Of Riots and Ray
By Tom Martin
How Ray Parlour made last year's riots particularly memorable...
As we approach the first anniversary of the London riots, there will inevitably be loads of columns in the press and in blogs reflecting on the causes, catalysts and consequences of last year's looting. Opinion will be split, with some saying that spending three years at Her Majesty's pleasure for looting a bag of value rice from Hackney Tesco or a couple of hair-straighteners from Boots is too soft a sentence, and some will say that the riots were the result of government cuts and lack of opportunity and that it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.
As some people will be reflecting on their own memories of events, I'd like to do the same. As most of you don't know, my birthday is on the 9th of August, meaning that not only do I share a birthday with the likes of Joe Mercer, Whitney Houston, Audrey Tatou, John Key (the New Zealand PM), Roy Hodgson, Filippo Inzaghi and, sadly, Mikael Silvestre (possibly the most insulting signing Wenger has ever made) but my birthday last year was postponed because of the pseudo-Biblical, end-of-days vibe that was going down in London. But thanks to a certain Ray Parlour, I didn't mind as much.
Those of you who know me will know that Ray Parlour is one of my favourite ever players to don the red and white, and I still believe to this day that Wenger got rid of him too soon. I loved the fact that, whilst he wasn't as good as some of his team-mates, he would give everything for the cause and from time to time he would have his moment in the sun. Then there were incidents like letting loose a fire-extinguisher on a load of Spurs fans in Pizza Hut, a moment that would make a cult hero out of anyone playing for Arsenal. But the efforts he consistently made on the pitch were what cemented his position as a club legend in my book.
Yes, maybe his distribution was a little wayward from time to time, but he would at least try and win the ball back when he gave it away, and I can forgive a playerís flaws if I can see that heís making the effort. I remember being disgusted when I heard fans booing him on occasion, and I hope those so-called fans hang their heads in shame, as they made me more ashamed of being a Gooner than fans who regularly leave the ground with 15 minutes to go and the knowledge that I support the same team as the slimy toad known as Piers Morgan.
So where does the Romford Pele fit in when it comes to my experience of the riots/27th birthday, I hear you ask? Well, I'm about to tell you. With all the medals he won in his career, combined with that cheeky Essex wit, Ray tops up his income on the motivational speaking circuit. And, around the time that the riots kicked off / a day or two before my birthday, he ended up giving a talk at my friend Mel's workplace. Mel's not really a football kind of girl, but she did know I'm an Arsenal fan, so she texted me saying that Ray was giving a talk and were there any messages I wanted to pass on. I merely texted back saying to tell him I think he's a legend and carried on with my day at work. Twenty minutes later, Mel calls my phone saying she has someone on the line who wants to wish me a happy birthday.
Lo and behold, who else could it be but possibly Arsenal's greatest cult hero of the Wenger era? 'Oh my god, Ray is that you?' I answered. 'Yep, it's me, Ray Parlour, happy birthday Tom.' He went on to ask me if I had anything planned for my 27th birthday. I asked him what he did for his 27th birthday and apparently it involved taking Marc Overmars and a few other foreign team-mates to the Romford Social Club, as they were yet to experience the joys that the jewel in the London Borough of Havering's crown had to offer. I ended up talking on the phone to him for a good ten or fifteen minutes, picking his brains and listening to all his anecdotes and stories involving that goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup final (in your face Lovejoy!), the two hat-tricks he scored, captaining the side that destroyed Inter in their own back yard, the Invincibles year and, of course, drenching the Spurs fans in Pizza Hut.
I also mentioned that I had met him briefly in the flesh back in 1994 before a Wimbledon game at Selhurst Park, where he and a few others signed my programme, but that I wouldn't be overly offended if he didn't remember me. The conversation concluded with me thanking him for all the effort he consistently put in over the years, how it was a shame he left when he did (I thought he easily had a year or two left in him) and that he deserved his place on the legends mural that adorns the Emirates. Thanking him felt a bit like that moment in the film Dodgeball when Vince Vaughan thanks Chuck Norris during his little cameo near the end. And like Chuck, Ray deserves his own internet meme, especially if Phil Neville got one for tackling Gareth Bale a couple of times. When Ray Parlour does a press-up, he doesn't push himself up, he pushes the earth down...
