…and as a person . If you look at Wrighty’s story it has similar themes. Marcus Rashford is another fascinating example . Black lads from poor households whose talent and in some cases parental sacrifice enabled them to succeed against the odds .
    Football is giving these young men a platform to do real social good, to be admirable role models especially for black lads and without being too heavy helping racial integration in this country . Sterling is the player of the tournament so far in my view

  77. 77
    TTG says:

    A few years ago I got into a taxi and got into conversation with the driver who was one of the coaches at Hale End . He was telling me the criteria for being taken into the Academy. There was massive emphasis on raw pace and his description of the competition echoed the words of Mrs.Sterling. It is incredibly hard to come through at Arsenal or the other big teams . My grandson was in the Brighton Academy at 9 but they binned the whole crop a5 the end of the season . Shows you how good Saka is !
    One memory from the Hale End coach was that I ask him if he had any youngsters who were future stars ( he trained the 14 yos. His answer’ I like a lad called Danny Ballard- he has got it all .

  78. 78
    Silly Second Yella says:

  79. 79
    TTG says:

    Kido Taylor- Hart and Arthur Okonkwo are signing long-term contracts with the club. They join Balogun and Saka in so doing. All that remains is to tie down ESR . Okonkwo may well become the third keeper at the club after Leno and ? ( insert name )

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@77: I must travel. by taxi more! I can see why pace would be valued. Most of the rest you can coach or teach, up to a point.

    Willock and Reiss Nelson must have been 14 at around the same time as Ballard. You cabbie didn’t think much of them?

    Good news about Taylor-Hart and Okonkwo. Two promising talents.

  81. 81
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the link C100, a great story from Sterling. He’s done well and I agree he’s been the player of the tournament so far.
    On the other hand it was a blatant dive (IMO) for the penalty and it’s easy to understand why the Danes are annoyed, and the mockery from the European press. He has played that way his whole career so far and I doubt he’s going to change so he will always attract criticism from whoever he’s playing against.

  82. 82
    Countryman100 says:

    Changes to the way cup semi final and final tickets are allocated. This taken from an email to season ticket holders this morning.

    We are changing our approach to how priority tickets are allocated for FA Cup Semi-Finals and Finals, League Cup Finals and European Cup Finals, should we reach them. It follows consultation with supporters’ groups, including the AST and AISA, discussion with the Fans’ Forum and is based on consistent feedback over several seasons from many supporters.

    From the start of the upcoming 2021/22 season, priority access to purchase tickets for these matches will be based on Gold and Platinum members’ home attendance, which will be recorded and illustrated in the My Arsenal Rewards portal.

    This replaces the current scheme, in which priority Cup Final access has been based on a qualifying number of away matches attended over a period of several seasons. Given the very limited number of available away tickets and the very high level of demand for each away match, we recognise the difficulty many of our fans have in accumulating away credits.

  83. 83
    bt8 says:

    Something good is a-gonna happen. Verifiable fact.

  84. 84
    TTG says:

    Looking at what needs to be done in terms of sales and purchases , the complications of the home-grown rule, Covid protocols and the holidays for players involved in the Euros , we are going to have a helluva job to bring about the squad revamp we need to even if, as looks to be the case, KSE make vast funds available . We are likely to shift between 8 and 10 players out and will need to bring in around 8 as a minimum . ( Looks like we have 3 deals sorted so far ) .
    That looks a very tall order and it will be extremely hard to begin the season with all our ducks in a row . Make that impossible. We won’t be alone in that regard but we may not have a settled squad until October with the Olympics etc . And we have a very tough start

  85. 85
    bt8 says:

    @83. Must be the ramblings of the truly desperate among us. @84 doesn’t make it sound quite that easy. 🙉

  86. 86
    OsakaMatt says:

    Seems we’re going to be the team
    in the All or Nothing series this season.
    Not sure if it’s a good idea but I’ll
    definitely watch anyway

  87. 87
    Cynic says:

    That’s the last thing this club needs to be doing. We’re already a joke, let’s make it one with a vast array of punchlines…

    In other news, RIP Paul Mariner.

  88. 88
    TTG says:

    As Cynic says RIP Paul Mariner . Gone far too young

  89. 89
    bathgooner says:

    Sad news on Paul Mariner. Far too young to leave us. A fine centre forward in his day. RIP.

  90. 90
    North Bank Ned says:

    Very sad news about Paul Mariner.

    But we have a signing. Nuno Tavares confirmed.

  91. 91
    TTG says:

    So Emi Martinez helps Argentina win the Copa America ( delighted for him) and is now one of the best goalkeepers in the world . Who knew?
    Actually almost all of the Arsenal fanbase knew …sadly the goalkeeping department at Arsenal didn’t . They replaced him with Runarsson.

  92. 92
    Trev says:

    Great story, Ray !

    Sorry to be so late in reading it – story of my life lately.

    Very well written and deserving a place among Holic’s great history tales.

  93. 93
    Trev says:

    TTG, many of us did indeed know that letting Martinez go was a huge mistake.

    Congratulations to him on his Copa America – and a record breaking/equalling season at Villa. This summer is going to have to be one hell of a lot better than last year’s, or we may be taking the train to Carlisle again.

  94. 94
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent reminiscing of quite the picaresque journey! Wonderfully written. Thank you Ray!

