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The first photographs of Cologne are on Social Media. You can see who has gone to take in a bit of culture, and who is there for the beer and bratwurst! This is the sort of fixture that has made the Thursday night sojourns rather more pleasing than we thought beforehand.

A very young cup team has safely seen us into the last 32 of the Europa League, and a draw at the RheinEnergie Stadion will send us through as group winners. The hosts won’t lie down though, knowing that they need to win to keep their hopes of qualification alive until match day six.

They are, however, down on their luck this season. They have just two points in the Bundesliga and are currently propping up the table, and have an identical record in Europa League group H. Our 3-1 win in the home leg was a come from behind affair with second half strikes from Sead Kolasinac, Alexis Sanchez, and Hector Bellerin, none of whom are likely to play this time around, I suspect.

David Ospina could return in goal behind a back three of Mathieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, and Rob Holding or fit-again Calum Chambers. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson are expected to be the wing backs either side of a midfield pairing of Jack Wilshere and Mohamed Elneny. With Theo Walcott ruled out by a fever the front three could be Alex Iwobi, and a fit-again pairing of Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud.

Expect to see more youngsters coming off the bench in the second-half. Depending on the score it would not be a surprise to see Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah given more minutes of first-team football. As for Cologne, they will be without attacking midfielder Simon Zoller injured in last weekend’s defeat by Mainz. Club captain Mertesacker not surprisingly sat alongside Arsene Wenger at the pre-match press conference and spoke of following up Saturday’s intensity in the North London derby.

“I think it was a brilliant example of us bringing it all, fans and players together. It was a great atmosphere and lovely to see how we were together in every single situation. Even in the stands, on the bench or actually on the field, we seemed to be together. We want to reproduce, especially on Thursday. They set a good example for us, those players who came in. We saw that intensity and to repeat that tomorrow and Sunday will be a big, big challenge for us, but we embrace it.”

The ‘holic pound

When the draw was made this looked like our toughest away fixture but the way things have panned out that may not be the case. I do expect Cologne to give everything, but that Arsenal likely starting eleven is a wonderful blend of youth and experience. As I enjoyed a drink with the excellent Bergkamp the Man on Saturday I am bound to favour his favourite and have taken Paddy Power’s 1-2 to the Arsenal at 9/1.

All that remains is to wish the culture vultures and the lager swillers a fabulous trip and another good performance from the team.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

You are, aren’t you? Go on, admit it it. You’re still smiling (with a couple of obvious exceptions-sorry D and C). This was the first match following the alleged shift in the balance of power and we were widely tipped in the media beforehand to be staring a defeat in the face.

I do understand that Tottenham had shown marginally more consistency this season and journalists of a lily-white hue have had a tough twenty years plus. They unloaded years of frustration while the bookmakers ignored such emotional nonsense. Arsenal, bound to be beaten? No sir, we were the marginal favourites and they were proved right.

I’m watching the re-run of the whole match as I type, and the memories are coming back. I rushed a few words out on Saturday night while still conscious and that enabled me to watch Match of the Day.

Without doubt the atmosphere was as good as anything we have seen or heard in many a year. The stadium was a cauldron of contempt and disrespect for the old enemy. With the support engaged it wasn’t a surprise that the team turned up too. As one, the entire side put in a proper shift and left nothing unspent. The lack of a response from the three thousand eunuchs in the south-east corner of the Grove will also have helped.

And so to teagate, and I’m not the first to make the point that any abuse of a racist, or homophobic, nature is totally unacceptable and Twitter should be better self-policed in this regard. Maybe I do them a disservice because I am told by people who read Adam Crafton’s timeline before he locked his account that nothing of the sort could be found. Perhaps they did take action because I can’t believe that he or some of his “special” peers laid into the Arsenal social media team over nothing.

If the object of the exercise was to gain clicks he was spectacularly successful. Mr Dacre will be very proud of him. You might care to think of who he works for before seeing a degree of irony in the whole sorry saga. The young man wrote a mischievous piece which was always going to draw comments when it was made to look rather absurd. I’m sorry some of it went over the top, but it’s nothing new on Twitter and no blame can be allocated to whoever the amusing and talented Gunners creative was.