On a serious note, when I spoke to him, Ray was funny, charming, down-to-earth and very considerate. He could have made his excuses, but he took the time to have a good old chinwag with me for ten to fifteen minutes even though he wasn't obliged to. At one point Mel said he wandered off with her phone as we were so deep in conversation.
At the aforementioned Wimbledon game back in '94, what I really wanted was to get Ian Wright's autograph, and at one point I thought I might get it. I was in the family enclosure by the tunnel where the players came out, and so both sets of young fans (I was ten at the time) were getting autographs from Wimbledon and Arsenal players. Having got the squiggles of the Romford Pele, Alan Smith, Lee Dixon, David Seaman and Tony Adams (as well as Vinnie Jones and Hans Segers), we saw Wrighty walk, and both sets of fans were clamouring for his autograph, but, being the considerate soul he was, he merely grunted and ignored us all and it was then I first became familiar with the saying, 'never meet your heroes'. But after chatting to Ray, I realised the saying didn't include talking to them on the phone. So thanks for making my 27th birthday and the riots so memorable, Raymondo; youíre just as much a legend off the pitch as you were on it. And finally, Ray Parlour does not bow to the Queen; the Queen bows to Ray Parlour.
4th August 2012
User Comment and Reaction
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Milton 9:06am 4th Aug 2012
Great read Tom. Not always the classiest player on the pitch but undeniably an Arsenal Legend. Romford Pele! - Post No. 27440
The Noise 9:17am 4th Aug 2012
Utter utter legend... It's missing characters like this that makes going down the Arsenal not as much fun these days! The amazing banter we all used to have with Seaman when he was in the stick down the Clock End... 'Dodgy Driver' and him turning around and screaming at us all to 'F**K OFF!!!' with a big smile on his face... It's moments like that that make you truly love and respect these players. Now, we've got players who don't even look at the crowd when we sign their name or at the final whistle at a European Match and head straight down the tunnel! They're like untouchable super start prima donnas... Sad, but yet another negative of the modern game we've all gotta sadly accept! "It's only Ray Parlour..." ;) - Post No. 27441
Frank 10:30am 4th Aug 2012
Legend as a player s**t as a pundit.He was a bit of a rebel in his playing days but he wont dare criticise Wenger unlike Wrighty - Post No. 27442
Rocky RIP 10:43am 4th Aug 2012
Good article. We sorely miss Ray's ilk at the club. Players who connect with fans, are one of us. Who is passing on the baton, like TA, LD and MK did to Dennis, TH and PV?(Should we ban players slinking around disrespectfully in headphones?) Although I always felt he was underrated, there are far better players that we've had that will never make it onto the outside walls of The Grove. Simply because they are not 100%, unequivocal Arsenal men. (Cesc, Petit, RVP, Overmars, Sol Campbell, etc.) - Post No. 27443
UTU 11:40am 4th Aug 2012
Good Read, we miss players like Ray. A True Legend, allways gave 100% OO Arh Ray Palour, Proper Arsenal. - Post No. 27444
Kevin Tonkinson 11:48am 4th Aug 2012
Frank, Wrighty is an absolute clown. Loved him as a player but the guy's never had two brain cells to rub together and his comments about the Arsenal fans post-CL final were an absolute disgrace. Parlour is a crap pundit but the bloke genuinely loves the club. It doesn't surprise me at all that he's so approachable and charismatic with people. Great article. - Post No. 27445
Gare Kekeke 12:17pm 4th Aug 2012
Good article. The Romford Pele is an Arsenal legend and a proper cult hero unlike that fool Eboue who I never accepted and could never understand why some fans would continuously sing his name during his time with us. The concession of a late penalty against Liverpool belatedly convinced the cult of Eboue that he was when with us a limited pr*ck. Parlour gave his all in that Arsenal shirt despite his limitations and would help us win a few trophies too unlike the current motley crew we have with us today. The FA Cup final in 2002? Need I say more. There is still time for the current squad and manager to change that but that is debatable. I agree that with others that Parlour is not exactly the greatest pundit around but hey ho beggars canít be choosers. Up The Arsenal! - Post No. 27446
