Colin Benson selects one of the players from this season's Arsenal A-Z feature to talk about their time with the Club.

One name stands out for me from today's A-Z selection, that of DAVID HERD the archetype goalscorer who gave us so many thrills and was a thorn in every defender's side. I still have a vivid memory of a goal he scored at Highbury with a diving header from the edge of the box. He has a picture of this moment hanging on his staircase and says he still wonders what he was doing flying through the air.

David; what are your first memories of life at Arsenal?

I was in digs at Wood Green and used to get on the tube straight to Arsenal and just walk round to the ground. In those days we did all our training at Highbury except in pre-season when we used to go running here there and everywhere. Way up to Kingsbury Park and back again. That was seen as the ground work for the season.

Tom Whittaker was a fabulous manager. He wasn't particularly strict but what he said was what he meant and what he expected. What he said - that was it. He was a father figure but if a player stepped out of line he was down on them like a ton of bricks. His assistant, at that time, was Jack Crayston and he was a fabulous gentleman - unbelievable.

The managers didn't get involved in the training as they do today they left the physical side in the hands of Billy Milne. But they certainly knew what was going on all the time. You would be running up towards Wood Green and suddenly spot Tom Whittaker sitting there in his car checking up on us. He was brilliant, a fantastic fellow - you couldn't drop out and disappear if he said you had to do so much running you did it.

David, you came from a football background so you knew what to expect. But your first ever League game had a remarkable family twist to it didn't it?

Yes my dad Alec was a Scottish international and when I was at Stockport County, which was my first club, I played a lot of reserve games when I was only 16 and made my debut for the first team when I was 17 and my dad was in the same team.

It was against Hartlepool and I scored and he tried desperately to score as well but didn't. Dad played inside-forward and I was centre-forward and we won 2-1.

I was there about 12-months then had to do my National Service in the RAF where they had us guarding RAF stations around the Hartlepool area. They let me off to go back to play for Stockport at the weekends.

When did you first become aware that Arsenal wanted you?

I had done my two years in the RAF Regiment and thought great I'm going home now and a couple of weeks later I had been whisked down to London to meet Tom Whittaker.

David, you emerged from the shadows of reserve team football to strike up your first senior striking partnership with Derek Tapscott. What can you tell us about that?

Well Derek and Cliff Holton were both great players they knew where the goal was. Cliff Holton had a fantastic shot you know he could hit power shots with both his left and right feet. He was unbelievable and he used to take us younger players under his wing. If somebody had a go at us on the field he would soon sort them out. Oh blimey was he powerful.

Derek was a natural goalscorer who read the game like a book and had the knack of drifting into the right places in the penalty area where he scored a lot of goals.

I made my first team debut alongside Derek in a First Division game at Highbury against Leicester City (February 1955) but I can't remember it. I think Jimmy Logie, who was a creative midfield player, couldn't play for some reason and the team had to be shuffled around.

I know neither of us scored, I think it was Don Roper, a great captain, who did in a 1-1 draw, but it was a fantastic experience the lads were fabulous, absolutely fabulous.

It was a different world from Stockport. We used to go on some wonderful tours - we played Racing Club Paris every year and one time staying in our hotel in Paris were the Beatles. They were lovely people and I've still got their autographs.

We went to Moscow and that was not long after the War when they were still coming to grips with life in austere circumstances.

We were taken around the Kremlin and shown different things about their history. That was a fantastic trip. We played Moscow Dynamo, and weren't they a good team? They beat us but I scored - I think it was 2-1.

Arsenal was so respected we were frequently invited to go and meet celebrities at functions and fairs. I recall meeting George Formby at one special do - it was brilliant.

We were playing in Spain one time and were invited to go on a film set. I remember walking around thinking this is great and then I thought I know him. It was Charlton Heston. Ava Gardner and David Niven were also there. They were shooting 55 Days at Peking and had built a full scale replica of 1900 Peking on a 60 acre site just outside Madrid.

Goals were your business and your first for Arsenal was in the final game of the 1954/55 season at Portsmouth.

I remember scoring there, it was my third game and I came in for Doug Lishman. What a good player he was. You talk about class players and they were all there at Highbury, Tommy Lawton, Peter Goring, Dave Bowen, Danny Clapton and David Bloomfield - we were a good footballing team.

My role in the team was to score goals and I always tried to get myself into the penalty area whenever possible. My first hat-trick was against Sheffield Wednesday and I remember another against Newcastle when we beat them 5-0 at Highbury (September 17, 1960). I scored four goals in a match several times as well once at Everton when we won 6-1. 

David you attributed much of your success to the Shooting Box - this was a first in football what was it?

It was behind the Clock End. The bottom was built out of bricks and on the inside there was netting. Positioned some 20-yards forward there were planks of wood arranged in diamond shapes so if you didn't hit the shot in the proper area the ball used to hit the diamond and ricochet off the side and come whistling back to you and belt you one. That sharpened up your reflexes I can tell you.

So you had to try and make sure that you hit it straight. I used to practice in it every day we were training. It was a fabulous place to make you a better shooter.

It helped us tremendously and made you keep your shots down. You weren't leaning back like you see players do so often these days.


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16 Nov 2006