Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we continue our quest for the greatest midfielders to include in our 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.
11. Liam Brady: 1971-1980.
Liam appeared in 307 games over a 9 year period
He made his debut on 6 October 1973 against Birmingham City as a substitute. Manager Bertie Mee decided to use him sparingly and Liam ended the 1973–74 season with just 13 appearances, four as a substitute.
In 1974–75 he was a first-team regular and shone a bright light in a side that hovered close to relegation. He found his best form under new manager, Terry Neill – his passing provided the ammunition for Arsenal’s front men and Arsenal reached three FA Cup finals in a row between 1978 and 1980. Arsenal won only the middle of the three, against Manchester United in the 1979 final, with Liam starting the move that ended in Alan Sunderland’s famous last-minute winner. He was nicknamed “Chippy”, not for his ability to chip the ball but for his fondness for fish and chips.
Liam was now at the peak of his form and during this time he was voted the club’s player of the year three times, and chosen as the PFA Player of the Year in 1979. Being from the Republic of Ireland, he was the first player from beyond Britain’s borders to win that award. He was the most talented player in what was then a promising young Arsenal side, which was looking to consistently challenge for honours like the Division One title.
But rumours persisted that he was unhappy. And in 1980, Juventus, who were impressed with his performances against them in the semi-finals of the Cup Winners Cup, signed him in for just over £500,000. He spent two seasons with Juventus, picking up two Italian Championship medals, in 1981 and 1982 and he scored the only goal (a penalty) in the 1–0 win against Catanzaro that won the 1982 title. After the arrival of Michel Platini in summer 1982, he moved to Sampdoria, and went on to play for Internazionale (1984–1986) and Ascoli (1986–1987), before returning to London to play for West Ham United.
He won 72 international caps for the Republic of Ireland, 70 in the starting line-up, scoring 9 goals.
After retiring from playing in 1990, he managed Celtic between 1991 and 1993, and then Brighton & Hove Albion between 1993 and 1995. He rejoined Arsenal in July 1996, as Head of Youth Development and Academy Director. On 30 January 2013, Arsenal announced that he would leave his role as Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy in May 2014.
He is fondly remembered as one of Arsenal’s all-time greats, playing 307 matches for the Gunners, scoring 59 goals and setting up many more.
12. Brian Talbot: 1979-1985
Brian made 327 appearances over a 6 year period.
Born in Ipswich, Brian was a midfielder and began his football career as an apprentice with Ipswich Town in 1968, turning professional in 1972; in the meantime he had spent two seasons on loan with Canadian club Toronto Metros.
He made 227 appearances for Ipswich winning the 1978 FA Cup, in the semi-final against West Bromwich Albion, he scored Ipswich’s first goal after just eight minutes. However he was injured on the play when he collided head-to-head with Albion’s skipper, John Wile and he left the field on a stretcher.
In January 1979, he was transferred to Arsenal for a fee of £450,000, immediately becoming first-team player. He played for the Gunners in the FA Cup final of that year, scoring a goal in a 3–2 victory over Manchester United; Brian thus achieved the unique distinction of winning the FA Cup with two different teams in consecutive seasons. The following year he set a club record, as an ever-present in Arsenal’s marathon 1979–80 season, when he played a total of 70 matches in a single season (the club reached the finals of both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, but lost them both).
His impressive stamina and fitness meant he played nearly every Arsenal first-team game for the next five seasons, missing fewer than half a dozen League games. In all, the strong and sturdy midfielder played 327 first-team matches for the Gunners, scoring 49 goals. He also played for England, five times while at Ipswich and once as an Arsenal player.
He left Arsenal in June 1985 and joined Watford, he spent a season and a half at Vicarage Road before joining Stoke City in October 1986. His presence helped to inspire the side as Stoke climbed the table and fell six points short of a play-off place. In 1987–88 he made 27 appearances before he left in January 1988 after being offered a player-manager role at West Bromwich Albion. He spent two and a half years in that role before leaving for Fulham in March 1991. After a short spell there he ended his playing career at Aldershot.
He then moved abroad and managed Maltese club Hibernians, where his team won the island’s Premier League in 1993 and 1994, returning to English club football as part of the coaching staff of Rushden and Diamonds, then in the Football Conference, in 1997. After a spell as head coach he was appointed club manager, and at the end of the 2000–01 season Rushden secured promotion to the Football League. In March 2004 he left the club to take over at Oldham Athletic, his spell there ended with him resigning at the end of February 2005.
In 2011, he joined English Premier League side Fulham as a scout where he mostly watches matches in the top leagues for the London club, for example in France or Germany.
13. David Rocastle: 1982-1992
David made 277 appearances over a 10 year period.
David was born in Lewisham, he spent the majority of his football career playing for Arsenal, joining in May 1982 and turning professional in December 1984. In his early career he faced problems with his eyesight, according to his team mate Martin Keown “They couldn’t work out why David was running around dribbling with his head down. So they took him to the halfway line and said: ‘Can you see the goal?’ and he couldn’t. His eyesight was terrible. They sorted him out with contact lenses and his career took off.”
He made his Arsenal debut against Newcastle United in the 1985-86 season and made 26 league appearances, scoring once. He remained a regular player in the first team following the departure of Don Howe and the appointment of George Graham as manager at the end of the 1985–86 season. In 1987, just before his 20th birthday, he won a League Cup winners medal after Arsenal beat Liverpool in the final at Wembley. He was a member of the Arsenal side which reached the final against Luton Town the following year and he was ever present in the league in 1987–88.
“Rocky” won two league championship medals with Arsenal. The first came in 1989, when he played in every game. Arsenal’s success was sealed when they beat Liverpool 2–0 in the final game of the season at Anfield, snatching the title from the hosts on goals scored. But Arsenal were unable to compete in the 1989–90 European Champions Cup because the ban on English clubs in European competition after the 1985 Heysel tragedy still had one year to run. In 1990–91, a knee injury restricted him to just 18 league appearances but he still played his part in Arsenal winning the league championship – losing only one league game all season. The following season he only missed three out of 42 league games.
On 23 July 1992, after nearly a decade at Arsenal, he was sold to league champions Leeds United in a £2million deal, making him their most expensive signing. But the good form of Gordon Strachan and injuries kept him out of the side. He was transferred to Manchester City for £2million, but the move to Maine Road was not a success for him and he only managed two goals from 21 Premier League games. At the start of the 1994–95 season, he was transferred to Chelsea in a £1.25million deal.
In 1994–95, David played in nearly 40 games for Chelsea and scored two goals in the European Cup Winners Cup. The following season his injuries returned, and he played just one more game for the club, in October 1995. On completing his contract with Chelsea in 1998, he joined the Malaysian team Sabah on a free transfer but was unable to stay clear of injury and retired in December 1999.
During his time with Arsenal, David was capped 14 times for England, but did not make the squad for either 1990 World Cup or Euro 92.
In February 2001, he announced that he was suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer which attacks the immune system. He underwent a course of chemotherapy and was hopeful of a recovery. He died in the early hours of 31 March 2001, aged 33.
The David Rocastle Trust is a charity based in London, England founded in memory of Rocastle.
Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile