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We all live in a Perry Groves World by Perry Groves

Release date: 19th October, 2006
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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Many football followers will have only a distant memory of Perry Groves, the ginger-haired Tintin lookalike who played for George Graham's Arsenal, mostly from the subs' bench, but who still managed to win several honours, including two championship medals.

His departure from Highbury coincided with the birth of the Premiership and a gradual change of character at most top clubs, particularly Arsenal. From being a club with a strong nucleus of local players, the Gunners now epitomise the way in which overseas footballers dominate the Premiership. Their change in style from the utilitarian Graham is startlingly evident too.

Beautiful football may or not, Perry Groves has become a cult hero for Arsenal fans. A plethora of websites and chat rooms are devoted to him, while the "We All Live In A Perry Groves World" chant is regularly heard ringing around the Emirates Stadium.

In 1986, Groves became George Graham's first signing. A combative, pacey winger, he had spent several years at Colchester United, developing a reputation as one of the brightest talents in the lower divisions. He scored on his Arsenal home debut and helped set up the winning goal in the 1987 League Cup Final.

At the same time, Groves became part of an Arsenal drinking club that was to gain mythical status, not least because a number of its members ended up in various states of rehab. Given what subsequently happened to "Rodders" (Tony Adams) and "Merse" (Paul Merson), one suspects that the occasionally graphic tales of excess, particularly in other countries, are not exaggerated. Although he denies it, Groves's retirement from the game at the age of 28, following a short spell at Southampton, was surely assisted by his off-field behaviour.

This book's greatest strength is its terrific humour, a feature which guarantees frequent bursts of laughter. It begins with his opening chat-up line to his first (potential) girlfriend at the age of 13. "Would you like to be a goalpost?" he enquires. When the girl leans in to allow the young Perry's shot to slide wide, he ends the budding romance: "If you can't concentrate and be a post then p*** off."

His years at Colchester provide a rich seam of humour; from the kit man who claimed to be one of Margaret Thatcher's first boyfriends, to the revenge on the diabetic groundsman in whose house the young Perry was lodging. "It was like being tagged," he explains. After his impressive first team debut, Groves runs out to buy the News of the World to see what the write-up says about him: "Colchester put the pressure on and hit the post through their young 16-year-old debutant Terry Grouse."

Groves' autobiography also benefits from a distinct lack of bitterness or envy; it is enough for him to have enjoyed earning a living as a footballer. Even though his career ended prematurely by injury, he is realistic enough to consider that something similar could have happened to him in his teenage years. Even the failure of his marriage, brought on by his own habitual unfaithfulness, is explored without any self-pity.

Apparently, Arsenal fans have begun a campaign to make sure this book sells more than Ashley Cole's humourless and self-justifying autobiography 'My Defence'. If there is any justice in the world, it would be no contest.

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