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“Fair play is an English word. Unfortunately, it does not function any more here,”

At the start of every season people make lots of predictions but most of them are way off the mark.  And I don’t think that on this day in 1997, either before or after our first match of the campaign, anyone was predicting a particularly wonderful season for Arsenal.  We had come third in the league the season before and thus qualified for the Uefa Cup (the early edition of the Europa League), having finished seven points behind the champions – Manchester United. The other team qualifying for the Champions League was our opening opponents of the season this year: Newcastle United.  Arsenal were not considered to be in their league.

So people were not expecting too much before the start of the season given that we had only won three of the last seven games of the previous season.  The season had also ended with Arsene Wenger saying “Fair play is an English word. It is not a French word, and it has been copied all over the world. Unfortunately, it does not function any more here,” on 19 April 1997.

Probably no one expected too much when we won just two games in the first five of the new season starting on this day in 1997 and although undefeated after 12 games six of those games had been draws. Worse, four of the next six were defeats.

To remind yourself what happened next scroll down to 9 August 1997.

Here are the anniversaries.  Details of our books and other series on this site are on the home page.

9 August 1911: A temperature of 36.7°C was recorded in Northamptonshire – a UK record not beaten in the UK until 1990.

9 August 1914:  Joe Mercer born.  He first played for Ellesmere Port Town before going to Everton in 1932 where he won the League in 1938/9.  After the war he was captain of the 1948 title winning side.

9 August 1920: With the government and its media allies discussing and invasion of the USSR to take out the communist government, the Labour Party, empowered having made enormous gains in the post-war local elections, but also anxious not to lose supporters to the Communist Party, announced it would call for a general strike if war was declared.

9 August 1939: Lionel Smith signed as a pro.  He had joined Arsenal in 1939 just before the outbreak of the Second World War as an amateur left back and signed professionally in August on the eve of the declaration of war.

9 August 1944:  George Armstrong born.  He trained as an electrician, being rejected as a footballer both by Newcastle and Grimsby before joining Arsenal as a youth player in 1961 and made his first start aged 17.

9 August 1955: Leslie Compton benefit match: Arsenal played the MCC at cricket exactly as his brother had done.  In 1947/8 he was a near ever-present for the remainder of the season, as Arsenal won the First Division title and Compton finally earned a top-class honour.

9 August 1961: Terry Anderson signed as a professional.  He had come onto the groundstaff in 1959 and made his debut in 1963 and played 25 league games for the club before moving to Norwich City in 1965.

9 August 1972: Alex Graham died aged 82. He finished his playing career playing for Folkestone FC in the Southern League and later became Brentford assistant manager.

9 August 1977:  Mikael Silvestre born in Chambray-lès-Tours, and  started playing football with the Rennes Football Academy and began his league career with the French club in the 1995/96 season.

9 August 1990: Death of Joe Mercer, on his birthday.  His final managerial post was with Coventry City and as a stand-in manager for England. He became an OBE in 1976, and sadly suffered from Alzheimer’s in later life.

9 August 1997: Leeds Utd 1 Arsenal 1.  Ian Wright scored, Overmars, Petit and Grimandi all started their first game.  Game 1 of the 2nd Double Season    The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.  The start of a 12 game unbeaten run. For pre-season see here

9 August 1998: Arsenal beat Man U 3-0 in Charity Shield, winning it for the ninth time.  Overmars, Wreh and Anelka scored.

9 August 2017: Having left Arsenal in 2003 and playing for Rangers, Charlton, Blackburn, Ipswich and Everton, Francis Jeffers signed for Sheffield Wednesday, played in a 1-4 defeat to Ipswich who must have been glad they hadn’t got him any more, and got injured.

9 August 2011: Ryo Miyaichi was granted a work permit, but only ever played one league game for Arsenal.  He went on loan to Feyenoord, Bolton, Wigan, and FC Twente,

9 August 2013: Ignasi Miquel loaned to Leicester for the season, and played seven league games for them before transferring to Norwich in 2014.

9 August 2014: Despite being injured Thomas Vermaelen was sold to Barcelona for around £15m.  He was not fit to play for his new team until March 2015. In the end he played just one league game in his first season with Barcelona.

9 August 2018:Lucas Pérez sold to West Ham after playing just 11 games for Arsenal.and 35 for Deportivo La Coruña on loan.  He went to West Ham for one season and then in 2019 move again to Alavés.

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