Arsenal TV Online subscribers can get even more out of their matchdays this season thanks to the launch of our brand-new matchday show.
Our coverage starts an hour before kick-off and ends 30 minutes after the final whistle as we bring you all the best build-up from the fans and the experts, full 90-minute commentary of EVERY Arsenal game, exclusive interviews with Arsène Wenger and a post-match chat show.
Our commentary team has just been reinforced by a new arrival - former Gunner Adrian Clarke. Supporters who went to Highbury in the 1990s may remember the talented left-sided youngster whose Arsenal career spanned the managerial reigns of George Graham, Bruce Rioch and Arsène Wenger.
We caught up with Adrian ahead of his co-commentary debut for Arsenal TV Online. Read on to find out about Adrian's brushes with David Beckham, why people won't forget his Arsenal debut and why he has swapped his boots for a microphone.
Adrian, the last time most Arsenal fans saw you was in 1997 when you left the Club and joined Southend. What are your memories of your time at Highbury?
I have nothing but fond memories of my time as an Arsenal player stretching over the 11 years I was associated with the club. I was a full-time player for six of those years, and they were great days. The highlight was unquestionably making my full debut against QPR at Highbury in 1995 and playing well in a 3-0 win at Highbury. I’ll never forget that day. It was the best moment of my entire career.
How did you get to Arsenal? Weren't you spotted by Steve Rowley?
Yes, Steve Rowley spotted me as a 10-year-old at a five-a-side tournament in Essex. He was assistant youth development officer back then. From that day on Steve was very good to me and helped me develop as a player – and before I knew it, despite interest from other clubs, I was hooked on Arsenal.
You were also an England youth international alongside David Beckham - what do you recall of that?
Yes, I played with Becks for the England Under-18s – he’s a really nice guy. I’d played against him many times as a kid and we’d always had a mutual respect. My age group was particularly strong with Sol Campbell, Robbie Fowler, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and several more talented ‘kids’ in the squad. I was in good company!
Your debut coincided with John Jensen's only goal for the Club - New Year's Eve 1994 - but it ended with a 3-1 defeat against QPR. What are you memories of that?
I was warming up when JJ scored and the place went mental! What a goal it was too! I came on as a sub late on in the game and acquitted myself OK, although QPR got a third goal which took the gloss off the day a little bit.
Your time with Arsenal straddled three different managerial reigns - George Graham gave you your debut, most of your nine appearances came under Bruce Rioch and then you left when Arsène Wenger was in charge. Did it feel like a turbulent time at the Club?
There was never a dull moment that’s for sure! Looking back I guess it was turbulent as we chopped and changed gaffers, and along with that it was also the period when Tony Adams and Paul Merson revealed their personal problems too. Not an easy time for the club.
How close were you to making it at Arsenal? Would things have been different if Graham or Rioch had stayed in charge?
Bruce Rioch seemed to like me as a player so perhaps I’d have had more opportunities if he’d stayed, who knows? I can look back and say I did well in my first team appearances but I don’t think I fulfilled my potential which is frustrating. If I’m honest, I didn’t have enough pace or power needed at the top level as the Premier League changed. It would also have been an almighty task to keep Marc Overmars out of the side when Arsène Wenger signed him, so it was probably best that I moved on when I did!
Is it true you were in Arsène's first ever squad? What impact did the Frenchman have on you?
No, I wasn’t involved under Arsène. He trimmed the squad and I didn’t quite make the cut sadly. I enjoyed my experience of his training methods a lot – I only wish I’d have had more chances to learn from him. He loaned me out to Rotherham and Southend so my chances were limited. I was very sad on the day when Arsène told me I wasn’t part of his plans.
What is your story since leaving Arsenal?
I played for Southend for three years, two of which were great, but my final year at Roots Hall was a disaster as the new manager Alan Little froze me out all season. When my contract expired clubs hadn’t seen me in first team action for a year so there wasn’t a queue of teams wanting to sign me sadly! Disillusioned, I opted to start a new career and play non-league football instead. I had three excellent seasons with Stevenage and then good times with Margate and Welling United too, while working as a journalist. Semi-pro football can be very rewarding.
Why did you retire? You're still only 33 so do you still play in any capacity?
I had a career-threatening injury to my pelvis at the age of 31 and was out for 18 months after undergoing surgery. Once I returned I didn’t enjoy the game as much and had lost the passion I’d always had for playing. I thought it was the right time to call it a day then. Mind you, I still play a lot of five-a-sides and am keeping my eye out for next year’s Masters. Ray Parlour asked me to play this year but I wasn’t quite old enough!
I enjoy writing and weirdly always believed I’d be a football journalist when my playing days ended. I mistakenly thought I would be a ’famous footballer’ and that I’d follow in the footsteps of Gary Lineker or Alan Smith but that didn’t happen! I started at the bottom as a trainee news reporter for the Southend Evening Echo and learned the ropes that way. It was a blessing though, as I couldn’t have had a tougher introduction to journalism. After that I worked for Icons.com where I did ghost-writing for the personal websites of footballers like Ryan Giggs, Paolo di Canio and Jaap Stam.
Tell us about your new career?
I have my own media company now, called Sport Media Solutions and I am enjoying it so much. My business partner Iain Spragg and I write for newspapers, magazines, websites and books, as well as setting up various commercial deals. It’s not as good as playing football but I am very happy in my job and hoping to build the business over the coming years. I’ve travelled the world and I even met (and interviewed) Pele and Diego Maradona in recent years through work, so I can’t complain.
Are you more aware of tactics now you are 'outside' the game?
Football has changed dramatically since I left Arsenal in 1997 but being an ex-footballer has still given me an advantage when it comes to football journalism. As a player I was never obsessed with tactics but nowadays I have to cast a more critical eye over matches and I enjoy that a great deal. I am definitely more aware of tactics and styles. The Premier League is infinitely stronger now than it was when I played, that’s for sure.
Does it help having played the game - can you empathise with what players go through when reporting or co-commentating?
You have a feel for what players and managers are thinking and that has to help when reporting or co-commentating. I am itching to get out there and play sometimes but I know I can’t! I can empathise but I always give honest opinions though, as I wouldn’t be doing my job properly otherwise.
Do you have experience of co-commentary? Is there an art to it?
During my time on the sidelines at Southend I was a regular co-commentator on BBC Radio Essex and I loved it. It can be a lot of fun. There is an art to doing it well I guess but I am still somewhat of a rookie and learning all the time. I try to be passionate, concise, honest, and to provide interesting observations.
And now you've effectively come full circle, returning to the Arsenal fold as a co-commentator for Arsenal TV. How does it feel to return?
It feels brilliant. Arsenal is my team and will always be special to me, so it’s fantastic to be back in a co-commentator capacity. It’s a little strange after all these years away and the faces have changed but I do still feel at home around the club. I can’t wait to cover Arsenal games this season.
What do you make of the current side?
They play the best football in Europe, no question. Arsène Wenger has built a talented team that is a pleasure to watch. I desperately hope that they will be able to win a major trophy this season but I fear it’s not going to be easy to overcome the strength of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. To win the league we are going to need some luck with injuries as the squad still isn’t hugely experienced.
Have you been to Emirates Stadium yet?
I have been to quite a few matches at the Emirates as a spectator and it’s a great place to be on match days. I took my son Crawford to his first match at Highbury to see the ‘Invincibles’ and he loved it when I took him to see the Manchester United game last year too. To work at the Emirates as a co-commentator for Arsenal is a very exciting new challenge for me. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic at the prospect of following the Gunners through what will certainly be another entertaining season for the club.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source