exiled&dangerous 12:48pm 4th Aug 2012
I remember going to Carrow Road a long, long time ago, about the time Ray was starting to break into the first team. At the end of the game, moving towards the exit, there he was sat in the stand chatting to a few of the fans, having spent the game in the company of us mere supporters. Wonder how many teenage millionaires would do that these days...... - Post No. 27447
PerryG 13:51pm 4th Aug 2012
Quality and uplifting article, i had a similar conversation with Paul Davis outside Highbury back in 2004, i told him he scored in the very first Arsenal game i seen, (Against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin circa 1985/86) with a sublime 20yard chip over a helpless goalkeeper. The smile that lit up his face was as broad as the Thames, he just responded with 'Oh yeah, i remember that one alwight'. Class act, just like he was on the pitch - Post No. 27448
maguiresbridge gooner 15:15pm 4th Aug 2012
Nice piece Tom i have a lot of time for him myself especially as i've had the pleasure of meeting him in a posh part of the emirates (i was there by invitation) getting the programme signed and a photo and indeed having a pint with him well a couple of mouthfuls any way as he was busy keeping everybody else happy with autographs and pictures like you say down to earth and considerate nothing was to much trouble i'd imagine he didn't have to buy a drink all day.A true Arsenal legend alright and he can still pull his mrs was gorgeous. - Post No. 27449
Andrew 16:19pm 4th Aug 2012
I went to an evening he did in Brentwood back in February and it was a really top night. Romford Pele shared some hilarious anecdotes and you can't help but love the guy. I had a chat with him for a good while just having a giggle and talking about yesteryear. I came away with a real warmth and it reminded me of why I fell in love with Arsenal in the first place, players like Ray that you can relate to and gave their all for the club. Great read Tom. - Post No. 27450
Jim 16:56pm 4th Aug 2012
I just wish Razor would tell it like it is instead of always backing up Wenger.Its cringeworthy listening to him defend Wenger all the time.We are not fools Raymondo - Post No. 27451
Gooner Dave. 16:58pm 4th Aug 2012
Would just like to add my eperience with the great man,was standing in the bar area of the clockend when Ray came through to get to a seat in the east stand,he was injured at the time and had been out for about 6 weeks and i asked him how things were and how long before he,d be back,he gave me more info than i was expecting,telling me he'd be back in two weeks and he duly was.I found him totally approachable and honoured to be asked by a humble supporter such as myself about he's condition,unlike the time i met a certain Arsenal legendary captain. - Post No. 27452
MRMROD 17:11pm 4th Aug 2012
Nice article Tom and bang on the money. He's Arsenal through and through and characters of his energy and ilk are sorely missed at the Emirates these days. I remember watching him on his debut v Liverpool (on the box) at Anfield (0-2 defeat)with his scraggly, curly mop flowing in the wind. He gave away a penalty and then gobbed; but the gob stuck and just hung there...double bad luck...Parlour legend! - Post No. 27453
dave 19:19pm 4th Aug 2012
Great read. More articles like this please. - Post No. 27454
GaryFootscrayAustralia 20:08pm 4th Aug 2012
I met Ray at Highbury in October '92, at The Arsenal v Everton match, twice on the same day. The first time was at quarter to three, Ray and Jimmy Carter hadn't been picked by the Ayatollah, and were on their way to the bar I and my dad were just leaving! As we passes them on the stairs I simply said "hello Ray, hello Jimmy", and both of them responded and were genuine. Poor dad froze in the spotlight of his heroes as per usual, just like the time he met Frank McLintock and stammered "you were my hero when I was a boy, Frank", like a fifty year old going on fifteen. After the match, we went back upstairs, Carter was i'm guessing long gone, but there was Ray, standing at the bar still caning the lagers at gone five o'clock! Of course I already knew about Ray's liking for the ale, so frankly I didn't bat an eyelid. Neither did dad, we both thought it rather funny and to be honest exactly what we wanted to see in order to cement the Ray Parlour legend. Not only that, but once again Ray was happy to pose with me for a photo with a team shirt that he also signed. I never ever booed him, I often cheered him, and for me he was already an Arsenal legend before he produced that curler in the cup final. Talk about icing on a cake. "It's only Ray Parlour"... - Post No. 27455