Back to the feel good factor. In the unlikely event that you forgot 89 – The Film was released today. If you ordered through the Amazon link in the sidebar, thank you so much. If you were waiting today the link is still there. Please help out a poor blogger and think of all the stick I might get for commenting disparagingly on the neighbours. I was told on Saturday they’ll ‘always be shit’ by an awful lot of people.

I suggested in the preview that we have a performance in us every Autumn. Thankfully so it proved today in the most important home game of the season. The neighbours were destroyed, and aren’t we glad about that.

The performance was built on the rock provided by Laurent Koscielny, Skhodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal. Please don’t tell me we need to go back to a four. They were awesome.

What we suspected could be a tough test was all but over at half-time. Tottenham have produced some memorable performances this season, but were blown apart by an Arsenal team who knew what was expected of them.

We were always in control, somewhat surprisingly, I’ll accept. How it took us 36 minutes to take the lead is a mystery. Skhodran Mustafi’s header was deserved, although I have since heard there was a hint of offside about it. Perhaps Manchester City will give today’s woeful opponents a couple of points after what they got away with a fortnight ago.

In all honesty watching the first half behind Pochettino was a most unexpected pleasure. Tottenham’s unfit-for-duty-internationals produced next to nothing. The Arsenal were  the team displaying the high press, and treatening on most attacks.

One became two when the wonderful Lacazette gave Alexis an opportunity he could not refuse. Even in the normally silent Block 32 a number of the regulars were vociferous in the extreme. I’m sure there must have been some Spurs fans there, but where?

The second half would surely be a nerve-racking affair as the neighbours sought to restore the status quo, but no. Gutless, spineless, the team alleged to have effected a shift in the power of balance were dismantled.

I could go on, about the performance of the mercurial Ozil, about Nacho, Shkodran, and Laurent. About Lacazette. I don’t need to if you were there.

Yes, it’s brief in the extreme, but there isn’t anything to add. We were outstanding, and as we reminded them many times, Tottenham Hotspur. You’ll always be shit.

It seems there isn’t a media outlet that isn’t hyping the latest North London derby to the highest peaks. I’ve just watched Sky Sports half hour preview show. I’ve been reading in various outlets all day about the shift in the balance of power, and who the world and his dog would pick in a mixed eleven. What value that has is anyones guess.

We can’t escape the fact that for the first time since April 1996 the team from Middlesex visit North London having finished above us in the preceding season. For twenty one seasons they rarely got close enough to smell our exhaust fumes. How their joy would have been tempered by our third FA Cup Final triumph in four years.

Silverware is their Achilles heel, and well they know it. Until they have put a trophy in a very small cabinet at the new White Hart Lane then finishing above us once will ring very hollow. Those words, the new White Hart Lane, loom large in their thoughts. The cost is set to reach nearly three times the cost of the Grove, and the financing is not at the advantageous rates we were able to negotiate.

They will have to fill their new abode week in, week out, but the public transport links are already poor for the capacity of the old ground. An extra fifty percent of capacity will test the will of people to make that awful journey regularly.

All of which matters not a jot tomorrow. It, and the way match, are the fixtures most of us (and them) look for first every season. Part of me wants to accept that they are the media darlings of the moment, they are the better side, they do go into tomorrow’s match full of confidence. Then I look for cliches. The form book goes out of the window for THE derby. Only for over twenty years it rarely did.

We know pretty much how Tottenham will set up tomorrow. Hopefully Steve Bould and the manager would have been working very hard with the defenders given the record that former junior Gunner Harry Kane has against us. Yet almost certainly we will have been looking more at how we set up to play the glorious attacking game we see so rarely these days but are still capable of.

In recent seasons, Chelsea last season and Manchester United before that, we have produced an Autumn performance of pure domination of a close rival. Could this derby be that fixture for this season? Who would be best placed to deliver that performance?

Petr Cech is certain to start in goal, and presumably a back three of Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal around either Skhodran Mustafi or Per Mertesacker will seek to protect him. Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac should patrol the flanks either side of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey.

