Kenny Sansom was unfortunate with timing.
Not on the pitch of course. His mastery of the defensive arts was only rivalled by his ability to grow a fabulous moustache.
No, Sansom was unlucky simply because his career was at a time that didn’t shine an appropriate light on his excellence.
If Kenny had played five or ten years later, he would have been laden with trophies. Instead, Sansom will have to be satisfied with knowing that Gooners know how good he was for us – and for his country too.
Sansom has accrued more caps than every single other full-back for England, bar one. These sorts of numbers would normally be associated with a player who has a display cabinet filled with glittering baubles – but Sansom’s dedication, skill and above all, consistency, was scantly rewarded in terms of silverware.
Sansom was our Player of the Year in 1981 and played a starring role in the cup that started the George Graham revolution – the Littlewoods Cup win in 1987. These were his sole medals – but in terms of achievements, Sansom takes some beating.
For seven years, Kenny, his short shorts and his luxurious ‘tache were part and parcel of Arsenal’s backline. Sansom made his name for putting in performances week in and week out, never letting his levels drop and never letting his teammates down.
The same goes for his international exploits too. From Euro 80 through to Euro 88 with the World Cups of 82 and 86 in between, Sansom was England’s left-back. 86 caps in all – and Sansom earned every single one.
He didn’t need his reputation, fans knew exactly what they would get from Sansom – he was Mr Consistent, and managers came to realise this too, hence his stature of being undroppable. Why swap Sansom out, when he never lets you down?
And if we take this relentless career and we plonk it five years further down the line – Sansom would have been a title winner. He would have won more cups. And for England, he would still have amassed all those caps – but he would have had Italia 90 to look back on, rather than the bamboozling runs of Maradona and some embarrassing early exits.
Sansom’s style would have translated well into modern day football too. His forays further up the field were not as frequent as his eventual successor at Arsenal – Nigel Winterburn – but in terms of defence, he was so difficult to get away from. He was athletic and hard to muscle away from possession and he always made the right choice under pressure.
A cool head, a dependability that offered respite when under the cosh – Sansom had this on droves and it is why he had such longevity for his country. What manager doesn’t need this in his side?
We all know of Kenny’s difficulties in his post-playing days, but it seems lately that he is getting back on track. He hopefully knows how much he means to us all.
Kenny, you’re one of our greats – and thank you for your years of consistent brilliance in the red and white.