tenerife gooner 21:56pm 4th Aug 2012
My birth day was 09/08/1943.I will go to my maker with the memory of Ray Parlour,s performance that winter day at Anfield when down to 10 men after 20 minutes [that wanker Durkin,how he was ever rated is totally behond me ]we win 2-1,thanks RAY. - Post No. 27456
Andrew Cohen 7:57am 5th Aug 2012
The unusual thing about Raymundo is that he improved as a player out of all proportion when his friend TA ditched the sauce and Wenger arrived. The best story I have ever heard about him is his relaying to Arsene Wenger as to why it was that the team ( playing at Palace?) had remained in the dressing room after the half time break. They had been sent back in because of a bomb alert. "There is a beum", said Parlour. "A beum ?" said Wenger, doing the perfect impression of Inspector Clouseau. - Post No. 27457
Ron 8:49am 5th Aug 2012
RP was a far better player than he was given credit for. Met him 4-5 times now. He s what we miss. Character, he s a true Gooner on the pitch, passion, teak tough, relates to fans,150% graft,hates losing and englishness in the red shirt. His type was a conduit between the terraces and the pitch and made supporting Arsenal something to be proud about. I miss his type. You can keep your foreign cosmopolitan fancy dans. Give me 11 RP s anyday. The lack of his types at Arsenal are one of the main reasons ive jacked in going to games. Football s soul has gone and so has Arsenals. All you have left is a SKY and corporate driven, superficial and very glossy but severely substance lacking 'product'. Hope you enjoy it. I stopped enjoying it 3-4 years ago sadly when i realised it wasnt true 'enjoyment'. - Post No. 27458
Les 1:38am 6th Aug 2012
Nice one. There is a question occasionally found in sports quizzes "What do Ray Parlour and (Sir) Clive Woodward have in common?" They have both fallen foul of the Hong Kong Police. Ray was fined for a"contretemps" with a taxi driver and Woody was late to turn up for a Rugby match as he spent the night as a guest of plod. - Post No. 27462
ppp 2:36am 6th Aug 2012
There is nothing as good as Parlour in the current team. I hope Wilshere can fill the void one day but Ray was never an injury case. We need a new Razor to cut down the pesky Spurs weeds. - Post No. 27463
RJ 7:07am 6th Aug 2012
Hooray. A feel good article. Nice one Tom. Ray is and always will be a true character and legend - Post No. 27464
Tony Evans 8:27am 6th Aug 2012
Nice article, Tom. Ray Parlour always gave 100% and when I think of the overpaid, spineless poseurs Wenger has assembled now I just despair. - Post No. 27465
Glenn Helder 12:06pm 6th Aug 2012
The man is a legend, one of my favourite player for all the reasons stated above. I met him when he was playing in a golf tournament in Portugal about 8 years ago and the same thing struck me, he always has time for Arsenal fans and is genuinely a really nice bloke. Seems he gives his all off the pitch as well as when he was on it. It would be great to get winners like him and Keown back inside the club to teach the players what representing The Arsenal means. Ray, in a time when the word legend is tagged on to any old Tom, Dick or Harry who can kick a ball you have truly earned the title. - Post No. 27466
What was the point in leaving Highbury? 12:30pm 6th Aug 2012
