Book Review: Forward, Arsenal! by Bernard Joy
Another re-run ahead of the relaunched “Book Review” page for you to enjoy and add to your Christmas list if you don’t possess it already.
Originally published in 1952 and long out of publication, this essential book on the history of Arsenal is reprinted by GCR Books. Whilst every season spawns an updated version of the club’s history, this was for many years the definitive version of that story.
As a former player Bernard Joy had a level of access that gives this history a uniqueness that is unlikely to be matched again. His experience as journalist gives his narrative whilst his love of the club is never allowed to overspill into sycophancy, retaining a balanced view throughout.
Joy began his career at amateur side Casuals in 1931, winning the Amateur Cup and captaining the Great Britain team at the Berlin Olympics of 1936. He was registered with Southend United and Fulham in the early 1930s but in 1935, he joined Arsenal.
It is utterly inconceivable that an amateur player would ever follow this career path in the modern era, let alone represent the full England international side. Yet this is how Joy’s career unfolded, playing his one full international in a 2-3 defeat to Belgium. He was the last amateur to achieve this status, a record that will surely never be broken.
In 1937-38, the regular Arsenal centre half, Herbie Roberts suffered a broken leg and Bernard Joy replaced him, winning a League Champions medal that season. As a result of his injury, Roberts retired and Joy remained first choice in his position through to the outbreak of the Second World War, picking up a Charity Shield winners medal in 1938.
Joy’s war was spent as an RAF Intelligence Officer which enabled him to continue playing football. He was to make more than 200 appearances for Arsenal during this time, continuing his career once war was over. However, like many, he lost those years from his career and at 35, he retired in December 1946 although he was to continue playing for Casuals until 1948. It is incredible to think that such a pivotal player for those seasons was an amateur. On retiring, Joy entered journalism as Evening Standard and later Sunday Express football correspondent.
Forward, Arsenal! is a superb history of the club. Contributions were directly received from a veritable Who’s Who of players and managers including Tom Whitaker, George Allison, Alex James and Charles Buchan, rather than relying upon the press of that time for the information. The detailed analysis puts modern histories to shame.
This book has long been sought after on eBay in its original form. GCR Books has made a fine reprint, one that every Arsenal fan should own. Having started with The Arsenal Stadium Mystery, Greg is planning an outstanding library of reprinted books about Arsenal, which can be viewed on their website en route to buying Forward, Arsenal!