George Armstrong isn’t a new name for the Gooner faithful. A true club legend that made a total of 621 appearances for the club (starting 607 of them), was rarely substituted, and is remembered for far more than just records and numbers. “Geordie” as he was popularly known as, was famous for the accuracy of his crosses and his stamina for running up and down the left wing and controlling the game. Even later, when he returned to the club as a reserve team coach, he was responsible for the grooming of young players like Ray Parlour and Paul Dickov among others, and their subsequent progress through the Arsenal ranks. And it was at a club training session when the then 56 year old collapsed and sadly passed away with a brain haemorrhage.
But for the newer and younger fans, there is always the danger that he might be just another player who has donned the Arsenal red and white. Dave Seager is here to try and change that a little. The owner and blogger at 1 Nil Down 2 One Up and Gunners Town has a knack for writing in depth about issues that might seem unconventional to many, but make sense after reading his analysis and insights, or at least give us a different perspective. He also continues to do a lot for fellow fans, and give them a platform, an outlet and a chance to express everything Arsenal (I can tell you this from continuing personal experience – he is one of the nicest and friendliest people you can ever meet). Dave was approached by Armstrong’s family to write this book, and he was kind enough to agree to an interview for my football books review column here on Football Paradise (as well as allow me to share some stuff from the draft).
Geordie Armstrong On The Wing
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“There should be no question that these are three of the greatest names in post war Arsenal history and with modern players staying at one club a rarity rather than the norm, it seems highly unlikely that these records will be surpassed.”
“George Armstrong made his debut on the 24th February 1962 away at Blackpool. At that time only one player in the club’s history has made his league debut at a younger age. George was 17 years an 199 days old and to this day only 9 players have taken their league bow at a younger age. Not surprisingly 3 of them are mentioned above.”
1) Why has working on this book been particularly special for you?
Working on this book has been special for some many differing reasons. Despite writing as a hobby, this is my first book so the experience had been both daunting and exciting. A steep learning curve of course, but what Arsenal fan when asked to write a book by the family of a club legend would say no? I think the most special thing is that Jill Armstrong entrusted me with this project when any journalist would have jumped at the chance, and whilst she has not read every chapter, she says I have captured the essence of her father and that is the biggest compliment of all.
2) What kind of experience has it been?
It has been a roller coaster ride which has involved interviewing countless heroes of the Arsenal and of my own, either face to face or on the phone. I have not counted, but I would guess there are contributions from over 70 footballers and coaches past and present and not just from Arsenal, but other greats who either played against or worked with Geordie. I have chatted to Invincibles, World Cup winners, over 15 double winners and men who shaped the history of Arsenal.
3) For younger Gooners who don’t really know Geordie Armstrong, what would be one thing you would want them to know?
There are a few things younger fans should know about Geordie – but perhaps that he played 621 games for Arsenal when there was only one substitute allowed, and when pitches were dreadful from 1961 to 1977, says it all. What is very interesting though is that most of his 1971 Double winning team mates suggest that Geordie Armstrong would fit seamlessly into any Arsene Wenger side. He was for many, due to Ramsey’s policy of not playing wingers from 1966 to 1974, the greatest English player never to play for his country. Lastly he was probably the North Bank’s Darling before Brady, Nicholas, Rocastle etc. Why? Because he covered every inch of the Highbury pitch and never left anything on the pitch.
4) Could you share a few quotes from the book?
Frank McLintock – 1971 Double winning skipper, team mate and friend.
“George is the most unselfish, generous bloke I know. He hardly drinks but if ever he is standing in company at the bar he wants to buy all the rounds. This is the same give everything attitude that comes through in his game. He runs and runs and just when you think he is going to collapse he starts running again.”
“It’s the same in training. Most of us are looking for an easy workout. Where’s George? Running!”
Bob McNab – 1971 Double winner and the left back behind Geordie
“In all my years of knowing Geordie I cannot think of a time when I heard anybody say a bad word about him. Seeing him away from football you could never have imagined he was a great footballer, so unassuming, completely without ego, so unusual in our business.”
Bob Wilson – 1971 Double winner, team mate and friend.
“Geordie was our Ozil except he worked much harder.” He went on to add – “He was a box to box player and there were none of them in 1971!”
Liam Brady – Team mate in early 1970s and close friend.
“What a team player who would run up and down the pitch, tackle, take fullbacks on and of course totally two footed. Add to that an incredible crossing accuracy which was astounding given the state of the pitches.”
Frank Stapleton – team mate from 73-77.
“I never played with or seen another who could pick a player out like Geordie when crossing on the run.”
“I have worked with a lot of coaches in my time as a footballer but Geordie was right up there with the best of them.”
Perry Groves – Title winner in 89 and 91.
“The two nicest people I ever met in football are sadly both no longer with us, David Rocastle and George Armstrong. They were both magnificent footballers but first and foremost both just wonderful human beings.”
5) Why would you want people to read this particular book?
I would hope any Arsenal fan would wish to read it, although I am sure many younger fans will not. However it is not a conventional biography and is written in conversation with many players who played with him or against him, but also with numerous who played with him on returning from injury or who came through the reserves between 1990 and 2000. Consequently many modern heroes such as Adams, Keown, Dixon, Campbell, Bergkamp and more are in the book.
They will also, I hope, get an insight in to the differences and similarities between 1960/70s football and the modern era as well as learning about “the Arsenal Way and the Arsenal Education.” This is a special club with a unique elegance and class in how it does things – Geordie Armstrong helped create that heritage and epitomised and embodied it for nearly 40 years.
Geordie Armstrong On The Wing will be published in October 2014, but is available for pre-order here.
Anushree is a part of the @Football_P family. You can follow her at @AnuNande