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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Thanks Carl Jenkinson, In praise of Olivier Giroud

He lived our dream


So it looks like Carl Jenkinson is on his way to Crystal Palace on a permanent deal. I, for one, am sad to see him go. I didn't buy in to the negativity that a number of the supporters showed towards him when he came back in to the team this season. After a year out with a serious knee injury you might have thought we would be cutting some slack to a player who is genuinely one of our own. Instead he got dogs abuse to the point where Arsene Wenger took him out of the firing line completely and has actually been playing people out of position at right-back rather than put the Corporal back in the side. That nearly came back to haunt us at Preston with Ainsley Maitland-Niles far further out of his depth than Jenkinson ever was. Gabriel has done okay there but we are one centre-back injury away from having Maitland-Niles (or possibly Holding) being asked to play there instead. 
Carl Jenkinson is never going to be a top class full-back but he is a more than adequate squad man. He was also good enough to get an England cap not that long ago. To see him cast out because the "fans" got in his back makes me a little sick. It will be a real shame to see Carl Jenkinson having to play in a shirt that isn't Arsenal's from now on as all he ever wanted was to be a part of his club. He lived the dream we all wanted as supporters of Arsenal. I wish him all the best and commend him totally for always giving us everything he had. In these modern times where we see greed ruling football ambition it should be a breath of fresh air to see a young lad achieving his goals like Carl Jenkinson has. Unlike many of the players Jenkinson "got it" where Arsenal are concerned because, quite simply, he is one of us.

Outstanding form from Giroud


On the pitch we've got back to winning ways since I last wrote on Christmas Eve. The performances have ranged from pitiful to brilliant all in the space of the same ninety minutes. The game at Bournemouth was absolutely ridiculous and I really don't understand why it took 70 minutes for Arsenal to start playing at 3-0 down. As it turned out we might have won  the game had we gone at them for the couple of minutes after Giroud's equaliser. To follow it up at Preston with a first-half that was perhaps even worse just a few days later was inexplicable and inexcusable. As at Bournemouth it was mostly the combination play of Giroud and Lucas Perez that earned us the result late on. I don't see why Lucas isn't getting a decent run in the team. The lad has scored goals and created goals when given his opportunity and seems to know where and when to run whenever the ball is played to Giroud. By the same token his presence in the near vicinity makes Giroud's job of winning the ball that much easier as Lucas takes one of his markers away. It may be a good "plan B" but how about making it "plan A" a little bit more often?
Giroud has been in wonderful form since his return. His goals this season have been crucial on a number of occasions - his personal contributions have directly resulted in points won for Arsenal and maybe he's finally getting some well deserved credit. As he closes in on 100 goals for Arsenal a look at his record stands up to scrutiny. For a player who is not much loved, and seen as being just below the top level of centre-forward, his goals-to-games ratio is impressive. There is also a lot more to his game as he has the ability to bring others in to the match with impressive hold-up play. He has become a much stronger, better player in his years at Arsenal and I was really pleased he signed a contract extension last week (as I was about Koscielny, who will just about end his career at Arsenal now, and Coquelin who I believe should be Captain of Arsenal). Of course Giroud's goal at home to Crystal Palace has taken all the headlines, though I don't trust the BBC to make it goal of the month, never mind of the season. However, my favourite goals he has scored this season have all been headers. He thumped one in at Old Trafford by attacking the cross, but even better were his goals against West Brom and Bournemouth over Christmas. He used his physical abilities to hold off defenders for each of them as well as directing his header beyond the goalkeeper. The goal against West Brom was especially outstanding in that regard and shows just how much Giroud has come on as a player in recent times. Long may it continue as he will be crucial from here until the end of the season.


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas wishes

Will he deliver what Arsenal want and need?