It is the front three who will cause the manager a sleepless night. Alexandre Lacazette’s ommision at the Emptihad looked a bad call when he eventually came on as substitute and scored. If recalled then the likeliest pairing behind and alongside him would normally be a shoe-in for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Their inconsistency this season, coupled with their contract situation probably means that options have been considered.

Alan Smith tonight suggested starting Alexis but bring Jack Wilshere in to replace Ozil in the hole. There is another candidate. Alex Iwobi was preferred to Ozil at the bus stop in Fulham and enjoyed a sensational performance against Argentina in the week. I really haven’t a clue, but we will all be hoping the manager gets his selection right.

The ‘holic pound

The Arsenal are marginal favourites over ninety minutes but the shortest correct score odds suggest a 1-1 draw again. I’ve a feeling about us producing our autumnal extravaganza with the visitors contributing to a breathtaking goal fest. I’m splitting the pound between two long shots. 3-1 to the Arsenal at 16/1, and 3-2 at 22/1, look particularly attractive.

It will be an early start to the day thanks to the lunchtime kick-off, but that will allow for a generous post-mortem/celebration in the local hostelries post-match. Familiar faces will lift each other or party hard depending on the outcome. I’m looking forward to seeing you if you are going to be there.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

As international breaks go that was probably one of the more bearable ones. The release of 89, superbly documented by our expert film reviewer in the last week, has distracted from the usual tedium of the interruption of club football as well as our defeat at the Emptihad.

Gradually though the focus is switching back to yet another North London derby by which Arsene Wenger will be judged. I may be wrong but it feels as though so many matches against the neighbours of late have come off the back of disappointments elsewhere.

Won 58, Drawn 40, Lost 40. That’s the record of League and cup encounters between the two clubs in my lifetime. The derby matches are the first I look for when the fixture computer results are published in June. These are matches that still stimulate all manner of emotions, even to this of us approaching middle *cough* age.

There have been many memorable ones. The title-clinching matches at the marshlands in 1971 and 2004. The FA Cup semi-finals of 1993 and 2001 and the League Cup semi-finals of 1968, 1987, and 2007. Then there was the small matter of beating them 5-0 at the Lane in 1978, and then winning there the following season with six reserves picked during that cluster of FA and European Cup-Winners Cup semi-finals.

There was a spell between 7th November 1999 and 22nd January 2008 which comprised of 12 Gunners wins and 9 draws. The neighbours, sweet FA. Writing previews in that nigh-on decade was incredible fun. Much Micky (not you Hazard) was taken.

Last seasons defeat at the other end of Seven Sisters was our first in five matches but we have only won one of those as well, with three draws separating them. That hopefully isn’t a pointer to the result on Saturday. I’ll preview the match on Friday evening and as usual the ‘holic pound will be revealed.

The international break itself will be remembered by some more fondly than others. Both sets of boys in green will want to forget it as soon as possible, but Alex Iwobi pulled on the green of Nigeria and scored twice in the eye-catching demolition of Argentina, 4-2. Mesut Ozil gave a midfield masterclass against France, for whom Alexandre Lacazette scored both goals in a 2-2 draw. Eddie Nketiah scored five goals in two European U-19 Championship qualifiers for England. Not bad, lads.

I mentioned 89 in the opening paragraph and the screenings are now in full swing. I’ll not apologise for reminding you that the dvd is released on Monday and can be ordered from Amazon simply by clicking the link in the sidebar. Thanks to those who have already done so, and those of you who are about to having been unashamedly pleaded with again.

It’s time to complete Lucy Gooner’s experiences of the world premiere of 89 with her chat with the film’s significant driving force, Amy Lawrence. Amy is well known to most of you. A one-time contributer to the Gooner who developed her talent to the extent that having established herself at the Guardian and Observer, she was named journalist of the year at the Women In Football awards last year. She has had three excellent Arsenal books published (please don’t tell me it’s more, Amy!) and has now added another string to her creative bow. Lucy, pick up the story.

