Adventures from a Gooner Abroad

An Arsenal fans adventures in Northern Ontario.


Here are some key facts about Ontario:  In summer, temperatures can soar above 30°C (86°F), while in winter they can
drop below -40°C (-40°F)  Ontario is Canada’s second largest province, covering more than 1 million square
kilometres (415,000 square miles) – an area larger than France and Spain
combined. Ontario is bounded by Quebec to the east, Manitoba to the west,
Hudson Bay and James Bay to the north, and the St. Lawrence River and the
Great Lakes to the south.  Ontario is home to 2 time zones: the boundary line between the Central Time
Zone and Eastern Time Zone is just west of Thunder Bay, running north from the
United States border to Hudson Bay.  Ontario’s more than 250,000 lakes contain about one-fifth of the world’s fresh
water. The Great Lakes include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake
Erie and Lake Ontario.  The combined shoreline of the Great Lakes is equal to about 45% of the earth’s
circumference.  The 5 Great Lakes are the world’s biggest continuous body of fresh water.  The Great Lakes Basin covers an area of 750,000 square kilometres – this basin
includes 8 US states, most of southern Ontario and extends into northern Ontario.  Ontario’s varied climate and geography support habitat for more than 3,600
species of plants, 154 species of fish, 50 species of amphibians and reptiles, 483
species of birds, and more than 81 species of mammals. In Ontario’s southernmost
regions, you will find prickly pear cactus and sassafras trees, while polar bears
roam our northern tundra.  Common fish in Ontario include yellow perch, bluegill, northern pike, salmon,
walleye, brook trout, brown trout, speckled trout, lake trout and rainbow trout.
The mammals that call Ontario home include beavers, black bears, muskrats, gray
wolves, white-tailed deer and walrus. Familiar birds include blue jays, northern
cardinals, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls and pileated
woodpeckers. Look carefully and you might see some reptiles and amphibians,
including eastern garter snakes, northern leopard frogs, eastern massasauga
rattlesnakes, midland painted turtles or one of 11 types of salamanders and newts.
Leaving England behind to move to Canada was not an easy choice but leaving
my beloved Arsenal was far worse; but that’s another story. My wife and I docked in
Quebec City on the first day of June after 8 glorious and somewhat riotous days abroad
the Empress of Canada (yet another story). We had arranged to temporarily stay in
Toronto with my sister Gloria and her husband Barry. Ontario’s 250,000 lakes and
100,000 miles of rivers created endless opportunities for Barry who was an avid
outdoorsman and he was passionate about fresh water fishing while I’d never cast a line
in my life – after all there weren’t too many fishing spots to find in Highbury.

A few weeks after our arrival Barry mentioned that he had saved up some vacation time
and wanted to go on a canoe trip in Northern Ontario, he asked if I would like to
accompany him on the trip and assured me that he was an experienced canoeist. I was
somewhat worried as I was a poor swimmer but he showed me the maps of the planned
route and assured me that he had selected calm rivers that had no rapids or stretches of
white water – so I reluctantly agreed to go. Over the next few weeks we put together the
equipment and supplies that we would need for my first outdoors adventure.
Our only means of transport was Barry’s MG Coupe, the canoe was strapped onto the
roof and our backpacks and minimal supplies were stuffed into the rear of the car which
completely blocked the view out of the rear window. On our 1,000 kilometre journey up
Route 101 to Groundhog River we got many strange sideways glances from other drivers.
Arriving at our destination we simply drove the MG into the bushes and covered it with
foliage – we were out in the middle of nowhere so it did not seem that illogical to Barry.
We had to make several reconnoitring trips back and forth to find the best route down to
the river and spot to launch from but finally we made our decision got all of our gear
down to the river; once the canoe was loaded we set off on our journey into parts
unknown.
It was now late afternoon and even though we were tired from the last part of our road
journey we had made up our minds to camp on a certain loop in the river. An hour or so
later we were approaching the spot where we had planned on camping when the sound of
rushing water caught our attention, as we turned the next bend we were confronted by a
very long stretch of fast moving white water. We made a valiant attempt to negotiate our
way around the rocks but to our dismay the canoe tipped; we were in the water and our
supplies were bobbing off down the river. Not being a strong swimmer I feared the worst
but you can imagine my relief when I discovered that the water was only thigh deep.
Even though Barry had misjudged the “calmness” of the river he had been smart enough
to insist on packing all of our supplies and provisions in air tight plastic bags – so we
hoped that we would be able to recover them once we got ourselves together, however
our birch-bark canoe was wedged between two very large rocks and it had a sizeable hole
in the side. Barry’s outdoors knowledge now came in very handy, he cut a strip of bark
from a Balsam fir tree which he whittled into shape then used that plus the tree’s natural
sap to patch up the hole; we then propped the canoe up get a good air flow and simply
waited for the sap to harden and seal the hole.
I stayed with the canoe and lit a fire for our overnight camp while Barry who was big,
strong and swam like a fish, set off down the river looking for our missing gear. He
returned about an hour later with the oar we were missing and one bag of supplies which
he found snagged up at the side of the river. Fortunately the bag contained our fishing
gear so we were able to catch some Pickerel (Walleye) which we cleaned and then
cooked by skewering them on sticks and grilling them over our camp fire – they tasted
absolutely delicious! The night was uneventful, other than the sound of wolves howlingno supplies we ate more fish for breakfast, it was to become our
in the distance. Having no supplies we ate more fish for breakfast, it was to become our main food source.