So here we are again, my annual Christmas Eve post - something I really don't want to miss out on writing. Thankfully I'm not working again until  31st December so I have a few minutes in which to get this down before handing my computer back to the kids to track Father Christmas on Norad. 
Given that there have been close to only half as many posts in the last 12 months there have been 67,000 (1.129 million since I started it) hits on the site in 2016 - that's significantly up, on average, compared to the last couple of years. Maybe the fewer postings has led to more people wanting to read something on a site they don't see too much of. Whatever the reason I am, as ever, delighted to see that anyone takes the time to read the nonsense I write. I've put out a couple of posts during the year in which I've explained the reasons for a decreased output and things will not change in 2017. The site is also part of the Highbury Library though posts getting on to the feed there are a bit hit and miss at the moment - I need to sort that if I can though I'm not remotely IT savvy.
Looking back at this time last year we were flying high in the table having just beaten Manchester City. This year we are probably feeling as though we're looking in the opposite direction having just lost to them. The fact is that it's not been a vintage year for Arsenal. We've had no trophy, obviously, but also the performances have been of a poor standard more often than not. The second half of last season was a car wreck for five months, lifted briefly by the win against Leicester and the last day capitulation of Spurs to make us runners-up in the Premier League once more. We then endured another typical summer transfer window, only to end up spending £70m+ but actually not making a star signing. Mustafi has played most out of the new signings but I'm still not convinced by him, while Xhaka is not the player we might have hoped and Lucas Perez hasn't been given his opportunity.
If I was picking my favourite moment from the year it has to be Danny Welbeck getting the winner against Leicester. The nature of the goal, coming in injury-time, sent the whole stadium in to pandemonium. Goals like that are the kind of things we live for as a football supporter. The noise, the people going mad, bodies flying everywhere, just amazing. At that point nobody cares about anything for a few seconds as football has lifted you to a different level of happiness. The lowest point was a week later at Old Trafford when Wenger and his players threw away the chance they'd given themselves by turning in the sort of performance that has become far too familiar in recent times.
My player of 2016 isn't easy to choose. The obvious person would be, I'm sure, Alexis but his form after Christmas last season was not good at all. So actually my player of 2016 for Arsenal is Laurent Koscielny. Given our lack of defensive nous that might seem a strange choice but, for me, without Koscielny we'd have been knackered well and truly. He has gone from strength to strength really and he is one of our most important players. If he was in a defence that was actually organised to play properly he would be considered as one of the finest central defenders in the game today.
All that remains now is for me to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. I hope Father Christmas delivers all that you want tonight and, for Arsenal, that things can change sufficiently both on and off the pitch for us to be where we should be with the players at our disposal. Have a great time.


