Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 4

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

11. Peter Simpson: 1960-1978

Peter played in 477 games over a 15 year period.

Born in Gorleston, Norfolk, he worked at Arsenal as a member of the club’s ground staff before signing as an apprentice in 1961, turning professional in 1962. Initially he played in the youth and reserve teams and made his first team debut in 1964.

gun__1255678355_simpson_peterHe only made 22 appearances in his first three seasons but gained a regular first team spot under the management of Bertie Mee becoming an integral member of the team for the next ten seasons. He started out as an all purpose player, playing in every outfield position, but soon settled into the centre half position, usually alongside Frank McLintock.

Peter was a member of the losing teams in both the 1968 and 1969 League Cup Final’s but was a leading figure in Arsenal’s success in the early 1970s including winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969-70, and making a total of 57 appearances in all competitions that season. He then went on to be part of the side that won the League Championship and FA Cup Double in 1970-71. After missing the first three months of that season with a cartilage problem, he returned in time for the FA Cup run, and appeared in the final, beating Liverpool 2-1 after extra time.

Despite his long career at the top, he was never capped for England, although he was called into a few squads by Sir Alf Ramsey during 1969-70. He continued to play for the club in the trophy less years following the Double, playing more than 35 games a season for four seasons. By 1975 age was starting to get the better of him, and he only played nine times in 1975-76. Despite a recall in 1976-77, earning 25 appearances, he was dropped again the following season.

He left the club in 1978, having played 477 times for the club, and is seventh on the Arsenal all-time appearances list.

He had brief stints with the New England Tea Men of the NASL in the United States, and then returned to England to play for non-league Hendon, before retiring.

12. Pat Rice: 1964-1980

Pat played in 528 games over a 16 year period.

Born in Belfast, Pat grew up in London, working for greengrocers on Gillespie Road. He joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1964, turning professional in 1966 and made his first-team debut in the League Cup in December 1967.

Initially a bit-part player Pat played at right back and made only 16 appearances in his first three seasons, missing out on Arsenal’s 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup win.  However, during this time he won his first cap for Northern Ireland in 1968, while still largely a reserve player for Arsenal. Peter Storey was Arsenal’s first choice right back, but after he was moved into central midfield at the start of the 1970–71, Pat took his place and was a near-ever present in the side that season, as Arsenal won the League and FA Cup Double.

imagesHe remained first-choice right back for the rest of the 1970s, playing in the 1972 FA Cup Final as well; he was an ever-present for three seasons, 1971–72, 1975–76 & 1976–77. Of the Double-winning side, he was the one who remained at the club the longest, and became club captain in 1977. As captain, he had the honour of lifting the FA Cup after Arsenal beat Manchester United in 1979, as well as playing in two losing finals in 1978 and 1980. He is one of only 3 Arsenal players to have played in five FA Cup Finals (1970–71, 1971–72, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80), the other two being David Seaman and Ray Parlour. He also led Arsenal to the 1980 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final, which Arsenal lost on penalties to Valencia.

Pat continued to play for Northern Ireland in this time, amassing 49 caps in an eleven-year career, which ended with his final international game against England on October 17, 1979, which ended in a 5–1 defeat.

He finally left Arsenal in 1980 at the age of 31, by which time he had played 528 games in total for the club. He moved to Graham Taylor’s Watford and played 137 times for the Hornets, helping the club gain promotion to the First Division in 1981–82. He scored in Watford’s first game in the top flight in 1982–83 against Everton before retiring from playing in 1984.

He rejoined Arsenal in 1984 as youth team coach, a post he held for the next 12 years, winning the FA Youth Cup twice in 1987–88 and 1993–94. In September 1996, Rice was briefly caretaker manager of the club, after the resignation of Stewart Houston, and managed the side for three winning FA Premier League matches.

With the arrival of Arsène Wenger, Pat became his assistant, and played a key role in helping the club to their success in the 1990s and 2000s, including the Doubles of 1997–98 and 2001–02, and Arsenal’s unbeaten League season of 2003–04. He holds the distinction (along with Bob Wilson) of having taken part, as player or coach, in all three of Arsenal’s Doubles.

