Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 5

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

14. Kenny Samson: 1980-1988

Kenny played in 394 games over an 8 year period.

He was born in Camberwell, London. While still at school, Kenny played for the Crystal Palace youth team, and made his first team debut for them at the age of just 16. In 1977 he captained the Palace junior’s team to FA Youth Cup success; he also skippered the England team at the same level. In his first 156 games he only missed playing in one league fixture. The team quickly progressed from the old Third Division in 1976, through the divisions to Division One, which they briefly topped by the end of 1979.

image027Arsenal had been scouting Kenny and in the summer of 1980 they put in a bid of £1million, with striker Clive Allen going to Crystal Palace in exchange; this was a controversial move, as Allen was a prized young player and had only joined Arsenal weeks earlier. That same summer he played for England in the 1980 European Championships in Italy.

He made his Arsenal debut in August 1980 and was a regular for the next two seasons, and a near-constant figure at left back for Arsenal for the next six years. He was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Year in 1981, but it took him seven years to win a trophy, with the Gunners largely underachieving through the early and mid-1980s.

It was from his England career that he earned the most praise and recognition he was rarely out of the team and played in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. He remained as the first choice left back for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and played in every game up to and including the quarter final loss to Argentina, and was one of the England players who witnessed Diego Maradona’s ”Hand of God” goal.

He rarely missed a game for England between 1980 and 1988, with the only competition for his position coming in 1987, when Nottingham Forest left back and Captain Stuart Pearce was given his England debut. However Kenny remained as the regular left-back during England’s 1988 European Championship qualifications. To this day, he remains as England’s second-most capped full back after Ashley Cole and only a handful of players have received more caps.

He finally won some silverware with Arsenal in 1987, captaining Arsenal to a League Cup final victory over Liverpool at Wembley; he was instrumental in the win as he set up Arsenal’s late winner, scored by Charlie Nicholas. The following season he fell out with manager George Graham and was replaced as captain by Tony Adams, who was just 21. He did, however, keep his place in the side even though Arsenal had just signed a long-term replacement in Nigel Winterburn, Nigel played at right-back in his first season rather than his accustomed left back.

He left Arsenal in December 1988; Arsenal had signed Lee Dixon and had reshuffled the side, with Dixon playing at right-back and Nigel Winterburn on the left. He continued to play for many years playing for Newcastle United, QPR, Coventry City, Everton, Brentford and Watford.

15. David O’Leary: 1973-1983

David played in a club record 722 games over a 20 year period.

He was born in Stoke Newington; London moved to live in Dublin at the age of three.

A Shelbourne schoolboy player O’Leary signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1973. He soon progressed through the ranks at Highbury, playing in the reserves at the age of 16. He made his debut for Arsenal against Burnley on in 1975, and despite being only 17, went on to make 30 appearances that season. For the next ten years he was ever-present in the Arsenal side, playing more than 40 matches a season (except for 1980–81, when he was injured and played in only 27).

article-0-0002B72F000001F4-475_306x452David was noted for his good positioning and elegant style of play. He won his first major honour with Arsenal in a win over Manchester United in the 1979 FA Cup Final. He also played in the 1978 and 1980 Cup finals, and the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup final, all of which Arsenal lost. In 1982 he became club captain, but relinquished it to Graham Rix eighteen months later.

O’Leary broke numerous appearance records at Arsenal; he was the youngest person to reach the 100 and 200 match milestones, making his 400th appearance while still only 26. He passed George Armstrong’s all-time record of 621 first-team games in November 1989. By this time, O’Leary was no longer automatic first choice (with the partnership of Tony Adams and Steve Bould at the centre of George Graham’s defence), but he still turned in over 20 appearances as Arsenal won the 1988–89 First Division title thanks to a 2–0 win over Liverpool, at Anfield on the final day of the season.

He won another League title in 1991 and an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993, though by this time he was mainly used as a sub. He holds Arsenal’s all-time record for appearances, with 722 first-team games, and over 1000 games at all levels in a twenty-year long association with the club.

