George Eastham
George Eastham

George Eastham

George Eastham is arguably just as famous for his influence on football off the pitch as he is for his exquisite touches on it.

Few would have described Eastham as a typical 'crusader' but his hand was forced when Newcastle refused to grant him a transfer when his contract expired in 1959. At the time, clubs operated a 'retain and transfer' system which allowed them to keep a player's registration and refuse to pay them if they had requested a move.

Profile

Name George Eastham
Arsenal Career 1960 - 1966
Position:
Appearances 223 (223 starts, 0 as a sub)
Goals 41

Eastham went on strike for eight months and, eventually, Arsenal got their man as Newcastle relented in October 1960. Nonetheless, Eastham continued his battle to revolutionise players' pay and conditions at the High Court.

He won a significant victory. The 'retain and transfer' system was judged to be unreasonable and the British transfer market was reformed, providing fairer terms for players, while a transfer tribunal was set-up to deal with disputes. It was the beginning of a shift in the balance of power from clubs to players.

As far as Arsenal were concerned, Eastham was worth the wait.

Blessed with a left foot which wouldn't have looked out of place on the end of Liam Brady's leg, Eastham was the master of the through-ball during his six-year stay at Highbury. He scored goals too - 41 in 223 appearances - but Eastham's creativity was his greatest asset.

Two goals and countless touches of class on his debut against Bolton in December 1960 got Eastham off to a flying start and he conjured up two more assists and a point-saving goal on his return to Newcastle. It was the perfect response to 90 minutes of abuse from his former fans on Tyneside.

Eastham's probings brought the best out of strikers Joe Baker and Geoff Strong but he still left Highbury empty-handed in 1966. Indeed, Arsenal never finished higher than seventh place during Eastham's time there.

However, he was part of one very famous triumph while on the books at Arsenal - at the 1966 World Cup. Eastham scored in a friendly against Denmark just before the tournament and was named in the Finals squad by Sir Alf Ramsey but did not play a single minute during the tournament.

Eastham did not receive a medal at the time - only those who played were eligible for one - but in 2007 FIFA ruled that medals would be awarded retrospectively for non-playing squad members. That will sit nicely alongside the OBE Eastham received in 1973 for services to football.