As Arsenal celebrated its 125th anniversary, we sought the views of the people who made the Club what it is today – namely the fans, players and staff. We asked the simple question, 'What does Arsenal mean to you?’ to a variety of supporters, players (current and former, including some sadly no longer with us) and prominent members of the management and backroom team.
See the players' responses below.
“What does Arsenal mean? It means class. The structure of the Club, everything has a classy feel about it. It isn’t always about success, there is more than that and this is what makes it a cut above the rest.” Charlie Nicholas 1983-88
“To have my name inscribed in the history is fantastic for me and my family. The name Arsenal commands respect.
Paul Davis 1978-95
“Once I wanted to play for Everton. I might have become a Wolves man. But now I have settled down with the greatest club in the world… Arsenal.”
Dennis Evans 1951-1963
“I thought football’s greatest honour was to captain England. I was wrong. It was to captain Arsenal today.” At the banquet following the FA Cup Final defeat by Newcastle in 1952.
Joe Mercer 1946-54
“Arsenal are the greatest club in the world for two reasons. First, every player is treated as a man and not as a baby, and second, the strict code of honour every Arsenal player must uphold. If a footballer wants to get a transfer from this club you can take it from me there’s something very wrong, very wrong indeed – with the footballer.”
Tommy Lawton 1953-56
"It’s a big thing for me that I’m here at Arsenal. I think the way the Club look after their players is magic. I like the way that even though Arsenal is a huge worldwide club, they have the family mentality, and treat everyone with respect. You really have the feeling you are part of a family here. When you are inside it feels like a smaller club because everyone is treated in a special way.
“To me, Arsenal means family. I grew up an Arsenal supporter, and I was 16 when Vic Akers gave me the opportunity to play for the Club. Vic brought me up. He taught me how to play but also be respectful to the Club, of the need to conduct myself in the right way and stay humble. There’s a sense of respect that runs right through the Arsenal. There’s no other football club like it.”
“The people that I have worked with throughout the Club during my time here is what really stands out. Everybody having that underlying pride in what we were working for. The people that move on, be they players or staff, have always, without fail, good things to say about the Club. That tells you everything.” Colin Lewin, physiotherapist
“Ever since I first stepped into the Marble Halls, I’ve understood that Arsenal signifies class – a certain way of doing things, treating people and respecting the game of football. It makes me very, very proud to have represented a club that embodies these values for so many years.”
Steve Bould 1988-99
“Although my professional career started two and a half years before I joined Arsenal, the way I see it is that it really began when I first came here. Arsenal kicked off the way I look at football. I came here as a young kid, worked really hard, and seven years later I’m so proud to be club captain. This club gives you the chance to grow into any role – you’re given the best possible opportunity to develop into the player you want to be. This place is my second home; everyone here, young and old, does everything together. It’s a family, and that makes it special.”
Robin van Persie
"Arsenal means everything to me. I came here when I was just 17 years old and now, at 24, I’m just not the same guy. Arsenal has given me everything and made me very happy – I want to give that back to them.
"Arsenal is the Club that gave me the opportunity to show myself to the world, and I will always be grateful for that."
“As a kid growing up in that area I always wondered what was behind that front door, then all of a sudden as a young player you are in there and it hits you that potentially you could play for such a massive club.” Chris Wyte 1977-86
“It’s a huge pleasure to represent a big team like Arsenal and I hope to have a successful season with this historic club. When I was growing up in Israel, many people looked up to this club and I’m grateful to be part of it.”
“Playing for Arsenal at any level is something to be proud of so being in the squad when they won the double and winning the Cup in 1979 was special. The boys were a terrific bunch.”
Sammy Nelson 1966-81
“I came to Arsenal as a kid, so this club signifies a big part of my growth as a person and a footballer, and it is very important to me.”
“Winning the League in 1989 was my outstanding moment in an Arsenal shirt without any doubt.”
Alan Smith 1987-95
"Arsenal means every thing to me. I’ve been here since I was nine and I love the Club."
"Ken Friar gave me a copy in a brown envelope. Thrilled I walked straight round to my dad’s house. He asked what I was doing down here having no inkling of what was going on. I walked in, put the contract on the table and said: ‘Dad I’ve just signed for Arsenal.’ He couldn’t believe it. It was a special day.”
Jimmy Carter 1991-95
“Arsenal are a brilliant club. I enjoyed every minute of my time at Arsenal.”
Pat Jennings 1977-85
“The thing for me that makes Arsenal so special is the way they look after people, whether that’s players, staff or whoever. It’s remained that way the whole time I’ve been with the Club – the people may have changed, but the values of the Club have stayed constant – class and tradition.”
Steve Rowley, Chief Scout
"We all wore polar-neck jerseys. Apprentices wore blue ones, it was green for professionals and red after five games in the first team. I looked and wondered if I’d ever be able to wear one of those red ones."
Jon Sammels 1961-71
“My first memories were getting to Highbury for training on the tube from my digs in Wood Green. You would be running up towards Wood Green and suddenly spot Tom Whittaker sitting there in his car checking up on us. There was no escaping. If he said we had to do so much running you did it.”
David Herd 1954-61
“Having worked at the Club for over 40 years, and although it is an old cliché, it is more than just a job to me; it is a way of life. From a raw 16 year-old working in the Club shop, I could never have guessed that many years later I would still be working for the Club that has taken me on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows from Anfield in 1989 to Paris in 2006. With the advent of the new stadium, it will open another chapter of the institution that is Arsenal Football Club.”
David Miles, Club Secretary
“When I think of Arsenal, my favourite personal memory that I recall is scoring my first goal for the Club - away to Lazio in the Champions League. It was important because when you join a new club, you really want to score your first goal. It’s where everything started for me at this club”
Robert Pires 2000-06
“It might seem strange but one of my greatest thrills was when I came back to play for Newcastle United. My favourite moment at Highbury was walking down the tunnel for Newcastle and 38,000 people cheering my name. You couldn’t buy that moment it was just very, very, special.”
Kenny Sansom 1980-88
"For me it’s a big love for the Club. I always felt that I tried to think about Arsenal before I arrived here, today I cannot be objective anymore. Before I came here I always thought it was a club of style, tradition and courage. That will be the three words that come to my mind."
"Highbury was an inspirational place that filled me with excitement and a sense of tradition. The inspiration I got from being there gave me that extra drive and energy to extend my career.”
John Hollins 1979-83
"For me Arsenal is a role model as a football club in everything it does, but especially in terms of three key aspects: respect, class and enjoyment. Those three words sum it up for me."
"Arsenal signifies tremendous quality. They used to be called ‘The Arsenal’ and we were brought up on the belief ‘always remember who you are and who you represent’.”
Martin Keown 1981-2004
“Most players who come from Arsenal do well elsewhere because they have been taught to do things the right way and conduct themselves properly”
Martin Hayes 1981-90
“Arsenal means nothing but the best – I had a wonderful time there and could kick myself for leaving. It was the biggest mistake I ever made and I have regretted it for the rest of my life.”
Alan Skirton 1959-66
“When Bertie walked around, the players’ application was out of this world. The theme was don’t look at what we’ve won look at what you can win.”
Don Howe 1964-67, coach & manager 1983-86
“I grew up an Arsenal supporter, so to go from there to be working for the Club, and to have achieved what I have – hopefully some good! – is a phenomenal thing for me. I’ve always been a Gooner, and forever will be, so the Club means more than anything. Also, having lost my parents last year – I know they were really proud of what I achieved within the Club too – because they come from the same background.”
Vic Akers OBE, kit manager
““Arsenal is my second family.”
Terry Neill 1959-70, manager 1976-83
““The Littlewoods Cup ’87 against Liverpool was an outstanding memory for me. I started that season in the Fourth Division with Colchester and here I was seven months later coming and winning at Wembley.” Perry Groves 1986-92
““This football club is everything to me To support Arsenal, play for them and then work for the Club What more could you want in life?”
Charlie George 1966-75
“"There were no cliques like there were at other clubs I was associated with. It was just good fun."
Peter Marinello 1970-73
“"Arsenal will always have a place in my heart and that is the same for so many other people too. There’s a strong sense of ‘family’ at the Club and it is why those people that leave so often find their way back, to be around that feeling and I believe that even when you go a bit of you never leaves Arsenal anyway, that is how it has been for me. I’m just so glad that I’ve been able to be part of the story of the football club. Thierry Henry 1999-2007
““Class. To me Arsenal simply means class. And I mean that in terms of the way the Club conducts itself in everything it does. It was the case when I first joined way back, and it still is now. When I joined, Bob Wall was Mr Arsenal, and he’s handed it on to Ken Friar and so on. There’s a professionalism at every level of the Club and it’s been that way for as long as I’ve known. It’s come through from the ‘30s and will continue.”
Pat Rice 1964-80, assistant manager
“My heart was racing my legs turned to jelly as I shook hands to sign for here I was at Highbury, the most superbly equipped club stadium in Britain. It was difficult not to be awe-struck by the marble halls and I remember as we passed the bust of Herbert Chapman, Mr Wall murmured reverently in my ear: ‘Still the greatest manager who ever lived’.”
George Eastham 1960-66
“This club means everything to me and is simply the perfect club! Having been a part of it for 15 years it has given me so many memorable memories as a player that I never thought I would experience. It is a club rich in history, passion, class and pride and has a family spirit that shows that football is for everyone. Faye White
“Arsenal is like a family, but I also have the feeling that this is my club, because I’ve been here so long. To me Arsenal means happiness, family, sharing and belonging.
“Arsenal taught me everything, even how to eat and use a knife and fork properly.”
Tommy Baldwin 1962-66
“It’s a massive club with great history and I want to be included in that."
“Arsenal is in my heart. As soon as I stepped into the place at 12 I knew it was home."
Graham Rix 1974-88
“I could give you a million words about Arsenal – they are just a fantastic club.”
John Radford 1962-76
“When I was signed from Leicester City the first thing that hit me was how great the expectations were at Arsenal.”
Frank McLintock 1964-73