Why Arsenal blogger is saying goodbye after 21 years

Because blogging Arsenal should be done by Arsenal fans.

Covering Premier League football and European club football has become too much.
And I also did tournaments.

World Cups are big and too long and I started to fatigue during Euro 2016 in France when I was writing about Pogba, Wales and Portugal.

Far too much for one man?

Yes. That’s why I’m so grateful to Dan Ferguson for his Europa League reports.

How did you start?

The internet came along and the first thing I did when I went online was set up an email account and the second thing I did was blog France 98 with Ian Grant.

As a journalist, I’d found that every paper or magazine has a format, a style, editors who expect certain things. And that is fine. That’s as it should be. Blogging was different because now I had the freedom to go where the sentence took me and where the paragraph took me.

Yes, I made gross mistakes and misjudgements. But many readers were on my wavelength and I was happy to write for them and to hear from them.

Most of your friends are gooners?

Yes, that is true. But my circle includes a QPR  season-ticket holder, a Spurs fan, two Chelsea diehards, one Man City and two Man Uniteds.

If I was a gooner I would be nauseated by the coldness of Silent Stan, the Yank who owns my club. John W. Henry is the best owner in the Premier League and Stan Kroenke is the worst. Because he will never sell Arsenal and his model will always be profitable mediocrity.

You became deeply involved in Arsenal a long time ago?

They beat Manchester United 1-0 at Highbury on the first day of the season in 1986. As soon I met George Graham I realised within 30 seconds that everything would change and Arsenal would become successful again.

At that time I wrote for The Scotsman, Radio Times, Time Out and 90 Minutes but I didn’t think that writing for papers and magazines was a big deal. My formative years at grammar school had left me with a respect for writers whose work was read after they died. As a sixth former I read Books and Bookmen, a monthly magazine, as well as World Soccer and The Ring, an authoritative American boxing magazine, and I always hoped that one day I would write a book about football.

This blog mutated into The Professor, a Virgin hardback in 2001,then a paperback in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2008.

So The Professor was my most successful book.

Mainly I think of myself as an author who hasn’t written enough books.

Did you enjoy interviewing people?

Usually, yes. And I loved it when Tom Petty said something that amazed me, when Darren Anderton and Mickey Duff also did that. It was the fun to find out things I didn’t know.

Were you aware that you were living a privileged life?

Not really. Only in the last 10 years. Before that I thought : Nobody thinks that their daily life is remarkable, not even Beyonce or George Clooney. You can get used to anything quite quickly .

Why do do you mention George?

He’s pretty hip and he’s done Catch-22 as a TV series which is coming up on Channel 4. The 1970 Mike Nichols movie didn’t capture the manic humour of the novel.

Joe Heller was a bombardier in the US Air Force in World War 2, based in Italy. Catch-22 took him eight years to write and had a bigger impact on me than any work of art since then.

George had his office next to Clint Eastwood on the Warner Brothers lot and I reckoned George learned a lot from Clint, who is another smart guy.

What advice would you give to a young feature writer?

Interview girls. They talk more sense than blokes and are a lot nicer. I realised this after talking to Sarah McLachlan, Angelique Kidjo and Cedella Marley, Bob’s daughter who runs their New York office.

Any nice men?

Only Jackson Browne. What a guy! But Glenn Frey and Howard Marks and Huey Lewis were a lot of fun too. B.B.King was so interesting that I asked him questions for an hour and a half, allowing a long queue of journalists to form in the hotel corridor outside. And Dr John, in the same hotel, was just lovely.

Last thoughts on your final blog?

Just that it’s been a privilege to provide a free service to people in the UK, the USA, South Africa, Iceland, Norway and other countries and I’ve learned a lot from my readers.

The two pieces that got the biggest reaction were Johan Cruyff in 2010 , and the Bermuda Triangle in 2006, which crystallized what thousands of fans had been thinking.