In Defining Moments former Arsenal stars select the situations that defined their career with the Gunners. This is a running feature and first appeared in the matchday programme. Ex-player Eddie Kelly is next to recall his favourites.
#1 Leaving Glasgow
I was captain of my local side – Kenny Dalglish was in the team too. In fact, the last club any of us thought he would end up at was Celtic because he was Rangers daft. Anyone will tell you that.
The club I played for – Possilpark – was a nursery side for Arsenal and there was a coach there called Bob Weir who worked closely with the club. I got invited down to Arsenal when I was just 14 or 15 and met the then manager Billy Wright. He was very polite and took his time with me and my dad, Charles.
To be honest, I never really was that bothered about being a pro’ at that age. And certainly not in England. All that mattered was Celtic – my team – and Hibs, Rangers, Hearts, Aberdeen.
Another thing to say was I didn’t even think I was the best player in the team – there were three or four very decent lads in front of me.
But Arsenal wanted me and I went down and lived in digs in north London after signing for them a while later when Bertie Mee became boss. Frankly, I was just pleased to get away from Glasgow.
There were a lot of problems in the city; fights, jealousy, all sorts. I just wanted out. I always remember when I came to London the great Alf Fields – a coach and former player at Arsenal – asked me what size boots I wanted.
“A seven please,” I said. “And what studs do you want?” he asked. I just started back at him blankly. “I don’t know what you mean,” I replied. He couldn’t understand it.
But I had never played on a grass pitch and so had never needed studs. All the pitches us kids in Glasgow played on were black or red ash pitches. It was all so different down south.
In fact, in my first digs I loved the luxury of not having to share a bed with anyone as I had never had my own bed throughout my whole childhood. That first place I stayed in up in Turnpike Lane was like Buckingham Palace to me!
One other thing to say: my parents split up when I was a about 18 and my mum wanted to get away from Glasgow. Arsenal were amazing. They let my mum and sister live in a flat in the old West Stand for a few years.
I had asked the Club to help and within a couple of weeks everything was sorted. I will never ever forget what they did for my mum – but that is Arsenal for you. In fact, only the other week they sent me a lovely Harrods Christmas pudding.They still look out for their players long after they have gone
#2 Bertie’s faith
I remember it crystal clear. Bertie Mee called me in to his office and said: “Eddie, you’ll get ten games – win, lose or draw you will stay in the team.” It wasn’t like he was saying to me: “You’ve 90 minutes to prove yourself.”
"Frank McLintock is, for me, God. What a man. What a captain. Even now when we meet up he just has that something extra. To this day he remains in touch with everyone and we all respect him."
How can you in one game? Not many people actually have very good debuts if you think about it. Mine was against Sheffield Wednesday but Bertie called me in a few months after that– and remember I was just a teenager – and assured me I’d get a good run of games.
You need a little run and that is what Bertie gave me. The team was not performing great so we he brought in a few kids that year; Charlie George, Ray Kennedy and Pat Rice were a few of those coming through. “We’ll see how it goes,” he added. Bertie took a chance on me.
So essentially I was given two and a half to three months to bed into the team. I did well, I got my confidence and I felt like I belonged. Once you cross the white line it is down you. Knowing I was not one misplaced pass away from being dropped took the pressure off me and I enjoyed it. That was down to Bertie.
#3 Two cup finals, two goals
Anderlecht battered us in the first leg of the Fairs Cup final in 1970. They won 3-1 but were absolutely all over us. When we got back to the dressing room we were shattered – until Frank McLintock got to work on us. “We’ll batter THEM back at Highbury,” he screamed at us (and he really screamed).
I was wondering if the skipper was from another planet. “He must be crazy,” I said to myself. But Frank – the best captain I ever played with – was having no negativity. By the time we left Brussels we were all convinced we’d beat a side who were up there with the best I ever faced.
I scored the first goal in the return leg and I will never forget it. Highbury was fantastic that night – better than Wembley. The fans got behind us from the off and to score that crucial first – which put us on the front foot – was just incredible.
We went on to win 3-0 – and 4-3 on aggregate – to win the Club’s first trophy for 17 years. I did score in the cup final a year later when Charlie George smashed home the winner against Liverpool.
Everyone thought George Graham scored but it was only later when it was finally cleared up – it was my goal. That said, if you are disputing who scored it, then it tells you it was hardly a world class goal – but they all count!
Anyway, there was no disputing Charlie’s winner – a local Islington lad scoring a goal like that was just brilliant. You couldn’t have written it better.
#4 Banned by Scotland
I am not sure many people know this at all but the fact was I was banned from playing for my country by Tommy Docherty. Me and a couple of other lads – who shall remain nameless – had played for Scotland U23s and nipped out for a drink at night.
Nothing silly, just a couple of beers in a hotel bar. We weren’t drunk, we caused no trouble, I wasn’t out fighting – I was not that kind of lad – but when we got back Docherty knocked on my door and asked where we had been.
He wasn’t happy but it was only when I got back to Arsenal that I realised the situation was bigger than I thought. Bertie Mee called me into the office and asked me what I had been playing at. I told him. I mean, I had nothing to hide and I hadn’t done anything wrong.
It turns out the Scottish Football Association had written to the Club and informed them that I – and my two Scotland teammates – would not be considered anymore. It was a shame, I wanted to play for my country but that was that.I still don’t understand it, but there you go.
#5 Arsenal captain
I have scored in – and won – cup finals. I have won the league – and at Tottenham of all places – but being Arsenal’s captain is the absolute pinnacle.
Frank McLintock is, for me, God. What a man. What a captain. Even now when we meet up he just has that something extra. To this day he remains in touch with everyone and we all respect him.
Then Alan Ball was given the armband but he asked for a transfer and before I know it I am back in Bertie Mee’s office and he is telling me I am the new club captain. Wow. I was only 23 years old and – at the time – the youngest Arsenal captain in history (until Tony Adams, when he was made captain aged just 20 in 1988).
I only had the armband for a while. It was a big job and Bertie allowed Terry Mancini to help me out as he was a strong character – I needed it because there was a lot of unrest in the dressing room. I later had a fallout with Bertie, but you can never take those few months away from me when I was the skipper.
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