BOB WILSON OBE was Arsenal’s goalkeeper between 1963 and 1974 and won two international caps for Scotland in 1971. He was also the last amateur to play first team football for the club, making six appearances in that capacity until turning professional in March 1964. 

 

After helping Arsenal to win their first major trophy in seventeen years, the European Fairs Cup in April 1970, he was an ever-present in the club’s famous first League and FA Cup double in 1970/71, 

making an incredible 64 appearances over four different competitions.

Upon his retirement from playing, Wilson became Arsenal’s goalkeeping coach for 28 years, overseeing and advising Pat Jennings, John Lukic and David Seaman.

 

In 1970 he appeared as a pundit for the BBC during that year’s World Cup, when England were defending champions. He later joined the Corporation in 1974 as host of Football Focus, a position he held for 20 years. Grandstand, BBC Breakfast News and Sportsnight were also programmes he fronted during his time at the BBC.

 

After moving to ITV in 1994, he presented the station’s UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Football League Cup programmes, plus Euro ’96 and the World Cup 1998. He retired from regular tv presentation in 2002 but still makes occasional appearances on BBC television for Football Focus and Match of the Day 2.

 

Much of Bob’s time now is taken up promoting his, and wife Megs’ Willow Foundation, the charity launched in 1999 in memory of their daughter Anna, who died in 1998 from a rare form of cancer. The charity now helps an estimated 12,500 young people aged between 16 and 40 who are diagnosed every year with a life-threatening illness, to enjoy their ‘Special Day’.

 

BOB'S FOREWARD FOR ARSENAL: THE LONG SLEEP

 

For all Arsenal fans and indeed anyone interested in the history of the beautiful game of football this is an extraordinary book. It is a work of art lovingly put together by an individual who suffered along with thousands of other supporters of the Gunners as this great and famous club competed well but failed dramatically to win a major trophy for 17 long years.

 

That is if you discount the TV programme Quizball which filled our screens for a time and tested the intellectual skills of guys like me who were far more comfortable with a ball at our feet or in our hands. How could the great Arsenal with all its fame and wealth celebrate a 7th league title on May 1st 1953 to add to their previous FA Cup triumphs and then not enjoy such pleasure and triumph again until the 28th April 1970 - a gap of seventeen long years?

 

Well I suggest you read on because within the following pages are a myriad of near misses, bad luck and yes, of course, some poor performances. The whys and wherefores are all here together with names of famous players that leap out of the page at you throughout and only add to the mystery. From the great Joe Mercer and his retirement  immediately after the 1953 title was won, all the way through to the equally inspirational Frank McLintock who’s captaincy led at long last  to silverware and the first European trophy won by Arsenal on that most famous of nights at Highbury.

 

I love and recommend this book and not only because, for much of it, I was one of those players who failed the fans. It is a reminder that even if you play for a football club in which there are very few peers, there is a very thin line between success and failure. Sport at the very highest level can make or break you. I have finished up being one of the fortunate ones more by luck than good judgement. A so called “legend” simply because I was a part of the team that ended 17 barren years for the Arsenal trophy cabinet and who went on to even greater triumphs.

 

However I also know I can speak for every individual, who in those 17 difficult years, so comprehensively covered within these pages, tried their best but missed out. You will read and be reminded constantly about them throughout this wonderful book. No trophies agreed but for them success measured in a different way; in simply playing for Arsenal Football Club, wearing the shirt and looking down with pride at the gun that emblazoned their chest.

 

Bob Wilson

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