Mention the name Kenny Sansom to most modern day fans, and the former Gunner’s recent battle with alcohol addiction will be what is conjured up in their minds.
This is a great disservice to a player who served our club with such distinction, so this article is here to set the record straight.
Kenny joined the club in 1980, after blazing a trail with a highly impressive Crystal Palace team which tore up the Third and Second Divisions. His acquisition should have told Gooners what to expect, as Arsenal gave the Eagles Clive Allen in a swap deal with cash involved. Allen was also highly rated and had been bought just weeks earlier and had yet to play a game in anger in a Gunners shirt.
So it is fair to say there was a fair amount of pressure on Sansom’s robust shoulders from the moment he signed.
Sansom never missed a game in his debut season and the next season saw him win the club’s Player of the Year gong. His style of play was a projection of where the game was going; more focus on attack from the full-backs, with pace and strength in equal measure. The hirsute defender was as adept at holding the famed George Graham backline as he was adding another asset to the attack. Sansom was the perfect player for George Graham, but the majority of his career was not spent under the tutelage of the Scotsman.
The left-back was signed by Terry Neill, and spent three years under him, Don Howe, and less than two months under Steve Burtenshaw, until Graham arrived in 1986. George should have loved Sansom and what he offered to the team, but the relationship between the two is what caused Sansom to first lose the Captaincy to a green Tony Adams, before leaving the club in 1988.
In eight years at Arsenal, Sansom may not have been snowed under with accolades, but he raised the bar in terms of consistent excellence. Just one League Cup in 1987 was the sole piece of silverware for Sansom, but what he lacked in baubles, he more than made up in other ways.
For example, Sansom earned 86 caps for England, and this was a record for an Arsenal player until Patrick Vieira broke it twenty years later. Sansom was pretty much unrivalled in terms of delivery of the ball from out wide, and could put the ball on a sixpence whilst on the move too. Whether it be for his country or in an Arsenal jersey, Sansom almost always made a difference. Kenny was part of a pretty fantastic group of England players who were amongst the elite of the game and had real shouts for tournament glory. Sansom would have fitted into any setup around Europe on a tactical basis. He had every tool a coach could wish for, and he held the respect of his teammates.
In total, Sansom played 314 games for us, and made the First Division Team of the Year every season from 1979 through till 1987. His fantastic hair, his moustache were just as much his trademark in the end as his rapier runs forward and his hustling of opposition wingers.
What really is a testament to what he gave us though, is that Sansom adorns the outside walls of our Emirates stadium, as part of the 32 legends that are part of the external circumference of the ground. Arsenal recognise his worth, and we all should too.
“The hirsute defender”? You do know hirsute means hairy? Dearie me…
Of course! With his plush tache and big perm, I think he qualifies for the description!