He joined Leeds on a free transfer in 1993 after 19 years at Highbury. Throughout the1993–94 season he was a regular player in the Leeds side until he suffered an injury to his Achilles , which ruled him out for the whole of the following season. He gave in to his injury and announced his retirement from football at the age of 37.

The highlight of his 68-cap international career came in the 1990 World Cup. With Ireland in a penalty shootout with Romania, he stepped up to take the decisive final penalty to win the shootout 5–4. He only played 26 minutes in the tournament after replacing Steve Staunton in the Romania match.

When the former Arsenal manager George Graham was put in charge at Leeds United in September 1996, O’Leary was installed as his assistant. He remained as assistant for two years and he was made manager shortly after Graham moved to Tottenham. After several good seasons, including making the semi-final of the Champions League, the team went through a dramatic loss of form that ended with Leeds sacking him in 2002.

These are some of his thoughts (from after Arsenal won the FA Cup replay in 1993.

“We did a lap of honour with the trophy and before I got to the tunnel I thought to myself “‘this is the last time I’ll ever wear the Arsenal jersey again”. It was an amazing night, a brilliant way to end 20 years, but it was such a sad night for me as well.”

It was a night that stretched well into the early hours as the players let off steam after making history. And O’Leary went home with an extra companion when the celebrations finally died down.

“That night – I’ll always remember this – I took the FA Cup home. No one else seemed to be responsible for it so I took it with me.

“My wife drove us home and I remember sitting in the front with the FA Cup in my lap and somebody pulled up at the lights, seconds before it went green, and he looked over and then looked over again, thinking ‘is that David O’Leary with the FA Cup?!’ We pulled away and I still don’t know if that guy thought he was imagining things.

“I remember getting home that night and I thought, if my house gets robbed they are not going to take the FA Cup, so I took the cup up to my bedroom. My kids were young then and the following morning they came in and saw the FA Cup there on the side of the bed.

“That morning I took it to the club and gave it to Ken Friar. I said goodbye to Ken, I actually went to the steps of the old directors’ box at Highbury, had a look out there for the last time, and said to myself ‘hey, it’s been a fantastic 20 years, I’ve been so proud to play here, thanks for putting up with me’.

“Then I walked away, and that was that.”

(Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc.)

16. Steve Bould: 1988-1999

Steve played in 372 games over an 11 year period.

He was born in Stoke-on-Trent and signed for his hometown club Stoke City as a schoolboy in 1978, turning professional in 1980.

Steve-Bould-Arsenal-1992_1270336He spent seven seasons with the Potters and as he gained a reputation, as one of the best central defenders in the 2nd Division, it became inevitable that he would move to one of the big clubs. He was scouted by both Everton and Arsenal and after lengthy discussions Steve chose Arsenal and a tribunal set the price at £390,000 – a small fee compared to what Stoke was demanding. Signing in June 1988 he became a part of Arsenal’s formidable and famous back four with Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon, his former Stoke team-mate, winning 9 major honours.

He won the First Division title in both 1988–89 and 1990–91 but he was ruled out of the FA Cup and League Cup finals that Arsenal won in 1992–93, due to injury. He was voted as player of the year, by the clubs fans for the 1992-93 season.

Steve was a member of the team that won the Cup Winners’ Cup 1993–94, and was also in the squad that won the double in 1997–98 – he famously set up Tony Adams with a chipped through ball, for the final goal in Arsenal’s 4–0 win over Everton, the match that won them the Premier League title. Two weeks later they won the FA Cup.

In his final season Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-final, losing to Manchester United, and then a month later they also beat Arsenal to the Premier League title. Steve left the Gunners in 1999 and ended his playing career with Sunderland.

After retiring, he began working towards his UEFA coaching badges and in 2001 moved back to Arsenal and became a coach for the youth teams and was the head coach of Arsenal’s U18 Academy side, whom he led to winning the Premier Academy League 2008–2009, 2009–2010 and FA Youth Cup in 2008–2009.