I am lucky enough to know Amy through her press box attendances!  She is great company, and her observations on the process around the film were a joy to listen to. Her opening sentence ensured we were glued to the story behind the film’s inception.

“Basically, it was a fantastically serendipitous game of dominoes, a series of conversations that went very quickly. Started off with a friend of mine called Adam Verdasco, who some of you may remember from the old days, who sent me an email saying, “I’ve just watched that “I Believe In Miracles” and “The Class of 92”. Why is there not a film about ….” And I almost didn’t need to read the end of the sentence and you think oh my God, what an unbelievably obvious and brilliant idea.

“So I then had a chat with another pal of mine, as I was clearly not a renowned film maker, and asked the advice of another Arsenal fan from the eighties who I knew who does some production. He then had a conversation with a mate of his (Davey who is the Director) who directed films and everybody didn’t need to finish their sentence! Before we knew it from Adam’s conversation to Universal, they had never even heard of each other, it was “whoosh”. Suddenly there is a film being commissioned which apparently is very unusual.

“The first phone call I made was to him (points to Lee Dixon, an executive producer as well as a legend!) because I knew he had so much to offer, and I knew that he would be someone who wouldn’t just want to take part. In terms of the kind of guy he is he literally dives straight in. We had a meeting and we all looked at each other and just knew that there was something sort of special in the air. In the first instance, I remember Lee saying, “What do you want me to do?” and we were so early in the idea that we hadn’t really figured much out by then, we knew the story was good.

“Once Lee had asked that, not just “can you give us an interview”, we all went and huddled in the corner and said shall we ask him if he wants to be a producer, sort of joining the club, we nervously decided to see if he wanted to do that and he said yes.

“Once those building blocks were in place the four people who drove it, David the Director, Lee who’s influence in getting the lads on board and so much insight an inspiration, me trying to be the glue and Sam the Editor who we called magic man! The desire all along was not just to make a doc but to make a film, to make something with some cinematic atmosphere.”

We asked Amy as somebody who was there (i.e. at Anfield!) how was it looking at the film now?  (Lee interjects with “why are you asking her? I was there too”!!!) Not for the last time does the enormity of that night, of that spring, come to the fore.

“Nothing comes close to it.  This may sound bonkers and over the top, but I think it changed my life being there. I just felt like there was a life lesson. I was 17 years old and some people were saying something was impossible, and it wasn’t. I have kind of carried that idea with me ever since.  It was a very, very powerful moment in itself and it was extra powerful because of the timing because of Hillsborough, and that fact that there was 41 days between the Hillsborough disaster and that game, which staggered me.”

Having seen the film I can say how very sensitive and respectful the whole Hillsborough piece was handled. It came across from both Amy and Lee that this was so important to all involved in the making of the film.

“Sport can make people cry (I can confirm that it often does as an Arsenal fan!) but that’s one of the things that has been interesting about when we put the film together, because you know generally you think of a sports film. You think it is going to be quite uplifting and fun, but I think that is one of the things that make it special, really quite powerful.  You don’t necessarily  expect that if you are going to watch a sports film, but there are people who have seen it who have been properly weeping.”

Amy confirmed that one of the biggest decisions they had to make was whether to have any involvement of a Liverpool perspective, and said that primarily they were very conscious that they didn’t want it to become a Hillsborough film. That they felt they weren’t equipped to do so and that there have been some fantastic things that have been done on that, and it was better to leave it for those people to have done that work which is really really important.

“What the film does in another way, we hope, is give a kind of universal story of David against Goliath. If you hear too much from Goliath your sympathies for David get a bit confusing. Whereas if you know the film is sort of told from within the Arsenal bunker you’re getting that inner sanctum feel. This is what the lads, George Graham and people, were feeling and thinking and doing leading up to and during this momentous match.”

Amy then turned her attention to our beloved Rocky. David Rocastle was such an important member of the Arsenal team in those years, which is quite remarkable for one so young and indicative of the quality we were producing in those days.