On 5 May 2012, it was announced that he would be stepping down after an accumulative 44 years with club, since joining as an apprentice.

Arsene Wenger stated ”Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion to this club…I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole. On the training pitches and on match days, Pat has always been a passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we will all miss”.

His 528 games place him fifth on the all time list of player appearances.

Pat was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to sport.

13. Sammy Nelson: 1966-1981

Sammy played in 339 games over a 15 year period.

Sammy was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and joined Arsenal on his 17th birthday in 1966. He originally played on the left-wing and was later moved into defence as a left back. He was a regular in Arsenal’s reserve side for several seasons, before making his first-team debut October 25, 1969. He was used primarily as an understudy to Bob McNab, and it wasn’t until McNab was injured in the 1971–72 season that he became a regular, but when McNab returned from injury, Sammy stepped back down to the reserve team.

Sammy made his debut for Northern Ireland, as a sub against England on April 21, 1970 going on to win 51 international caps, including two of Northern Ireland’s matches in the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

He finally became Arsenal’s first choice when left back when McNab left Arsenal in 1975 and for the next five seasons he was a constant member of the Arsenal side, playing in all three of the Gunners’ successive FA Cup finals (1978, 1979 and 1980 – but only winning against Manchester United in 1979, he also played in the Gunners’ 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup loss on penalties to Valencia.

Sammy was known as a character, one particular moment that he is remembered for was when he dropped his shorts in celebration in front of the North Bank – the FA didn’t share his sense of humour and suspended him for two weeks.sammy-nelson

With the arrival of England international Kenny Sansom at the club in 1980, Sammy once again found himself in the reserves. He left Arsenal in 1981 to join Brighton & Hove Albion. He spent two seasons at Brighton, although unable to save the side from relegation in 1982–83, he did reach another Cup final (his fourth) that season, with Brighton losing 4-0 to Manchester United in a replay, after a 2–2 draw in the final.

Sammy retired from football that summer, and after spending a season as a coach at Brighton, he left the game completely and went into the insurance industry.

He played 339 first-class matches for the Gunners in total, and scored 12 goals.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile


67 Responses to Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 4

  1. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Good morning to you all.

    Great stuff GN5, more Arsenal History to consume.

    Off topic, something that should be of interest to all paying customers at Arsenal Football Club and indeed all Premiership Clubs.

    A march to protest at the exorbitant prices charged for tickets has been organised. It will take place tomorrow 19th June. The march will start off from London’s Regents Park at 2pm and will proceed to the headquarters of the Premier League.

    The protest is being arranged by Liverpool supporters group The Spirit of Shankly. Full details can be found on their website.

    Supporters from all clubs are welcome.

    There has been a continuing debate, on this and other websites, about ticket prices, now all supporters have a chance to make their feelings known in a positive and public way.

  2. Gooner In Exile says:

    NG if fans want to make a statement I’m sure we can a think of a more effective strategy than a march in London on 19th June. How about first game of the season all the fans boycott.

    GN5 if Pat Rice doesn’t make our final squad it’ll be a travesty.

  3. kelsey says:

    AS a teenager my all time favourite player of the sixties was fag ash Peter Simpson. Unlucky not to be capped but I remember him being most effective in what we then called Left Half.

  4. Norfolk Gooner says:


    I’ll join you in boycotting the first match of the season, I’m sure our doing so will send shock waves throughout the footballing world.

    Mind you I haven’t attended a an Arsenal league match since 1975. So you could say that my boycott has gone just a tad unoticed.

  5. dandan says:

    All we need is a few of the brain dead, Rent A Mob, I want a punch up hooligans to join the march and football will be dragged through the mire again. GIE suggestion has much more class and merrit

  6. kelsey says:

    Are we going a bit off topic

  7. GunnerN5 says:

    I agree GIE if Pat does not make our A squad I will be extremely surprised.

