Tag Archives: Legend

The Crowning Of The Highbury King – Thierry Henry

Knee-high socks.

Knee slide.

Face of consternation.

Feet like the wind.

Thierry Henry signed for Arsenal from Juventus twenty years ago – and our club, the Premier League and every single Gooner have never been the same since.

Fresh from a victorious World Cup campaign with France, Henry was lured to join the Gunners after a chance flight that saw him share with none other than his former coach and the Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger.

The rest isn’t just history, it is ingrained on our consciousness and it leaves us all with the same thought;

Can’t we rewind time to the moment he signed, so I could truly appreciate him in our shirt?

Of course, we all adored him, and it was easy to see why. But hindsight is ever the powerful and redundant tool, and we hark back to when he was in his pomp, in the red and white. And when we do, we realise that we had a footballing immortal in our midst.

The argument over not only the greatest Premier League import, but the greatest Premier League era player rumbles on continuously and Thierry is rightfully mentioned in those verbal tussles. But if we look at the rivals for the crown, we see that they all possessed something special, but Henry had it all.

When Le King started out with us, sans crown, the leading lights of the competition were the likes of Zola, Andy Cole, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Vialli.

All incredible goalscorers. Some had the ability to ghost into the box and find the perfect spot, some had the ability to always know where the keeper was and thus have the advantage. Others had rapier speed. A few could boast an incredible touch, outwitting their marker with a swish of their boot.

Thierry Henry had all of that and then some.

Bronze Henry.jpg

There was a period between 2002-05 where Henry truly was the greatest player on this planet. Goals rained down in the Premiership, Champions League, FA Cup, internationals. All spewing forth from the brain of Thierry. Left foot, right foot, even the occasional headed goal (the sole weakness of the player), he rained terror upon defenders who simply couldn’t deal with the arsenal that Henry possessed.

He could burn them with pace. If he came up against a defender who could keep up with him, he would use movement to beguile him. If the opposing number was a good man-marker, then his physical strength could give him the edge to find half a yard.

It also helped that he could score from any area of the pitch.

During our Invincibles season, there were moments that took the breath from your lungs. He gave us instances that had no parallel. His four goals versus Leeds, at one point he outpaced the entire backline so convincingly but with what appeared to be very little effort – his run looked like it was on ice, such was the silkiness of his gate.

His goal that changed the game versus Liverpool – y’know the one, where Carragher was so badly confused with Henry’s movement that he twisted himself into a heap? – was done with a touch that had no equal – bar Bergkamp – and all processed while he was running faster than anyone on the pitch.

We have a lot to thank Henry for, but the fact he played his best years in our shirt when he could have gone anywhere, that makes it all the more special. He loves the club, and the statue outside the ground is fitting tribute to what he achieved.

He missed out on the Ballon D’Or during his career, but twice finished inside the Top3. He would certainly have deserved it had he won during his best years, but looking back on his time at Arsenal, his legacy isn’t tarnished by not winning it.

His legacy is that he is the benchmark that all strikers are held up against now. Aguero’s goal ratio is incredible, but has he done it with the style of Henry, from all corners of the pitch? Kane is prolific, but has he scored 20+ goals for five consecutive seasons? Auba is fast, but is he ‘Henry’ fast?

The game is inexorably different to the one pre-Titi.

Much like former Sky man Andy Gray gasped during yet another Henry goal:

“I’ve seen most things in this league in the last twenty five years. I haven’t seen anything like him. I said at the beginning of the game that he is special. He’s more than that – he is irreplaceable.”

How right he was.

Twenty years has passed since Henry joined, and we now have the most incredible showreel in all of our minds.

Blistering run.

Henry.

Chance.

Goal.

 

Trademark knee slide.

Paul Davis – An Arsenal Warrior Bleeding Red and White

For fifteen years, Paul Vincent Davis was a Gunner.

From his debut in 1980 – in a derby no less – all the way to his injury hit last year in 1995, Davis embodied the drive, hunger and above all, class, that is synonymous with our club. The phrase, ‘The Arsenal Way’ could well be written within every DNA strand of the man.

Davis signed as an apprentice in 1977, and it didn’t take long for him to start pushing toward the first team. The central midfielder built a reputation for his patrolling of the centre of a pitch, and his Swiss Army Knife-like set of skills.

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You needed a pass? No problem. Tracking back? He’s got it covered. Tackling? Those telescopic legs were made for hooking the ball back. Davis had it all, and a player doesn’t become a mainstay of a top-flight club for such a long time without earning it.

No matter who he partnered, he moulded himself to fit the strengths of his other half in the centre. Most famously was perhaps his iconic duopoly with Mickey Thomas. Whereas Mickey had a great ability to ghost into the box to aid our attack, Davis knew when to stand sentry, and when to pivot. They dovetailed perfectly, and in 89, their partnership was the ideal platform for the most dramatic title triumph.

