Never being one to wait for Santa to get it right, my first Christmas present to me this year was the Official History DVD. Being 170 minutes long I decided to watch it in a couple of parts, and there being no Arsenal match this weekend, Saturday afternoon seemed a good time to start.
If I’m honest I was slightly worried about what I might find when I (finally) managed to get the cellophane cover off. Arsenals ‘End of Season’ videos have sometimes left a lot to be desired in the past (particularly 2001/02) and there was certainly a fear that I was going to be disappointed. Removing the DVD case from the cardboard sleeve (the cover is tastefully minimalist I’m told) which listed the clubs honours and reading the blurb on the back of the case I thought my fears would be realised. First paragraph, first mistake. We were voted into the First Division in 1919, not 1915! Well if they can’t even get the cover noted right…
Three and a half hours later I switched off my DVD player having watched every second with delight. It is split up into 11 ‘chapters’, the first covering from the beginnings to 1925, each of the others covering around 10 years up until the Graham and Wenger era’s who get two chapters each. Whilst obviously top heavy on more recent clips, the first clip of Arsenal playing is actually from the pre-Highbury days of 1911! These clips are interspersed with players and officials (both ex and current) being interviewed. Many of the interviewees are recent players, from the 70’s onwards, but there are a few going further back, and certainly far too many to list. Ken Friar and Peter Hill-Wood are particularly interesting with their first hand memories of earlier times.
The whole thing is very well made. The chapters end at convenient times in our history and they’re well put together. As you’d expect from an Official product some of the less seemly goings on are skirted over, but that doesn’t detract. Another thing I liked but I know will annoy some is that they not only show Arsenal winning trophies, but also losing them. Personally I think that the defeats are as much a part of the story as the victories, and certainly watching the League Cup being lost twice in successive years makes watching the Fairs Cup and Double far more rewarding. And so on.
DVD extras – well sorry my video buying friends but there are always the extras. In this case there’s half an hour which includes an Arsene Wenger interview (of which many soundbites were included in the main body of the story) in full, and about 5 minutes each of match highlights covering four important games. Twice you’ll see us win a double, once you’ll see us win the league on the way to a double, and you also get to see us win the league another time. Buy the DVD to find out which games are covered, all I’m saying is you only see Highbury in one of them. There’s also (in book form) a double page for each of our successful managers, and our Roll of Honour, including trophies and records.
All in all a damn fine job has been done on this and I can honestly recommend it to anyone with a love of The Arsenal. Oh, and Santa, I haven’t got Sol’s DVD yet if you’re stuck for ideas!