Arsenal’s Greatest Forwards – 5th Day

July 17, 2013

AContinuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we will end our quest for the greatest forwards to include in our team.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite striker, this weeks posts will bring us bang up to date and there will be a vote on Saturday.

14. Frank Stapleton: 1972-1981.

Frank appeared in 300 games over a 9 year period and scored 108 goals.

Frank was born in Dublin, he started his career with Arsenal, joining them in 1972 as an apprentice, after he was turned down by Manchester United. He made his first-team debut in 1975 against Stoke City, and went on to form a potent striking partnership with Malcolm Macdonald; the two scored 46 goals between them in 1976–77. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for the three following seasons, and helped the Gunners reach a trio of FA Cup finals; he scored one of the goals in Arsenal’s 1979 FA Cup Final 3–2 win over Manchester United, and scored 108 goals in 300 appearances in total for the Gunners.


Frank moved to Man United in 1981 for £900,000 (a fee set by tribunal after the two clubs could not agree). He helped United win the 1983 and 1985 FA Cups. It was in the first of those finals, when he scored against Brighton, in which he made history by becoming the first man to score for two different clubs in FA Cup Finals. He left United in 1987, after scoring 78 goals for the club in 365 matches.

He went on to play for Ajax Amsterdam, before returning to England with Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Aldershot, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City, where he spent three seasons after a brief period at Le Havre in France.

After being sacked as Bradford’s player-manager in 1994, he had a brief spell at Brighton & Hove Albion in the 1994–95 season, playing two games before finally announcing his retirement as a player.

He also won 71 caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring a then record 20 goals. he made his international debut under then player-manager Johnny Giles in a friendly against Turkey in Ankara in 1976 at 20 years of age. He scored after only three minutes of his debut when he headed home a Giles free-kick at the near post. Frank was committed to international football insisting that an “international release clause” be inserted into all of his contracts so that he could be released to play in international games for Ireland. He played a significant role in Ireland’s attempt to qualify for the World Cup in Spain in 1982. However his goals against Cyprus, Holland and France in the qualifying matches were not enough as Ireland were denied a place at the World Cup by a superior French goal difference. He was made captain of the national team for the qualifying campaign for the 1986 World Cup though Ireland failed to emulate their fine performance in the 1982 qualifiers. Frank captained the Irish team to the 1988 Euro finals and played in all of their matches during the competition including Ireland’s famous victory against England.

Frank moved to the United States to coach Major League Soccer side New England Revolution in 1996. In the 2003–04 season he briefly returned to English football as a specialist coach of Bolton Wanderers. The Bolton manager Sam Allardyce wanted Stapleton to enhance the skills of the strikers at the club and saw the Irishman as an ideal candidate, given his successful playing career. 

15. Alan Smith: 1987-1995.

Alan appeared in 347 games over an 8 year period and scored 115 goals.

Alan was born in Hollywood, Worcestershire. Alan started his career at non-league Alvechurch in north Worcestershire. He then signed professional forms with Leicester City in June 1982. In his first season, he scored 13 goals in a psmithartnership with Gary Lineker, as the Foxes won promotion to the First Division. He spent five seasons at Leicester, scoring 84 goals in 217 appearances, before he was transferred to Arsenal in 1987.

During his time with the Gunners the team won all three major domestic trophies – two League Championships, the FA Cup, the Football League Cup (in their 1993 ‘Cup Double’) and in Europe the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He scored the first goal in Arsenal’s League Championship winning victory at Anfield in May 1989, and the only goal of the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory against Parma. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons, and the top scorer in the First Division in the 1988-89 season with 23 goals

In eight seasons at Highbury, he scored a total of 86 league goals, averaging at just over 10 goals per season. His first league goals for the club came on 29 August 1987, when he netted a hat-trick in a 7–0 game versus Portsmouth at Highbury. His last came on 12 December 1994 in a 2–1 win over Manchester City in the FA Premier League at Maine Road. As well as his goals in the 1989 title clinching game and the European triumph of 1994, he scored a hat-trick against Manchester United in the First Division on 6 May 1991.