He became assistant manager, to Arsene Wenger in May 2012, following the retirement of Pat Rice.

Written by GunnerN5 and complied by Gooner in Exile

59 Responses to Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 5

  1. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Can’t wait for 31st August,

  2. LB says:

    The thing is they are all great, still a very enjoyable read though.

  3. Gooner In Exile says:

    Now we are in the “I saw them play” era I find it extremely difficult to separate, went to O’learys testimonial with a reduced gate as from memory the mural was up as the North Bank was being built.

    Samson was my first hero.

    Bould was a great defender, and partner for Adams.

    Basically any defence we pick will be solid with these three in there.

  4. RockyLives says:

    Oooh… very, very tough.

    O’Leary has been a bit of a dipstick since leaving Arsenal, but what a player he was for us. Such an elegant CB. I wonder what he would be worth in the modern game? I feel Big Per has some of O’Leary’s qualities but the Irishman was faster.

    Sansom – greatest LB we’ve ever had (including Cashley).

    Bouldie – another legend… I hope we get to vote for up to six players this week 🙂

  5. Gooner In Exile says:

    3rd game of the season Spuds home….lovely jubbly, proper Boxing Day game too West Ham away.

  6. Hi RockyLives

    “I feel Big Per has some of O’Leary’s qualities but the Irishman was faster”.

    Being tall isn’t exactly a ‘quality’ is it 🙂

    The comparison begins and ends with being tall, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. Gooner In Exile says:

    Wasn’t O’Leary’s nickname spider?

  8. Red Arse says:

    Big Al,

    That’s a very ‘tall-ist’ attitude @ 1:00 p.m.

    Tall is very much a quality — everything else is in proportion, and, in a manner of speaking, there’s more bang per buck. 🙂

    Actually, you have a point as Rocky is clearly affected by the Italian sun, (and he never asked me to go) because apart from having two feet and a head each, (I think) there is no obvious comparison between the Spider and the Giraffe, not even height, [O’Leary 6′; Per 6’6″] — but even tho I cannot stand the snivelling O’Leary, post Arsenal, he was far better than Per Mert.

  9. Red Arse says:

    Sorry, GN5,

    Your Posts are consistently so good, and guess what, this is another excellent one, and I almost forgot to commend you. Well done! 😀

  10. Crumbs!
    Sorry GN5, and GIE… forgot to commend you, also. Super!!

    Cooking/eating time for me now so just 3 quickies…

    @ Big Raddy, from yesterday… ‘decent’ players signed from Man Utd… Viv Anderson?

    @ Red Arse, 1.45pm 🙂 On the ‘speed’ issue, I’ve noticed Norfolk Gooner’s notched up a gear.

    @ Gunner N5, et al… Sansom’s number of England caps : 86.
    Doesn’t have much to do with his actual Arsenal career, but still worth a mention I think.


  11. charybdis1966 says:

    Hi all, (yet) another informative and entertaining look at our glorious clubs history, for which my thanks are extended to N5and GiE.

    O’Leary is going to be a bit of a problem to vote for as his post Arsenal existence consisted of doing a Stuart Robson – slagging us off at every opportunity; yet he holds the record for number of appearances for the cllub.

    Norfolk, it sounds like you are fed up of the transfer window already and want it to end, going by your 10.03.

    So the ‘dippers have flogged (horsey) Carroll to West Sham for £15m – a loss of £20m on what they paid the Toon. Those guys have more money than sense.

  12. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Chary, I love the transfer window, it’s just the uninformed speculation I find boring. But my unintentional reference to the end of the “lies, damned lies and even more damned lies” season masked my joy at the prospect of welcoming the Spuds to their annually humiliation at THOF. 😀

  13. RockyLives says:

    Big Al (and Redders)
    Ye nincompoops!

    We haven’t had a CB as good at reading the game and bringing the ball out from defence as O’Leary until… er…. Big Per. He reminds me very much of O’Leary in his style of play. Except for the height.

