Anatomy of a Gunner: How the Arsenal team inspired me!

Anatomy of a Gunner: How the Arsenal team of 1939 inspired me to write a crime novel
by Philip Kerr

Like Glasgow, Edinburgh has two football teams that divide the city, Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian. I come from a family of Hearts supporters but growing up in the 1960s I found this loyalty strained when I went to a new school and discovered that my new friends were all Hibernian fans. Not only that, but one of them had a father, Lawrence Reilly, who’d played for Hibs and Scotland; quietly, I became a Hibs supporter, which wasn’t such a great hardship as Hibs were actually doing quite well at the time. But my grandfather, who lived around the corner from the Hearts ground, Tynecastle, and had supported them all his life, would have been appalled. Fortunately, he never found out that I’d turned traitor.

Then, in 1970, Hibs sold their best player, Peter Marinello, to Arsenal for the huge fee of £100,000 and, around the same time, my family moved to England. It seemed natural that I should support Arsenal if only because my favourite player was now a Gunner. Marinello was tipped to be Scotland’s answer to George Best. Sadly, however it’s nearly always the case that anything which begins ‘Scotland’s answer to…’ is doomed to failure, and so it was with Peter Marinello. He had only one thing in common with Bestie and that was a love of the high life. But let’s face it, the guy was just nineteen, so what chance did he have to do anything but go wrong? Marinello was sold to Portsmouth in 1973.

Ironically enough Marinello ended up playing for Hearts. But I continued to support Arsenal which was hardly difficult as Arsenal won the Double in 1970-71. Everyone remembers Charlie George’s FA Cup-winning goal against Liverpool. And it wasn’t like there weren’t any other Scotsmen playing for Arsenal then. Bob Wilson, George Graham and Eddie Kelly were all Jocks like me. That sort of thing seems important when you’re a Scotsman down south.
For a while afterwards my interest in football lapsed. I’d become a writer of crime novels and thrillers and I was more interested in books than in football.

But in 1990 I married into a family of keen Gunners and I started to support them again. Knowing of my interest in crime fiction and detective stories my late father-in-law, John Thynne – who had supported Arsenal from before the war – was always talking about a film made in 1939 called The Arsenal Stadium Mystery. He’s dead now but last year I finally got round to watching the film on DVD. It’s a creaky old black and white gem chiefly remarkable because of the several Arsenal players including Cliff Bastin and Eddie Hapgood who actually play in the film. And it got me thinking. If this was the last crime story set in the world of football, wasn’t it time that someone wrote another? So last year I did just that.

In fact I wrote two books and the first of these January Window has just been published. It’s about the assistant manager of a fictitious London club, Scott Manson, who turns sleuth when his charismatic Portuguese manager is found dead after a game. Now that I’ve written it I can’t imagine why I didn’t see before what my father-in-law realised all along, which was that football lends itself very well to the crime novel. And I’m grateful to John Thynne for suggesting it, indirectly.

The book has already been described as the best football whodunit since Pizzagate, and I can’t think of any higher praise for a Gunner than that.

January Window by Philip Kerr is published by Head of Zeus, price £14.99

The official launch of “January Window” will be done by Phillip in a box at the Emirates on Saturday!


  1. I reckon we’ll do Burnley 3-0 on Saturday, Sanchez to bang in all three! Hopefully Theo will get a good 20-30 mins under his belt, Wenger said he would ‘certainly be involved’ last week.

    1. Ok, sincerely, I tried going through everything in that article as fast as possible.

      Excuse me, plz… Wasn’t Arsenal formed in the year 1996 in synchrony with the appointment of Sir Arsene Wenger?

      Damn it, the article made it seem there was Arsenal before Wenger and we did win trophies too.