“One of my strongest memories of Rocky was going to interview him when he was on loan at Norwich, briefly, whenever it was. We spent four hours, most of which was spent talking about Anfield 89. I cannot tell you how much he loved that game, and it’s one of the great sadnesses that he couldn’t be a more active part of this, but we have been involved with the family all the way along because we want to make sure that Rocky is very much here in spirit.”

The eloquence and love that Amy has for this project is clear to hear and it was a delight to be able to listen to her be so passionate and effusive. How glad are we that she had those original conversations?

“For me those two things, the worse thing I have ever experienced in football, and the best thing I have experienced collided. They were so connected it was really important that that was a big part of the film as well.  To try portray that time and how we all felt.  We were all going through it even if you were just a fan, if you were just someone who loved football in the late eighties. That period of time was absolutely overwhelming in its emotional impact.”

And now for you all to experience the film. I know you will enjoy it, however you get to see it.

With that all that remains is for me to thank Lucy for her mini-series of guest posts which I hope, and believe, have caught the flavour of the evening without too many spoilers about the truly wonderful film. Screenings started today (Saturday). Keep up with the latest at https://www.ourscreen.com/film/89 or click on the Amazon links in the sidebar to pre-order the dvd, thank you.

89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November.

Part one of Lucy Gooner’s review of a roundtable event with Alan Smith and David O’Leary got some very favourable responses, thank you all. Here is the rest of the story. Thanks Lucy.

A young Spider

The pair of them looked back at the team’s run in at the end of THAT season. We lost to Derby County and drew with Wimbledon, both home matches, before the final match at Anfield. Smudger recalled,

“I remember the Wimbledon game was the last home game of the season and we had done a lap of honour at the end and we’ve gone “sorry we tried our best, but it didn’t quite work out” and there was that kind of atmosphere about it all that game.”

Smudge was asked if he felt that that may have helped in the game at Anfield, and he agreed that the pressure was then off. A recurring theme at the time was nobody fancied us, including us!

“All the media stories. Graeme Souness did a piece in the Mirror “Men against Boys”, pin that up on the notice board but yes, nobody fancied us at all. So we went up there and I think that’s why we slept well in the afternoon. It was a shot to nothing really”

The club’s record appearance holder with 722 appearances for the Arsenal, David O’Leary had made his debut for the Gunners at Burnley sixteen years earlier. He reflected on the contribution of the legend sitting next to him.

“You know I’d seen a lot of them (new signings) come to the club and had got used to a lot of people failing.  Good players who just couldn’t cope with the demands of the big club and gone away and been good, but I remember him (Smudger) being talked about big time at Leicester and he looked the part. I was delighted when he signed, but when he arrived I wondered, there was just something about the big clubs, can he cope with it?  That night those players all came together, and I thought to myself that I was going out with a bunch of players who won’t be in awe of the occasion. They won’t freeze. They will relish it. They won’t be scared.”

He explained that going to Anfield was always hard as they had built up such a good side.  Everybody would go negative. The Arsenal were always a team that would battle with them. Smudger picked up the the discussion about the actual game and when he thought they might actually be able to achieve the miracle.

“Well I think the first-half went well from George’s perspective because we kept a clean sheet and that was always his main thing.  “Listen lads don’t worry about it, scoring two goals, make sure you keep a clean sheet because if they score a goal you have got to score three, and it isn’t going to happen”  So we came in at half-time, I felt a little bit down as I hadn’t had a chance and there was only Bouldy’s header at the far post. We came in, the gaffer lifted us. “Lads chins up we are doing really well exactly according to plan. Clean sheet, let’s just push on a bit more now”. So, you know he has it a bit more in his mind, the general picture that he wanted, and it came off.”

Spider ventured that he really thought it was when Smudger scored. He was up against a couple of his Republic of Ireland international colleagues and observed that Liverpool weren’t really at it.

“I think I was marking John Aldridge up there and there was Ray Houghton who I knew from the Ireland days. I definitely thought something about them changed.”

Talking to them both they were visibly moved by the atmosphere in the ground before the game and that they had given the flowers to the crowd and how much it was appreciated. It was evident that George Graham had done so much to gee them up, and how good it was to see him and all their team mates again at the premiere of the film later on. The mix of the legends and the supporters added to the sense of occasion, and famous faces were happy to mix with those still in awe of them.

