Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 3

Day 3 of this week where we look at the defenders in our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite defender by voting in the poll at the end of the week.

7. George Male: 1929-1948

He played in 318 games over a 19 year period (including WW11).

He was born in West Ham. London, George played football with non-league Clapton. He joined Arsenal as an amateur in November 1929, turning professional in May 1930. Initially he was used as either a left-winger or left-half, typically deputising for Bob John. Initially his appearances were few and far between but he was a surprise choice at left half in the 1932 FA Cup final after Alex James was withdrawn because of injury. Arsenal lost the final 2-1 on a controversial goal.

GeorgeMale1936In 1932 Arsenal’s regular right back Tom Parker was showing his age and his replacement, Leslie Compton was not playing too well so manager Herbert Chapman converted George from left half to right back. He later recounted being summoned to Chapman’s office fearing that he would be sacked, only to be told by Chapman, that he was not only the new right back but that Chapman felt he was also the best right back in the country.

Enthused by the news George easily slotted into his new position and he became the undisputed first-choice right back for the next seven seasons playing over 35 matches every season during that period. He was a regular when Arsenal won the First Division title four more times (1932-3, 1933-4, 1934-5 and 1937-8), plus the FA Cup in 1935-6.

He made his international debut for England against Scotland in 1934, going on to gain a further nineteen caps for his country, being England’s captain for six of them, during the late 30’s he also became the Arsenal captain.

He was 29 and at the peak of his career when WW11 commenced, during which he played nearly 200 wartime matches for Arsenal while also serving in the Royal Air Force. When football resumed, after WW11, George was now 36 and nearing the end of his career but he still played in 15 games for Arsenal when they won the First Division title in 1947-8 and became the first player in League history to play in six title-winning seasons.

On retirement, as a player, he first became a coach at Arsenal, training the youth and reserve teams then he became a scout famously discovering, amongst others, Charlie George. He was still at the club to see it win its first double in 1970-1 and finally retired in 1975.

He passed away in 1998 and reaching the grand old age of 87 years.

8. Walley Barnes:1943-55

He played in 294 games over a 12 year period (including WW11).

He was born in Brecon, Wales to English parents and he played as an inside-forward for Southampton during WW11 making 32 appearances between 1941 and 1943, it was there that he was spotted and signed by Arsenal.

wally-barnes-football-player-of-arsenal-holding-trophyDuring the war years he played in virtually every position for Arsenal, including a match as goalkeeper, but he suffered a serious knee injury in 1944. It was an extremely bad injury from which he was not expected to recover, but despite the poor prognosis he recovered, and worked himself back into the team. He made his League debut for the Gunners in November 1946.

Walley became noted for his solid performances at left-back, with his neat distribution and uncanny ability to cut out crosses. He soon won a regular place in the Arsenal side, and was part of their First Division Championship winning side of 1947-8. By this time he was also a regular in the Welsh national side, gaining his first cap playing against England in 1947, unfortunately, for him; he was given a harsh football lesson by Stanley Matthews, England winning 3-0. However he went on to win 22 caps, and became captain of his country.

Following an injury to skipper Laurie Scott he was switched to right back, and won an FA Cup winners’ medal in 1949-50 when Arsenal defeated Liverpool. Two years later, Arsenal got to the Cup final again and played Newcastle United, Walley twisted his knee badly and had to come off the pitch after 35 minutes; with no substitutes permitted, in those days, Arsenal were down to ten men, and went on to lose 1-0.

As a result of his Cup final injury, he was out for Arsenal’s entire league winning season of 1952-3. Although he was back in the side for the next three seasons, his appearances were now less regular and he only played eight times in 1955-6. With age as well as past injuries counting against him, he retired from playing in the summer of 1956. In all, he played 294 matches and scored 12 goals.

During the last two years of his playing career, Walley was also manager of the Welsh national team, after which he joined the BBC broadcasting team. He presented coverage of FA Cup finals and alongside Kenneth Wolstenholme was one of the commentators for the very first edition of Match of the Day in 1964. He also assisted Wolstenholme in the live commentary to the 1966 World Cup final of England versus Germany, providing expert opinion.

Walley wrote his autobiography, titled “Captain of Wales”.

He passed away in 1975, at only 55 years of age.

9. Peter Storey: 1961-1977

Peter played in 501 games over a 16 year period.

peter storeyHe was born in Farnham, Surrey, Peter joined Arsenal as an apprentice in 1961 and turned professional the following year. He started off as a right back, and spent three seasons playing in the youth and reserve teams, making his first-team debut against Leicester City in October 1965. He secured his first team place in the Arsenal side and went on to be a first-choice player for the next ten seasons.

