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Wednesday
Dec072011

The Curious Case of Walter McMillen 

BY @DarrenArsenal1

In the early 1930s Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman was recommended a centre-back playing for Northern Irish side Cliftonville called Walter McMillen. Despatching assistant manager Joe Shaw - himself an Arsenal player between 1907-1922 - to assess the youngster’s qualities it was swiftly decided that McMillen would indeed be a useful squad addition at Highbury and negotiations were begun via a series of correspondence.

As an amateur outfit Cliftonville were not allowed to claim a transfer fee for their player so as a means of smoothing a deal for McMillen, Chapman agreed Arsenal would travel to Ireland to play a friendly match. The Gunners would have their expenses paid (amounting to £500), while the home side would collect the gate receipt which was expected to be a sizeable sum.

McMillen agreed to sign for Arsenal on a contract worth £5 per week with a £10 signing on fee and agreeable bonuses. As planned the friendly match was played.

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Thursday
Nov172011

The Ball Completes Him

BY JOHN SULLIVAN / @clockend5 

“I knew where he was, I knew”

He has practised this countless times,

On rain sodden training pitches,

On baked, childhood playgrounds.

This ballet of touch, turn and push defender aside.

A camera flash grabs him then,

Leaning forwards, towards glory.

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Thursday
Nov172011

An Ode to Lauren

BY ANDREW WILKINS / @hesfivefootfour

I am a very fickle person. My favourite player changes daily, I like and dislike players at the drop of a hat and my favourite Arsenal moment can be any one of about three hundred. However, there are certain players and moments that will always have a special place in my heart. Lauren is one of them.

A simple footballer with a rather extraordinary past, Laureano Bisan-Etame Mayer was born in Kribi, Cameroon on the 19th of January 1977 to Equatoguinean parents. Lauren himself would have been born in Equatorial Guinea like his parents and the majority of his 20 siblings had it not been for a remarkable chain of events that would not look out of place in a Hollywood movie. Valentin Bisan-Etame, Lauren's father, was a fairly prominent politician during the 1970s. Whilst Lauren's mother was pregnant with Lauren, Valentin was arrested by the President of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macias Nguema.

Here, in Lauren's words, is what happened next: “It’s some story. My uncle was in the military, and when the order went out to kill them (the political prisoners) he helped them get out, not just my father but others. They killed some people, but my father escaped just in time, because he was on the execution list. He ran away to Cameroon, and my uncle too.”

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Thursday
Nov172011

In Defence of Ian Ure

BY DAVE WARRISTON

Ever since Nick Hornby consigned his memory to the Arsenal supporters' Room 101 the conventional wisdom has been that Ian Ure was one of the worst players ever to don a red and white jersey. This is probably rather close to the truth, but it is worth recalling the career of a man who was, albeit briefly, considered one of the finest centre halves in Europe.

Whilst in his teens Ure was plucked from the tough world of Ayrshire Junior football by Bob Shankley who identified some raw talent. At 6 foot 3 inches Ure would be still be regarded as a big player today; in the early sixties amidst a generation weaned on war time rationing he was a colossus. Shankley had put together a very tidy Dundee side and in 1962 - when brother Bill was winning a second division title with Liverpool - Dundee were actually crowned Scottish League champions for the only time in their history. Ure stood out as a robust centre half dominant in the air and one who was soon to stamp his authority further afield.

The following year Dundee cruised past German and Belgian opposition in the European Cup before falling at the semi final stage to the eventual winners, AC Milan. Ure was now a familiar figure on the European stage, his bobbing, flaxen hair and heavy boned face giving the impression of a Nordic warrior. He helped marshal 10-man Scotland to a victory at Wembley and finished the season as part of the Scottish side which posted an astonishing 6-2 victory over Spain in the Bernebeu Stadium. Heady days, and unsurprisingly Ure was considered a hot property. He was not only big and strong, he could actually play a bit too.

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