The “Barry” patch had completely dried, no water was leaking into the canoe and it lasted
for the entire trip. We didn’t want to risk the rapids again so we portaged around them
and set off again once the river calmed down; it was to turn out to be a beautiful early
morning row along a very calm river – we had no idea of the time as we had neglected to
bring along a watch. Later in the day we found our other two bags of gear, snagged up at
the riverside, so all was going well – until we saw moose grazing in the shallows just
down the river, they are huge animals and a bull moose can stand 7 feet tall and weigh
900 lbs, so we made the only sensible choice we could and stopped right where we were
until they had eaten their fill. We found a clearing and set up camp for the night, our
“tent” was simply our canoe turned upside down and propped up with some sticks, Barry
slept with his head at one end and GN5 at the other end, we had each purchased a US
army surplus mummy type sleeping bag, which proved to be a very wise buy.
With our recovered bags we now had some provisions for a “slap up” meal – fresh
walleye and dried veggies; we had taken along two small tin saucepans, one frying pan,
and two knives and forks. Having no oil or grease we filled the frying pan with river
water and poached the fish, we boiled the dried vegetables in a saucepan and in the
second one we boiled water for our coffee. This was our diet until we ran out of
vegetables and from then on we just ate whatever species of fish we caught – so we had
to catch fish or go hungry!
Day 3 started off wet and windy which made for some very difficult canoeing; we passed
under a railway bridge; the only means of transportation for hundreds of square miles was
by rail, river or lake, there were no roads, we had noted on our maps that there was an
abandoned gold mine near the bridge – so we decided to see if we could locate the mine.
We could not get up to ground level on the mine side of the river as it was a sheer rock
face while the other side was an earth embankment. As we had canoed up we had heard a
train so we felt safe in walking across the trestle bridge but to our horror when we were
on the bridge we heard another train in the distance and had to get over to the other side
in a real hurry, we stood at the side as the train passed and incredibly it slowed down and
stopped. Shortly afterwards the engineer walked back, he had seen us and thought we
were waiting for a ride, he explained that it was normal for them to pick up random
people along the route. He inquired about our well being (most likely worried about our
sanity); this was to be typical of the friendly, concerned manner of the Northern Ontario
people that we met on the trip.
The train went on its way, we took a compass setting and trekked off in the direction of
the Joburg mine, we found an old overgrown trail which could only have been created by
the constant flow of people between the railway line and the mine so off we went down
the trail. Reality and fear crept in when we saw bear paw prints in the muddy trail and
then moose prints so we quickly turned tail and headed back to the bridge as our Bowie
knives would have been no defence at all. Our choices left us in a real quandary – bears
and moose behind or the bridge ahead, obviously we choose the bridge and lived to tell that take dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

This is only up to day 3 of a 30 plus day trip – but for now I’ll stop right there and test
your interest for more tales.
Barry Stuart Harvey passed away December17th 2014 but his stories will live on……

RIP MY GOOD FRIEND.

By GunnerNr5

Arteta’s Biggest Challenge

It is a very long wait till our boys glide on the green carpet again, and although the international football is not without entertainment, the interlul period is one to be endured by us club football fans.

