For younger Arsenal fans raised on an annual diet of success, it is hard to believe that the club has ever known bad times. Yet until Bertie Mee - an ex-army medical corps sergeant whose playing career amounted to a handfull of games for Mansfield - restored the glories of the past, the club's once proud name had become a byword for disappointment and disarray. Bertie Mee: An Officer and a Gentleman examines the life, management style and relationships of the man who helped to lay the foundations of the modern Arsenal. It studies the club's years in decline, the achievements of the early '70s and the surprisingly swift descent into the relegation battles and in-fighting that dogged Mee's final seasons at Highbury. It also acknowledges Mee's innovative work in the health service, his role in the emergence of Watford as one of the country's leading clubs and reveals a devoted family man. Under the astute leadership of a man who joined the club as physiotherapist, Arsenal ended 17 years in the football wilderness with a night of European triumph in the spring of 1970 and, 12 months later, completed the Double when they won both the Football League and FA Cup.
Mee remains the last English-born manager to achieve that feat. In an age when managers like Brian Clough and Malcolm Allison were revelling in football's heightened media profile, Mee was a throwback. Upright and proud, he remained more concerned with upholding the old-school traditions of 'the Arsenal' than forcing himself into the headlines. Mee's style perfectly matched the needs of the club, even if it did not always make him popular with players, media or staff, many of whom cowered in his presence. Mee was an intensely private individual, yet with the cooperation of his family and through interviews with many of his former colleagues, players and friends, Bertie Mee: An Officer And A Gentleman offers a remarkable in-depth look at a football legend.
David Tossell has been a sports journalist for 25 years and is currently Head of European Public Relations for the NFL (National Football League). His previous publications include Playing for Uncle Sam and Seventy-One Guns, both published by Mainstream.