  2. Jose found dead. Ha ha ha.
    Arsene did not push him that hard.
    He got run over by his own bus.
    There are millions of others who wanted Jose dead.
    Check out “muffdiver” or even “Leo” he’s big on rumours 🙂
    What we really wanna know is why does
    Arsenal not win the EPL any more? And why have we not
    won the ECL yet? Where is Diaby? Where is Sanogo?
    Why does wenger hate Podolski Rosicky and Campbell?
    Why does wenger play Ozil on the wing?
    How come ticket prices are so high?
    Why are there no mushroom and tuna pies?
    Is Hahafiz the next Arsenal manager?
    We want answers man !!!
    Tell Scott to pull finger or else he will end up dead or worse
    locked in a phone booth with a pis##ed off Balotelli.

    1. @Danvinz, with all due respect, I don’t think u’d make a better comment than this in ur life. #Epic!!!

  3. Remember those few months where we had Ozil and Ramsey bang in form and how unstoppable we were.
    Imagine having Sanchez, Rambo, Theo and Ozil all inform at the sane time.

  4. Wenger is preparing for the next game…..

    Arsene: Yo, Steve I swear if we lose the next game I’m releasing a diss track

    Bould: Not this again

    Arsene: I’m on top of my rhyming game, B

    Bould: Go on spit a rhyme

    Arsene: *starts to beat box and then rhyme* yeah home/you know me/every time you kiss that how/you blow me

    Bould: That shit is dope

    Arsene: Word?

    Bould: Yeah if its 2001 and you’re method man. He already said that on the W

    Arsene: Dammit. How am I supposed to drop my first album when its all been said before?

    Bould: Word! Its all about production, Cuz. Look at Kanye, dude got beats but he ain’t no Nas or Raekwon. But his music sounds dope.

    *Kroenke walks in*

    Stan: WTF Wenger!!!!!!!!!

    Wenger: I swear I never knew Mef already said that. You know I ain’t not biter

    Stan: What?

    Wenger: Oh………

    Stan: Dude stfu ain’t no one want to listen to a 65 year old rap

    *Wenger raises his hand*

    Stan: No just no

    Wenger: Bruv when I make it then you try finding a manager to replace me

    Stan: ERM……

    Wenger: Dude seriously you think this shit is easy. Everytime I turn around and see a dark corner I expect to see Henry walk out of it and try assassinate me. People say I don’t spend time on the team. What you expect when half the time I sit in some board meeting with the ‘man’ trying to suppress me

    Stan: Arsene…

    Arsene butts in

    Arsene: Don’t call me Arsene. That’s my slave name.

    Stan: What should I call you?

    Arsene: Lethal Bizzle

    Bould: urm Arsene that name is taken

    Arsene: WTF? Is anything left?

    Bould: You could…

    Arsene: STFU

    Stan: Look I’mnot sure what to call you anymore but listen – we need to grasp the situation.

    Arsene: what situation? Dude seriously ppeople act like Man City and Chelsea were born powerhouses. They took years to accumulate those squads. I have only had two summer windows!!!!!!!!!!!

    Stan: l understand

    Arsene: no you don’t. Everyone wants to be that team but then you don’t put a penny from your own pocket. We self sustain and spend on levels that are serious business. So what? We sign a Puma deal and next thing we win everything? What about the time it takes to add all the little details to a team? The ones that stop that one through ball going through that gets us a win? Or that extra one player that we can call on?

    Bould: Woah Arsene, when did you get so deep?

    Arsene: call me Benedict

    Stan: What?

    Arsene: Arsene is my slave name

    Bould: Jeezus Arsene. Let’s go KFC and get a bucket. You need a break.

  5. By the way, why aren’t players like Hayden and Ajayi being played at all? Surely they’d be better than playing Monreal at centre back?
    Maybe they’re not ready to make the step up, but they’re both older than Chambers, so they’ll have to make the step soon.
    I’d rather they get a good half hour on the pitch when we’re like 2/3-0 up to see out a win and get some experience before we have to throw them in the deep end when our next defensive injury strikes like Bellerin vs Dortmund.

    1. because we have a manager that loves to play his favourites and he believe in a 16 men team max……….

      Players outside that number will not be even considered

  6. PS how many times have we been undone this season with balls through to our central defence this season.

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