It was no coincidence that an injury to Davis coincided with a faltering of Arsenal’s title charge. Dropped points to QPR, Coventry, Millwall, Forest and Charlton saw Liverpool claw their way back, and upon Davis’ return – the draw versus the Addicks, we started to claw our way back from the brink.

Two title wins, four cups and earning more appearances than the majority of our past and current crops, Davis may have fought his fair share of injuries, but he was one of our own.

Not only that, but he was one of the flagbearers for racial equality within football – a battle that is still being fought. He, with a select few others, showed that Arsenal saw no colour, only talent, and Davis never let the bias get him down, as he steamrollered opponents no matter where or when.

He was a soldier for race and for Arsenal, and it was absolutely criminal that Davis never established himself on the England scene. Davis made 11 England Under-21 appearances, but not one cap for the full side. Davis would no doubt have added to England’s cause during his time at the top, and his pedigree of passing was difficult to match in the top-flight.

Davis continues to fight racism as an ambassador for ‘Give racism the red card’ and ‘Kick it out’ but it is his displays in our title winning teams of 89 and 91 that we will always hold dear and ensure Davis is and always will be, considered one of our Greatest Gunners.

Davis was a Gunner for fifteen years, helped bring glory to the club through silverware, and never let his standards drop throughout that time. He was a fine example to those younger than him of what it takes to make it. Tenacity, a thirst for betterment and a will to win that is never dampened throughout the years.

Can we say that Davis is one of our finest? Of course, there aren’t many in the modern era that can hold a candle, Vieira aside. Davis ticked all boxes.

Davis in non-Arsenal circles will always be remembered for punching Glenn Cockerill, but we will remember him for much more than that.

A bona-fide Arsenal legend, who bleeds red and white.

What Is A Legend Anyway?

I have an infatuation with words.

 

There is always a better word to describe things. Much like the late Robin Williams describes in the film, ‘The Dead Poets Society,’ why use the word ‘tired’ when you can use ‘fatigued.’ Why use ‘happy’ when you have the word ‘overjoyed.’

 

The beauty of the English language is that we have so many to choose from, picking the right one is an art form of sorts.

 

The ruination of the word ‘legend’ though, is something that is blighting everyone’s lexicon – and everyone is guilty of it.

 

Now, you can use the word ‘legend’ to describe a friend who volunteers to make the cheese on toast for everyone. Or the guy on your night out who is the designated driver. It’s been devalued to a huge extent.

 

So, what constitutes a legend?

 

I had this very discussion while attending our recent Arsenal Legends versus Real Madrid Legends game at The Emirates.

 

There was a generous helping of bona fide Gunners players who had achieved glory with our side.

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Bobbi Pires, Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn, Jens Lehmann, Gilberto. These men had won big trophies with our side, and also had amassed plenty of appearances in a Gunners shirt.

 

Then there were players who had won titles with Arsenal, but their name was not as familiar as the above. David Hillier, Perry Groves, Jeremie Aliadiere. They had played their part in campaigns, they had made their mark and the title medals in their possession are proof enough that they should be held in high regard.

 

Some would say – and have via social media – that some of the players who lined up against Real Madrid on this game that raised funds for The Arsenal Foundation, didn’t warrant a place.

 

The legend status comes in varied forms though.

 

Tomas Rosicky won very little in his time as a Gunner, but he is held in high regard by the Gooner faithful. He stayed when all and sundry were jumping ship, and if it weren’t for injury, his career at Arsenal would have been very different.

 

David Hillier is a youth product of the club, and played a huge part in the title winning side of 90/91, which was his breakthrough season.

 

There are inevitably players who are the first we recall when harking back to halcyon times, but every single player who was on the pitch for the Legends fixture came back for the love of the club, and to raise vital money for a worthwhile charity.

 

It was great to see them all pit their wits against Real, who had the likes of Raul, Morientes, Campo and Butragueno. There was precious little goalmouth action, but the chance to see our heroes again is always one we should relish.

 

They are all players who have donned the jersey and gave their all, and now have returned to give more for a good cause.

 

To be called a legend is a high honour, even in these times of varying impact of the word, but each one heartily deserve it.

Thank You, Vic Akers

It isn’t just Arsene Wenger that deserves a fitting send-off.

How’s about an Islington born boy who has been at the club in numerous capacities since 1986, making the newly formed Arsenal Ladies side the most successful English ladies side in history, winning thirty two honours, being awarded an OBE and now is the man responsible for ensuring our club are kitted out?

Step forward, Vic Akers, the true definition of an Arsenal hero.