As his career progressed he switched from his full back position to become a defensive midfielder. He played on the losing team in two consecutive League Cup finals in 1968 and 1969 before winning an Inter-Cities Fair winners medal in 1969-70. He was known as one of footballs “Hard Men” being a tough uncompromising tackler (he was rated at number 26 in a Times “50 greatest hard men” list in 2007).

He remained a member of Arsenal’s first team, who won the First Division and FA Cup Double the following season. Peter was an unsung member of Bertie Mee’s team but his very special contribution came during the FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City at Hillsborough – with Arsenal staring defeat in the face at Hillsborough. He had already halved a two-goal deficit with a great second-half drive but as stoppage time arrived Stoke looked set to seal a 2-1 victory, and book their place at Wembley, when Arsenal were awarded a penalty. The Gunners leapt with joy – all that is except Peter Storey. He had the unenviable task of beating England legend Gordon Banks to keep Arsenal’s Double dream alive. Cool as you like Peter watched Banks go right and he slotted the ball low to the keeper’s left, for the Arsenal win. Arsenal went on to win the replay, lift the Cup and complete the Double.

He played in 19 games for England making his debut in 1971 against Greece. However this happened to be a dismal period for the England side where their record was W11, D5, L3, resulting in him never playing in any tournament finals.

After losing his place under new Arsenal boss Terry Neill, he transferred to Fulham for £10,000. He had played 501 times in all for Arsenal, making him the club’s sixth-leading player in terms of appearances. His aggressive nature on the pitch sparked the joke among fans and the media that his was “One Storey that belonged in a horror movie”

In September 2010 he released a no-holds-barred autobiography called “True Storey: My Life and Crimes as a Football Hatchet Man”.

10. Bob McNab: 1966-1975

Bob played in 365 games over a 9 year period.

He was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. He played locally for Huddersfield Town, appearing nearly seventy times in three seasons. He was signed by Bertie Mee for Arsenal in 1966, and soon won a place in the Arsenal side, making his debut against Leeds United on 15 October 1968.

gun__1261470056_mcnab_bob3He enjoyed his fair share of success domestically, winning the 1969-70, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and then the Double in 1970-71. He was a strong member of a stalwart back line alongside Pat Rice and Frank McLintock, he played 62 matches in Arsenal’s double winning season, missing just two games.

He was in the side that lost in the FA Cup final to Leeds United in 1972; but injuries kept him out of the team for much of the 1971-72. This was suggested by Luke Aikman (who played the part of Paul Ashworth in the movie Fever Pitch) when he predicted part of the lineup for the FA Cup Semi-final between Arsenal and Stoke City, by stating – “McNab won’t play. Bertie Mee wouldn’t risk him.”

He returned to play over 50 matches the following season, but his poor injury record continued and he shared the left back position with Sammy Nelson for the next two seasons. With his age (32) catching up on him he was replaced by Nelson and was released on a free transfer in the summer of 1975, after playing in 365 matches and scoring six goals.

He made his debut for England on 6 November 1968 against Romania, winning four caps, but never becoming a regular.

When he left Arsenal, he first played for Wolves before trying his luck in the NASL with the San Antonio Thunder, after which he returned to England and played for Barnet. Continuing his travels he moved back across the Atlantic to play for, and then coach, the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, after which he retired.

He was part of a group led by Milan Mandaric that took over Portsmouth in 1999, and briefly came out of retirement and took over as caretaker manager of the side until Tony Pulis became the full time manager.

He now lives in Los Angeles, California, working as a property developer.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile

54 Responses to Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 3

  1. LB says:

    Micky, BR

    I answered at the end of yesterday’s post.

  2. Big Raddy says:

    “Messi on Wheels” 😀

    Sorry – this is a carry over from yesterday.

  3. Big Raddy says:

    I want George Male’s life – apart from being born in West Ham.

    Of course I growing up during the ´60’s Storey and Mcnab were part of my football development. Both solid, both dependable and both proper defenders.

    We could use a Storey next season- though he would be permanently in the stands as today’s refs would send him off within 15 mins of every game he played!

    Gn5. I am interested how you chose which players to represent their era’s. Was it by appearances?

  4. Gooner In Exile says:

    Storey the man my dad describes as someone “who didnt play football, he stopped others playing football” 😀 as Raddy says an enforcer we could maybe do with, but maybe not as axe wieldy.

  5. Shard says:

    Hello everyone,
    Ive been having technical difficulties with my phone and because the laptop I have here is almost a piece of junk. I am in London over the next few days. Is there any AAer who is available for a litle offline chit-chat?

  6. GunnerN5 says:


    As the players are being profiled from the earliest in their grouping to the latest it may appear that they were selected by era, but that is not the case.

    Given that none of us, on AA, had seen many of the players from Arsenal’s earlier years I decided that I needed to set a standard by which I would consider them as being worthy of being profiled as a candidate for inclusion in our greatest ever squad.

    I settled on 3 main criteria 1. games played, 2. goals scored, 3. # years at Arsenal. Once I’d settled on a criteria I then had to figure out a way to get that information. So I did some research and then created a spreadsheet showing every player who has played for Arsenal and then researched and added any missing data.

    A few different sortation’s gave me the information I wanted and then it was a matter of decided how many players from each positional group would be profiled.

    So the answer is that I did not intentionally choose any player simply by the era in which they played, they were chosen on the merit of the criteria that was pre-determined.

    Frankly I had to omit many of my personal favourites as they, sadly, did not meet the standard of the criteria.

  7. Big Raddy says:

    Sorry, Shard. Arrive in London next week..

    Gn5. Your passion astounds me! What a huge undertaking.

    I look forward to seeing which other defenders are chosen

  8. Shard says:

    When next week? I,ll be in Uk till the 25th. But will be out of london on and off. I think im going to cambridge on sunday. Might go to yorkshire sometime later. And either lake district,cotswold or hadrians wall.

  9. Big Raddy says:

    Shard. Got my weeks wrong!! I arrive in UK 25th 😦

  10. Hi Gunner N5, and GIE

    Good work again.
    Just a tiny error to note for all AA readers, and it’s the fault of Wikipedia rather than yourself, Gunner N5.
    Bob McNab was signed in ’66 as you correctly state. However, he made his debut immediately in ’66 (not ’68).

    Gunner N5 : As regards Storey, what you’ve written as regards his change of position could be construed as a tad misleading – again, we can blame Wikipedia. Your 2nd para reads as though Storey switched to defensive midfield around 1968. He actually switched from right back to DM at the start of the 1970-71 season.
    What may appear somewhat surprising (both then, and now) is how he instantly adapted to the new position, showing he had perhaps a little more intelligence and ability than many think (see following comment to GIE below). He was greatly influential in our Double success of that season in particularlar; to a degree an ‘unsung hero’, as Gunner N5 noted. I wonder if another ‘unsung hero’ of the same era will appear in this defenders section (?).
    A clue : initials “PS”.

    GIE : Your dad wasn’t strictly correct when he said he describes Storey as “someone who didn’t play football, he stopped others playing football”.
    He could have (should have) said “someone who plays football but also stopped others playing football”, as there were two sides to Storey’s game, not one. I did note your ‘smiley’ but still I don’t want the AA readers to be misled as regards this player, especially as I liked him a lot. So no offence…

  11. chas says:

    Great stuff as ever GN5.

    This has Wally Barnes at the start having heatlamp treatment and also punching the ball in the gym and George Male (as coach presumably) stood alongside manager Jack Crayston.

  12. chas says:

    George Male receiving the Southern Cup after beating Charlton 7-1 in 1943.

  13. chas says:

    George Male as coach again at 0.40 with “the robot footballer” or “cannonball machine”. Apparently, Pulis still uses one.
    (“gay princess” made me laugh).

  14. chas says:

    The Peter Storey Semi-Final.

  15. chas says:

    Bob McNab interview after 1-0 win against Citeh

  16. Big Raddy says:

    Raddy to the Rescue!

  17. chas says:

    Not the first time that’s been said on this blog.

  18. ToAl… You’re comments and appreciation of Peter Storey are spot on.His colleagues and his England captain, Bobby Moore would vouch for his qualities and how underrated he was.
    Incidentally during his 5 years at right full back he was as good as any player in this position that I have seen before or since, in my opinion.

  19. Gooner In Exile says:

    I think my Dad used the phrase because that’s how he described himself when he played right back, and probably modelled himself on Storey.

    Family folklore tells how my Dad his behind the sofa and told my Nan to tell the Arsenal scouts at the door he wasn’t in. My Great Uncles always used to bring it up at family weddings…..I’ve never known how true the story is and why my Dad wasn’t interested he always smiles and shrugs his shoulders rather embarrassed, maybe he just felt football wasn’t for him long term or he knew little Pat Rice round the corner was a better player.

  20. martin
    Storey had very decent competition at England level for the right back spot. George Cohen firstly, albeit to ’67 only. Then two very good Everton full-backs vied for position… Keith Newton and Tommy Wright. Paul Reaney was in contention too, c.’68 onwards, though only won three caps in total.

    Funny thing, when he finally made his debut in ’71 versus Greece, he was chosen for right back, not his ‘new’ DM position.

  21. martin, continued…

    I personally think Storey would possibly have played with some regularity for England at right back were it not for the presence of Wright and Newton. But perhaps not, bearing in mind that the England manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, didn’t like playing with wingers; he often used Newton as an overlapping full-back (in a winger-like fashion), which wasn’t Storey’s natural game.

    Notes from a couple of websites :
    Wright has often been described as the best right back to play for Everton. (Another candidate for this honour is Keith Newton who Everton usually played at left back). George Best once described Wright as his most difficult opponent.

