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Putting together 'I am Sam'
Completed August 2014 - Official launch 10th February, 2015
The Ultimate Story to tell a Story
'The Uncovering of Arsenal's first Brazilian'
Photograph. 'Sammy' scoring the second goal in the semi-final of the European Fairs Cup, 1970
Genre: Fiction based on Fact, Black humour
I toyed with the idea of creating something similar to my favourite football book 'The Worst of Friends - The Betrayal of Joe Mercer' by writing a book surrounding my club - Arsenal.
My writing is considered dark, as I tend to write as I speak and write what I know, which I don't know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
I focused on someone who I considered a tragic figure in Arsenal's history - a player who divided opinion and who was eventually hounded out of the club in the summer of 1971 - not by the management, but by the so-called supporters.
My initial thought was to recreate the crowd as demonic and him as a puppet who was being used by the management to help fund the purchase of Britain's most expensive player at that time - Alan Ball, however I wasn't happy at what I was writing and I had a re-think - Not because the content was bad, but because the more I learned about the man, the more intrigued I became. He was a truly fascinating character.
I set about writing a story to tell a story and what transpired was just a great feeling from the beginning to the end and what I wrote, I certainly hadn't planned.
Two childhood friends who run a sports media company off Euston Road were tasked to make a documentary for BSkyB in the run up to the 2014 World Cup and they opted to go with a take on 'Mexico 1970' and the failings of Sir Alf Ramsey after the main character in one half of the story stumbles upon some YouTube footage of a spat between Malcolm Allison and Alan Mullery.
This main character is the person 99% of Arsenal fans would want to be. He has the ultimate lifestyle - the job, the money, the house, the car, the women - and this is complimented by the fact that he is a nailed on ringer for David Beckham - something that he hates being commented on.
He possesses a 'can't say no' and 'couldn't give a shit' attitude and has a wife and two girlfriends - one of who he's just found out is pregnant, and who both look the complete double of each other. He is also being stalked by the wife of an ITV executive and a female debt collector off Grays Inn Road. At the beginning of the story he has just been made homeless as one of his girlfriend's has thrown him out. He also has two children to his wife - both of who he adores.
The 'Mexico 70' angle is made more interesting by a retired journalist who mentions Ramsey's failings and who stated that he had some deluded loyalty to the 'Class of 66' and some of the players he should have taken he left behind - one of who was one of the highest paid players in Britain and who had just scored the winning goal in a European final just a month or so earlier - a player who played his football in a similar way to the players earning all the plaudits over in Mexico - The Brazilian's. The two friends become hooked, and the one documentary quickly becomes two - But their 'Sammy' project is a bit special.
The two friends have an unhealthy relationship with each other, with one always trying to usurp the other - however the main character always takes things to a different level - It is something that is seen throughout the book.
The main character lives or lived with a Nicole, and had done since his wife threw him out. Nicole 'got wind' that he was seeing an 'Emily', who is eight years older than her but who looks strangely similar - so much so that a case of mistaken identity occurs on more than a few occasions.
Without ruining the plot, something has to give, and it does. The main character has an intervention and a decision is forced upon him and from there on in, the story evolves.
The story is told through the eyes of the main character with intermittent 'Takes' from the retired journalist.
What a great time to be alive
One of the footballing icons of the 1960's
Photograph. I Am Sam
Press Clipping. Sammy striking the second in a 3-0 rout against Ajax Amsterdam - The team that were to shortly become regarded as the best teamin the world.
Sammy 2014: "I struck the ball well enough but their keeper saved the first attempt."
Photograph. 'Sammy' has a goal disallowed versus Sporting Lisbon. Very few players have had as many goals disallowed as 'Sammy'.
One was a 30-yard screamer versus QPR at Loftus Road in March 1969.
"I still have no idea why the goal against Lisbon was disallowed." (Sammy 2014)
Video. Arsenal v Southampton, Dec 1970. Arsenal 0-0 Southampton
Not even a 'Sammy Special' could break the deadlock. Another one of those games that you know you are never going to win.
Sammy - A man in Demand
Parading the European Fairs Cup
"He's Really in the Mood for it Today !"
Photograph. Sammy's second game back after injury and a man of the match performance versus Liverpool on November 30th, 1970.
Photograph. Arsenal's first Brazilian
Can you imagine Sky pundits being grilled on screen like this?
Video. Malcolm Allison speaking with Alan Mullery
This was the YouTube footage that set the story off, and it wasn't just Big Mal that didn't rate Alan Mullery - Former Coventry manager Noel Cantwell was hardly his biggest fan.
