By Tony Attwood
Ask an Arsenal supporter to name Arsenal’s worst ever player and the answer is likely to be Gus Caesar (or Pogus Cassius Caesar as Wikipedia totally erroneously calls him – unless they have changed it, having seen this article). The birth register (dutifully consulted by Andy Kelly of the Arsenal History Society to help me avoid copying the Wiki entry) confirms he was, and is, Gus.
But was he really such a bad player? And if so, what on earth was George Graham doing in playing him?
What us supporters do sometimes forget is that just as our abilities at work go up and down according to our psychological state, so it is true with footballers. We know that for every game we are “up for it” wanting our lads to win – and so we expect the players to be in the same place.
But what we also ought to remember is that the players too have lives beyond the pitch. They too can suffer crises of confidence, depression, anxiety, phobias… And they too can also have bad days, bad weeks, bad months…
The end of a relationship, money worries, fear of flying, fear of rejection… there are a million reasons why what Mr Wenger calls the player’s “mental strength” can suddenly vanish. And if you think that “money worries” should hardly be in there, remember that about 30% of Premier League players are in severe financial distress within three years of ceasing to play.
I have no particular insight into Gus, but I am certain that the moment one stops watching players and expecting them to be super-performers every match, the moment an extra clarity comes to watching and understanding football. For ever Bergkamp or Wilshere who seems to be unaffected by anything, there are probably 98 others who at different levels have their footballing ability affected by psychological issues.
After all, how would you cope with 55,000 people jeering, laughing and booing, whenever you touch the ball? (I found it hard enough when 5 people did it when I played five a side football).
Gus was born on March 5th 1966, and joined Arsenal in August 1982 becoming a pro in February 1984 playing in the heart of the defence or full back.
If we remembered only his first match (away to Man U on 21 December 1985) he’d be one of the potentially great players who got away. He got three England under 21 caps in 1987 and in 1987/8 graduated to a fairly consistent position in the first team.
But… those who remember such things say that he was nervy and prone to mistakes. I don’t specifically recall this, but I was there, and do remember what happened at the League Cup Final against Luton (themselves a first division club at the time) in 1988.
Gus Caesar made an error, and Luton equalised, before going on to win. But, it seems, Gus had been carrying hernia and ankle injuries. Now I have no way of knowing if that was true – but if it was, all the blame for Gus’ error on that day should be laid at the door of George Graham who picked him.
But Graham was an unforgiving man. Steve Bould joined Arsenal followed by Andy Linighan, and Gus’ reputation was sealed. When this site ran a piece on the worst Arsenal players of all time, Gus was mentioned again and again.
Gus left Arsenal in June 1991 and played for Bristol City, Airdrieonians, Colchester United, and a variety of teams in Hong Kong. His final appearance in England was with Dagenham and Redbridge in 1997.
There is no doubt that he, like many other players, had his career cut away from him, by failing to master the dents and cracks within his personality. In that regard he was like most of us. The difference is that most of us get away with it, because we are not on public show.
It would perhaps do none of us any harm to remember that while football coaches spend a lot of time working on the natural playing talent of their players, they traditionally spend little time working on their psyche. After all which club has alongside its physiotherapists, masseurs, back specialists and everyone else, a team of full-time psychologists. Maybe they do, and keep it quiet, for fear of the way in which the media and ignorant fans would take such a revelation. Or maybe that is a revolution yet to come.
There was nothing mentally wrong with Gus, save for the fact that he was just like the rest of us. In the end that was his only failing.