Happy Christmas

Monday, 19 December 2016

Knowing our luck Ozil will sign a contract

I wouldn't blame him if he just kept walking


Top of the league to nine points adrift in eight days. Only Arsenal could do that. And they did. Two defeats, both having taken an early lead and been in a position to go on and put the game away. There was no spirit, no fight, no bottle, no desire - all with the notable exceptions of (for me) Alexis, Coquelin and Gabriel. There was one point in the second half yesterday where Alexis ran from one defender, to another, to another in order to close down high up the pitch. When the ball got shifted on to a fourth defender Ozil was stood no more than fifteen yards away, and there he stayed. Sanchez threw his arms up in frustration and disgust. Ozil then had the temerity to start waving his arms at everyone else behind him. 
I don't care how good Mesut Ozil is at football. He is lazy, cowardly, disinterested, frightened and refusing of responsibility. He makes Arshavin look like someone who gave 100% every week. I hope now more people are coming round to seeing the problem with Ozil as they have with Arsene Wenger. It is easy to realise, with the benefit of a few years hindsight, why Real Madrid didn't mind seeing the back of him. He currently has his agent getting Arsenal to bid for him to sign a new contract. I don't want to see him sign a new contract. I want to see him shown the door for as much money as we can rob from Paris St Germain (no German side would touch him) and get him out of the door as soon as possible. Maybe PSG might take him and Wenger as a job-lot.
Alexis was pictured towards the end yesterday crouching and looking beaten down. I don't think you needed to be a master of body-language to see what he felt. I don't know how any professional footballer possessing of just a little personal pride could watch that guy work his backside off all alone yesterday, yet not feel they should be doing the same. It was only when Coquelin would step forward doing likewise that he got any support. Walcott, Iwobi, Xhaka, Bellerin, Monreal, Ozil - where were they? If you were Alexis Sanchez and Real Madrid or Bayern Munich (or Manchester City or Chelsea) came in for you offering the big bucks, would you stay at Arsenal? He isn't a fan, he has no reason to be "loyal" when he sees his mates failing to back up his efforts against a team we are supposed to be rivalling for the Title this season. I wouldn't blame him at all if he left Arsenal.
Our players reaction to the Manchester City equaliser summed up their lack of passion. The goal was offside, simple as that. If Monreal was offside (which he was) for Iwobi's disallowed goal just before half-time then so was Sane for City's first. Yet there was no reaction from the Arsenal players. There was no proper offside appeal. And then when the goal was given there was not one outraged reaction towards the officials. Adams, Keown, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn would have first of all got the decision anyway because the linesman would have known from their arms being up that the guy was offside - make the decision for him as he clearly isn't capable of making it himself. And if by some unfortunate miracle he hadn't put his flag up then their reaction towards him and the referee would have made damn sure he put it up every time the opposition went forward from then on - not least for the second goal where the linesman could have no idea whether De Bruyne was in Cech's eyeline or not. And there's another thing, what was Monreal doing there? My eldest son is 11 and I hammer him for letting people in like that and not making a challenge, yet Monreal is an international full-back, apparently showing a dangerous striker on to the inside in the penalty area! Then Cech was beaten at his near-post having spent the whole game seemingly kicking for touch like a rugby fly-half.
At 1-1 Wenger and Bould just sat there. City were coming forward totally unchecked, just like Man Utd did until they scored at Old Trafford against us. It was as clear as day to anyone watching the game that change was needed. Giroud had to come on for Ozil to give us an outlet up front. Fine, change Iwobi for Oxlade-Chamberlain, but maybe Ox would have been better in place of Xhaka (albeit he went off injured just like at Sheffield Wednesday last year within minutes of coming on - if he didn't warm up properly again then he should also be heading towards the exit door). Then, when Ox went off at 2-1 down, with Lucas Perez on the bench, Wenger brought on the latter day Ray Wilkins in the shape of Elneny. Tactical genius to bring on a defensive midfielder when you're losing. And still we played with just one up front. Still, with Ozil playing the invisible man role we didn't exactly have 11 on the pitch anyway.
I suppose it sounds like I'm picking on Ozil and blaming him for yesterday. I'm not. I totally blame Wenger for it all. However, I expect a "star" player with the ability he has to take this kind of game and win it for us. Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, even Overmars or Vieira used to do just that. Even if Bergkamp was having a bad game you didn't really feel that he was hiding, and he certainly never came across as being scared on a football pitch. Ozil needs the Keown treatment in training that Henry got when he first arrived in order to toughen him up. It's too late for that now. It's also too late for our league season which has come to an abrupt end before we even reach Christmas. 
We shouldn't be that surprised by what has happened at Everton and Man City. First of all it's been happening to Wenger's bottlers for the last ten years. I hated it when the likes of Shearer and Neville banged on about our lack of "leaders" and how we were "flat track bullies". I hate it even more that they are right. Even the unbeaten run this season was pock-marked with awful results like the 0-0 at home to Middlesbrough in a game we should have lost, or lucky last minute goals to beat Burnley and Southampton. Like I say, why should anyone be surprised? With maybe four or five exceptions Arsenal's performances this season have been woeful. It's going to be this way for a long time to come. Even when Wenger finally goes it will take a new manager (and the next one won't get long enough to make the difference) years to clear out the awful mentality that pervades our pampered superstars. If only they all had grown up in a village in Chile where they had nothing - then maybe they'd understand why Alexis Sanchez and his effort is so well appreciated by the supporters. And yet there are still idiots out there singing about Mesut Ozil instead.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Beware the wounded Koeman

A repeat of this will do tonight


Last year at Christmas Arsenal travelled to Southampton who were in a terrible run of form. What followed was a four goal thrashing for our lot in a game that could have been double figures, we were that bad. Now tonight, twelve days from Christmas again, we face Ronald Koeman's new team Everton who are in a similar run that Saints were this time last year. We have to hope that Arsenal treat this fixture with a little more respect and commitment than we saw at St Mary's last Boxing Day. Our form going in to this game is also comparable to last year - we went to Southampton less than a week after beating Manchester City at home. Over the last ten days the team has put in three superb displays in beating West Ham, Basel and Stoke RFC. I don't like the omens ahead of tonight.
I've been a bit surprised by the lack of success Koeman has had so far at Goodison Park. Having said that, I was also surprised at how little was spent by Everton and their new owner back in the Summer. I think he will turn things round given the opportunity as he proved at Southampton he has the ability to get the best out of a very difficult situation. In Lukaku he has a player who can be unstoppable on his day, and can be a very "streaky" goalscorer in the mould of Kevin Campbell - the fact he scored on Saturday ought to have our defenders on their guard ahead of tonight.
Obviously Arsenal are missing Mustafi tonight following his injury at the weekend. Bellerin being back is a massive boost going towards the Christmas schedule, but Gabriel has never been truly convincing alongside Koscielny. I actually thought he did really well filling in for Bellerin, Debuchy and Jenkinson at full-back and maybe the confidence of a run in the side will serve him well as he will play a good few games in the next few weeks. I don't see too many other changes being made to the Arsenal team. We might see Gibbs come in for Monreal, I suppose, but there's really no point messing about too much given how well they played at the weekend - there is plenty of time between tonight and Sunday afternoon for recovery ahead of the trip to Manchester City.
Four points from the next two difficult matches, both away from home, has to be the realistic target. Winning at Everton would put us in a very decent position to achieve that aim. We have a decent record at Goodison Park, probably much better than most over recent years. There haven't been too many defeats up there, and a good few wins - some of them very convincing. Last season we went there straight after the Barcelona away defeat and put in one of our best performances of the season, with Iwobi and Welbeck to the fore. 
The fact is that Arsenal must go out there this evening and play on the front foot once again. Do our pressing high up the pitch and win the ball in the Everton half. We must put pressure on their midfield as Gareth Barry will not be able to handle that. This is an Everton team that is struggling and we must back them up towards their own penalty area as much as possible. Create that pressure and the chances will come. Then it's up to our front four to exploit that and get us the win. It could be a very big week in our Title challenge.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Arsenal swatting the dross, Avoid the published nonsense