  8. Rasp says:

    Great stuff again GN5, the trouble is, when I read the profiles of these players I think they all should be in the ‘greatest team’

    I have a soft spot for Pat Rice, but was he a Gary Neville type? – talented but not hugely gifted and got what he achieved through hard work and determination.

    Having said that, wingbacks are seldom spectacular, they need to be consistent and reliable and be prepared to give their last ounce of energy so Pat qualifies in that respect.

  9. Big Raddy says:

    Super read Gn5.

    Like kelsey, I have a soft spot for Peter Simpson. I took it personally that he wasn’t capped by England and couldn’t believe he wasn’t picked ahead of Brian Labone or Jackie Charlton to play alongside Bobby Moore.

    Pat Rice. Nothing needs to be said.

    Sammy Nelson. For some reason he didn’t strike a chord with me. The mooning incident was funny but it defined his career as we remember that more than his football. When Sansom arrived we saw how good a LB could be

  10. Peter Simpson. A very talented and underrated Arsenal player. As Kelsey says, he made his mark in the old left half position before being switched by Don Howe to central defense. Peter was a very laid back character who was not highly motivated. Perhaps his greatest luck at Arsenal was having Frank Mclintock to his right and Bob Mcnab to his left. These two were exceptionally highly motivated and between them they cajoled Simpson to play to his full potential and have a very successful career at Highbury.
    Just remembering that his left foot was like a magic wand, and on numerous occasions, and with perfect timing, would nip in to make a crucial interception.

  11. RockyLives says:

    Right, after two days without any internet connection we’re now up and running at our holiday place in Italia!

    Anything happened?

    Have we bought somebody?

  12. RockyLives says:

    Super bios as ever.
    We’re now into the era of players I have seen “in the flesh”, but I can see the decision is not going to be any easier than it was with the old boys.

    Pat Rice was probably what you might call a Gary Neville type (less talent than the Cashley Hole type, but absolute consistency and dedication) but that’s not a bad comparison!

  13. Big Raddy says:

    RL. Are you in Puglia?

  14. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Back in the groove with GN5 and GiE

    Very happy days. Thanks Lads. Like Rocky, I’m into my time, as first game was 1973, so no extra googling required.

    My Arsenal Memory Bank has always listed Simpson as the top man from these three, but years of having Pat Rice on the scene does swing the pendulum his way.

    I’ll do more thinking on this one before I enter the ballot cubicle.

  15. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I’d be in the bloody puglia with ‘err indoors if I kept skipping off on me hols to chat to me mates about football.

  16. Red Arse says:

    A fascinating read, GN5, but then all your work has been grippingly educational for the likes of me! 🙂

    Based on the summarised biographies, I could not put a sheet of paper between them, but as Peter Simpson played in the US at the end of his career, I am going to plump for him.
    [What do you mean that has no logic? Where does logic come into this?] 🙂

  17. Red Arse says:

    Micky, what can you mean? Mrs Rocky knows her place in the hierarchy — read this! 🙂

    It’s the lull before the football Season, it is that time of year
    When men in the pub talk football as they enjoy their beer
    Looking forward to August hoping their club will fly the winner’s flag
    The team that wins the Premiership gives their fans the right to brag.

    Like Mrs Rocky, their wives are footy widows, their husbands committed to their club
    Or after work talking football with their mates down at the local pub
    They take football so seriously ’tis their passion in life
    The footy fan loves his football club as much as his children or his wife.

    And if their team lose at the weekend they feel and look so sad
    What’s known as football addiction they seem to have it bad
    They feel sad for their football team and the chance of three premiership points gone
    But they cheer up and look forward to next weekend’s game as the working week wears on.

    It’s nearly the football Season football has gone to their head
    And their football scarves and beanies they even wear to bed
    About their team they feel so passionate as if to them it did belong
    And ’tis with delight and pride in victory that they sing the club song.

