No one would claim that John Radford was one of the more flamboyant players in Arsenal's history. But he was undoubtedly one of the most effective.
The Yorkshireman is remembered for his contribution to the golden years of the early Seventies but his loyalty to the Arsenal cause stretched way beyond that. Radford joined the club as an apprentice in 1962 and did not leave until December 1976 after making 481 appearances for the Gunners. Indeed, only Cliff Bastin, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry have scored more goals in an Arsenal shirt.
|Arsenal Career||1962 - 1976|
|Appearances||481 (475 starts, 6 as a sub)|
Radford's tally of 149 is a decent haul by any standards but this centre forward provided so much more than goals. Joe Baker, George Graham, Ray Kennedy and Brian Kidd all had the pleasure of playing alongside Radford and all benefited from his ability to occupy defenders and create space for others. No wonder Radford rarely hogged the limelight; he was too busy doing the dirty work.
Perhaps the best example of that came in the 1971 FA Cup Final. Eddie Kelly and Charlie George scored the goals which clinched the Double, but who provided the assists? That's right - John Radford.
Of course, he had his moments in the spotlight. A towering header which gave Arsenal the edge in the Fairs Cup Final against Anderlecht in 1970 springs to mind, while Radford's treble against Wolves in January 1965, at the age of 17 years and 315 days, made him Arsenal's youngest ever hat-trick scorer. His record stands to this day.
Radford's happy knack for scoring had been evident from an early age and showed no signs of slowing as he matured. After a hatful of goals for the youth and reserve teams, he blossomed under the management of Bertie Mee. Radford struck 19 times in 1968/69, despite being shunted out to the right wing. He matched that tally the following campaign, a season which culminated in that Fairs Cup triumph - Arsenal's first trophy for 17 years.
Now fully established at centre forward, Radford hit 21 in the 1970/71 Double season, flourishing alongside strike partner Ray Kennedy. By now England had come calling, although Sir Alf Ramsey only gave the Arsenal star two caps, more than two years apart. The disappointment didn't affect Radford at club level though. The goals flowed again despite Arsenal's failure to follow up their Double success in 1972 and 1973.
As Arsenal fell away in the mid-1970s, so did Radford's scoring rate and, after an injury-hit 1975/76 campaign, the Yorkshireman dropped down the pecking order behind a new strike partnership of Malcolm Macdonald and Frank Stapleton. Now on the fringes of the team, he swapped Highbury for Upton Park in December 1976. West Ham could not have asked for a more committed footballer, but Arsenal had enjoyed the best years of John Radford.
WHAT THE FANS SAID:
"I was playing for QPR schoolboys as a 13-year-old when I took the bus from Charlton to Tottenham Court Rd and on the Central Line to White City. I was on my way there to train on the artificial pitch at Loftus Road but naively noticed a few fans making their way to the stadium.
"When I got there John Radford opened the door and asked me 'What are you doing here'? I said I was here for training. He had a little chuckle and then said to me 'There's no training tonight lad because there's a game on between QPR and Arsenal.
"I told him I'd travelled over 2 hours to get there. With amazing class Mr. Radford took my down to the local cafe bought me dinner and then I sat with him up near the directors area for the game. He then took me through the changing rooms to meet some of the players. I'll never forget that night 26 years ago. Cheers John!"
Chris O'Brien, Richmond, California