These four were superb in Switzerland


It's been a really good week since we lost to Southampton in the League Cup. The performances at West Ham and Basel have been as good as anything we've seen from Arsenal all season. There's been movement, passing with a purpose, even shots at goal. What there has also been, particularly at West Ham, is pressing higher up the pitch. Winning the ball back in the opposition half, as Coquelin did for the opening goal on Saturday, makes the whole job of beating opponents so much easier. Over the last few years our best performances and results have all been when we've played our football at the right end of the pitch. If our centre-halves aren't seeing too much of the ball when Arsenal are in possession then it means the team is playing well. Five goals on Saturday and another four last night have made for a perfect few days on the road. The opposition haven't been up to much, it must be said, but that hasn't always been reflected by Arsenal hammering them. In the last two games they've got it right and we have to hope that, unlike after Chelsea and Basel a couple of months ago, they keep it up now and get the results in December that we need if we are to challenge at the top.
Winning our group in the Champions League was an added bonus last night. It was totally unexpected after the game at home to Paris St Germain and you have to give credit where it is due. At the start of the campaign the objective had to be to win the group and that's been achieved. If it means we still get unlucky enough to draw Bayern Munich or whoever then there's nothing we can do about that. And if you can't enjoy Arsenal winning 4-1 away from home in Europe then that's your problem.
The way the goals came last night was also very satisfying. A couple of tap-ins for Lucas Perez showed that he might have some of the poachers instinct, followed by a nice right-foot finish across the goalkeeper to give him his hat-trick. After a slow start in terms of his playing time, and coming back from an injury, he will surely get a real boost from scoring his goals. He now has five goals and two assists from his limited appearances for Arsenal, and the hat-trick last night came from playing out of position on the right-wing. The fourth goal, however, is the one that will live in the memory. Ozil made a superb run in behind the defence (he was excellent last night) and the pass chipped over the top by Alexis was incredible. From there Ozil somehow knew exactly where Alex Iwobi was and presented him with a nice easy finish that hopefully gives him some confidence too - Iwobi's performance last night was also one of his better displays this season. All in all it was a very enjoyable way to spend a December night and followed on nicely from the exceptional Alexis-show on Saturday. That, in itself, was one of the best hat-tricks you will ever see and Arsenal must get him to sign a new contract as soon as possible.

The eagle-eyed reader among you will have noticed a new banner at the top of the page, and a new logo down the right. This site is privileged to be included in a new initiative to "cut through the noise" of Arsenal related news and views. The Highbury Library is providing a service that avoids the click-bait headlines and articles that adorn your news feeds and give you links directly to articles you might actually want to read, rather than the latest transfer lies designed exclusively to bring you to a site to read the adverts etc. All the major Arsenal sites are in there, and so am I! I'm grateful to the creators for the opportunity to be a part of this, and also for the creation of the logo that will now give this site it's own hallmark. Make The Highbury Library your first port of call for all your "real" Arsenal news and views.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Get off Carl Jenkinson's back

