I am tiring quickly of some of the ludicrous claptrap (yes Charlie Wyett, I mean you and your ilk) being written about Olivier Giroud’s failure to score in three starts and two substitutes appearances for Arsenal. Some of us who have seen the finest two players of a generation (God 10 and son of God 14) take time to get off the mark have also had the misfortune of witnessing our failure to replace the original Judas, Frank Stapleton, when he blazed a trail more recently followed by some Dutch bloke. Olivier will succeed where many before him failed spectacularly to replace a deserter to Manchester.
When Stapleton departed in 1981 Arsenal spent a couple of seasons trying a bunch of has-beens and no-hopers to replace him on the cheap. John Hawley was a journeyman striker who had a decent strike rate in nine years at Hull City, Leeds United, and Sunderland. We splashed £50,000 of the £900,000 a panel believed Stapleton was worth on the Yorkshireman who had played under manager Terry Neill at Hull. Somehow he survived two years with the Gunners, but three goals in just twenty appearances tells you everything about his contribution. He had the first touch of a bull elephant with a club foot, and we were lucky Bradford City took him off our hands without demanding a hefty fee as well.
Hawley, however, was prolific when compared to another former Leeds striker, Ray Hankin. In November when it was dawning on Neill that the former might not be the solution to our goalscoring problem we signed Hankin from Vancouver Whitecaps for an alleged £400,000 dependent on appearances. After lumbering onto the park twice as a substitute in League Cup ties the big old unit was sent back to Canada. The money remained in the bank and the proposed pie factory in Gillespie Road was scrapped.
The following season Arsenal turned to the young Stoke City striker, Lee Chapman, to solve the problem. He scored roughly every third game at the Potters so £500,000 was splashed out to secure his services. Unfortunately for us his services appeared to be just watching what was going on around him or falling over the ball, a lot. He was the original square peg in a round hole, and lasted just a painful and embarrassing one season, netting a none too prolific four goals in twenty-three appearances. Chapman went on to flop the following season at Sunderland before refinding his mojo in two spells with Yorkshire clubs, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United (them again). With the latter he picked up a championship medal and so he at least was able to forget his year at Highbury. If only those of us of a certain age could say the same.
Not surprisingly faith in the old style partnership of a big fella and a little one fell out of favour during these painful two seasons. Alan Sunderland and Tony Woodcock kept us afloat, but in the summer of 1983 the club invested £800,000 in a player of a very different stature to his predecessors. Charlie Nicholas may have delighted and frustrated in equal measure, but for five years we had a striker who inspired emotion and devotion. That, however, is a story for another day.
Olivier Giroud, you will grow into the job. I recognise a decent player these days because I have seen plenty who weren’t, and dear me Hawley, Hankin, and Chapman were three of the worst.
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