"For a very average player he certainly has a lot to say for himself," said Cantwell.
Photograph. 'Sammy' scoring against Sheffield Wednesday in 1969.
Video. The 1969 League Cup Final. 'Sammy' certainly never deserved to be on the losing side. Don Howe on the other hand - did.
It was one of those games that you know you are never going to get a win.
Photograph. Sammy and Brian Moore.
Articulate, erudite and nicely spoken. Maybe some of the reasons why Sammy became targeted by a section of the fans?
Did it Really Happen? Yeh.
Press Clipping. Sammy hits a goal from the strangest of angles versus Everton and in front of Sir Alf Ramsey - The man who was manager of his home town club, Ipswich Town when he turned down overtures from them and signed for his boyhood club Arsenal.
Sir Alf Ramsey made no secret that he disliked Arsenal and Sammy knew that he would never be picked for England, even though he scored one of his best goals in a England strip - This wasfor the U23's versus Austria in 1967.
World Cup 1970 candidate wants a move?
Behind the Story
Who is Sooty?
The character 'Sooty' or 'Tim' is basically the 'Tim' who is my best mate. The real Tim has such an expansive persona, that I used him in both 'S63' and 'S5'. You think people like him don't exist in real life - but they fucking do. The guy is awesome.
If I wrote his biography - No one would believe it.
The hardest shot in British football
The girl next door
I based the Emily/Nicole characters on the ultimate 'girl next door' and the first one that sprung to my mind was Olivia Newton-John's initial 'Sandy' character in 'Grease' - Don't ask me why - It just did.
Press clipping. The history books state that Sammy's winner against Rouen was a scrappy goal - It was anything but - It was a back heel in the 88th minute.
He also had a goal disallowed - And he hit the woodwork over in Rouen.
The Family Man
Up at Emily's
Emily took me in the living room where I was passed around between three or four auntie's and her young sister, who certainly wasn't backward at coming forward.
“How old are you?” I asked. “And don't tell me you're sixteen.”
“Well behave yourself,” I said.
I didn't mind handing out kisses, but I certainly drew the line about having a tongue thrust down my throat by a minor. It was very intimidating, not at least because she had a tongue like a lizard, which drew me to the conclusion that she'd certainly be more popular with boys than her brother ever would be with girls.
It was all very nice, and after the furore had died down over Stuart, his mother turned her attention to me, firstly by making me a salmon sandwich and secondly by rubbing my thigh, which I have to say didn't go unnoticed by Emily.
“Are you staying over?” she asked – Emily that is.
Well I certainly didn't fancy driving back.
It turned out that Emily had spent some quality time with her family, but was really pleased to see me and was glad that I was here.
“Have you thought what you are going to call the little chabby?” asked one of her aunties.
“I'll leave that with Emily,” I replied.
“Aw isn't that nice,” was sort of passed around the room between the auntie's as Emily again linked my arm and squeezed me.
It was weird that in London everyone thought I was a dick head and treat me like shite, but up here everyone loved me.
“I bet it's going to be a beautiful baby,” exclaimed one of the aunties. “I mean look at them – such lovely looking kids.”
I wonder if that's what Peter Beardsley's auntie thought when her sister was nearly twenty-weeks on?
Extract from 'I am Sam'
A player that divided opinion
Press clipping. Sammy hit a goal in the 3-1 rout up at Leeds Road v Huddersfield Town in the semi-final of the League Cup and did a cartwheel celebration, which was most unlike him.
Sammy's body language was a bone of contention for some sections of the fans. But there's a reason behind everything.
Meet Mr. Arsenal himself
Photograph. The (other) main character is the person 99% of Arsenal fans would want to be. He has the ultimate lifestyle - the job, the money, the clothes, the house, the car, the women - and this is complimented by the fact that he is a nailed on ringer for David Beckham - something that he hates being commented on.
"Has anyone ever told you that you look like David Beckham?" asked Lucy.
"No, never - I hate David Beckham," I lied.
Sammy rams home winner
The man behind Ginge
I based the character 'Ginge' on an actual Arsenal blogger on www.highbury-house.com. His real name is Samuel Antwi - This is a strange one as I never knew he was called Sam until I had almost written the book?
"Although the 'Ginge' in the story is much younger - he is very much a similar character. A really nice kid who is your archetypical second generation African Arsenal supporter.
There is another blogger - FredNerk who I also used.
