"I still think John Lukic is one of the top three keepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best."
That was George Graham's response to the show of support for Lukic when Arsenal were linked with a highly-rated stopper from Queen's Park Rangers in the Spring of 1990. "We all agree... Lukic is better than Seaman!" rang around Highbury in the months that preceded Graham's swoop, eventually completed that summer. But the Arsenal boss was emphatically proved right.
|Arsenal Career||1990 - 2003|
|Appearances||564 (564 starts, 0 as a sub)|
At the time the fee of £1.3 million, a British record for a goalkeeper, was thought excessive by some. In hindsight, it's up there with Ian Wright, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn as the best money Graham - or any Arsenal manager - has ever spent.
Seaman's sustained excellence won over the fans in no time and he became the cornerstone of an Arsenal back five which kept 23 clean sheets and conceded just 18 goals en route to the 1990/91 League title. Seaman's qualities were manifold - he had sharp reflexes, excellent positional sense, great judgement from crosses and bags of courage.
Those attributes were all on show in Seaman's first campaign as the Arsenal keeper produced match-winning performances at Tottenham and Liverpool en route to the title. One full-length fingertip save from Gary Owers in the driving rain at Sunderland stands out as a moment which encapsulated Seaman's brilliance. He was a spectator for much of that match but, as he proved time and again, Seaman was always alert when danger needed averting.
The title evaded Arsenal for seven years but Seaman remained to the fore as Graham's side became Cup kings at home and in Europe. By now Wright was the major weapon in attack and the well-worn chant of 'One-Nil to the Arsenal' was born as the livewire striker nicked a goal while Seaman - plus the famous Back Four - took care of the clean sheet.
The European Cup Winners' Cup probably saw Seaman's finest individual moments. Hampered by a broken rib, the Yorkshireman had pain-killing injections before keeping out a stellar cast of Zola, Brolin and Asprilla in the 1994 backs-to-the-wall win over Parma. The following season he pulled off three superb saves in a Semi-Final penalty shoot-out against Sampdoria and, although Nayim's freakish winner spoiled the Final, Seaman's stock was sky high.
He soon translated that form to the international scene, emerging as one of England's heroes at Euro '96. Penalty saves against Scotland and Spain propelled Seaman into the realms of celebrity and his England career stretched for eight years before another bizarre goal - from Brazil's Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup - signalled the end.
The trophies continued to stack up at club level. Seaman was a blessing for new manager Arsène Wenger and duly played a full part in the Double sides of 1998 and 2002. The new century ushered in growing criticism about Seaman's reflexes and judgement, but the keeper responded in the best way possible - with more silverware and a save which will live long in the memory.
It was April 2003, Seaman was approaching his 40th birthday and Arsenal were defending a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Sheffield United at Old Trafford. In the closing minutes Seaman was stranded when Paul Peschisolido nodded goalwards but, with an equaliser seemingly inevitable, the Arsenal keeper threw himself across goal and reached back to somehow claw the ball away from under the crossbar. It was just like Seaman to save the best for last and the perfect way to silence those critics.
A month later the long-serving stopper lifted the FA Cup at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium as Arsenal's captain following a 1-0 win against Southampton. After 564 appearances and eight major trophies, it was his final act as an Arsenal player and a fitting climax to a glittering Highbury career.