He only received one yellow card throughout his entire career. He retired from professional football in July 1995. Several clubs, including Watford, had expressed an interest in signing Alan just before he announced his retirement from playing

He is currently a regular co-commentator and sometimes studio pundit for various television shows. In 2011 he commentated on the Champions League final alongside Martin Tyler. On June 30, 2011, EA Sports announced that Smith would replace Andy Gray as Martin Tyler’s partner in commentating in FIFA 12. This partnership continued in the subsequent instalment of the series, FIFA 13

Smith is married to his childhood sweetheart, Penny and they live with their two daughters Jessie and Emily.

16. Paul Merson: 1982-1997.

Paul appeared in 425 games over a 15 year period and scored 99 goals. 

Paul was born in Harlesden, North West London, and started his career at Arsenal, joining the club as an apprentice in 1984. After a loan spell at Brentford, then under manager Frank McLintock, he made his debut for the Gunners in November 1986 against Manchester City.

mersonGradually he established himself in George Graham’s successful Arsenal side of the late 1980s. By the 1988–89 season he was a regular on the right wing, at the end of which Arsenal secured the First Division title with a last gasp Michael Thomas goal in the final game of the season against Liverpool. Paul scored ten times that season; he made his debut for the England U21 side, and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

With Arsenal, Merson bagged another league championship in 1991, both the FA Cup and League Cup in 1993 (scoring equaliser in League Cup Final v Sheffield Wednesday) and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. He also made his debut for the full England side, in a friendly against Germany on 11 September 1991.

Paul’s career was put on the line in November 1994 when he admitted to being an alcoholic and cocaine addict. The Football Association arranged for him to undergo a three-month rehabilitation programme and he returned to the side in February 1995, just before the dismissal of George Graham as manager. Under caretaker manager Stewart Houston, he helped Arsenal reach the Cup Winners’ Cup final for the second season in a row.

In 1995–96, Paul remained a regular first team player under Arsenal’s new manager Bruce Rioch and continued to play regularly during the 1996–97 season following the appointment of Arsène Wenger. In a somewhat surprising move, at the end of the 1996–97 Premiership campaign, in which Arsenal finished third, Paul was sold to relegated Middlesbrough in a £5 million deal – making him the most expensive player ever signed by a non-Premiership club. Whilst Arsene Wenger had offered a new two year contract, Middlesbrough offered double the salary available at Arsenal.

In the autumn of 1998, Paul was sold to Aston Villa for £6.75 million after wishing to be nearer to his family in the South. Subsequently he signed for Division One club Portsmouth on a two-year contract, and was instrumental in the club’s promotion to the Premiership in 2002–03.

Paul first played for the England national team in 1991, being called up by Graham Taylor. He also participated in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden.  1998 marked the end of his international career after 21 full caps in seven years, in which he scored three times.


Arsenal goals of my years

April 11, 2013

I was going to write a post on my top 5 I was there goals, but realised I would miss too many goals from more recent times when I have attended nowhere near as much as I did in my youth. So instead I have picked the top 5 goals of my youth (that I was there for) goals that came at an important time of my Arsenal supporting life, aged 15-18 I had just graduated from standing in the Junior Gunners section to standing on the North Bank and there feeling the elation of every goal with so much more force.

The goals I have picked were moments that I have never forgotten from that era, pieces of outrageous skill, or importance…..moments that all football fans live for. Also serves as a reminder that not all Graham’s football was boring defensive and long, we had some exciting attackers to watch even when we were apparently awful to watch.

5. Steve Morrow v Sheffield Wednesday (1992)

The first unlikely hero of the season, Morrow broke into the box and scored the scrappy winner in the League Cup.

4: Anders Limpar v Liverpool (1992)

This game lives long in the memory, yes we had won the League at Anfield, yes Liverpool were not the side they once were, but they were still Liverpool, and beating them 4-0 didn’t happen that regularly.