Sammy volley's the equaliser
Meeting with ITV
and the discussion of goal celebrations or lack of, after 'Sammy' had scored the winning goal in the last minute of the game against Rouen, with a cute back heel
“There's been a lot of talk of goal celebrations of late and the need to calm them,” said ITV's Head of Sport.
“Why?” I asked. “Football's a passionate sport – It always has been and always will be.”
“The Nicolas Anelka thing with the Quenelle salute,” he replied.
“What a load of bollocks – Anelka got his hands rattled because he's Anelka and no one likes him. When Gervinho hits a goal and he gives it the dozen or so Zieg Heil salutes nobody bats an eye lid – If Podolski had have done that he'd have copped eighteen months – Fortunately Gervinho never scored much, so it kind of got overlooked – Maybe if he'd put his boots on the right feet he may have done a bit better.”
“He was a strange player,” said one of the suits.
“Who Sammy?” I asked.
“No, Gervinho,” he replied.
“He's quick,” I said. “I once saw him running down Tottenham High Street with five lads chasing him.”
We came out of ITV studios with Sooty in awe of me. Well sort of.
“You were sailing close to the fucking wind in there,” he said.
“What are you on about, they loved us,” I said. “It looks like I'm out of the country for the Cup Final, though.”
“You're joking,” he replied. “Nine years since the last one and you're away? There's no way I'd be going away if it was Leeds in the final.”
“Sooty, you can book the next twenty years holidays in May,” I said. “And I guarantee that Leeds being in a Final certainly wouldn't affect your plans.”
Extract from 'I am Sam'
Injured for the start of
the 1970-71 Season
The moonlighting Adebayor
I took the kids into north London via 'Toys R Us' and explained that Adebayor and his mate were going to put them a swing and slide in the garden.
“I thought Adebayor played for Tottenham?” asked my little girl.
“He does, but they don't pay him that much,” I replied.
“You said he was a filthy millionaire,” she said.
“He was but he blew all his money on loose women and ferrets.”
“Dad, has Adebayor got ferrets?” asked my lad.
“Thousands,” I lied.
Extract from 'I am Sam'
Photograph. Picture perfection - 'Sammy' with his first daughter.
After I knew the direction the book was going, perfection is what I aimed for.
The Greek Coffee Shop
The Greek Coffee Shop is mentioned several times in the book and is based on a real coffee shop - but not off Euston Road in north London - but one that flanks the Town Square in Vrysoulles, Cyprus.
All the characters are all based around real people - all of whom love to gamble.
Fosis - a total gossip and a moustachioed man with an eighties porn star look about him; Andreas (Το είδος ηλικιωμένος κύριος με το πράσινο κοστούμι) - a serious man who always demands satisfaction; Ortheus (Theo) - a man who takes stalking to a whole new level; George - A quietly spoken and educated man who in real life supports Liverpool and 'Tony the Barber' - An Arsenal supporter who takes defeat very badly.
Tony the Barber
Photograph. The real 'Tony the Barber'.
Tony may have not been a big talker but he was certainly a big Arsenal fan and was the worst loser you could ever imagine, and over the last few seasons he'd had plenty of practice at it, and that being the case I always made sure I never had a shave after a defeat. I expected ears and noses missing after Chelsea had humped us 6-0, but he surprised me and just shut the shop up for a couple of days and grew a beard.
Extract from 'I am Sam'
The man behind the Fosis character
Photograph. The real Fosis behind the character in the book.
I called into the coffee shop around 1:00pm and noted all Fosis' new gaming machines and the way they were sucking his customers in – or not rather.
“What's up, don't they work?” I asked.
“Greeks are tight bastard's,” he eloquently stated. “They don't want to piss money away on my machines. They rather drink coffee and bitch about politics or talk behind man's back.”
I couldn't understand anyone not wanting to piss money away on his fantastic machines and totally placated that fact back to him.
“How did you get on with Emily's father,” I asked.
“English Mike?” he replied. “Nice man. He like you a lot.”
That was good to hear.
“I told him you no more whoring around and baby that come will nail your boot firmly to the floor,” he candidly added.
“Thanks Fosis, I appreciate that,” I said.
Extract from 'I am Sam'
Who is Eddie Mardell?
Photograph. The real person behind the journalist character in 'I am Sam'.
I needed a different 'take' within the book and the 'Eddie' character gave me exactly that. I based the character around the real Eddie Mardell - a retired journalist who was based in north London in the 1960's and early 70's and who currently sits on a Town Council.
Again - I didn't have to stray far from the actual person.
A truly lovely man.