Vic Akers, Arsenal icon

Vic is the embodiment of what us fans want from a player. True dedication, nothing but love for the cannon and puts everything into his work. Akers has not only served Arsenal well – he shone a light on the Women’s game that wasn’t illuminated previously.

His Arsenal Ladies team’s – and it is plural as he reinvented the side regularly in his tenure as Manager – highlighted the skills on show in the female game. His all-conquering Gunners side were also the first English team to lift the European Cup.

Thanks to his work, the WSL is now growing at an exponential rate, but from a humble seed do mighty oaks grow, and the bedrock for the success in today’s incarnation of the English Women’s game lies at the feet of Vic Aker’s Arsenal teams.

The man famous for sparking the ‘Postman’ fashion trend – perennially in shorts, no matter the weather – Akers has been a mainstay during the reins of both Graham and Wenger, and this season will be his last at the club.

His work will be continued by his son, but not much is known about Akers prior to joining Arsenal as part of the Community scheme the Gunners were running at the time and continue to do.

Vic, much like other successful managers, was a journeyman professional football player, playing as a full-back during the 70’s for the likes of Cambridge United and Watford. Upon hanging up his boots, he took the chance to join his boyhood club working behind the scenes and strengthening the link between the club and the locals. A job very much close to his heart being a local boy himself.

It will be his efforts as Arsenal Ladies Manager from 1987 through to 2009 that set him apart however. 22 years and 32 trophies is a record that sees him in illustrious company, and even in the last decade when competition for trophies became fiercer than ever, his tactical nous and training ground work saw his Gunners girls stay ahead of the competition, even winning the European Cup in 2007 – something the currently cash-rich Chelsea and Man City Ladies team’s have failed to do.

Vic Akers will no doubt say goodbye to the club with well-wishes from everyone at the club, but fan recognition for his service will be lower than he deserves, simply because he flew below the radar, letting his work do the talking rather than take the plaudits he so richly warrants.

Arsenal have been lucky to have had some bona fide legends in their time, but Vic Akers is without doubt one of the biggest. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for what he has achieved and also – how much he loved the club when he did it.

Thank you Vic Akers.

Kenny Sansom – A Great Gunner

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. 

Play With A Legend – The Dream Made Real

Age isn’t an active factor involved in being a football supporter. In fact, the fervour increases the older you get.

The longer you support, the more heroes that occupy that pedestal in your mind as you can recollect players who have performed heroics whilst wearing the crest you so passionately adore. Years and years worth of memories dedicated to halcyon times which were inspired by titans of the club.


The word ‘legend has been bandied around so liberally that it has lost much of its impact, but it is still the most succinct word to describe the men who will forever live on at your club of choice. Legends are not exclusive to the top-flight either, as no matter which club you side with, there are names that will permanently be synonymous with your admiration.


As kids, we dreamed of pulling on the shirt and lining up alongside our legends. Standing in the centre circle just before commencing kickoff, you look around the stands of the stadium you have sat in a plethora of times. You try and remember the moment before it ends. It is the quintessential young fan’s happy place, and we have all been there.


After a few decades of the demands of life suck the vigour from you unapologetically however, the childlike wonder with which you once viewed the game isn’t lost, but gets unceremoniously pushed to the back of your mind. The cynic in you soaks in the negativity surrounding the game – the prima-donnas, the simulation, the swollen rivers of cash – and the game you have loved since you were young takes on a different slant.


Despite this though, if you were offered the chance to play alongside the men who represent a golden age for your club, you would drop everything to do it. To actually live out your dream? To play alongside YOUR legend?


This isn’t mere hyperbole, an article designed to induce tears of nostalgia. There is a company who specialise in this very thing, and they were recently in the spotlight, as the 25 year anniversary of the very first Premier League goal scored was celebrated. The scorer, a certain Brian Deane.










Deane will forever have a place in the annals of sporting history, as the first ever goalscorer in the watershed that is the Premier League. Some things get written in chalk, some are indelibly etched into the foundations – Brian Deane is the supreme question of Premier League quizzes around the globe.


Now enjoying the spoils of a career forged in the heat of the top-flight, Deane is the latest name fans can play alongside thanks to Play With A Legend. A group can line up a match and have one of the luminaries of their supported club on the pitch alongside them. The prospect is mouthwatering for any fan.


Speaking on behalf of Play With A Legend, Deane said;


” It always feels good to be back at Bramall Lane. There’s some really good memories here,” says Brian. “Even when it wasn’t me who was the significant player, we were a very good team unit at times, so it was always good, the fans were always good, they got excited and it was a great place, a fun place.”


‘If I’m honest the actual day is a bit of the blur but watching the goal brings everything back. It was particularly sweet to score after four minutes. At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it. But when I stopped playing people gave me recognition. It is really nice to have something like that which nobody can take away.’


