By Tony Attwood
Jon Sammels played for Arsenal between 1963 and 1971 and I remember him well. Of course in those days the amount of information we had about the club was far less than now, and I never understood why he left when, as far as I could see, he was still such a wonderful player.
Here are the basic details…
- 23 July 1945: Jon Sammels born in Ipswich
- 30 July 1962: Jon signed as professional
- 27 April 1963: Blackpool 3 Arsenal 2. Debut for Jon Sammels – and he scored one of the two goals. He played just two games this season, but went on to play 212 games all told, including making 21 appearances in the first Double season.
- 24 April 1971: WBA 2 Arsenal 2. Last game for Jon Sammels. Having just defeated Leeds, West Brom held Arsenal in the 29th league game of the first Double season. The result left Arsenal one point above Leeds with one game in hand, but knowing that the next match was Leeds away.
- 22 July 1971 Jon Sammels sold to Leicester for £100,000
And his footballing career…
* Includes three as sub. Jon also played nine times for England’s under 23s.
And now the meat on the bones…
Jonathon Charles Sammels was born in Ipswich and is said to have been an Arsenal supporter as a boy.
He started to be a regular in the team in 1965/6 – for after just two games in 1962/3 and none the following year he played 17 in 1964/5. And then 32 the next season, including playing in the friendly against Brazil in November 1965 when he scored both goals as Arsenal beat the world champions 2-0.
Jon was clearly on the way up, for after that he notched up all 42 league games (and scoring ten) in 1966/7. But his greatest moment came in the 1970 Fairs Cup final when he scored the winning goal to give Arsenal their first ever European trophy.
However an injury restricted subsequent games and as George Graham came into the team Jon’s options were reduced although he was used as an alternative to Eddy Kelly on occasions and he did make 13 league starts in 1970/1 as part of the Double side.
Matters were made worse however by the anti-Arsenal Arsenal of the day booing him, And so following a transfer request and 212 league starts (270 matches in total) and 52 goals, he was sold to Leicester.
Jon then became a key part in the Leicester team for seven years, and played almost the same number of games for them as for Arsenal (265 for Leicester), and won the 1971 Charity Shield with Leicester (Arsenal declining to play in the competition having won the Double).
He left Leicester on a free transfer in 1978, and after a season in Canada, and then a short spell in non-league he became a driving instructor back in Leicester.
Dave Faber, writing on Arsenal.com gives an interesting insight into Jon…
In the wake of the Fairs Cup Final triumph a year earlier I had written to him asking for advice on striking a football (he had the fiercest shot on him) and how to improve my game. I didn’t expect a response, and certainly not a hand-written one that stretched to four pages of velum. I was already a fan, but at thirteen I was understandably overwhelmed at his kindness.
Bob Wilson is quoted in Highbury: The Story Of Arsenal by Jon Spurling in relation to not playing in the cup final saying…
Jon was my room-mate and the night before the FA Cup final, he was seriously choked up. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him to miss out on the climax to the Double season, after he’d been at Highbury all those years. You hate to hear one of your team-mates receiving criticism from the crowd. Fans have a much bigger influence on players than they think.
And that is it – except for a novel call “I am Sam” by James Durose-Rayner. It is just the third novel that I know of which has Arsenal as a theme (although not really a central theme), the first being the Arsenal Stadium Mystery, and the second “Making the Arsenal” (set in 1910 by, well, since you ask, me). “I am Sam” is a book about a David Beckham look alike who works in media and who is charged with producing made-for-TV videos about England’s failure in the 1970 World Cup, and in passing, Jon Sammels. ———————–