The new scapegoat for the clueless


I was able to make a rare appearance at the game last night. Sadly my presence didn't bring the best out of the players in the way it had against Chelsea and Basel. The performance was slow almost from start to finish from Arsenal. There was a ten minute period at the start of the second-half where we moved the ball at pace and genuinely attacked PSG. The fans were up and Arsenal were on top. Then we got the fortunate own-goal, though our attacking play merited some reward, and the team stopped playing again. We sat back, became lethargic, and eventually Paris got a much deserved equaliser. The fact is that they should have won the game, as they should at Parc-des-Princes a couple of months ago. Arsenal's season to this point, while only including one defeat, has largely been succoured by last minute winners against Southampton, Burnley and Ludogorets. Take those away (and you won't score too many last minute winners across the course of the season) and you would have a more accurate reflection of what the performances have actually deserved. The game against Chelsea, the first-halves against Basel and Watford, and the last twenty minutes at Sunderland are about the only examples of this side actually playing well this season. I know they beat Ludogorets heavily at home, but don't forget the saves Ospina had to make in the first-half that night, or the fact that the Bulgarian side were basically a pub team in comparison to Arsenal.
I suppose we're indebted again to Edinson Cavani for the point last night. He might have opened the scoring again but he makes Kaba Diawara look like a finisher at times. We didn't create a proper chance really all night. The penalty looked dubious from where I was, and from only one angle I've seen from TV pictures does it look like the bloke takes Alexis out. Giroud's execution of the penalty, however, was very good. It's a shame that, for the rest of the game, he received nothing even resembling service from his team mates. The Manager sent out a team without wingers to supply Giroud yet again - did he not see what happened when we finally got someone on the pitch who could cross the ball last Saturday? 
That brings me nicely on to the lad pictured at the top of this piece. Jenkinson actually did put a couple of dangerous balls in to the box - one of which led to the own-goal to put us ahead, and one in the first-half that saw only Alexis in there at the time. On the opposite side we had Kieran Gibbs (of whom I'm a huge advocate) failing every single time to get the ball past the closest defender. It is so easy to cross a football but actually Jenkinson is the only full-back we have that can do it. Tell me why, then, he got howls of derision from the crowd the first time he failed to get the ball in? We had watched Alexis put three balls from wide either out of play or straight to the goalkeeper, Gibbs was wasteful as noted, Iwobi a waste of space whenever he got the ball, yet Jenkinson gets the crowd abuse! There was a bloke behind me telling him to "go back to West Ham" and the bloke who sits next to me kept calling him a "donkey". This annoys the hell out of me. There seems to be a move for Jenkinson to be slagged regardless of what he does. Is he good enough to be a regular in the Arsenal side? No. Does he realise that? Of course he does. The Corporal is the reserve player for his position and is in the side because Hector Bellerin is injured. Is that his fault? I really think the issue with Jenkinson is born of jealousy - people envy him because he is the Arsenal supporter who has been able to live the dream we all wanted for ourselves. What he will never lack is effort - unlike our superstar German international who once again did his Invisible Man impression for 90 minutes last night. Scoring the odd goal against rubbish opposition is nice, but how about showing us you're genuinely World Class against a decent team? Give me a Jenkinson heart over an Ozil one any day, thanks very much. And, no, I'm not excusing Jenkinson for losing his man for the equaliser - it was his fault that Lucas (the best player on the pitch by a mile last night) got a free header at our goal. Iwobi obviously lost his bearings completely and took the ball out of Ospina's gloves to score the own-goal, but then he shouldn't have been out there himself if the Manager had picked the right players from the off, or made the sub he'd been waiting five minutes for before the corner was taken!
While I'm on about players getting stick it seems more and more are coming round to my way of thinking where Aaron Ramsey is concerned. Again, his presence in the starting line-up last night was not merited and made little sense. However, I thought he was probably our best player on the night. He kept the fancy stuff to an absolute minimum, covered the ground well, made a number of very good tackles (especially before half-time) and was generally very disciplined in his positional play. I was shocked therefore (I wasn't really) to see him getting so much stick from supporters online after the game. Maybe it looked different on TV, but the things I would normally level at him with regards to slowing the play down and giving the ball away etc were not criticisms you could make of him last night. It was bizarre to read that he was being accused of those very things. I suppose, as Jimmy Greaves used to say, it's a funny old game.
I'm at the game again this Sunday and I have been dismayed by Jack Wilshere stating he "wants Bournemouth to win" as he is currently a Bournemouth player. Big mistake Jack. The correct thing to do in those situations is to not answer the question when it's asked. But then he let himself down the other week when he revealed he had wanted to get away from Arsenal after he was left out of the England squad by Allardyce as he was only a sub in our first two games. Leaving aside that letting him have his wish (as we now know it to be) was damn stupid of Arsenal, he would have been playing by now every week as Santi is out and he is the only player we have who can do the same thing. That being the case, I'd love to see us totally smash Bournemouth at the weekend. It will need a far better performance for that to happen though.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Meeting another Arsenal legend