But I can’t remember the other 3 goals, all I can remember is Anders Limpar’s outrageous lob of Mike Hooper from the centre circle, pre jumbotron, pre mass media, this goal still sticks in the memory, sheer brilliance.

3. Andy Linnighan v Sheffield Wednesday 1993

The first and only time I have been there to see Arsenal lift an FA Cup, the unfancied centre back who had had his nose rearranged by Mark Bright’s elbow rose to head home the winner deep in stoppage time.

2. Paul Merson v Sheffield Wednesday 1991

A beautiful chip, he’d been doing it quite a bit that season, I seem to remember one against Norwich too, this one came in a 7 goal drubbing of Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury.

1. Ian Wright v Everton 1993

The goal that summed Wrighty up, he will always be my favourite Arsenal striker, it’s the way he played the game, the enthusiasm in every touch, the joy with which he celebrated every goal, he just lived to score goals, and he scored some beauties in his time.

The goal itself a lovely assist from Seaman, Wrights first touch takes it over the defender, his second takes it back over the same man, his third lifts it over Big Nev. from memory the North Bank sang Ian Wright Wright Wright for a good five minutes after that goal.

Gooner in Exile

Who is our Best Youth Player over the last 20 years?

May 22, 2012

Who is the best player to come through the Arsenal Youth Programme? Not signed as kids like Theo, Cesc and Kolo from other clubs but actually raised at THOF

We have seen some wonderful players come through in the last 20+ years (which is my time frame). On a quiet day why don’t we have a little reminisce?

First up has to be Mr Arsenal. Tony Adams: TA joined AFC as at 15 and played in the first team at 17. He was captain at 21 having already won a trophy (the League Cup ’87). He then went on to Captain the club for 14 seasons, have a statue outside the Emirates and become a true AFC hero. Was he our best homegrown?

My 2nd Fave TA goal v THFC at Wembley

Or was it Rocky Rocastle? How many players are still sung about 20 years after he left the club? Rocky joined us at 16. Played in the Double team of ’89.  Sold when GG got sick of players with any flair, but left behind unforgettable memories to those lucky enough to see him in the jersey.

My Fave Rocky Goal (WHL 1987)

Or The Merse? Paul Merson was a special talent, capable of the most delightful lob I have seen. Not pray, not strong in the tackle but graceful and intelligent. It must be said that thanks to his off-filed activities he could be frustrating as well.  Injuries, off-field problems, lack of form all hindered him yetThe Merse remained a fan’s favourite.  AFter 12 years at AFC, Mr Wenger offered Paul a 2 year contract but The Merse went to *Boro who offered twice the wages (history repeats!).

A couple of years later and Ashley Cole forced his way into the first team, taking over from club legend, Nigel Winterburn. So much has been written about Cashley but whatever your standpoint on the man’s morality and general demeanor, he is without doubt a fantastic footballer. At 31 he remains the best LB in the PL if not the World, and I wish AW had paid him the extra money -he is that good.  3 PL medals, 7 FA Cup winners medals CL winner, 93 Caps, 5 times PFA team of the Year, twice UEFA LB of the year – a wonderful career, which shows that it is not always the nice guys who come first!

Wilshere. The Great Arsenal Hope. the player future England teams will be built around, let alone  The Arsenal. Who knows what would have happened had JW not missed the season?  The future midfield squad of O-C, Wilshere, Ramsey, Song, Coquelin and Frimpong (+ any signings) is frightening. Those early YouTube clips of JW controlling games at the age of 15 were so exciting. Jack is the Real Deal. Can he keep his feet on the ground and not become another Merse? Can he fully recover from his ankle injury and not become a Diaby? If the answer is Yes, then Jack Wilshere is very likely to be cast in bronze.

I have missed out some great homegrown Youth players: Parlour, Keown, Micky T etc ( I am sure there are others). For that I apologise.

Roll me down Coopers Hill and cover me in pig fat but in my opinion our greatest Youth player over the past 20 years has been Ashley. Odious man but top quality player.

What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy