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were few and far between but he was a surprise choice at left half in the 1932 FA Cup final after Alex James was withdrawn because of injury.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.
In 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.
During 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.
He 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.
He 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