    – “Good old Arsenal, we’re proud to sing that name”

    With apologies to Francis Duggan. 😀

    [And Rocky is in the grip of his Gooner addiction – Puglia? Canada? Phooey!] 😀

  18. Pat Rice for me.
    GN5 – thank you once again for your tremendous contribution. Perhaps we should have our own MBEs list here. I would nominate you for the honour.

    How tall was Pat? Not very tall for a defender, or did he shrink with age?

  19. oh yuk, yuk, yuk – searching for Pat Rice’s height I noticed that Evra’s first name is PatRice, how inappropriate

  20. Rasp says:

    Hi FT, unfortunately the Mail is the least reliable source on transfers …. I don’t know how they have the nerve to call themselves a newspaper.

    Having said that, I really, really, really (are you getting the message?) want Higuan in an Arsenal shirt.

  21. are you sure Rasp 🙂

  22. Red Arse says:

    Evonne/Funny Troll,

    I know a Polish guy who had a very inappropriate name!

    He was called Zzsczzkzcccnzzski — how about that?
    It is pronounced like r a s p ski.

  23. Rasp says:

    Apparently Yaya Sanogo is an Arsenal player

  24. chas says:

    Great stuff, GN5.

    Here’s a little footage of Rice and Nelson playing.
    Sammy scores a headed goal, too!

  25. chas says:

    Rice, Nelson and amazingly, Peter Simpson scoring a poacher’s goal!

  26. RockyLives says:

    Hello BR, Redders, FT and All

    BR – yes, I am in Puglia. Nice weather, too.

  27. Big Raddy says:

    RL. Spent some time down there. Very interesting place. The trulli are fun.

  28. Ian Ure Face says:

    How comes Ian Ure is not on this list ?………all right…I know…he was shit !. hahaha

    There are probably others players from other teams and may be someone could name some, but for me, Arsenal have had the two best non-capped England players ever !….Peter Simpson was one and the other Geordie Armstrong and I`ll be amazed if he is not mentioned in the coming weeks of this great series !.


    Thank you once again GN5 & GIE

    Very disapointed Terry Mancini didnt make the cut. In the 75/76 season Terry single handidly saved us from relegation. I remember as a kid watching him mark Toshack out of the game as we beat the scousers 2-0, he was magnificent

    It was a hard task for Terry having to replace crowd favourite Mcklintock, but knowledgable fans knew he was the better player.

    Also, his matinee good looks made him a favourite with the ladies. In fact every one wanted a piece of Terry, he was the first footballer to become a gay icon.

    For those who are to young to remember him play, he was a bit of a cross between Beckenbeur and Maldini. Fantastic footballing brain, superb positional skills.

    If you dont believe me, then i suggest you read Beckhams autobiography “Terry Mancini, talented, good looking- Taught me everything i know”

  30. Ian Ure Face says:

    More like a cross between Max Wall, Beckenbauer and Baldini !. hahaha


    Now listen hear Face, many have corssed swords and tried to hit Terry with that Max Wall jibe but what is not so well known is that in the mid seventies that particular look was the height of fashion becuase it oozed confidence

    Yes, i said confidence, Terry invented it. Armed with his Hollywood idol looks and confidence (which he invented) the ladies were putty in his hands.

    In Tommy Smiths autobiography “How Terry Mancini made me realize i was a mug”, he explains how he mocked Terrys hairline which resulted in Terry getting him in a headlock, pulling down his shorts, and exposing Smiths micro member to thousands.

    Smith was never the same after that.

  32. RockyLives says:

    We’re staying in a trullo. Very fairy tale.

  33. chas says:

    I can feel a stirring in my loins.

  34. chas says:

    Look at 0.28 – 0.31.

  35. chas says:

    Terry with syrup at 0.27


    hahaha, nice one chas

  37. chas says:

    Terry’s brother’s most famous piece of music.

