Midweek Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By JON LIVESEY

NOW the footie sea­son is in full flow you can en­joy watch­ing the sport’s pam­pered prima don­nas.

But in our fea­ture, we’re re­mind­ing you of the vi­o­lent nut­ters, randy rebels and pea­cock­ing play­boys who over the years have graced the beau­ti­ful game with their pres­ence.

Ev­ery week we’ll look at a dif­fer­ent one of the sport’s most men­tal mav­er­icks.

And this week it’s the Cock­ney Rebel – Char­lie Ge­orge. THERE’S noth­ing very con­tro­ver­sial about an Ar­se­nal fan flick­ing the V-sign at ri­val sup­port­ers.

But when the Ar­se­nal fan is also the club’s cre­ative mid­fielder, it sud­denly be­comes an is­sue.

Long be­fore Char­lie Ge­orge was grac­ing the hal­lowed High­bury turf in the red and white of Ar­se­nal, he was stand­ing on the ter­races and cheer­ing on his heroes with his pals from north Lon­don.

And even when he be­came the team’s main man, he never stopped act­ing like a fan.

And more of­ten than not, that’s what landed Char­lie in trou­ble.

Af­ter sign­ing ap­pren­tice forms with the Gun­ners, Char­lie was soon play­ing for the re­serves, but strug­gled to fol­low or­ders.

On one oc­ca­sion, he even called in sick to miss a match so he could travel to Bris­tol with his mates to watch the first team in ac­tion in the FA Cup.

Ge­orge was a tall, pow­er­ful player, who was strong in the air and had ex­cel­lent vi­sion.

Born in Ar­se­nal ter­ri­tory, in Hol­loway, Is­ling­ton, he at­tended his first match aged five. His tal­ent was ob­vi­ous from an early age, but so was his tem­per, and he was ex­pelled from Hol­loway Com­pre­hen­sive School – where Ar­se­nal star Bob Wil­son was a mas­ter – at the age of 11.

Within 18 months of sign­ing ap­pren­tice forms, Ge­orge signed a pro­fes­sional con­tract, and al­though he shone un­der Ber­tie Mee, his re­bel­lious side was as ev­i­dent as his abil­ity.

At the end of the 1970/71 sea­son, with the First Division league ti­tle in the bag, Ge­orge stole the show in the FA Cup Fi­nal against Liver­pool – scor­ing and col­laps­ing in a heap.


After­wards, he claimed he was “just f***ing knack­ered.”

Ge­orge’s stun­ning FA Cup Fi­nal per­for­mance should have sent him rock­et­ing to the very top of the game, but his ca­reer from that point on was blighted by ill-dis­ci­pline.

In the 1971/72 sea­son, he was twice rep­ri­manded by Mee – first when he head­but­ted Liver­pool’s Kevin Kee­gan and then for flick­ing a V-sign at Derby fans af­ter scor­ing at the Base­ball Ground. Even­tu­ally Mee had enough and in 1975 sold Ge­orge – who had to deny ru­mours that he was set to launch a ca­reer as a pop singer – to Derby for £90,000.

At first, Ge­orge im­pressed in the Mid­lands and even got an Eng­land call-up.

But his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer lasted just one game – against the Repub­lic of Ire­land – due to a heated bust-up with Don Re­vie, who sub­sti­tuted him af­ter just an hour.

By 1978, Ge­orge’s ca­reer ap­peared to be pe­ter­ing out. Af­ter play­ing for the Min­nesota Kicks in Amer­ica, he had spells with Southamp­ton, For­est, Bournemouth and Brighton and spent a sea­son with Bulova in Hong Kong in the early 80s.

Since re­tir­ing in 1983, Char­lie had two un­suc­cess­ful busi­nesses – a pub and a garage – and be­came em­broiled in a shoot­ing at an Is­ling­ton club, with po­lice elim­i­nat­ing him from their en­quiries.

He now works as a tour guide at Ar­se­nal.

Re­flect­ing on his time at the High­bury club, Char­lie said: “I al­ways got on fine with the Ar­se­nal sup­port­ers be­cause they saw me as one of their own.

“I liked a drink and a bet and they could ei­ther find me down the lo­cal or down the book­ies.

“I was on first-name terms with half of them – I’d see them down the pub af­ter a game and they knew they could come over and have a chat.

“If I’d had a bad game they’d say, ‘F*** me, Char­lie, you were use­less to­day. You couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo’. And I’d say, ‘Fair point. Now get the beers in’.”

HEY this ain’t what it looks like, hon­est V FOR VIC­TORY: Char­lie in ac­tion

against Derby

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