Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 7 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Making the Arsenal (Paperback)
`Making the Arsenal' proved to be a very good read that I thoroughly enjoyed over the Christmas break. It `chronicles' the events of 1910, a year in which Woolwich Arsenal Football Club were in financial difficulties. The book indirectly charts the fortunes of the football club. It follows the story of a journalist, Jack Jones as he builds his career by writing observational commentaries and satires for his newspaper the Chronicle. Jack is the football correspondent for the paper, with a soft spot for Woolwich Arsenal. Jack has a background of spying from his days in the Boer War and access to friends in `high places'; from a shared escapade with Winston Churchill and from his `well-connected' in `Society' colleague, the young photographer Edward. Hence, Jack is perfectly placed to provide insight and commentary on the issues of the day.

The reader is cleverly transported back to the life and times of Edwardian Britain. The fear of spies from Imperial Germany (an emerging rival to the British Empire); the campaign for votes for Women by the Suffragettes; the strikes by coal miners in Wales are but three themes woven into the plot. It is a plot that allows Jones to explore the political and class tensions that pervaded Britain at the time. Masons, Anarchists, Suffragettes, Unionists and Liberals suffuse the narrative as the book provides a commentary on the social history of Britain some 100-years ago.

The book is written in the style of a mystery/thriller. The central theme of the plot is Jones's desire to discover the motive behind Sir Henry Norris's interest in becoming owner of Woolwich Arsenal Football Club. Many of the people recorded in the book are real historical figures: George Leavey (Tailor and the largest benefactor of Woolwich Arsenal FC), Sir Henry Norris (Owner of Fulham FC, MP and future owner of Arsenal FC), Archibald Leitch (Architect for a multitude of Football Stadiums, including Highbury) are each well known and documented for their role in Arsenal FC's history.

Through Jones's diary we learn about the football fans' experience in 1910. How the pervading off-side rule led to dull low scoring games and falling attendances on the terraces that often fell into disrepair. It is heartening to learn that the wit, humour and `suffering' of the typical football fan has barely changed over a century.

Being an avid Arsenal fan and someone who tends to read a lot of non-fiction titles I bought the book anticipating a rather sober factual account of the origins of Arsenal FC. What I received was far richer than I anticipated. The book is a veritable potpourri of themes and textures that transports one back to a bygone age. As a `football' book, conceptually it is extremely creative and it is very well written, painting a vivid and vibrant account of London in the early 20th Century. Hence, I would compliment Tony Atwood on this book and would highly recommend it.
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