  38. Ian Ure Face says:

    It`s obvious to me ( and countless AAers ) that after watching chas`s 1st video, the only way Terry Mancini got birds into bed was because they couldn’t understand a word he was saying and just let him have it to shut the clunge up !. hahaha

    Fast forward 40 odds years and Stretch is using the same technique !. hahaha

  39. Ian Ure Face says:

    Add to that some Ouzo laced trill and the pigeons are tea bagging his fat balls in the loft !. hahaha

  40. Gooner In Exile says:

    So it appears the Peter Simpson was my Nigel Winterburn and Ian Wright of his day. Although whilst those two actually got caps in my opinion nowhere near enough to match their ability.

  41. Terry says:

    Peter Simpson’s shin. I was lucky enough to be a Tottenham for the match that won us the League Championship and first leg of the double in 1971. After Ray Kennedy scored, Tottenham broke away and Cyril Knowles took a long shot at our goal. If it had gone in the net we’d have drawn the game – and, therefore, no Championship, no double. Peter Simpson tried to block the shot. It clipped the shin of his outstretched leg and the contact was just enough to put the ball over the bar. Peter Simpson’s shin.

  42. Big Raddy says:

    Woah. Up pre-chas!

    Off to Swden for a dental op. (much cheaper than here)

  43. chas says:

    I always got to Wales for my podiatry.

    (I’ve been up since 4) 🙂

  44. Big Raddy says:


  45. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Me up since 4 also. Something not right.

  46. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Just read GiE’s suggestion of boycotting first game. As a committed revolutionary, I think we ought to wait for the new fixture list 🙂

  47. Red Arse says:


    You go to Wales for your pods? That’s a bit pedestrian — so be careful not to put your foot in it! 😀

  48. Red Arse says:


    Both showing off? 🙂

  49. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Not at all RA, it’s a bloody nightmare.

    It has something to do with daylight hours and at 4:30 the f…’ing Songbirds fire up. There are nests of swallows and martins right by the bedroom windows, and I’m close to getting out a shotgun.

    Trouble is, I’ll then have to get Dave out to fix slates on the roof, and Dave is really, really boring.

    I’d do anything to sleep until 6, and the other day I took matters into my own hands and did something called exercise. No effect whatsoever.

  50. Red Arse says:


    I saw a sweet, wee baby rabbit on a small road by the common yesterday. I slowed down and he whizzed back up the bank and into the bushes to safety.

    Today I saw him again – on his back spreadeagled, and being given the kiss of life by a crow, who did not seem to have got the hang of it. Stupid, careless driver, sacrificing a life to save a second, I suppose. 😦

    Songbirds are part of the rich embroidery of life, blah, blah, at this time of year — don’t worry — it will be snowing soon and that tends to shut them up! 🙂

  51. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Some truth in what you say, but remember, the little snakes bugger off to South Africa for the winter to enjoy sunshine and cool sauvignon, leaving us to shiver our timbers.

  52. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Must off, work to do before the inevitable energy crash.

  53. Gooner In Exile says:

    All this fuss over the Girl Guides on BBC breakfast…..changed their pledge…so what….the more pressing issue is why they still discriminate against boys. The scouts allow girls, why not the other way round?

  54. Red Arse says:

    Look, GIE, if you want to join the Girl Guides, I will give you a reference — you would look just fine in a skirt and a dongle! 🙂

  55. GiE – because boys wouldn’t last a day in a girls world. did you see Phil Neville, almost as nice as Gary but not as handsome

  56. Ian Ure Face says:

    Redders, I`ve met GIE, he is a massive big girls blouse and should have no problem getting in the Girl Guides !.
    He would however be the quickest ever banned guide when they find his stash of lager, fags and kebab stuffed in his bra and knickers ! hahaha

  57. Ian Ure Face says:

    ft…..a handsome Neville !… what was that saying about Specsavers ?.

  58. Morning all

    There’s a New Post ……………

  59. Neamman says:

    I remember Simpson well, got his autograph on the train after a west brom away game once. An excellent defender, I liked Nelson too actually more than I liked Rice. But my favourite was Peter storey amongst defenders.

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  63. sweatshirt says:


    Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 4 | Arsenal Arsenal

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