The good thing about the interlul interruptions is that it gives Arteta time to tweak and improve the tactical side of things. With this young team this is of course very important.

Taking 10/12 points from our last betwixt interluls run of games and beating the Spuds convincingly, is a great turnaround for Arteta.

Arteta won two of his games without Xhaka, but he will now have to do much longer without his conductor. This will be his biggest challenge during this interlul: how to get the balance right in midfield. We have discussed this during a previous post, so not much point to discuss it again.

The big question for this post is: how can we get more goals? We are not scoring enough goals as yet and I don’t have to tell you the stats.

Auba is improving but remains wasteful.

Laca and Pepe are underused and I feel Arteta cannot afford to bench them so much going forward.

Balogun and Nketiah may offer the spark in attack we desperately need. Or is Martinelli the answer?

The extra goals could also come from our young dogs Emile, Bukayo and Martin. I reckon this is Arteta’s biggest wish, but it may need more time. The Spuds goals showed us what they are capable of, but the Seagulls game showed us they remain a work in progress.

So I don’t really know the answer and would love to hear your preferred solutions in getting the ball more often in the net…

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v BHA 8 Observations

BHA 0-0 Arsenal

Not a game for many words, but here are my eight observations:

  1. BHA had the better chances but we only gave away half chances. The defence stood strong on the ground and, most pleasingly, in the air too. Another clean sheet after conceding nine in the first three games, now that is a great turnaround (one goal conceded in the last four);
  2. We missed Granit. Lokonga looks like a Partey type of player, not the conductor type that Xhaka is for us. It’s early days of course but we did not own the midfield last night and it made us second best;
  3. The Ode was not found quickly enough and he was well marshalled by the Seagulls. As a result attack was disconnected from the rest of the team.
  4. Auba’s linkup play was below par. The conditions did not help but he needs to be more ball tight. I was glad to see Laca come on and I hope Mikel will play him more going forward as he is good at keeping the ball and bringing into play others.
  5. Tomiyasu had a tough first half against the best player on the pitch, but he recovered well in the second half. A big test for him and he came through it.
  6. Bukayo and Emile did their best to sow a purse from a pig’s ear and they were a joy to watch at times, but the pirates just could not steel it for us, unfortunately.
  7. Arteta made some important substitutions at the right time and with a bit more focus and luck we could even have won it at the end. That would not have been deserved of course, but Arteta almost achieved it.
  8. But the big plus is that despite the horrible weather and the considerable pressure the team did not lose the game. If you cannot win make sure you do not lose either, and in the past we failed doing that so often. There is resilience in this team. Something to build on.

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v BHA Lineup and Preview: The Rocks, The Pirates and The Sambi Partey

How many times have you watched those first 35 minutes v Spuddies again? I am currently at four and what a joy they bring. All goals sprang from deep, where we won the ball and then weaved and meandered our way to the Spuds’ goal. It was easy on the eye and at the same time devastating to our much loathed NLD opponents.

The question is can Arsenal do the same against Potter’s high flying Brighton, especially now that our conductor Granit is unavailable?

From our last post it became clear that most of us believe that Arteta’s best options are to either play Partey as a lone DM or to stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation and play Lokonga next to Big Tom.

Brighton are a well drilled and settled team and will come with their own plan, no doubt. They pass the ball round well and are strong at set pieces, and they have a couple of players who can add that little bit extra up front.

I think it would be good to let them come to us as we did with the Spuds and then take them on the break. Therefore, I prefer to play the Sambi-Partey combo in midfield today.

The defence (the Rocks) and attack (the Pirates) pick themselves, but I do hope to see half an hour of Pepe and Laca as well.

Ooh to, Ooh to be….

So my predicted and preferred lineup is:

The Rocks, The Pirates and The Sambi Partey

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!

By TotalArsenal 🚀 ⚽ ⚽

Saka for Xhaka. How to Replace the Left Footed Conductor?

Anybody who regularly visits the blog will know how big a fan I am of Granit Xhaka. So I am not going to sum up what we will be missing once more, other than stating the obvious that we will be missing his left foot and his ‘keeping the structure’ skills. He is the embodiment of Arteta on the pitch and this is hard to replace.

The Joy

Who should replace him or could we even not do so at all?

