I’m never sure what to say.

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this.

The Armchair Gooner’s purpose is to provide news and views about Arsenal. Yet, I consider it an extension of myself. Beneath the ridiculous and football-related veneer lurks many elements of my personality.

My Mum passed away on Saturday night aged 66 through complications associated with pneumonia. With Football nothing to me now but a trivial distraction of little meaning, my desire to blog is entirely absent.

But, those elements of my personality that creep through in my daily posts inspire me to write; to put something, anything down in words and get it out there – warts and all – for the world to see.

Perhaps some of you will feel it to be a touch self-indulgent, or a cry for attention. There’s little reason for me to be repelled by those claims as I am certain, to some, it will appear that way. However, I assure you that is not the case. Think of it as part of the grieving process. Human beings utilise many varied ways of purging themselves of pain and loss. This is mine.

Most of all, my Mum was always the one voice in many dissenters that urged me to pursue avenues such as this. She was someone impossible to dislike; a shoulder to cry on,  yet still capable of me calling an “indolent little c**t” when the time called for it.

My love for football comes directly from her. I watched and cheered my first World Cup with her. Even with her relatively small frame, she would gladly kick a ball around with my friends and I when I was growing up, and mercilessly hack the shins of anyone foolish enough to try and regain possession once she’d stolen it.

During my playing days, she’d watch from the sidelines to praise my good deeds, mock my calamitous blunders and act as my greatest champion  during moments of my self-doubt – never once failing to know exactly which mentality was correct to adopt.

She would like to know I’ve written this for her. That the people who pop by and read my daily drivel are aware of how important a figure in my life she was, and that she will be missed in ways no combination of words can aptly describe.

Most importantly, she would be happy to know that I have something that is mine, something that is flawed, silly, helpful, stupid and fun, but mine. She always used to ask about how “that football thing” was doing, and I’d reply, “Not too bad, it’s getting bigger every month”.

Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be a blogger.

If you pop by here to read for more than just a bit of news, then you’re one of the people I do this for the most. You’re the most important readers I have. And, in a way, this post is as much for you, too. To let you know that whilst I may not return for a little while, I will be back. And I sincerely hope you’ll still be around when I do.

Thank you for all your support over the last year.

James ‘Raul’ Stokes.



  1. arsenal-steve

    Condolences. It’s our heart and ability to give that is important. Love and family are more important than football. Good luck.

  2. El Antonio

    I’m so sorry for your loss, bro. Be strong


    Puts fooball into perspective, sorry for your loss

  4. DocBrody

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  5. The font

    Sorry for you with this sad news

  6. WrongFootPele

    Wish I could offer more but you have my condolences.

    1. mickey_g

      Sad news… sorry for your loss.

  7. AFC Andy

    Now I don’t know what to say.?
    Peace&love I suppose.
    Can’t wait till your back dude.

  8. les crang

    Really sorry to hear about your loss. They say time heals, to some degree that’s true, but you never forget them

  9. James

    Extremely sad news. I am only glad to see that you are finding your own way to let the pain out. I can understand how everything but your mum will become nothing but useless clutter in your head. It must have been very hard to submit that but it was the right thing to do. Being a Gooner we all share something in our hearts and I am sure i speak on behalf of us all when i offer my deepest condolences and wish you a quick return to blogging. Good luck and use your time remembering your mum.

  10. andy

    sorry for your lost. hope ur doing well.

  11. Spec

    Thoughts with you and your family bro…


    May your mom rest in peace. Its never easy specially when they are lost at an early age and your mom was young at 66. I wish you strength and peace.

  13. Gambon

    Sad news mate
    I lost my sister to cancer a year ago on Monday
    Hang in there mate and keep blogging
    Football is something to cling onto and have in your life
    Following your team season after season means a lot to us that bother
    Arsenal would do well to remember that
    I’m on the brink of turning my back on the club after 35 years of unwavering suppor. We don’t deserve it.
    Your mum sounds like she didn’t take any shit from anyone
    God bless her mate

  14. El-kabeer

    Just wanna drop my little prayers for the iron Lady who’s hand work is what we are enjoying this days. May the good lord in his infinite mercies grant her paternal life. R. I. P mum.
    Actually I’ve never read or post a comment, but because of todays pies I just desided to participate. Thanx your beautiful bastared, El-kabeer Nigerian

  15. maboko likoloe

    May she rest in paradise.. Take heart in this difficult moment. After reading the blog she sounds like she was a wonderful lady but tough, You are made from the same stuff. Keep the head up, I do enjoy the your blog’s the season is here looking forward to your commentary.

