Today’s anniversaries and “the dignity and fairness of the British press”

By Tony Attwood

Reading a real manager’s memoires, as opposed to the sanitised rubbish we normally see, one gets some real insights.

If you have been following my recent meanders around Arsenal’s history you’ll know I’m writing the annual AISA Arsenal History Society publication which will go out to all members this summer, and it is on Tom Whittaker.

Here’s a most wonderful bit about the press from Tom Whittaker’s Arsenal Story (chapter 34).  The story comes from the summer of 1948.

Arsenal went on tour in Brazil where they were welcomed as film stars and lauded as the “greatest football machine in the world”.

Tom writes…

I had previously warned my players to be careful of the South American Press, who do not handle matters with the dignity and fairness of their British confrères, so to all questions of a controversial nature they replied “You had better ask Tom.”  Naturally I tried to spread the goodwill from the start and spoke freely both over the microphone and to the reporters.

Now I have to say, I love that.

The dignity and fairness of their British confrères…

Was that how the press was in the 1940s?   I actually don’t know and would have to do quite a lot of searching around to find out, but I know that a lot of what was written in the 1890s in the local media in Plumstead was anything but dignified or fair.  The press was used as a battle ground between the two sides in the fight to control Arsenal.

Anyway, as Tom tells the story, the whole thing backfired…

But next morning I got an unpleasant shock.  When the interpreter read out the newspaper headlines to me, I was horrified to learn that among many other highly coloourful things I and the players were supposed to have said were,

  • English Football is the Best in the World
  • Arsenal will win every match
  • Brazilian football is Third Rate
  • Arsenal are Soccer Masters.

Tom Whittaker then phoned the Brazilian man responsible for making the arrangements for the visit.  He called a press conference, and Tom addressed the mob (or press corps as they were presumably called then) and said, among other things, “if this sort of lying attack continues, I shall take my team back to England by the next plane.”

Apparently the reporters apologised and there were no more incidents.  That’s the way to tell them!

For more tales from Tom Whittaker’s era please take a look at the home page

Here’s today’s anniversaries…

  • 12 June 1945: Pat Jennings born.  In his early years he played for Shamrock Rovers and Newry Unite, and had a spell playing Gaelic football before joining Watford in 1963.
  • 12 June 1946: Bobby Gould born.  He started his career with Coventry, making his debut for them at the age of 16, before joining Arsenal in 1968.  In all he played for nine and managed 11 clubs.
  • 12 June 1951: Final appearance for Ian McPherson.  He played 152 games for Arsenal before moving back to Notts County – the club from which he had been signed in 1946.  He was a regular in the championship team of 1948.
  • 12 June 1977: Even a full-back pairing of Rice and Nelson could not stop N Ireland being beaten by Iceland 2-0 in the World Cup.
  • 12 June 1980: Clive Allen was signed by Arsenal from QPR in one of the strangest transfers ever.  He never played for Arsenal in the league (although he played in three pre-season friendlies) and moved to Crystal Palace in a swap deal for Kenny Sampson before the season began.
  • 12 June 1998. Emmanuel Petit played for France in their opening world cup game.  He played 63 times for France and scored three goals including one in the world cup final.
  • 12 June 2001: Nelson Vivas moved to Inter on a free transfer.  He played 69 times for Arsenal scoring one goal, moving first to Celta de Vigo on loan before moving on to Italy.
  • 12 June 2008: Derek Tapscott died.  After retiring from playing football he worked in the sporting goods business until retiring in 1997.  He also wrote an autobiography, Tappy.
  • 12 June 2009: Fabianski signed a four year contract with Arsenal which ended with him lifting the FA Cup.  He then moved on a free transfer to Swansea having refused to sign a new contract with Arsenal.

The complete Arsenal on this day index is now here with around 5000 major events in Arsenal’s history recorded.  May and June recently fully updated.

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