His opening strike against Manchester United is one of the best memories, but he remembers his second goal on the day – the penalty – more clearly. “I had more time to think about what I was going to do, and then I ended up sending the goalie the wrong way.

The Premier League that Deane stepped into in 1992 seems a far cry from the Premier League that we know today. In 1992, Deane recollects that most clubs had got a new kit for the season, a move that was quite significant as the clubs looked to cash in on this time in their history. Sheffield United stepped out in an Umbro shirt with laces that Deane recalls being “quite iconic, but not the sort of shirt you’d want to wear nowadays because it was quite heavy!”



Play With A Legend is genius, and an idea that should have come to fruition a long time ago. It is an idea that everyone has had, but no-one has made tangible. Any business idea is destined for success when it enables dreams to come true.

Who wouldn’t want to not only meet their heroes, but play football with them and perhaps a drink afterwards? Play With A Legend makes it so.


Brian Deane was back at Bramall Lane on behalf of Play With a Legend, an events company which gives fans the chance to play alongside over 100 former footballers. Visit https://www.playwithalegend.com/ for more information

David Seaman – The Safest Of Hands.

The old adage goes, ‘You have to be mad to be a goalkeeper.’ This stereotype is a perfect fit for the majority of the men between the sticks, as they fling head and body into situations and places that would normally warrant full-body protection gear. 

Not only is it physical danger that makes up a large part of their vocation. Long periods of solitude during games, with only vitriolic masses as company, goalkeepers spend a huge amount of time attempting to stay alert, battling their own wits as the play unfolds away from them.

David Seaman does not fit this well-worn molding. Standing tall at 1.93 metres, the giant keeper was the anti-thesis of the usual mental framework of a man wearing Number One on his back.

Perhaps his greatest strength was his zen-like temperament. No matter the battle that was ensuing in front of him, or even if it was directed at him, the deep-voiced Yorkshireman simply got on with his game. 

Was it his level of concentration that allowed him to brush off any extraneous niggles that would waylay a regular goalkeeper? Or was it merely his upbringing and his personality that meant he cared little for drama? Either way, it allowed Seaman to fully exert his towering influence into being the sure footing that his defence needed.

The big man from Leeds that would go on to be known as ‘Safe Hands’ started his career with his hometown club, Leeds United, but he didn’t feature in the Managers plans, so a £4k move to Peterborough United gave his career the escape route it needed.

Two full seasons in the then 4th Division were enough to see him catapult up to the 2nd, with a move to Birmingham City. Again, two full seasons was all it took for David to earn another transfer up the leagues – this time to QPR.

This gave him the spotlight his dazzling talent deserved, and he soon piqued the interest of England boss Bobby Robson. It wasn’t only Robson and England that were sniffing round the Yorkshireman either.

Arsenal had an inside man at QPR, and he was ideally placed to run the rule over Seaman. His goalkeeping coach at Loftus Road was none other than 1971 Double winning keeper Bob Wilson, and Arsenal’s gentleman had a very high opinion of David.

Before the season of 1990/91 began, Arsenal and George Graham moved to bring him to Highbury. The current Gunners keeper was the popular John Lukic, but Graham badly wanted who he thought would be the future England Number One for years to come. He wasn’t wrong. 

His first season at Arsenal underlined his talent in the most emphatic way. 23 clean sheets and just 18 goals conceded embossed and emboldened Graham’s comments before purchasing Seaman – “I still think John Lukic is one of the top three goalkeepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best.”

Thirteen seasons of excellence was David Seaman’s legacy at the club. A hatful of trophies were symptomatic of his professionalism and he must surely rank as one of the finest exponents of goalkeeping the Premier League has ever seen.

It is criminal to round up Seaman’s Arsenal career in just a few paragraphs, but to truly do the big man justice, you would be reading this article from sun up to sundown. The man with the famous ponytail and best moustache since Magnum P.I gave our club the most assured presence in the box, and this in turn was a massive factor for why our club could boast the finest defence the League has ever seen. For how good can a defence be without a great goalkeeper behind them?

The majority of non-Gooners will always recall Seaman being lobbed by Ronaldinho, and allied with Nayim’s lob for Zaragoza, means that Seaman will unfairly have his critics. A goalkeeper has the hardest job on the pitch though – in what other position can you play well for 89 minutes but a simple mistake will more often than not result in disaster?

Seaman was the silent sentry that stood guard for well over a decade, and his consistently epic displays spread out over such a long tenure spells out a goalkeeping career that deserves to stand tall alongside the greatest that the world has had to offer. Dino Zoff, Lev Yashin, Gianluigi Buffon, Andoni Zubizaretta, and Peter Schmeichel are regarded as the examples that all young keepers must aspire to. 

David Seaman deserves to be included in that glittering group of goalies. 

Safe Hands was a more than warranted moniker for him.