  16. Epicurean

    Sorry to hear of your loss. Sounds like she remarkable woman, you do honor to her memory with your kind words.

  17. Jean-Luc Thiébaut (@jeanylucky)

    I admire you for writing this post James, it brings everything into perspective, my thoughts are with you and your family.

    Take your time, we’ll still be here when you return.

  18. BT62 Gooner

    Hang in there mate,things may seem dark and sad at the moment, and will do for sometime.Hope this tragic loss will not hold you back,i to suffered a similar loss just over a year ago,puts things into perspective.Football and everything else pale into insignificance,family come first.Good luck and hope we hear from you in the not to distant future.Enjoyed the Bergkamp Wonderland Podcast.

  19. Ashley

    sorry for your loss mate , i’ll be looking forward to your return , one of the best bloggers the gunners have …. football really doesnt matter ….

  20. Ben R

    Condolences mate, very brave of you to write this and sure she’d be proud. The extent of her influence and her importance to you now has a much wider audience, and by the sounds of it, much deserved. Stay strong.

  21. me

    please accept my sincere condolences ,

    best wishes for both your family and yourself.

    be strong and keep the blogs coming when you need to escape.

    kudos to you for coming out and letting it all out and sharing all the above with us.

    may your mum’s soul RIP.

  22. stuart

    A brave and heartfelt piece of writing. My condolences to you and your family. All the best.

  23. Adam

    My sincerest condolences. So sad to read this.

  24. Goonerkitt

    My sincere condolences on the loss of your mother.
    May she rest in eternal peace.

  25. goonerdyllan

    Very sad to hear about your loss mate.
    Many will miss her through her influence on your writing.
    Thanks to James for his great posts and helping me personally too.

  26. GTID

    There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go. Sorry for your loss

  27. Ajay

    So sad to hear of your loss mate . I always look out for ur blogs and will do still. My sincere condolences to you and ur family

  28. Pitch

    Sorry to hear your sad news James. I’m a relative newcomer to your blog and it has become the first blog I read each day. I enjoy your blog because you have a way of writing that puts the reader at ease and feels like you are talking to a mate in the pub. Thanks for all your posts, especially sharing this difficult news with us.

    1. LeBigMac

      Absolutely. I too am a new comer to this blog and it is the only one I have bookmarked because of the reasons made above. You have been very strong sharing this with us all and you have my heart felt condolences on your loss. Please do continue your blog when you feel able, your ramblings and words will one day be the stuff of legend.
      God Bless James.

  29. 9jagunnerdoc

    I feel your pain, man. I lost my wife nine months ago, so I know how you’re feeling right now. Do accept my condolensces.

  30. GunnerInTheJ

    Thanks for all you do here for us out in cyber space. Know that it’s appreciated. And a big thanks to your mum as well for helping you to where you are, bringing all of this to us.

  31. Mike

    Im sorry for your loss man. Even though none of us have met you we are supoorting you even if it is through a simple comment. Stay strong for youself and your family.

  32. tony okeke

    so sorry for your loss bro,… Take heart, we goonerz followers have got your back on this one,… One’s again, so sorry for your loss.

  33. Dog

    Big love brother.
    I wrote my Dad’s obituary because at every funeral we ever attended he would say “what does that minister know about him/her?”
    Wasn’t going to have him look down and say that at his own funeral.
    Hardest thing I ever wrote but part of what was needed at the time.
    In truth the worst is over for you now.

  34. Camilo

    This is a beautiful post and please rest assured that, writing for gunners faithful, we are always here to support one another. I’ve felt a lot of joy reading your blog in the past and you’ve proven to be an excellent writer, clearly intelligent, and your mum must’ve known this. She is proud mate, thank you for sharing and I hope you get better soon.

  35. Veer

    “God gives the hardest battles to his strongest soldiers”
    Stay strong

  36. Faizel

    It is never easy losing a mother may The Almighty make it easy for you.our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  37. philip88

    My sincere condolences. I wish you strength to overcome this difficult period. Keep well my friend. Singapore Gooner.

  38. bops

    Condolences man.. Be strong..

  39. Danish Gooner

    My sincerest condolences.Celebrate your mother whenever you can, it makes grievance so much more tolerable.

  40. foreverheady

    So sorry to hear your news. Keep on making your Mum proud of you and in time you will remember her with happiness rather than just sadness.

  41. Joseph

    I’m so sorry for your loss James. We shall be waiting for you whenever you are ready to return you “beautiful bastard”. May her soul rest in peace and may your memories of her comfort you in these trying times.

  42. Fred

    Really touching tribute. Sorry for your loss.