Me and big John Lukic


I never realised quite how tall John Lukic is. He is officially listed as 6'4" but let me tell you that is a conservative measurement of his height. It is no wonder that he saved so many penalties. I can't imagine anyone standing 12 yards from his goal and being totally confident they were going to find the net. Having met John on Saturday night I can also tell you he is a damn nice bloke too. More than that, he is a proper Arsenal Man and loves the club the way the fans do.
This was the twelfth annual Dover Gooners Legends Dinner and John Lukic was our guest on this occasion. Once again we were raising money for Bob Wilson's Willow Foundation and it was a pleasure for our supporters club to hand over a cheque for £1500 raised by the members via our raffle. Arsenal once again provided a shirt, signed by the first-team squad, and this was won by one of our special Italian supporters from Gunners Bergamo, once again re-iterating the strength of our relationship with those great Arsenal fans in Atalanta.
The original intention was, as in previous recent years, that I would interview John in front of the assembled crowd. However, John Lukic is what you might call a "proper" after-dinner speaker so there was no need for me to be prompting answers to my usual inane questions. Instead of hearing too much of my voice the guests listened intently as Lukey took us through his career from a youngster at Leeds, on to Arsenal, back to Leeds, and finishing once again at Arsenal. Big John is a master of his craft and his speech is clearly well rehearsed. He has some excellent punch-lines on the end of his stories, true or otherwise.
Among the highlights of the speech was, of course, Anfield 89. John talked to us at length about the game that night, confirming once again the way George Graham set out his team-talk before the game and how he had virtually scripted the match down to the late winner. Being the goalkeeper he was able to give us a unique insight in to the events of the game and how he couldn't really celebrate Alan Smith's opening goal as he was in front of the Kop. More than that he went on to tell us that his reaction was one of "what have we done"? Basically, at 0-0 there was no pressure as Arsenal were there to be the sacrificial lamb for Liverpool. At 1-0 up it was a bit different. There were a few in the room who were there at Anfield (not me) and John talked about the atmosphere inside that stadium. Basically it was a wall of noise, and the closer it got to the end the noisier it got. That was until Micky Thomas got the winner and he said it was like somebody had hit the mute button all around him. All that could be heard was the few thousand Arsenal fans in the far corner going utterly mental. It must have really been something to be in the ground. He also made a well known gag about how his throwing the ball out to Lee Dixon, rather than booting it long himself, was the beginning of the expansive passing game that Arsene Wenger went on to "inherit" after Lukey had started things off at Anfield. The way John puts the story across is funny to say the least.
We heard how he never got on with George Graham from the day the new boss arrived. The story of how David Seaman was signed is something that maybe only John can tell so I won't impart it here. Suffice to say that it illustrated to everyone in the room how football worked in that era. It was a shady business and it probably still is among certain bosses, especially the British ones.
Back at Leeds he won the Title of course, and he told us how he wasn't best friends with Eric Cantona. However, he admired Cantona as a brilliant footballer and, particularly, a great professional who was always working hard in training. The parallel with Dennis Bergkamp is an obvious one in that regard and Lukey had told the room early in his speech that Dennis is the best player he had played with. In terms of the guests we've had at Dover each one has named Bergkamp as the greatest. But then I already knew that.
The speech finished with how he came to retire. You might recall that he played a few games out of the blue in 2000 as third choice goalkeeper. The first of them was at Lazio in the Champions League and John said that he knew that night it was time for him to bow out. The pace was quicker, the ball was faster, the technique a higher quality. At that point, aged nearly 40, he knew it was time to go quietly. We also heard him praise David Seaman as the best goalkeeper he had seen when it came to "picking up" the ball early - given the nature of some high profile goals he conceded that is maybe a surprise! (I'm jesting, obviously). There were kind words about David Rocastle and the game at White Hart Lane in 1987, and also a very balanced answer given when an audience member unnecessarily asked him about Arsene Wenger and his future. John Lukic is a fine man and a great speaker. Above all, at the very end of his speech, he spoke about the pride he has in having played for "this great club" and it is clear that he absolutely loves The Arsenal. 
It was a great night and we are grateful to John Lukic for being our guest, and to the members and friends of the Dover Gooners for once again turning out in support of the event. I'm looking forward to next year already.