When the name 'Groves' gets a mention in Arsenal circles, fans tend to think of cult hero Perry.
But older supporters still remember Perry's uncle with fondness. That's because Vic Groves had just as much passion as his nephew and was even more popular on the terraces.In his amateur days Vic made a handful of unpaid appearances for Tottenham but his professional career kicked off at Leyton Orient. The Gunners were alerted to this talented young centre forward and, despite the best efforts of the O's fans, Groves eventually moved north of the river in November 1955. Arsenal supporters quickly realised they had snared a real talent when Groves scored on his debut against Sheffield United at Highbury but he didn't get a chance to build on that at first. Cartilage surgery sidelined Vic for much of the following campaign but his cheery outlook helped him through a trying time.He returned to forge a productive partnership with David Herd, with Groves the chief creator for his colleague. Vic might have lacked pace but he more than atoned with his intelligent runs off the ball and his all-round reading of the game. Herd certainly benefited from the selfless play of his strike partner.Appointed captain in 1958, Groves' career took another turn a year later when manager George Swindin decided to deploy him in midfield. It proved to be a masterstroke. Groves' vision and tactical nous could flourish in a deeper role and he was unlucky not to earn England honours in his new position after helping Arsenal to a top-three finish in 1959.Groves graced Highbury for nine years, scoring 37 goals in 203 appearances. He left in 1964, taking a step down to non-league Canterbury City while new Arsenal manager Billy Wright reshaped his team for the future.
WHAT THE FANS SAID:
My first Arsenal hero. My first question to my Dad when arriving on any match day would be: "Is Vic Groves playing?". It was never the same when he wasn't. My memories of him are that he never gave up trying. One match I remember in particular when Wolverhampton were playing at Highbury. Billy Wright who was not in his prime brought down my hero and gashed his leg. I admit I never forgave him for that and later when he was made manager I was one of his fiercest critics. Still, when have football fans ever been fair?Tony Wheeler, London
On 14th April 1959 I attended an away evening match against Birmingham City. After the game I and three other fans were invited onto the club coach to travel back to the team's hotel. There Vic invited us into the lounge for drinks and entertained us with some reminiscences. At this distance in time I would like to thank Vic for his consideration and will always regard him as a great ambassador for the Club.Victor Keen, Westbury, Wiltshire