    Too many Singhas today Al? 🙂

  14. Ian Ure Face says:

    This would have been so much easier if we were picking our worst players !. Playing defenders such as Jeff Blockley, Ian Ure and Terry Mancini together would have surely got us relegated !. F**k…..weren’t we fortunate, we could nearly have been as bad as the Spuds !. hahaha

  15. Gooner In Exile says:

    Chary and they’ll lose money on Suarez…..and they are trying to build a new stadium…..oops……and fans moan about our board!!!!

  16. We’ll agree to disagree then, as usual, shall we, Rocky 🙂

    Worth a mention…
    As regards the number of games played for the club, regarding all eras, a couple of things are always overlooked.

    a) League : 42 games per season as opposed to 38 games per season.
    b) League Cup : ‘only’ existed from 1960 onwards, though Arsenal declined to enter until 1966.

  17. Forgot…
    c) European Competitions

  18. charybdis1966 says:

    Of course Norfolk I see it now, I hadn’t delved into the fixture list too much.

    GiE – the ‘dippers really love chucking their cash away, hand over fist.

  19. Red Arse says:


    We are friends so don’t stand on formality – just call me Nin. 🙂

    You were right about Kenny Sansom — my dad told me! 🙂

    You are also right, that except for the height thing O’Leary and Big Pair have nothing in common.

    And what do you mean by asking Big Al if he has had too many Singhas today?
    The man is the epitome of lucidity – today, and every singha day! 🙂

  20. charybdis1966 says:

    Arrgghhh, no Redders, that comment is far from puntastick… 😦

  21. Red Arse says:

    Hi CharyB, 🙂

    I watched a game at Southampton a few years ago, right on the touchline. A mishit shot from Walcott went awry, and I was wondering why the ball was getting so big, then it hit me …………..

    No seriously, I am occasionally saddened, like when I wrote a Post which included a comment about the Black Death being the best disease,and Rocky told me off for plague-iarism!

  22. Red Arse says:


    That set me to thinking.

    I remember Rasper telling me that he farted in an Apple Store, and the staff off got peed off. But, as he said, it wasn’t his fault they did not have Windows!

  23. Red Arse says:


    I am setting up a charity for accountants, as they have the toughest job in Afghanistan, because of the tally ban.

    Rocky went to Noo Yawk last week, and told me there was an uproar because all the toilet seats in the police stations had been stolen.

    The police have nothing to go on.

    I’m sorry, I just can’t help it, a good pun is its own reword.

  24. charybdis1966 says:

    That’s a triple set of hammer blows there Redders, you’re killing me here !

  25. Red Arse says:

    I am now returning to my dawg house, CharyB, as, apart from a sterling performance by you, no bugger wants to play. 🙂

    Cheery Bye! 🙂

  26. charybdis1966 says:

    They are all scoffing tea and crumpets about now I reckon, catch you later Redders.

  27. LB says:

    After a tricky March we have a very cushy run in from mid April onwards.

  28. chas says:

    Lovely stuff, GN5.

    Kenny Sansom – Arsenal even now.

    David O’Leary – great player, shite thereafter.

    Steve Bould – more to come from another stalwart.

  29. chas says:


  30. chas says:

    My favourite O’Leary moment ( not even in red and white)

  31. chas says:

    My favourite Bouldie moment.

  32. Gooner In Exile says:

    LB says:
    June 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm (Edit)
    After a tricky March we have a very cushy run in from mid April onwards.

    😀 about time for 4th place charge then

  33. Gooner In Exile says:

    I think what the fixture list has for us though is a good chance to put some points on the board early, that coupled with playing the Tiny Totts the same day Bale is in Madrid putting pen to paper and ending his career will be a very sweet day.

    Where’s the Ape King gone, where’s the Ape King Gone?
    Far far away

  34. Gooner In Exile says:

    Chas I’ll run it through my predictor. 😀

  35. Gooner In Exile says:

    I could watch that goal forever

  36. Red Arse says:

    A possible problem, if we get into the CL, after our pre-qualifying game, is that the EPL fixture list has us playing away after 5 of our six CL games.