The options:

  1. Play 4-1-2-3 with Partey as lone deep midfielder as much as possible;
  2. Replace Xhaka with Ainsley – straight swap;
  3. Replace Xhaka with Lokonga – straight swap;
  4. Replace Xhaka with Partey and play either Lokonga or Ainsley on the mid-right;
  5. Move Ben White next to Partey;
  6. Move Chambers next to Partey;
  7. Move left footer Tierney next to Partey;
  8. Play ESR next to Partey;
  9. Play left footer Saka next to Partey;
  10. Play AMN, Lokonga and Partey in midfield.

There plenty of options and it will be interesting to see what Arteta will do. But what option would you go for?

By TotalArsenal

Arteta may Finally Have His Perfect Trio in Defence

Our central defence is starting to take shape and early signs are very promising. With Tierney and Tomiyasu we have two tenacious full/wing backs who can both defend well and be a great support to our CBs and GK.

But this short post is about the all important triangle of GK-2CBs.

Ramsdale: a very dynamic, extrovert goalkeeper with great leadership skills. I called him ‘obsessed with excellence’ in the previous post and he loves nothing more than a house full of clean sheets. His aerial control is an improvement on Bernd and his shot stopping is looking promising too. But his biggest attribute is his quick and accurate passing game. Passing out from the back successfully is about accuracy and speed of thinking and acting, and we have been far too slow in that department in recent seasons. Aaron gives us that all important extra second of speed.

Ben White: after a bit of a rough start, Ben is settling in well. It’s early days but he seems to offer calm and organisational skills to the defence. Much more of an introvert than Aaron, White has a calming, very focused impact on the team, it seems. Aaron brings energy and action-focus and Ben brings calm and organisational-focus. This is a great combination! Did you see White asking Ramsdale to not be too hard on the central midfielders at some point in the second half v Spuds? It was a great and promising moment of getting the balance right in defence. White is also vital in moving from defence to midfield/attack in a jiffy. Like Ramsdale, Ben gives us an extra second with his quick thinking and accurate passing. There is clearly so much more to come from him, but I am a fan already.

Gabriel dos Santos Magalhães, or simply Big Gab, has been with us longer and is having a great start to the season. He is the rock in our defence, the first soldier. He is our Obelix and just loves clearing the ball and taking on big CFs. Gabriel also acts quickly and has a decent forward pass in him, but his biggest and most needed quality is being the aerial King in the box. In terms of character, Big Gab, who is still only 23(!), is, a mixture between Aaron and Ben; and this suits our central defence triangle perfectly. Gabriel has fine organisational skills too, but with White and Ramsdale doing the leadership/organisational stuff he can fully focus on bossing the aerial zone in our defence.

Together they form a promising central defensive trio, one around which Arsenal can build a solid future.

Currently, Leno, Holding, Chambers and Mari are in the back-up positions and it is hard to see how they could dislodge the current trio. But a season is long and success can only be achieved by having a strong wider squad and healthy competition. Especially Holding will play a key role in adding something different to the team when required.

Our almost totally new central defence is one to build the team on. No doubt there will be setbacks on the way, but there is every reason to be excited about Arteta’s transformation of the defence.

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v Spurs 8 Observations: The Green Shoots of the Arteta Revolution Have Arrived

Arsenal 3 – 1 Spuds

Ontketend Arsenal duwt aartsrivaal Spurs dieper in de zorgen

Well what a treat that first half was for us, hey?! A well deserved NLD win that was was easy on the eye and will offer us hope for the Arteta Revolution. The first half was simply sublime and Arteta seemed to show mercy in the second half when, just like Guardiola often does, he asked his team to control the game and sit back to do so.

Eight quick observations:

  1. Not a single player played below an eight today. This is the really big point to take today: they played like a unit, with a plan and with a level of cohesion we have not seen for a long time. Emile is the official MOTM and I think that was the correct decision, if indeed you would have to pick one. But everyone was just brilliant and what a team performance did we witness at the Home of Football: they totally blew me away. It was like the players realised that they were now all part of the a single jigsaw and all pieces were in place at last.
  2. Ramsdale is possessed with excellence. Think about the companies you worked for and how rare it is to have an employee like Aaron in your midst: someone who will give their all and set themselves and others the highest standards. It is infectious and you can see how the others are warmed, and sometimes even scared, by it. We have a leader from the back who is obsessed with clean sheets and it is totally amazing how Aaron has settled into the team. He pulled some great and crucial saves today and it just looked like he has been with Arsenal for a decade already.
  3. Tomiyasu was also playing like he’s been with us forever. Such a quick thinker and passer: one touch, no nonsense. Crucially, twice he was there to pick up the rebound from a Ramsdale stop before anybody else could get onto the ball. Takehiro anticipated really well and had no problem at all with the Spuds’ physicality. He was solid and as a result Saka could play higher up the pitch which was vital today. Tierney was also great on the left and together they were very important weapons of attack today.
  4. Ben White stood tall and formed a great partnership with Big Gab. Understandably, there were some doubts about giving Ben a start in this NLD, but he looked at home alright. White uses his head well and he will be the calm leader in our defence before you know it. There is a bit of Mertesacker in White and I can now see better why Arteta was so keen to get him.
  5. Partey-Xhaka partnership was king all game long. They really made it look like the Spuds had no midfield and would not let anybody through their gate as long as the game went on. They were both at the base of many attack and Xhaka was involved in all three goals. Partey perhaps produced the pass of the season which was only spoiled by Auba’s loose first touch. The double DM-pivot in big games like these is still a formidable weapon for Arsenal and today it worked a treat.
  6. Key to our mobility was the free role of Odegaard. Time and again, Xhaka or Partey would find him from deep midfield and then the magic happened. This really was key to our success and although ESR and Saka got the big stats of goals and assists today, I thought Ode was equally as important. We have a special young trio in Bukayo, Emile and Martin at Arsenal and they will find each other better and better going forward. Such a joy to watch today.
  7. Auba was a fab captain today. He ran and ran and created so much space for the other attackers. On top of that, he scored a good goal himself. It was good to see Pierre back to his best, and happy and what a contrast he made to the Spuds’ CF.
  8. The other really big point to make is how much balance we had in the team, based around a number of very good partnerships with complementary skill-sets. I really don’t know how Arteta managed to get us so balanced for this game. This line-up just worked a treat with a midfield that protected the back four really well, a defence that was just calm and solid for most of the game, wings that were very effective and an attack that was simply dazzling.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal V Spuds Preview: 4-2-3-1 With Three Key Couples in Midfield and Attack

Just a few weeks ago the Spuddies were poking fun at us: TOTL with three wins whilst Arsenal were rock bottom. An ever-lasting international break and two PL games later, and with a NLD ‘six-pointer’ to be contested this Sunday, we are already offered a great opportunity to catch up with them. It all reminded me of a diptych painting in the waiting room of my childhood’s GP back in the deep south of the Netherlands, very close to the German border. The sub-text reads ‘Wie du mir, So ich dir’ – something like ‘As you do to me, I will do to you’.

It is never clever to poke fun at the Arsenal when your trophy cupboards are dust’s best friends; and now we are right below them and ready to put our teeth into them… and just one game away from catching up already.

Yet we have no right to be full of hubris as our one nils to the Arsenal were hard fought for victories and the Spuddies are a much more established team than Arteta’s newly picked ensemble right now. A loss to either team would be doubly painful and we must of course be wary of the likes of Kane and Son doing damage on the break. Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs will probably like to absorb pressure and play on the rebound and counter; Arteta’s Arsenal, playing at the home of Football, will mostly likely push up and take the game to the North-London rivals. As always, getting the balance right, especially in midfield, will be key. The really good news is that ALL, yes all, players are fit to play! Yeehah!

Line-up

It is hard to exactly predict the line-up but I would like to think that Laca, who had a good game v Wimbledon, should start this time. Alex has been involved in six goals in eight games v the Spuds and he scored in the last three NLDs. Does that mean that Auba should start on the bench? Well maybe, but this may well be the right game to play both of them once again. It partly depends on whether we play three at the back and include Big Rob into the lineup. I don’t think we will.

The other big question is whether Granit walks back into the team. I know not everybody would like that to happen but I expect and want it to. Our left works much better with Granit in the team and he will be careful enough to not get send off again.

How many goals will we score, Granit?

I think the defence picks itself and I would like to include Partey, Saka and ESR and Ode for this one. Pepe and Eddie can come on later and do some more Spuds-mashing.

For me there are three key couples: ESR and Ode, Laca and Auba and Xhaka and Partey.

So this is my preferred – and possibly also expected – lineup for the 204th NLD:

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!

By TotalArsenal.

