Colin Benson selects one of the players from this season's Arsenal A-Z feature to talk about their time with the Club.
I didn't need to reflect on who would be my subject tonight for one name stood out above all the others. An Arsenal great who had no equal on the field of play, a local lad who cheered the team on from the terraces and today has that same passionate feeling for the Club. CHARLIE GEORGE, a supreme talent who always remained his own man.
Charlie, when was the first time you realised you were an Arsenal fan?
My brother-in-law took me to Highbury when I was five years of age and we stood on the South Bank. I haven't got a clue who the game was against; I can only vaguely remember it. I don't really think you take it in until you get to about eight or nine, I just know I enjoyed it.
Who then was your first Highbury idol?
There's been so many but the first I would think was David Herd. He was a big Scottish centre-forward very strong and scored goals and we ended up selling him to Man United. I remember seeing him score with a diving header from the edge of the box against Man City. We won 5-4 that day and he got three. I remember that.
What was the first game you can really recall?
I think that is going to be impossible Colinâ€¦I think that game when we beat Man City 5-4. I remember seeing Bert Trautmann who was a great goalkeeper and Denis Law who became one of my idols.
Charlie when did you first realise you were good at the game?
I don't know. I never realised it I just used to play because I loved playing football and it was the only thing I did reasonably well. It is hard to say things about yourself; I knew I wasn't the best footballer and that I wasn't the worst. I just knew I could play and that I liked it. And for a lad to go and play for his local team after supporting them is amazing really. Three years after standing on the terraces chanting the players' names out I was actually playing with them.
What was the first contact you got from Arsenal?
I played for the Islington District schoolboy team and most of us lads used to train over at Arsenal on Monday and Thursday evenings. I must have been 11 or 12. I was tall and skinny and there were a lot of lads bigger than me. I played sort of midfield or up front as a kid. You play anywhere when you are a youngster don't you? My first introduction to the first team was in a testimonial game for Ken Furphy at Watford. I scored both goals and we won 2-1 I think it was the end of the '68/69 season. It was a great thrill to be playing with the likes of Raddy, Frank, George, Terry Neill, Peter Simpson, George Armstrong. Then in August 1969 I made my League debut against Everton and we got beaten 1-0 at Highbury.
Your first League goal came two games later.
That's right at West Brom and I do actually remember the goal. Someone knocked the ball along the 18-yard line and I received it attacking the left side and just took it along the edge of the box and cracked it low into the corner. Jim Cumbes, the old cricketer, was in goal and West Brom had quite a good team at the time. They had Jeff Astle, Tony Brown, little Asa Hartford, Graham Williams, John Talbut and Bobby Hope.
When you look back on your Arsenal career what is the first memory that springs to mind?
Winning the Fairs Cup as a youngster. That was one of the best evenings we ever had at Highbury, the crowd really got behind us. We were 3-1 down from the first-leg of the Final at Anderlecht so to come back and beat them 3-0 at Highbury was just an unbelievable night of drama and emotion. My first memories of playing in Europe were not the best as I got sent-off on my European debut at Glentoran.
I didn't play in the first game at Highbury when we beat them 3-0 but I blotted my copy book over there. We were losing 1-0 when in the first-half I swore at a linesman and was given my marching orders. I wasn't too popular with Bertie (Mee) who liked to maintain an image as a disciplinarian. I can't remember what he said but I wouldn't like to repeat any conversation with him that had anything to do with me because I wasn't a great fan of his. It was a well known fact Bertie and I didn't get on. I think it was because I didn't conform to his rigid principles.
I have played for some great managers. I loved playing for Dave Mackay at Derby, Laurie McMenemy was a nice man and I played for Cloughie for a month as well - he was something completely different when he did make an appearance. But you had to respect him for what he had achieved with a club as small as Nottingham Forest.
Who was your first coach at Highbury?
Ernie Whalley was our youth team coach. He was very strict and you couldn't muck about with Ernie because he just wouldn't suffer it. But I liked Ernie, he was a good lad, and I was one of those people who probably needed someone like him to keep me in my place.
There was a little bit of restriction on players' individuality in those days. But to be fair when Don (Howe) was in charge, and he was probably one of the great coaches in football, he never restricted me in any way. I understand football and if you understand football there has to be a little bit of enjoyment. There has to be a bit of humour in the game - have a laugh and a joke - sometimes the game is taken too seriously.
I was probably one of the jokers - the way I played was a joke some times, but I tried to play for the people on the terraces because that's where I came from and have always had a great rapport with the Arsenal supporters - even now. It is just something that has happened in my life and I'm thankful for it. I love every minute of it and hope I give a bit of pleasure back.1 Nov 2006