  43. Kelly

    Condolences mate, I truly feel for your loss, may you keep you head up and her in your heart.

  44. luke.

    Im sorry to hear james. it is always tragic when someone close to you dies, especially in the sudden circumstances I can only assume it to be. I hope your holding up well. I have read your blog for a while now and as much as it may be irrelevant at this time I do consider it to be the second best arsenal blog after le grove (sorry). Anyway its completely understandable to take a break and im sure im not alone in offering my condolences. I hope your break does you well and I look forward to reading your posts again when the time is right. Again I am sorry to hear.

  45. @Pancofm

    I read your blog like everyday…even though I seldom comment, but once I receive an email notification, I rush to read through. I was really touched when I saw this. So sorry for your loss mate. Some of us that have lost a loved one before knows how it feels. But again, ike Shakespeare said, “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it “. Accept our condolences. May God resit her soul.

    1. @Pancofm

      Sorry for the typo above. I meant ‘rest her soul!

  46. Admir

    My condolences, mate. It’s hard to lose someone who was your biggest support in tough times and there are no words that could relieve the pain.

  47. mint

    sorry for ur loss mate, Condolences to all

  48. AB

    Brave man your Mother would be so proud of you, she in safe hands now
    come back when your ready.

  49. London Gun

    Whilst I read regularly, I rarely post, though felt impelled to do so this morning after reading your admirable tribute. Thoughts are with you and your family.

  50. reallycrossross

    Sorry for your loss James. I will await your return to my email box and will miss your daily drivel. Stay strong you beautiful bastard!

  51. Sean

    Thoughts are with you pal!

  52. James 'Raul' Stokes (Post author)

    I just wanted to pop by and say a huge thanks to all of you that took a moment to comment.

    I genuinely appreciate the kind words. Thank you.

  53. Gooner forever

    James, it took a lot of courage to write those words

    Your Mum will be very proud of you

    Sincere condolences

  54. N85

    Thank you for taking the time to write the blog in the first place.

    Feel for you dude, sorry for your loss.

    Take care.

  55. switchblade_smiles

    Take your time; your head and your heart are more important than football. We’ll all be waiting when you get back. Condolences.

  56. Darma

    I’m so sorry for your loss bro. My sincere condolences to you and your family. I’m sure she’s proud of you. Stay strong man.

  57. Rob

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family James.. Your Mum should be proud of you mate, as you are the best Arsenal blogger in blog land, and your post above is a fitting tribute to her.. Take your time to grieve James, we all deal with the loss of a loved one in different ways, but as a regular reader I eagerly await your return… God bless you and your Mum.

  58. Chigooner

    Sorry for your loss. She is in a better place and cheering you on. Take your time, we’ll be here when you get back.

  59. K.c.Sachin

    So , in reality , we were all her beautiful Bastards :’)
    We’ll miss you Mama , and we’ll make your son write , always .

  60. Chyke

    My condolences James!! She is a proud mother. May her soul rest in peace.

  61. Dan Izzard (@SimpleLampoon)

    Sorry for your loss James. Hope to see you back soon.

  62. Khalifha

    James its never easy losing a loved one, but I hope you can take comfort in the fact that she is at peace and in a better place man, accept my condolences bruv.

    Take it easy ok.

  63. botafoguense

    Haven’t often posted here but i’m a long time reader of your blog. My heart goes out to you and your family. Strength brother.

  64. mav361

    I am so sorry for your loss James I feel your pain

    I know how you feel I lost my mum in exactly the same circumstances a few years ago

    God bless you both

    Take your time you beautiful bastard we will still be here when the time is right for you to return

  65. Brook Dyson

    Sorry for your loss.

  66. Adam Jordan

    James, so sorry for your loss, she sounded like a wonderful Mum, I don’t know you or didn’t know her but from the way you’ve described her i’m sure she would be very proud. Will be here ready to read when you return. I haven’t posted a comment before but read your blog daily and it never fails to raise a laugh (in a good way!!) Look forward to you next post when the time is right.Take care

  67. Uchenna Okoro

    Hey bro!
    Sorry about your loss! Pls accept my heart felt condolence! Uve been a blessing to everyone of us and such pple as I whose days are not rily started without visiting ur site!
    Stay strong bro!

    Rio; Aba Nigeria

  68. Louise

    I have just started to read your blog and this really stood out for me. I am very sorry for your loss and understand a little as I lost my mum 3 years ago and I can safely say its the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I am sure you will get through this as your Mum was obviously a very strong person and has taught you a lot about life. Just do your best to remember all the good times and all the fun you’ve had over the year.
    Take care


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