    Congratulations to Argentina, Messi — he deserves a major international honor — and Emi Martinez. Very happy for Emi! All his years of patience and hard work are paying off.

  95. 95
    Countryman100 says:

    Looks like Saka is dropped for Trippier as Southgate picks a back five.

  96. 96
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hope for Saka’s sake that he starts but Southgate has generally gone with conservative options through the tournament.

  97. 97
    Countryman100 says:

  98. 98
    bt8 says:

    In the Italian team is Barella, a.k.a. A cheap brand of pasta in the United States. A clue as to where England should direct their attacks?

  99. 99
    Countryman100 says:

    Wrighty giving it large with Sweet Caroline on ITV!

  100. 100
    OsakaMatt says:

    A lucky ton?

  101. 101
    Countryman100 says:

    Well in 4am Matt.

    Come on England!

  102. 102
    OsakaMatt says:

    Get in!!!!
    Fantastic start

  103. 103
    Countryman100 says:

    Have we gone too early?

  104. 104
    Countryman100 says:

    Chielini having a mare against Kane so far. Next could could be a booking.

  105. 105
    bt8 says:

    All’s looking good for the Three Lions in Park City, Utah where I happen to be watching the game. 👍🏼

  106. 106
    Countryman100 says:

    Soccer ball amidst the Mormons!

  107. 107
    Countryman100 says:

    Italy starting to look dangerous. Got to stop the crosses.

  108. 108
    OsakaMatt says:

    Defense has been well organized so far but of course a second goal would be handy

  109. 109
    Countryman100 says:

    That’s been coming.

  110. 110
    Countryman100 says:

    Saka coming on!

  111. 111
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hopefully our younger legs will be an advantage in extra time.
    Been a struggle 2nd half but we’re still in it

  112. 112
    Countryman100 says:

    Here we go again. Phillips out of steam. Need another midfielder for him and bring Grealish on.

  113. 113
    Countryman100 says:

    Don’t fancy it going to pens. Italy are clinical

  114. 114
    Countryman100 says:

    You’ve got to go to work in a couple of hours Matt!

  115. 115
    Countryman100 says:

    Please let Saka not miss a penalty

  116. 116
    OsakaMatt says:

    No work today C100😉
    Préparation and planning 😁

  117. 117
    Countryman100 says:

    Poor lad. Poor poor lad

  118. 118
    OsakaMatt says:

    Bastard, heartbreaker for poor Saka.

  119. 119
    Cynic says:

    Southgate giving a 19 year old the fifth penalty in a final? Fuck that.

    You shouldn’t be putting players on with no game time to take a penalty, but the two who did come on took rotten penalties, especially Rashford.

    Still, the proper football starts in a few weeks.

  120. 120
    Tapera Doma says:

    Southgate messed up on the player selection for those who took the penalty kicks – way to much pressure on a 19 year old who has never kicked a club 1st team penalty, especially after 2 missed penalties before that by England. Sterling, Grealish & Shaw should have kicked before Saka, in my opinion.

  121. 121
    Cynic says:

    They couldn’t risk Sterling a taking penalty in case he realised mid run up he was in the penalty box and took his usual dive 🙂

  122. 122
    North Bank Ned says:

    The universal truth is that football is a game of two halves that England loses on penalties.

  123. 123
    scruzgooner says:


  124. 124
    Cynic says:

    I don’t know what game they were watching, I thought we were poor from about the half hour mark in the first half and only got more of the ball when Italy backed off a bit in extra time. As good as he has been, I thought Saka was poor yesterday and if the daft ‘tactic’ of putting on penalty takers just had to be followed, I would have taken off Saka, who looked a bit frightened by the occasion, and left Henderson on to take one.

    Oh well.

  125. 125
    bathgooner says:

    I am immensely proud of our lad, Bukayo Saka, stepping forward to take that vital fifth penalty. However, I do wonder why more experienced players particularly Sterling and Grealish were hiding and allowed him to take that responsibility and also why the coach who has, in truth, been impressive at times during this tournament thought it was sensible to allow a 19 year old kid with no experience of taking a penalty at the top level with his club to take that fifth spot kick? I know he couldn’t make spineless wimps suddenly develop backbone but he could have given someone more experienced that fifth spot kick.

    The character and courage that Saka showed is hugely to his credit but it also highlights the lack thereof in some of his teammates on the night, some who think they are the bees’ knees and command massive fees and salaries. It will be of no consolation to Saka at this moment but it will make him even stronger.

    Cynic @121, of course! I should have thought of that reflex being the reason for Sterling being excused the responsibility of a spot kick.

    Those hurling abuse at the three players who didn’t score their spot kicks, particularly racial abuse, should be hunted down and publicly shamed. They are vermin and haven’t a fraction of the courage of those who stepped forward to take responsibility.

  126. 126
    Countryman100 says:

    Well said Bath. I agree with every word.

    Despite the hype of the past month, it also once again shows me that although I always want England to do well, I am nowhere near as engaged as I am with the Arsenal. I went to bed last night mildly disappointed. A bad Arsenal defeat affects me for hours if not days. I think it took me three days to shake off the European Cup final in Paris! Even the league cup defeat by Birmingham left me in a very black mood.

  127. 127
    TTG says:

    My article should be with you

  128. 128
    Bathgooner says: