Jon Sammels: remember him? ‘I am Sam’ Book Review

As requested by TotalArsenal, I reviewed the new novel ‘I am Sam’ by James Durose-Rayner.

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My first action was to Google ‘I am Sam’ to seek more information. I was a little surprised to see there was a movie called ‘I am Sam’ starring Sean Penn.

I was a regular at Highbury during the late sixties.  I remember Jon Sammels as an intelligent player with an explosive shot.  Two memories stick in my mind. The famous 35 yard shot against United, where I was more or less behind him: what a goal!  Despite an official capacity of around 63000, I think there were nearer 70000 in the stadium: it was absolutely heaving.

The other occasion was when I took a friend of mine for his Highbury debut.  Standing just to the right of the goal at the North Bank, the players were practising shots on goal prior to the game.   Sammels unleashed a powerful shot which skimmed the outside of the post.  Everyone in a 10 yard radius took cover, except my mate who was marvelling at the architecture of the West Stand.   It was a great unintended header which knocked him senseless.  The St Johns ambulance guys were great and I kept hold of the mud off his forehead for weeks…. until it disintegrated.

That said, we are talking in excess of 45 years ago.   Sammels was undoubtedly very talented, but he was also a subject of the boo boys, similar to Denilson, Ramsey etc.  I certainly liked him very much.

I am Sam – The book

I must admit I expected the book to be about Jon Sammels.  Let’s be clear from the start… It isn’t.

The book is about a David Beckham look alike ‘Mr Arsenal’ who works in media.  He and his colleagues are charged with producing made-for-TV videos about England’s failure in the 1970 World Cup, and secondly, Jon Sammels.  The book focuses on this character: his champagne lifestyle, a Maserati, two girlfriends, his ex wife, two children and a large number of family and friends including two ferrets called ‘Arteta’ and ‘Giroud’.  Undoubtedly an Arsenal supporter, throughout the story of his tangled love life, he often refers to Ársenal teams and players, both past and present, giving his forthright opinion.   I agreed with many of his comments and wildly disagreed with others (For example, Peter Marinello was a better player than Geordie Armstrong…. Please!).

For the first 60 or so pages I found the book quite annoying.   Most of the text was about this guy and his Maserati and entourage of women.   Anyone expecting to read about Jon Sammels, will be disappointed.   I actually stopped reading at this point to check I had the right book.

However, as the story progressed I actually started to warm to the main character.   By the time I was halfway through I was really enjoying this novel. The colourful character Mr Arsenal and his complicated love life interspersed with his view of players, managers, tactic etc, made it a very enjoyable read.   I read it in just 24 hours, which says to me it is a pretty good read.   I can see it appealing to both male and female readers and in particular older sports fans that will be familiar with some of the football legends who are commented on, albeit not always favourably.

By Retsub.

About the author:

Dividing his time between the UK and Cyprus, James Durose-Rayner has over twenty years experience in journalism; a member of the Writer’s Guild, he is the editor of NATM, the UK’s leading specialist civil engineering journal. His writing has been featured in over 200 magazines and his debut indie-novel, S63: Made in Thurnscoe, published in 2001, received positive reviews. The first in a trilogy, I Am Sam by James Durose-Rayner (published February 10th by Clink Street Publishing RRP $18.00 paperback RRP $11.60 ebook) is available to purchase from online from retailers including amazon.com and to be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information, please visit james-durose-rayner.co.uk and follow him on Twitter at @natm_mag

James Durose-Rayner