When Real Men Where in Charge of The Arsenal

An Arsenal Blast from the Past

Sir Henry George Norris

(July 23, 1865 – July 30, 1934)

Born in Kennington, to a working class family Sir Henry left school at fourteen to join a solicitor’s firm. Eighteen years later he left to pursue a career in property development, partnering W.G. Allen in the firm Allen & Norris. He made his fortune building houses in south and west London, Fulham in particular. He was commissioned into the 2nd Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteers in 1896, but resigned the following year. From 1909 to 1919 he served as Mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Fulham, a member of the London County Council from 1916 to 1919, and as a Conservative MP for Fulham East from 1918 to 1922.

During World War I Norris was a military recruitment officer for the British Army. He served in the 3rd Middlesex Artillery Volunteers and in 1917 he was knighted and given the honorary rank of colonel for services to his country. He was also a prominent Freemason, rising to become Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England, and a well-known local philanthropist with close connections to the Church of England; he counted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Thomas Davidson as a personal friend.

He purchased Woolwich Arsenal in 1910 and controlled his club like a dictator. Unlike other club directors and chairmen of his era Sir Henry never served on boards to raise his standing in the community, he did things his own way. He made numerous powerful enemies both in and out of football due to his questionable tactics and bullying nature. His company, Allen & Norris, was responsible for transforming Fulham from a semi-rural outpost into an urban jungle. In the process of constructing, renovating and selling houses, he made a large network of contacts in building and banking, many of whom owed him favours. Photographs and written accounts suggest that his physical stature, actions and mannerism’s made him a man to be feared.

The Woolwich Arsenal board welcomed Norris with open arms, having heard of his political ‘prowess’ when he was a director of Fulham. He had negotiated their rapid rise from the Southern League right up to Division Two. Fulham’s rise in divisions took place in only four years and that led directors of other clubs to suggest that the Football League had received substantial inducements, but no firm evidence was ever found. Sir Henry was already the undisputed master of subterfuge. On buying his majority stake in Woolwich Arsenal, he proposed a merger with Fulham and a permanent move to Craven Cottage to create a London ‘super-club’ but he was blocked by the Football League. Unable to merge the two clubs he set about rejuvenating Woolwich Arsenal and proposed that the club should be moved to North London enabling them to benefit from a local population of 500,000 in the districts of Finsbury, Hackney, Islington and Holborn. Chelsea, Orient and Spurs protested the proposal over concern for the erosion of their fan bases. The Tottenham Herald described Norris as an “interloper”, and a cartoon portrayed him as being the equivalent of the Hound of the Baskervilles, prowling around farmyards in an enormous spiked collar, ready to rip apart the Tottenham cockerel and steal its food.

An FA enquiry was set up to investigate the move but, once again, Sir Henry used his “influence” to stack the deck by appointing many personal friends to the committee and giving them information that would be favourable to Woolwich Arsenal. The committee ruled that the opposition had “no right to interfere”. The Tottenham Herald placed an advertisement begging its readers not to go and support Norris’s Woolwich interlopers stating that “They have no right to be here.” A group of Highbury residents were equally indignant about the possibility of the undesirable elements of professional football creating a vulgar presence on their doorstep. But true to form Sir Henry launched a charm offensive on the group, assuring them that they’d barely notice a football club in their midst, and in any case, that 30,000-plus fans in the district every other Saturday would be excellent for local business. The next hurdle to cross turned out to be the Church of England, many on the ecclesiastical committee believed football to be ‘ungodly’ and local residents believed that the thought of the Church of England agreeing to a football club buying the land was inconceivable. But Sir Henry went right to the top and offered the church a donation of £20,000, the church committee accepted the offer and the Archbishop of Canterbury personally signed the deed to Highbury.

With several members of the team killed in the Great War and no football having been played since 1915 Sir Henry’s hopes of transforming Arsenal into a super-club appeared to be in tatters. Having invested over £125,000 into the club, he faced the almost impossible task of rebuilding Arsenal from mid-table in Division Two to his dream “Super Club”. But he was about to pull another rabbit out of his hat. When the FA reconvened in 1919, Norris was full of confidence having just been knighted for his work as a recruitment officer during the war. He was also granted the honorary title of colonel and in the 1918 General Election had been voted Tory MP for Fulham East on a platform of “common decency”, “family values” and “moral strength”.