    Chelsea are playing away in 1 game after the same number of CL games.


  37. DM says:

    completely off-topic, just because I know people actually answer me on this site… the fixtures for next season do not have us playing a single game on a Sunday until the last day of the season.. is this really the case or are the Sunday matches decided on at a later date? Anybody know?

  38. GunnerN5 says:


    Sunday games are always determined by the TV companies and sometimes that does not happen until a few weeks before the game.

  39. GunnerN5 says:

    Just back home after being out all day today. Thanks for the responses, I will be on a lot more tomorrow.

  40. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Fantastic read as always GN5 und GiE.

    Thank goodness for Kenny Sansom. He’s the “get out of jail” card for those unable to vote for Cashley 🙂

    There are one or two players who would be in the squad on merit, but voters may be swayed by their post-Arsenal behaviour.

  41. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ahhhh, the new season fixture list. Happy days.

    Re: The Villa Match. Shall we say kebabs at 12:30. Tavern 1:15 and into our seats a minute before KO?

    Anyone got a spare? 🙂

    Wow, it feels good asking that question again.

  42. MickyDidIt89 says:


    “Chas I’ll run it through my predictor” ROLF

    As we all like a vote, do you think Rasp would allow us to vote on what widgets for the forthcoming season?

    I vote “Arsenal Babe of The Week” 🙂

    Over to you Chas on that one!

  43. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ooops, and “One for The Ladies”.

    So in the case of Evonne, just stick up a pic of any old Northerner with a side parting 🙂

  44. chas says:

    Sorry, GIE. The predictor crack was a belter.
    I forgot to say how much I enjoyed the predictor last season.
    Much Rolfing.

  45. chas says:

    Arsenal babe……

  46. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Bastard 🙂

    Off on work travels now for a week. Will pop in and out.

  47. chas says:

    Was your 80’s conquest, Toyah?

  48. LB says:


    I have a question that you may be able to answer.

    I was watching a Confederations Cup game last week and one commentator suggested that Alonso might return to the EPL, the other replied: why would he opt to pay 50% tax in the UK when he could continue paying 27% in Spain.

    Do you know if players pay as little as 27% tax in Spain?

  49. charybdis1966 says:

    Morning London, I know Kelsey will be the expert on that question, but from memory I thought the low rate of tax in Spain changed recently(to something much higher due to Spain’s precarious economic state) and there was a fear of a talent drain from La liga because of that.

  50. kelsey says:


    This link may help but it very complicated but in essense LB it is wrong and there are further taxes being thought up on a weekly basis.

    I find it interesting that there is an alleged fraud of tax evasion by Messi, who has spanish residency, going back to 2007-9. By spanish law the authorities can only go back 6 years, it used to be 5, and they now suddenly bring this up as this year is the last year they can persue this.

    The Beckham law no longer exists and now every person spending 183 days a year in spain must declare their world wide assets and that includes any other homes they own ,as the spanish are proposing to issue yet another tax on these properties and that in turn is making people leave the country.
    I have a theory that there will be a bigger exodus of players residing in spain for that reason alone. Every club bar the big two are in crippling debt, unemployment is the highest in euriope pro rata to population, and wenger and others wil IMO focus more on La Liga than the french league.

  51. LB – Kelsey only played bowling in spain, no tax

  52. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    English Red Tops really are full of nonsense…. The Daily Star “reported” that we were trying to hijack Carroll’s move to WHU 😀

  53. DM says:


    Thanks for that – I thought that must be the case but wanted to confirmation. Ta!

  54. charybdis1966 says:

    I had to ROLF at that Big Randy – as if a carthhorse of a big lump is the type of player Arsenal go for.

  55. Big Raddy says:

    not since John Hartson…

  56. hm…………”Arsenal new boy Yaya Sanogo has revealed he nearly quit football to work in a post office before completing his surprise switch to the Gunners”
    The question is – will he deliver??

  57. Rasp says:

    Morning all ……

    …. new post ……

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