With the international break in full swing crawling along, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to put out one of the guest posts sent to me recently in the hope of keeping you all awake.
Today’s guest post comes from Peter Dalison – or Dally as he is know on the blog – a 46-year-old Arsenal fan from England who currently lives in Ankara, Turkey. Peter takes a trip down memory lane with a really nice article about his memories of “Champagne” Charlie Nicholas, a player who brought flair and creativity to Arsenal well before my time.
Enjoy the post and I’ll be back tomorrow with a beer in hand and some pre-World Cup qualification thoughts. Cheers.
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“Champagne” Charlie by Pete Dalison
I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about flair players and how they have affected the Arsenal Football Club. I am going to start off with what could become a bit of a series by writing about Charlie Nicholas. I have chosen Charlie as I still remember all the hype surrounding his signature for the club and you must remember we didn’t have this internet thingy back in those days.
Some will say that Nicholas or “Champagne” Charlie as his name became was not a success but at the time of his arrival he was amazing. The Arsenal fans needed a new playmaker after losing Liam Brady and the signing of Charlie Nicholas was just what we needed. Or so we thought.
Terry Neil somehow managed to capture the signature of Charlie who arrived at Highbury in June 1983 after he has scored 50 goals for Celtic the previous season. Charlie was only 21-year-old and a huge weight was put on his shoulders as he was expected to bring back trophies to Arsenal after four seasons without silverware. Sound familiar?
As already said the departure of Liam Brady in 1980 had hit the Arsenal supporters hard but Nicholas’ arrival gave us all new hope. Charlie had the artistry and skill which we had been missing and he soon became the new darling of the North Bank. Before signing for Arsenal he had also turned down both Manchester United and Liverpool and in those days there were a lot of Scots playing for Liverpool which made it a surprising choice for Charlie. I think the lure of London rather than Arsenal was behind his decision.
Champagne Charlie did not bring the trophies that the Arsenal fans longed for but he gave excitement back to the team the flair and flamboyance that he played with.
Charlie started the season as he had finished the previous one for Celtic scoring two goals against Wolves in his second start for the club but he didn’t get on the score sheet again until Boxing Day. I and my Spurs-supporting step-mate were lucky enough to be there on that amazing day. We used to go up and watch the Arsenal v Spurs game togerther, which were either on Boxing day or New Years day. In 1983-1984 season it was a Boxing day fixture away so off we went to White Hart Lane, on the tube, quite cheap in those days.
We never had tickets before we got there but that never seemed to be a problem, it wasn’t all seating then. We also used to change where we stood, one year with the Spurs supporters, very difficult, and then the next one Arsenal and then on the sides, I can’t be certain but I am pretty sure that we were with the Spurs supporters on this day so I had to be pretty quiet.
I don’t remember much about the other scorer – Meade was his name scoring the other two in a 4-2 win. I do remember one of Charlie’s goals though. As he collected the ball I was directly in line behind him, he saw the Spurs goalkeeper off his line and chipped him from what looked at the time to be about 30 yards. Time does have a habit of changing your memories but it was certainly one of the best goals I have seen live.
Unfortunately even though the darling of the North Bank could mesmerise opponents with his extraordinary skills he also suffered from a lack of consistency which restricted his influence on games. This was reflected in the number of goals he managed to get for Arsenal; he scored 50 for Celtic in one season and only managed 54 for Arsenal in total, only just breaking double figures in each of his first three seasons at Highbury.
After Terry Neil’s sacking in December 1983 and after surviving Don Howe’s reign the arrival of George Graham in the summer of 1986 was the beginning of the end for Champagne Charlie with his departure in January 1988 after being dropped for George Graham’s new signing Alan Smith, what a decision that turned out to be. Charlie Nicholas had been brought in to bring trophies back to the Arsenal and he finally succeeded with two against Liverpool in the league cup final in 1987 securing Arsenal’s first trophy in eight years.
Well we all remember Charlie Nicholas the darling of the North Bank but the big question is – was he a success? It’s a difficult question to answer, he certainly brought the flair back to the team that had been severely lacking since the loss of my all time favourite Liam Brady, but he also brought with him a bit of controversy, hence the name “Champagne” Charlie. He may not always have produced on the pitch and he certainly didn’t bring the goals that we all craved but I will always remember that chip against Spurs.
What are your memories of “Champagne” Charlie? Let me know in the comments.