An FA management committee, anxious to get football back on its feet, proposed that Division One be expanded from 20 to 22 clubs. This wouldn’t seem to benefit Arsenal, who’d finished fifth in Division Two in the 1914/15 season, Birmingham and Wolves finishing third and fourth. It was widely believed that Division One’s relegated clubs, Chelsea and Spurs, would obtain a reprieve but Norris got to work his magic tricks on the committee. He secretly ‘canvassed’ every single member of the FA committee, with the proposal that Arsenal deserved promotion – however Spurs directors were kept completely in the dark throughout and suspected nothing. He also maintained that the Gunners should be rewarded “for their long service to league football”, neglecting to mention that Wolves had actually been league members for longer.

As for relegation-threatened Chelsea, Norris assured the Stamford Bridge chairman that his club would be reprieved as long as Arsenal got promotion. When the vote was taken, Chelsea got their reprieve, and Arsenal received their promotion. White Hart Lane was stunned. Even Tottenham’s parrot, presented to the club on the voyage home from their 1908 South American tour, was unable to cope with the news. It dropped dead, thus giving rise to the football cliché “sick as a parrot”. ‘Lucky Arsenal’ and ‘Cheating Arsenal’ were two of the more complimentary titles bestowed upon the club at the time.

By 1925 Sir Henry had owned Arsenal for close to 15 years and they had still not won any trophies – he was convinced that the problem was his manager Lesley Knighton who he dismissed, shortly before he was due to receive a £4,000 bonus.  Huddersfield Town’s triple Championship-winning boss Herbert Chapman was appointed manager in 1925 but Sir Henry found the 5ft 6in Chapman, dubbed ‘Yorkshire’s Napoleon’ to be a real handful to manage. Chapman informed Norris that if he really wanted to see Arsenal win a trophy in his lifetime, he’d have to spend his cash: his main target, Sunderland’s brilliant striker, Charlie Buchan, was officially worth £5,000, but Sir Henry worked out a deal where he would pay £2,000 to Sunderland up front and £100 for every goal Buchan scored during the season.

In 1927, the Daily Mail ran a series of articles alleging that Norris was guilty of making illegal payments to Charlie Buchan. Norris, they claimed, had given under-the-counter sums to Buchan to compensate for the loss of income he would incur from his move south – the player had to give up his business interests and buy an expensive house in London. The FA was strict about payments made to players, even though everyone in football knew that sweeteners regularly lured players to big clubs. Sir Henry had also personally ‘overseen’ the sale of the team bus in 1927 for £125, which somehow found its way into his wife’s bank account. The revelations were sensational how could such a high-profile member of the Conservative Party indulge in such financial malpractice? Norris challenged the Daily Mail’s allegations in court two years later, but the charges were upheld by the judge. An investigation by the Football Association followed, which uncovered that he had also used Arsenal’s expense accounts for his personal use to, namely to pay for his chauffeur. He sued the Daily Mail and the FA for libel, but in February 1929, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, ruled in favour of the FA and the Daily Mail. As a result, Sir Henry Norris was banned from Football – forever

After his death in 1934 from a massive heart attack, a kinder, gentler Sir Henry Norris could be glimpsed. His estate was valued at over £71,000 – the equivalent of over £4m today and not only were his widow, three daughters and two sisters taken care of, but Norris also looked after many of the Arsenal staff he used to terrify. Former manager Leslie Knighton was staggered to receive a cheque for £100 from the Norris estate, enabling him to take early retirement. Trainer George Hardy and groundsman Alec Rae received £50 each – over a year’s wages. Rae was likewise dumbfounded, as Norris was “always on to me if the pitch wasn’t quite like the croquet lawn he wanted”. The Fulham chapel where his funeral took place overflowed with friends and well-wishers. The vicar who conducted the service summed up: “Of the dead, speak nothing but good.” To this day, the regulars over at White Hart Lane might beg to differ

Although Sir Henry Norris died over 80 years ago, his name continues to provoke controversy.

GunnerN5

Arsenal v Wimbledon preview/ Lineup: Some Wider Squad to Pick from!

Tomorrow we play Wimbledon in the league at the home of football, and this is of course a great opportunity to give the ‘nr2s’ a chance to play a game.

Hard to predict the exact lineup but I think it will be something like this:

It is important to win the game as the cup games are very useful at this stage, so a strong bench is key.

Who would you select and why?

By TotalArsenal