Great story and a great bloke on and off the pitch. A few things in the story and following thread stood out as well. I have met Ian Wright and didnt like him one bit. Very arrogant and cocky. Another time my Dad took me down to see Highbury on a weekday when I was about 6-7. In those days the ground was sort of open. We stood in the corner of the East Stand / Clockend and Paul Davies was lapping the pitch with Theo Foley. Both came over to ask me if I wanted an autograph and had my picture taken. How good was that. Then imagine this. I'm still buzzing when we leave the ground and walk back down Avenall Road to the car and bump straight into GG who had his picture taken with me which Ive still got to this day. Also met Davis in Madrid who was sitting in the home end like a lot of us were. Merson is also great to met. I played against him when he was at Villa and he megged me!!! What an honour. Vieira was nice when I met him in Harrods last Christmas. Charlie George is also great company and always has time for you. - Post No. 27467
JER 12:51pm 6th Aug 2012
Sadly, the modern player is totally disconnected from the real world and the fans. Twitter is just about the only way to 'converse' with a player. When you see them in the flesh they are hiding under their ridiculous headphones. I recall a charity cricket match between Arsenal and a local club in Enfield. Many of the first team were there, including Rocky, Big Tone, Perry Groves, Smudger and a yound Andy Cole. The players happily mingled with the crowd throughout the match when they weren't on the pitch. That will never happen again. - Post No. 27468
billthered 15:37pm 6th Aug 2012
I have on many occasions met Ray in a pub in Upminster and would like to tell you all that he is undoubtedly one of the classiest ex players to talk to,he will stand and talk as long as you want on all things Arsenal.And another thing when we go to play away games in the north west would you not want the Romford Pele out there among the muck and bullets I know I would,just watch old footage and see who was mixing it up with anyone that got in his way not like some of our so called superstars who dont want their shorts dirty,that my dear friends is how to win championships.Keep him in your hearts a supporters player and if you bump into him in a bar he will have a drink with you of that I have no doubt. - Post No. 27469
Rocky RIP 15:52pm 6th Aug 2012
It's great we all seem to be of the same sentiment on this. ie. players who connected with fans are sorely missed. That bond seems to have been eroded. One beef I have with the Grove is how it shields the players from the fans. They drive into the stadium undercover and anonymously and into the underground carpark. They then go in through that entrance that leads to the changing rooms. This doesn't allow for any fan interaction. Highbury had a clear 'front door' which all players went in and out of, passed the marble halls and to the changing rooms. Watching the away team (Villa) get on the coach was an early memory of football. It was great. I couldn't believe people like Peter Withe and Gary Shaw were a few feet away. Players are untouchable now, and many seats at the grove don't allow banter with the players as they are so far away. We need that connection back. So many things I loved about Arsenal have pointlessly been taken away in the name of 'progress.' WHY?! - Post No. 27470
Joe Fitzpatrick 8:09am 7th Aug 2012
Ray was a dynamo full of energy and determination. Wenger saw him in action many times and yet he doesn't seem to demand that his current players display the same kind of commitment to the cause. Why is this? - Post No. 27471
Mikey89 10:00am 7th Aug 2012
My memory of the great man was after Wrighty passed Cliff Bastin's record in a 4-1 home win over Bolton. Ray scored the first goal with a heavily deflected long range shot. My 8 year old and I waited to see the players after the game and first out was Ray Parlour who happily signed all autographs with the back slappers telling him what a great goal he scored when my son piped up - actually Ray, I thought you were really lucky to score! Ray looked up and asked who said that? and my young son said me, nervously. Ray laughed out loud before replying, actually son, I totally agree and then signed his programme and posed for photos. Such humility in players is a rare thing these days. - Post No. 27472
NBN 14:30pm 7th Aug 2012
Great read, would love a couple like him in the side now. - Post No. 27505
Simon Fry 22:14pm 7th Aug 2012
Ray Parlour - Total legend - simple as that !!! great article - Post No. 27531
@loyaltoarseal 17:19pm 8th Aug 2012
great read mate what a hero ray was! He does have the worlds greasiest hair now though - Post No. 27578
9th December 2013
Online Ed: Spoils shared at home to Everton