We were saddened to hear of the passing of former scout Bill Darby on Sunday.
Bill was our Dublin-based scout for more than 40 years, and was responsible for bringing a host of talented young Irishmen to the club, including Liam Brady.
"Bill began working at Arsenal at the very same time that I came over, in fact I was probably the first player that he was responsible for," Brady said.
"We didn't used to have a scout in Dublin, but Gordon Clarke - our chief scout at the time - gave Bill a chance and it paid off in the end – for Bill, for the club, and for all the players he spotted, including me.
"I first met him when I was playing for St Kevin's Boys Club in Dublin. I would have been 13 at the time. Then I came over on trial in August 1969 and signed as an apprentice in summer 1971. Frank Stapleton joined the year after me in 1972, and David O'Leary followed in 1973. John Devine followed, and then Niall Quinn a few years later, so he had a great track record.
"He had very good contacts in the area, and was very aware of everything going on and knew about all the up-and-coming young players.
"He had realised there was an opportunity in Dublin. The way he got the job was that he had written to Arsenal to tell them that Manchester United had it easy in Dublin, and all the good players ended up there because Arsenal weren't represented there.
"So Arsenal's Welsh scout, Malwyn Roberts, went to a game with Bill to watch a game I was playing in in Dublin, and straight afterwards they went to my parents' house and said they would like to invite me to London. That's how it all started.
"He later said to me his proudest moment was when myself, Frank and David all played in the 1979 FA Cup-winning side against Man United. It was ironic that it should be against them, because that was the reason he wanted to come in and scout players, because they were all ending up at United instead.
"I got to know Bill well later after that, especially when I became the head of youth development at Arsenal. He would give me the lowdown on what was happening in Dublin. We hired some scouts on his recommendation, and we brought in players from Dublin such as Stephen Bradley, who's now the manager of Shamrock Rovers, Stephen O'Donnell, Graham Barrett and Patrick Cregg. Maybe the most well-known was Anthony Stokes, who went on to have a good career at Sunderland and Celtic.
"So Bill's input remained a big part of the club, and I remember seeing him at the 2003 FA Cup final when we beat Southampton. That might have been the last time I saw him.
"People think that being a scout is just about recognising good players, but the really good players are not that difficult to spot! There is a lot more to it than that. You need to build relationships with parents, with players, and convince them to come to your club. Bill's record speaks for itself on that front."
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