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New book brings back fond memories of Arsenal legend

12:51 02 October 2014

George Armstrong, Arsenal coach

George Armstrong, Arsenal coach

EMPICS Sport

Without the power of social media, a new book on a true Arsenal legend may never have seen the light of day.

Geordie Armstrong on the Wing owes much to the determination of the former Gunner’s daughter.

“Dad talked about doing a book before he died,” says Jill Armstrong.

“It seems a strange thing to say, Dad was not one for putting himself ‘out there’, into the limelight. I wish he had done it, but then he died…”

Armstrong, until 1989 Arsenal’s all-time record appearance holder, is one of the most popular and respected figures in the club’s history.

Making his debut in 1962, he went on to make 621 appearances for the club in all competitions – winning a Fairs Cup in 1970, and the Double a year later – and became a Highbury favourite with his energetic performances on the wing before leaving in 1976.

He later schooled a number of young players as reserve team coach, before suddenly collapsing on the training pitch at London Colney in October 2000.

Armstrong died shortly afterwards in hospital. A brain haemorrhage had taken him at the age of just 56.

“He was so healthy, it was such a shock. I talked to many people about Dad after he died,” adds Jill.

“He had only recently learned that he was about to become a grandfather for the first time as my brother Tom’s wife was expecting. But he died before the baby was born – his first grandchild was named George…

“He now has five grandchildren. I wanted them to know all about what a wonderful man he was, and the career he had.

“So I asked many people for their personal memories of him – I suppose it was a way for me to channel my grief. Dennis Bergkamp was one of the first people to come back to me.

“Martin Keown told me how much Dad had helped him. Steve Sidwell and Ashley Cole, both of whom had worked with him as youngsters, also came back.

“Lee Dixon, Liam Brady, Pat Rice, Arsene Wenger … they all got back to me and talked about Dad and the impact he had made on their lives. It was so comforting for us to hear.

“There is a lot of respect out there for Dad – people loved him and he had a knack of making whoever he was talking to feel so important. And he was so down-to-earth.

“When he died, the turnout for his funeral was staggering. Arsenal apparently lowered their flags to half mast.

“The thing is when he died two things happened; we lost our Dad and we also lost a bit of a connection with Arsenal because he was there every day.”

And so to social media, in its infancy when ‘Geordie’ died at the start of the millennium, but now the norm and a valuable tool in getting those memories turned into a book.

Jill had a valuable cache of stories about her Dad, but didn’t know what to do with them.

“I started looking at Arsenal blogs and websites and I began tweeting too,” Jill explains.

“I contacted fans and after a few conversations a chap called Dave Seager was recommended to me. We collated everything and worked on putting something together.

“I originally had it in my mind it would be a blog or something, but there was so much it turned into a book. And it is a really good book – my Dad’s story told by the many people who knew him.

“I am really happy with it and so are the rest of the family. Dave has done a wonderful job. We have a launch at the Tollington Pub near the ground before the Hull home game on October 18 and Frank McLintock, Pat Rice and Eddie Kelly will be there.

“No doubt about it, social media helped me find Dave and get this book written. But I haven’t forgotten the original purpose of this – to make sure Dad’s grandchildren could find out more about their granddad…”

n Geordie Armstrong on the Wing (Legends Publishing, £14.99) is out now.

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