Paul Vaessen and FA Youth cup winners remembered. Again.

I first wrote about Paul Vaessen on this site with an article that had the bleak title The awful tragedy of Paul Vaessen

After that article appeared I received an email back from a regular reader asking that if I was going to publish something as moving and ultimately tragic as this, would I mind not publishing it at seven in the morning.

And I could see the writer’s point, for Paul Vaessen’s story is the ultimate tale of the horror that lurks around the corner for anyone who is suddenly picked up by fate, and then dropped just as quickly.

Since then I have reviewed the book written about Paul’s life, Stuck in a Moment: The ballad of Paul Vaessen by Stuart Taylor under the heading We are the vampires on the Untold Arsenal site.

And I am back on the subject for two reasons.  One because it is a hugely important book that everyone should read, and the other that I have just heard that the book got a British Sports Book Awards short listing, as well as being long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

As well it should.  The only disagreement I have with the judges is that it didn’t win.

I know that the publisher at GCR Books feels it is by far the best book he has published, and although I am not sure about that (because I haven’t read them all) I certainly do think it is important to have this book in print.


As I said before, I defy anyone to read this book and not to start thinking, hang on, what are we doing here?  Of course clubs look after their youngsters better this day, and the money is sensational – but even so, for every Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, there are so many Paul Vaessen’s.  This is part of the empire that we fight for.  Is this really right?

Indeed I am suddenly reminded of the piece on this site just a few weeks ago looking at what happened to the Arsenal FA Youth Cup winners in 2009 of whom around half are free agents – a euphemism for being unemployed.  Those kids did something I could only dream about, they played football in a match covered on national TV and won a trophy that is recorded on thousands of listings.  And half of them are without a job.

Who is the luckier?  Me, who can only dream of what it must be like to play in a high profile game, but who has a job and a nice house.  Or those guys who did it, and are now unsure what the future holds?

“Stuck in a moment” is a brilliant book is so many ways.  Tony Adam’s introduction starts like any old intro from a famous man having a few words at the start. Boring, boring…. but before the end of the first page there are lines which ate into my heart and my soul and started this train of thought that ran to the end of the book.

And that is just the first page of the introduction!

I still love the multiple, detailed reprints from the newspapers in the book, giving us a complete vision of just what was being said at the time.   And I love the quotes at the start of each chapter.  (“I awoke one morning and found myself famous.” – Lord Byron).

Published by GCR Books and available direct from the publisher:

Here’s today’s anniversaries…

  • 16 June 1934: Margate became Arsenal’s feeder club.  With the school leaving age of 14 but clubs prohibited from signing players until 17 the nursery idea allowed Arsenal to train youngsters as amateurs and monitor their development.
  • 16 June 1986: Danny Clapton died aged just 51.  He had lived (and for a while played football) in Sydney from 1963 to 1970 before returning to London to run a public house.
  • 16 June 1982: Graham Rix and Kenny Sansom became the first Arsenal players to play for England in the final stages of the World Cup.
  • 16 June 1994: Lee Harper signed from Sittingbourne.  He only played once for Arsenal before moving on to QPR.  In his career he played over 100 times each for QPR, Northampton and Kettering.
  • 16 June 2000: Lauren signed from Real Mallorca.  He had already played for four pro clubs by the time he joined Arsenal, but it was Arsenal where he made his real mark, playing 159 league games.



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