Not that we’re crowing here at The Football Pink but another of our long-standing contributors has found his way into print to become a fully-fledged author.
One of Arsenal’s biggest fans (in more sense than one) Layth Yousif was commissioned to write “Arsene Wenger: 50 Defining Fixtures” this summer – and the tome has just been published following its late August launch at the world famous Arsenal pie shop Piebury Corner on the Holloway Road. (A place where Layth did literally eat ‘all the pies’.)
Layth’s publishing success – the book is already being stocked in Tesco and he’s just embarked on a Waterstone’s book signing tour – is of course testament to his hard work, but he has gone on record as saying writing for TFP has ‘helped him greatly’ which is a message for all you budding football writers out there too.
Whilst, dare we say it, his book would probably not appeal to die-hard Spurs fans it certainly has a broader appeal than for just Gooners.
Tightly written with a keen eye for detail, but with a journalist’s keen turn of phrase – reflecting the fact Layth is a trained journo who freelances for the London Evening Standard sports desk, and whose acclaimed football writing has found its way into the Guardian, Four-Four-Two, When Saturday Comes, World Soccer, as well as cults like us, The Inside Left and The Daisy Cutter – the book combines fact with passion.
As a self-proclaimed football nut who has followed England to four or five international tournaments not to mention numerous away qualifiers and friendlies, in addition to attending nigh on 1,000 Arsenal games up and down the land and overseas, including some 600/700 matches under Wenger as a fan, it is hard to find a more qualified writer for a book such as this.
You can feel his supporter’s passion burst through when he writes about the crucial Leeds United away match at Elland Road in May 1999, where a victory would have surely seen his beloved Gunners clinch the Premier League – and change the course of footballing history by preventing Manchester United doing the treble.
His vituperation at the Peacocks’ Alan Smith denigrating his all-time Arsenal hero Tony Adams is a sight to behold. And nor does Layth suffer fools gladly – even if they come in the shape of Gunners playing legend David O’Leary whose general behaviour and ill-advised celebrations as manager of the Elland Road outfit at the final whistle that painful night still hurts most Gooners even now. Nor is the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in 2011 ignored – a match which signalled a sea change in Wenger’s attitude towards his project with youth.
Of course, many of Wenger’s success are included such as the never-to-forgotten league clinching victory over Everton at good old Highbury in May 1998. His hero Tony Adams goal is immortalised in the book in as much loving detail as the Arsenal legend’s statute of his celebration after scoring from Steve Bould’s pass is outside the Emirates.
Spectacular wins in the San Siro against both Inter and AC Milan are recalled alongside Thierry Henry’s masterpiece in the Bernabeu, with the 2014 FA Cup Final given special prominence in ending the nine year drought that so irked Gunners fans.
And for fans of Highbury his depiction of the last ever game against Wigan Athletic is a classic. Along with his treatment of events at Upton Park in the crucial match between West Ham and Spurs that memorable afternoon – a calamitous series of mishaps for their deadly North London rivals which Gunners fans will savour forever.
The Invincible run-in is given the full treatment culminating in that spine tingling (for Gunners fans at least) Premier League title win at White Hart Lane, and the last day win over Leicester which confirmed their place in English footballing immortality.
Speaking of the Invincibles, Sol Campbell, a member of that team has provided the foreword for the book thanks to Layth interviewing him for the Evening Standard and The Gooner.
The book also draws on the author’s own interviews with Campbell and Ray Parlour and their unique take on Wenger – the man who salvaged Parlour’s career and transformed Campbell’s – as well as many of Wenger’s most notable quotes.
Campbell himself, Arsenal and England legend that he is writes in his foreword the book is a “Must read for all Arsenal fans” – and we at TFP don’t disagree.
But we also recommend Layth’s book to non-Arsenal fans who would like to know more about Arsenal and Arsene – these giants of the English game at the top level, and a man who came to redefine not only the red and white half of North London but football in this country.
To buy Arsene Wenger: 50 Defining Fixtures click here
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29