    Newton was once described by Sir Alf Ramsey as the best left back in the world.

  22. GIE

    I enjoyed your comments re your dad 🙂
    As I said before, no offence as regards my follow-up intended.

  23. RockyLives says:

    More great stuff Gn5
    I read them this morning but been a busy day. Heading off to Italy tomorrow for two weeks.
    Internet will be patchy but hopefully good enough to get my votes in!

  24. MickyDidIt89 says:

    GN5, Fantastio.

    When we started this challenge, in my mind I had a few players nailed on., but right back I always felt would be the toughest, so this post makes interesting reading indeedy.

    Will Viv Anderson get a look in, I wonder.

  25. MickyDidIt89 says:


    Have a great holiday

  26. chas says:

    Viv Anderson didn’t play enough games, I doubt.

    I used to play inside right when I first started playing at school, then moved to left half as i got a little older. I finished my school playing career as a sweeper after I wrecked my knee.
    The only reason for mentioning this is because the defenders category includes half backs. Is the modern day equivalent of a half back a DM or a Pirlo-type player?

  27. chas says:

    When our lovely, wealthy and educated bloggers go on holiday, they go to Italy. I go to Skeggie.
    Where have I gone wrong? 🙂

  28. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Thing is this Chas, I won’t be picking my team entirely on merit, there will be The Didit Factor hurled in to the equation.

  29. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I’ve given my suggestion on the formation issue, by suggesting a 4-4-4 line up. 13 players allows you to crowbar anyone in.

    Yer wingers and a centre forward, as well as a No. 10 sort, and so on.

  30. chas says:

    Ah, the DidIt factor. I heard Simon Cowell was interested in turning it into a tv show.
    How’s the post coming on which will sort out the pre-match situation at the Emirates? Did you manage to write it while in gay Paree?

  31. chas says:

    This came up when I looked for Viv Anderson on youtube (only because his name ids in the comments). Nice though.

  32. chas says:

    Off out. Buenas tardes

  33. MickyDidIt89 says:


    I saw the Raddy comment suggesting I wrote something about that. Oh Yee of short memories, I already did that a couple of years back!

    Great clip. Happy memories.

  34. MickyDidIt89 says:


    Saw your comment at the end of yesterday about Froome, and the linked article. Thanks, very interesting.

  35. chas says:

    The good thing about having such a poor memory is that every single day is full of brand new experiences. 😉

    I was looking at El pistolero videos yesterday thanks to you. Cheers.

  36. LB says:

    Your welcome.

  37. MickyDidIt89 says:

    About your memory. Are you Goldfishlike going round and around in a glass bowl.

    Wow, look at that view
    Wow, look at that view
    Wow, look at that view

  38. Went to Thierry Henry’s concert last night. Great dream!!

  39. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    I was at that M’boro game.

    Rocky. Have a fantastic holiday. If ever you need a guide and translator for anywhere in Italy – call me!

  40. Morning all

    Rasp and I have messed up I’m afraid, we didn’t realise that the defenders posts were running into next week and so we don’t have a post for today 😦

    Has anyone got any thoughts and time to write something please?

  41. Big Raddy says:


    Give me an hour and a coffee and I will write something.

    Don’t forget you have a post I wrote some time ago in drafts about my childhood obsession!

  42. charybdis1966 says:

    I can throw together a 5 minute special rant(ette) if you’re really desperate Peachy.

  43. Fantastic Raddy, thank you. Will you be able to publish it yourself?

  44. HI chary, you can always stick a rant into drafts, we’ll need a post for tomorrow anyway 😉

  45. charybdis1966 says:

    Ok Peachy, I’l stick it in drafts.

    Use it when you need to Peachy – it’s only a hastily thrown together effort.

  46. dandan says:

    Re Peter Storey: I loved watching him, he never flinched from a tackle or confrontation, but could still play, I wrote an article on him some time back, I still smile at the memory of a well known columnist describing him in print as a JCB clearing all before him after a particularly fractious encounter with Leeds Utd, Hunter, Giles, Bremner, Charlton all at their peak. He would be worshipped today.

  47. Shard says:

    There should be a post that id sent before coming to the uk. Although kelsey couldnt find it. Maybe it went into spam.

    Is anybody free today, tomorrow evening or on monday, tuesday or wednesday? It would be shame to come so far and not have met any of the AAers.

    Raddy. My flight out of heathrow is on the 25th. Around 9 in the evening. Maybe if we,re lucky we could catch up for an hour or so somewhere.

  48. charybdis1966 says:

    Shard, I’m not in London, actually in Bucks to the north west of London, but if you are in the area let me know.

  49. Big Raddy says:

    New Post ……

  50. Yep. I was proud to be there as his guest, alongside his dad, Eddie.

  51. Sorry. That is Peter Storey’s England debut.

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