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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Hey Hey Marinello
By Julian Taylor

Peter Marinello pictured with Highbury's North Bank in the background
I really regret not staying at Arsenal, but I was just too impulsive
Peter Marinello

When Peter Marinello checked into Arsenal's marble halls to conclude a club record transfer from Hibernian in January 1970, a Gunners director remarked: "We've just signed the nearest thing football has to The Beatles."

With Manchester United enjoying their superstar mop-top, George Best, at the peak of his powers, London football wanted a Bestie too.

And it appeared the 100,000 Marinello fitted the bill, arriving in a flurry of headlines. But rather than 'Peter the Great', it all became too much too young for the jet-paced 19-year-old.

The winger wore the flares and played with flair, and Arsenal had high hopes that the damage he inflicted on both Rangers and Celtic in Scotland could be replicated down south.

Marinello had a dream-like start, scoring at Old Trafford, and, although he was bought with the future in mind, the media hype snowballed.

Today's promising young players are generally cocooned by a mini-army of agents and advisers.

However, in 1970, the swaggering, impressionable Scot was mainly left to his own devices - with the inevitable lure of London's bright lights proving too hard to resist. His is the most cautionary of tales.

"At first, I found everything so different at Highbury from what I was used to, but I really regret not staying at Arsenal," Marinello told BBC Sport.

"I could see the chance to make a proper breakthrough with the Double-winning team splitting up, but I was just too impulsive back then and went after the money."

Self-destruction

A combination of injuries, indiscipline and sheer bad luck (for instance a tantalising move to Juventus broke down later), ensured Arsenal fans only occasionally glimpsed the best of the kid from Hibs.

Left to explore his new, sudden fortune, he was a man about town, more Beatle than Best - with off-field activities as a fashion model and guesting on Top of the Pops - finding the capital's honey pot to his taste.

In a new autobiography, Fallen Idle, Marinello talks candidly about football life in the early seventies, where no one was around to catch the falling star, when both his career and life began to slide out of control.

MARINELLO FACTFILE
Position: Winger
DoB: 20 Feb 1950, Edinburgh
At Arsenal: 1969/70-1972/73
Games: 51
Goals: 5
Honours: Fairs Cup winner 1970, League Champion 1971, FA Cup winner 1971

In theory, things should have worked out better, as he had a clan of fellow Scots, George Graham, Bob Wilson and Frank McLintock, for company.

However, frustrated at a lack of a consistent run in the first team, Marinello's patience finally ran out and he moved to Portsmouth in July 1973.

"Everything came too much too soon for me," he remembers.

"Having said that, I enjoyed playing for every club I signed for, especially Arsenal, Fulham and Motherwell, even at Portsmouth when we were struggling the fans were great."

The fashionable young Gunner became a hired gun, moving to Motherwell from Fratton Park, heading to Canberra City in Australia, to Fulham, Phoenix Inferno in the USA, Hearts and a final pit-stop at Partick Thistle in a career that ran from 1967 to 1984.

In terms of football autobiographies, Fallen Idle has a brutal honesty reminiscent of Tony Adams' Addicted.

Drinking and hedonistic behaviour dovetailed with Marinello's career - and among many colourful episodes he lost his virginity in front of his team-mates and was kidnapped in Nigeria.

Incredibly, the one-time poster-boy became involved with gangsters, was swindled out of money, bankrupted and arrested for attempted murder.

His wife was diagnosed with manic depression and his son became addicted to heroin - at one point he had to buy drugs for him.

Marinello (middle) jokes with Arsenal team-mates George Graham, Alan Ball, Pat Rice and boss Bertie Mee
It was all about 'win or lose, have a good time'
Peter Marinello

Despite these lows, Marinello has been able to pull his life around.

He now lives in Dorset and is a full-time carer, looking after his wife and has stayed involved with football, coaching Parkbury in the Bournemouth Amateur League.

It was all so different when the young pretender left Hibs and was poised to become the darling of Highbury's North Bank.

"Although I got on really well with manager Bertie Mee and Don Howe, the coach, I wasn't the most committed of trainers," he reflects.

"Bertie seldom opted to play with two wingers, and George Armstrong was a terrific, hard-working player for the team.

"I was always a gambler, even as a player, trying to take on one opponent too many.

"And even though I wasn't a prolific goalscorer I created a lot for my team mates, so perhaps I should have been more ambitious in front of goal."

Marinello's personal Highbury high came in the European Cup quarter-final against the star-studded Ajax in March 1972, only for the Gunners to exit 1-0 on aggregate.

The high praise for the winger from the legendary Johan Cruyff was a small consolation for the disappointment.

"We went so close to beating them that night," he says.

"I had a great opportunity to score and Arsenal fans still remind me about it to this day.

"I really think we could have won the European Cup that year."

Go Go Gunner

The big-money Scot was joined that season by the 200,000 signing, Alan Ball. And Marinello quickly forged a friendship with the late England international.

"When Alan arrived at the club he was a massive signing for us - a World Cup winner," he recalls.

"However, he was on a lot more money than the rest of us, and he used to wind us all up, leaving his pay slips lying around and so on.

"But it turned out okay in the end because we all got a pay rise!

A moment of Marinello magic for the Arsenal fans
I was always a gambler, even as a player, trying to take on one opponent too many
Peter Marinello

"I got on really well with him because we were both into horse racing - we ended up buying a horse together, and we called him Go Go Gunner. But unfortunately he didn't go quite as fast as we'd hoped!"

Marinello is without doubt one of the best players never to have been capped at full international level for Scotland.

His underachievement in this respect mirrors most of his career, but he is philosophical.

"Of course I was disappointed never to get the chance to play for Scotland, but my ambition was just to be playing well for my club.

"I was an old-fashioned winger, and as such you were only as good as your last game," he says.

"Maybe my choice of club was wrong at certain times, and I know I left both Hibs and Arsenal too early.

"I should have stayed in Scotland longer, but perhaps I was too easily led."

He notes the passing of many of his 1970s peers, such as Best ("a lovely guy and a very generous man"), Armstrong, Peter Osgood and Jimmy Johnstone, in what is widely regarded as a golden age of British football, where the culture back then sharply contrasted with the present day.

"It was all about 'win or lose, have a good time' back then," adds Marinello.

"In the seventies there was definitely a drinking culture in football, and there was such a fine line between success and failure."

'Second family'

Now 57, he only gave up playing for Parkbury two years ago, and still keeps himself informed about boyhood favourites Hibs through family.

Thirty seven years after arriving wide-eyed at Arsenal, Marinello regards the Gunners as his "second family", and counts Sammy Nelson, Charlie George, Eddie Kelly and Frank McLintock among his friends.

He occasionally works in match day hospitality at the Emirates Stadium, and is also involved in the club's veterans team, going on tour to raise money for charity - a true testament to the enduring spirit of Mee's early seventies squad.

In a life lived with no half measures, through the highs and lows, away from the bright lights a love of the beautiful game still keeps Marinello mellow.

Fallen Idle is out now published by Headline

SEE ALSO
Highbury memories
07 May 06 |  Arsenal


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