Both also agreed it was the best game they had ever played in. So much had gone on around it, but the entire world was captured by it and that everyone was talking about it 28 years later. They were both very effusive about what was one of the best moments in the history of the Arsenal. What a way for me to spend 15 minutes!

89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November. See the link to Amazon in the sidebar on the right.

Last night’s world premiere of 89 all provided an opportunity for our expert film reviewer, thank you Lucy Gooner, to catch up with some of those involved in the project. Here is the first part of a two part account of her audience with Smudger and Spider. Lucy has also written an excellent piece with the multi-talented producer, Amy Lawrence, which will feature over the weekend.

Smudger (image courtesy of Organic Publicity)

Alan Smith and David O’Leary! It was great to be able to sit and chat with both ex-Arsenal legends prior to the screening of “89” last night.

Interestingly neither knew who had had the idea of the film and both were called by Amy (Lawrence) around 8 months ago.  Neither had seen the film. Smudger had however heard that it ends well! David continued about the time that Amy called.

“They were putting a film together about the match. I thought it was about football then realised that it was to do with everything about the day really. Came down to London, probably did about 4 hours of an interview and as I was getting into where it was being shot GG was just coming out. He’d done about 4 hours in the morning.  Hadn’t seen George for a long time and had a quick 10-minute chat. I am looking forward immensely to seeing the film tonight. Everybody says how good it is. I am interested in seeing is it a North London thing or is it something that if you are a football lover would you go and see?”

Smudger added who he feels who would go and see the film. Everybody who is involved in football you would imagine (he was quick to add that maybe Spurs fans wouldn’t quite fancy going!). As he said it’s a fantastic story, and he felt that it’s a story that would appeal to the American market as well because of the underdog triumphs in the last gasp seconds of something so dramatic. He felt that it was well overdue a story to be told. David continued about the actual day…

“I made the mistake of getting out a copy of the game and trying to watch it, but then it’s amazing when Amy was doing the interview how some recollections and things straight away remind you the more you talk the more you remember. I have to say Alan had remembered, I can’t recollect, but it’s come out in a few more interviews, that the team coach going up was jam packed, that every Tom, Dick, and Harry was on it for the day!”

Smudger chipped in, “I think it was like the Directors and the Directors friends, and they were all sat in our seats! That’s my lucky seat” and Spider continued,

“The thing is on the day, it was strange going up on the day.  I’d have probably rather gone up the night before, and thought “get up there”. Don’t have the hassle of getting up there. They didn’t want you hanging about.”

Smudger, determined to get the last word in, never easy in the company of the charming O’Leary,

“Normally you would go on the day for a night game but perhaps because this was such a massive game they said do a John Wayne “get in, hit ‘em hard and get back out again! (It) was a phrase of his. He liked to say that, George.”

Then they were questioned about the employment of a back three on the night and had they prepared for such a twist? Smudger got in first,

“We had tried it at Man United at Old Trafford, and I didn’t know at the time that that was with a view to playing at Liverpool.  When he tried it at Old Trafford the Liverpool game was a few weeks down the line, then of course Hillsborough happened and it got put back, but he stuck to it.  He had something in his head that he felt that that would be the best way.”

Spider, in that unmistakeable rich brogue, revealed,

“We know George, we knew where we stood with him, we knew the training we would do. He stuck to it. He was a hard taskmaster driving you on. When he’d got something stuck in his head this is the way you were going to do it.”

Did they have any notice of that was how they were going to set up at Anfield? Again showing a keen striker’s instinct Smudger revealed,

“Kind of got the impression that that was the way we were set for the season, you know that run in. We knew on the Monday before (laughs!)”

Come back tomorrow night to hear more about the match itself and the team’s poor form leading up to it that set up the nigh-on impossible task. It’s a great read.

89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November. See the link to Amazon in the sidebar on the right.

