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October 2020
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Whatever happened to Jon Sammels?

By Tony Attwood

Jon Sammels played for Arsenal between 1963 and 1971 at which point he was sold to Leicester for £100,000.  He played 215 league games for Arsenal and scored 39 goals, but went on to 241 games with Leicester.  After that he played for Vancouver Whitecaps for a season, and then Nuneaton Borough, retiring from football in 1980.

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 moving to Leicester.  Ironically he won the 1971 Charity Shield with Leicester (Arsenal declining to play in the competition having won the Double).

Dave Faber gave 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 called “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 and written by, well, since you ask, Tony Attwood).  “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.

After retiring from football Jon worked as a driving instructor.  Being now 74 I imagine he has fully retired.  If he reads ever reads this, I would like to apologise for the “fans” who booed him.  They were morons, just as their current counterparts are.

8 April 1891: Arsenal 2 Old Carthusians 2 in the replay of the London Charity Cup semi-final.  It was in effect the County Cup for London teams, for which Arsenal had made it to the final the previous season.

8 April 1898: With Arsenal in the Football League and Tottenham in the Southern League the only place the clubs could meet was in the United League and on this day a United League game at White Hart Lane attracted 14,500 fans.

8 April 1899: Arsenal 4 New Brighton Tower 0; the first win in five, after a promising season. A goal from Hunt gave him 15 for the season, and secured the position of  being top league scorer.for the club.

8 April 1910: Arsenal revealed the club’s debt to be £6200 including £1630 to Mr Leavey, who had kept Arsenal going with his loans, and £1347 to Archie Leitch the architect and ground developer who had designed the Manor Ground’s grandstand years earlier. Even though this latter debt had been hidden from earlier accounts Henry Norris settled it.

8 April 1911: Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0.  Division 1.  24,583 turned up for the game which was part of an 11 match unbeaten run lasting to the end of the season.  Chalmers and Common got the goals.

8 April 1922: Last senior game for Angus McKinnon.  He played 211 games for Arsenal – his only senior club.  He spent some of his post-playing years as trainer and coach for New Brighton FC.

8 April 1933: Arsenal beat lowly Middlesbrough 3-4.  Hulme got three and Bastin the other. Sheffield Wednesday, Arsenal’s rivals at the top of the league however had a catastrophe of a day losing 4-0 at Huddersfield.

8 April 1939: Last senior game for Alex Wilson.  He was signed as cover for Frank Moss and won the FA Cup with Arsenal, but was ultimately replaced by George Swindin.  He later worked as a trainer and physio in England and America.

8 April 1944: Arsenal 5 Crystal Palace 2 in the Football League South.  It was part of a seven match unbeaten run (which included 5 wins) as the season approached its conclusion.  In these seven games Arsenal introduced 7 players who had not played at all earlier in the season, and Arsenal’s form improved against that shown when the regular first-teamers were playing.

8 April 1947: George Curtis played his last game for Arsenal.  He spent time playing for the nursery club Margate but after 13 games for Arsenal moved to Southampton, later managing teams across the world including the Norway national side.

8 April 1961: Brian McDermott born. He played 61 league games for Arsenal, and played for 10 other clubs before managing Reading and Leeds, later returning to Arsenal as chief scout.

8 April 1970: Arsenal 3 Ajax 0.  Fairs Cup semi final first leg.  (George 2, Sammels) on the road to the first trophy since 1953.  46,271 came to Highbury

8 April 1972: George Graham nodded in two headers to give Arsenal a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton who having taken the lead on the half hour then played a 10 man defense for the rest of the game until Graham scored on 78 and 80 minutes.

8 April 1975: With six games to go Arsenal could still be drawn into the relegation mix but a 2-0 win over Coventry City eased the worries, although the accountants would have been unhappy with only 17,291 in the ground.

8 April 1978: Arsenal 3 Orient 0.  13th FA Cup semi final, played at Stamford Bridge.  Macdonald scored two, continuing his run of scoring in each round. Rix got the other.

8 April 1986: Last senior game for Paul Mariner – Arsenal 1 Nottm Forest 1.  In his final season he made just five starts and seven sub appearances in league and cup but failed to score.

8 April 1987: In Graham’s first season WHU 3 Arsenal 1 made it 10 without a victory.  It did however end the even worse run of six games without scoring. Arsenal’s goal was a penalty from Martin Hayes.

8 April 1992: Stephen Morrow’s first game: Arsenal 3 Norwich 1.  He had joined from Bangor and went on to make 39 starts in the League scoring one goal.

8 April 2001:  Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1.  FA Cup semi final.  Tottenham had just sacked George Graham as their manager, and brought in Glen Hoddle, but it did them no good in this game at Old Trafford.  Tottenham took the lead on 14 mins but Vieira and Pires gave Arsenal the victory.

8 April 2008: Liverpool knocked Arsenal out of Champions League winning 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate).  After a 1-1 draw at Highbury, Diaby’s goal on 13 minutes gave everyone hope, but Liverpool got two and when Adebayor got Arsenal’s second, Liverpool immediately restored their lead.

8 April 2009: Luke Freeman, the youngest ever player to play in the FA Cup (on 10 November 2007) signed professionally for Arsenal.  After Arsenal he played over 100 games for Stevenage before joining Bristol City.

8 April 2018: Mohamed Elneny was shown one of the most ludicrous red cards ever seen at Arsenal, by the referee in the match against Southampton.  It was immediately jettisoned on appeal but seemingly no action was taken against the referee for making an error of such ludicrous proportions.

8 April 2018: After three straight defeats in February and March, Arsenal made it three straight wins with victories over Watford, Stoke and on this day Southampton.  Arsenal then won three and lost three of the remaining six games.

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