Heroes and Villans
Former England captain David Platt spent three happy seasons as an Arsenal player between 1995 and 1998. However, four years earlier, while still with Aston Villa, he had, strangely enough, already donned an Arsenal shirt at Highbury.
The match in question took place at Highbury on April 3, 1991. The Gunners were leading 4-0 and on their way to securing the old First Division title, when to add to the visitors' woes, 'keeper Nigel Spink injured his arm in a goalmouth challenge. Spink took no further part in the game, but the nature of the injury meant that he was unable to take off his shirt and hand it to his emergency replacement Platt. The England midfielder was forced instead to borrow one from his England teammate David Seaman.
Platt actually did well, conceding just the one goal from Kevin Campbell, as the match ended 5-0 to Arsenal.
"We were getting beat, battered in fact," Platt recalls. "And when Spink got injured with 15 minutes to go it was down to me to take his place as those were the days before five subs on the bench. Because he couldn't get his top off, the Arsenal kit guy went off to get me one of Seaman's. It meant there was a long hold-up, so you can imagine the banter. I was at the North Bank end, and I can remember them shouting: "You're supposed to dive!" Actually I made a couple of magnificent saves, and Arsenal only managed to put one past me!"
As he pulled on Seaman's shirt and gloves as makeshift Villa 'keeper, Platt was seen smiling in response to North Bank chants of "you'll never play for Arsenal!"
That turned out to be Platt's final season at Villa, who were going through hard times during the ill-starred reign of Dr Josef Venglos.
There was no shortage of demand for Platt's services though, and he was linked to several top English and European clubs, Arsenal included. That summer, he moved to Serie A club Bari, for a British transfer record fee of £5.5 million, going on to play for Juventus and Sampdoria. But when he returned from Italy in 1995, he proved those North Bank chanters wrong - pulling on a Gunners shirt once more, only this time as an outfield player for Arsenal.
Aston Villa were also the visitors when Arsenal played host to the most famous footballer of all time, Pele. The game in question was the final home game of the season in 1981, when there were celebrations all round. Arsenal won 2-0, to clinch third place and a spot in the UEFA Cup, while Villa, despite defeat, were confirmed as champions, thanks to rivals Ipswich failing to win. And the presence of the great Brazilian, seen here (left) receiving a rapturous Highbury welcome, added to the carnival spirit in North London that day.
'It Happened At Highbury' is written by Dan Brennan, the author of The Official Arsenal Miscellany. The latest edition of the miscellany is now available in all good book shops.31 Mar 2006