You would have to have been on Mars to not know that the world premiere of 89 is taking place this evening (Wednesday) at the Holloway Odeon. Earlier our expert film reviewer, lots of you will know her as Lucy Gooner, got the chance to speak with some of the legends from that team, including Lee Dixon. He was honest, open, and a little emotional on a couple of occasions. So, what did he remember of that season?

“I didn’t have the connection to Arsenal like the fans did at that point, I have it now. I’d just signed from Stoke, it was my first full season, getting to know what Arsenal was all about. Part of my goal that season was to stay in the team, it wasn’t to win anything. I’d played six games the season before because I was cup-tied. George put me in the team with the number two on my back and that was it, see how long I could last. I was expecting a little tap on the shoulder, “it’s time to go back to Stoke“. That was my drive, to prove people wrong. I tried to work as hard as I can to stay where I was.”

If you are getting the impression that the Arsenal has left it’s imprint on the Mancunian then you are right. He waxed lyrical about being a Gunner, and about Highbury in particular.

“Can you imagine playing here every week? So learning about the Arsenal that season was a big part of my education, and so hopefully I could stay longer. I bought into the marble halls, Herbert Chapman, the lads talking about THE Arsenal, I bought into all that. I thought, that’s it. I wanted to be like Pat Rice. He’d been here years.”

The film doesn’t shy away from what had happened 41 days before that Friday night decider. I remember we were at home to Newcastle when the news started breaking about what was happening at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The first reports were of an incident of crowd trouble, then casualties were mentioned before the full horror of what had happened became clear. Fatalities, and lots of them.  Lee recalled,

“When I look back on that season Hillsborough had a massive effect on me. That whole process that we went through was at the time covered up because you’ve got to play. You kind of smother over it and get on with your job. I remember handing over the flowers before the game and giving it (the bouquet) because I had been on the Kop three times as a kid, so handing the flowers in at the Kop was quite a big thing for me. The passing over of the flowers to the woman, it was almost like I was asking permission to go and play. It was so different, we were relaxed, probably because it didn’t feel right to be fired up. Hillsborough was a massive part of that.” 

The tragedy of Hillsborough is handled with great sensitivity in the film, and the production team are rightly proud of that. As I tweeted last night if you are going to one of the screenings, or have pre-ordered the dvd, have some tissues available when you watch it.

89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November.

Movie Review – 89

Regular readers will recall last week’s advance notice of the world premiere of 89, the film devoted to the Arsenal title triumph of the year of that simple title. If you are a Gooner of a certain age you only need to see the number 89 to be transported back to the happiest summer of all time. On Wednesday evening, in less than 24 hours as I type, Holloway Odeon will host that premiere.

The film is brought to you by familiar names. Amy Lawrence is the producer, Lee Dixon one of the executive producers, and do watch the credits roll at the end of the film to see more friendly faces mentioned. This is a film made by Arsenal people for Arsenal people, and it is excellent.

Obviously there is much footage of how the season progressed as well as comprehensive coverage of the final game of an eventful season, but the film is made by the contributions of those who were there or around the club at the time.

So many new interviews with George Graham and most of his team on that remarkable night. To see old mates back together after so many years and to hear their reminiscences, spine-tingling but no spoilers from me, I’m afraid.

It isn’t only those at the club but there is also input from a number of Gooners, celebrity and otherwise. As well as Amy you will catch Alan Davies, Nick Hornby, and Dermot O’Leary. There are contributions too from the two highest scoring Gunners of all time. Wrighty might not have signed for us until the following season but you will love his recall of that night. A piece of advice. Bring some tissues with you.

Oh, and T, some great and atmospheric music of the time. Good work!

Goonerholic will be represented at the premiere by our very own expert film reviewer who will reveal all about the day and the event itself, as well as their view of the film. I’m really looking forward to that on Thursday or Friday and Saturday. There will be that much to report!

You will love it if you have booked at one of the many viewings listed at https://www.ourscreen.com/film/89 . You haven’t, you say? Well you can own your own copy of the dvd which can be bought at Amazon via the links in the sidebar. If you do buy a copy that way, thank you.

89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20th November.

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