Martin Keown

Martin Keown

"Keown, there's only one Keown!" It was a pity for Arsenal there weren't more of the indomitable defender.

For a while Martin Keown was an unheralded member of George Graham's side as his less than aesthetically pleasing approach to the game typified the Arsenal of the time. However as he progressed a wiser head grew on the broad shoulders of the England international, and Keown developed into one of the most sturdy centre-backs in the domestic top flight.

The Oxfordshire native originally spent one season with the Club's first-team in the mid-1980s before, via Aston Villa and Everton, he became the first man since the Second World War to rejoin Arsenal.

As a teenager Keown had been lauded as a neat and constructive player seen, in the long-term, as a partner for David O'Leary. The emergence of one Tony Adams put paid to that, but with a newly-acquired versatility picked up elsewhere, he became a vital cog in the Graham machine.

Martin was deployed most frequently at centre-half where his formidable pace and thunderous tackling combined to thwart both target men and strikers running in behind. It meant, too, that he was vastly capable in an anchoring midfield role; something utilised by his manager.

When Arsène Wenger took the reins in 1996 Keown continued to strive for improvement and, despite his increasing years, he remained as redoubtable as ever. The footballing intellect he had demonstrated in the nascent stages of his career returned while, crucially, his bite and combative nature was unfailing.

Major honours had so far eluded Keown - he was cup-tied for the 1993 FA Cup and League Cup success, while injury robbed him of a Cup Winners' Cup medal a year later - but in 1998 when Wenger's men swept away all before them the defender played a pivotal role alongside Adams.

But Keown was now the wrong side of 35. Testament to his character, though, he fought back from wear-and-tear injuries as well as a challenge from Matthew Upson to win another 'double' in 2002.

Pascal Cygan's arrival that summer failed to curtail Keown's career as he made 24 appearances in 2002/03. Eventually he relinquished his position to a young Kolo Toure, making his final appearance in May 2004 as Arsenal completed their 'Invincibles' season, Keown's third League title.

That - plus the packed house for his Highbury testimonial - was the perfect send-off for one of the Club's greatest defenders.

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