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 Brian Talbot is next to recall his favourites.
#1 Becoming a Gunner
I felt leaving Ipswich Town – my hometown club – for Arsenal was a big step up. Ipswich had beaten Arsenal in the 1978 FA Cup final and we had a good team. But Arsenal were – and are – a huge football club.
In the elite of English football. It just felt the right time to leave Ipswich, although it really did drag on. I knew of Arsenal’s interest for months but it didn’t happen – it was a really long drawn-out process.
Terry Neill had wanted me to come to Highbury and once I knew this there was only one outcome I wanted. But it didn’t happen straight away and I even signed a new contract at Portman Road, although that was all just nonsense really.
In the end, Ipswich got their money and I got my move. That was in January 1979. At the time, I thought I was joining a club that was going places, with real talent in the squad. And I was. In the end we didn’t kick on as I hoped, although I don’t regret moving to Arsenal for a second.
#2 The Five Minute Final
Within a few months we reached the FA Cup final. I had been made to feel really welcome at the Club and it was a terrific way to finish my first season. There was a big hoo-ha over my first half goal, but it was my goal.
A cross came in and Alan Sunderland and I both ran in and I shot past Gary Bailey in the Man Utd goal. I have a picture of it on my wall at home. In fact, I am staring at it right now. I run in and Sunders kicks the back of my foot. Anyway, who cares? All that mattered was Arsenal were winning.
We were 2-0 up with five minutes to go and had absolutely dominated them in every department. Then they scored one, and quickly scored a second. We were out on our feet. We had a problem, no two ways about it.
That was until Graham Rix crossed and Gary Bailey made an awful mistake and missed it completely so Sunders could steal in at the back post to score an easy chance (he got his goal in the end, anyway) and win it for us. 3-2. It was the icing on the cake of a terrific few months for me.
Professionally and personally it was the right decision to leave Ipswich for Arsenal and here I was, a cup winner for the second season in succession. I’d also moved into a lovely village and was very happy. I still live in the same place now, 37 years on.
#3 Sent To Coventry – To Beat The Kop
Scoring the winner against Liverpool in the third replay of the FA Cup semi final in 1980 was a special moment. It had been a true battle between the two sides and even though Liverpool were probably the beat team in Europe at the time, we matched them all the way and eventually overcame them.
It meant so much at the time because not only had we reached another FA Cup final, but it also gave me the belief that we were at the start of something special, that this proved we were a team on the up, who could beat the best.
"I loved the club, I loved my time there, I was happy to stay on. Actually, thinking about it the only other place I didn’t want to leave was nearly 20 years later when I left Rushden & Diamonds as manager. I was also there for around six or seven years, as at Arsenal"
Those matches went to and fro and showed why cup replays really were fantastic – it was so exciting and the fans loved it. But it will never happen again, as it only goes to one replay and straight to penalties these days. And penalties are a lottery (which we found out a few weeks later when we lost to Valencia in the Cup-Winners’-Cup final in Brussels).
We had a really good team and after that epic battle we honestly felt we would beat West Ham in the final. Unfortunately we didn’t. We lost two finals in a week and after 70 games we had a lot of memories but no trophies.
I played all 70 games and I am pretty sure that won’t be beaten anytime soon now there are fewer replays and more squad rotation, although Frank Lampard played something like 67 a few years back. We let Liam Brady go that summer, Frank Stapleton the next.
We’d had the makings of a really good team. We didn’t replace these guys and we should have done. People said how could you replace Brady? Well Liverpool replaced Kevin Keegan a few years earlier – with Kenny Dalglish. And he was even better. But as for Arsenal, we should have moved forward but we didn’t.
#4 An unlikely treble…
Is it a defining moment for me? Well, it is certainly one of my favourites. It was my only hat-trick in my career and I remember it well. We beat Manchester City 3-0 on St George’s Day - 23 April - 1983 at Highbury.
Joe Corrigan was in goal for City – a very good goalkeeper – but I really didn’t miss that night. I still have the ball at home along with loads more memorabilia such as shirts and all my match programmes. People remember the week in 1984 I scored free kicks in games against Newcastle and Liverpool – but this just trumps it for me.
If I remember rightly I scored with a header, a free kick and then a long range effort that absolutely flew in. It was a terrific feeling when that third hit the back of the net. I was a box-to-box player, the most recent one was probably Frank Lampard, who I mentioned earlier. In those days you did it all: attack, defend, create, disrupt. All of it.
I was always naturally fit, in fact my resting heartbeat was really low – in the 30s. My pulse seldom goes above the 50s now and I still run three or four times a week. These days you have a holding midfielder like Coquelin, a creative midfielder like Ozil – I did it all!
#5 Off to the Vicarage…
I never wanted to leave. Not one bit. But in the summer of 1985, when Don Howe said I should look at the offer Watford made for me, it was clear I was off. I also couldn’t turn down the financial package Watford offered me.
There was a very good signing on fee and I had four children to feed. In that sense, it was a non-brainer. But I was so disappointed. I had wanted to leave Ipswich, and years later I had wanted to leave both West Brom and Stoke City. But not Arsenal.
I loved the club, I loved my time there, I was happy to stay on. Actually, thinking about it the only other place I didn’t want to leave was nearly 20 years later when I left Rushden & Diamonds as manager. I was also there for around six or seven years, as at Arsenal.
Anyway, Watford was a good club. Pat Rice had been captain there a couple of years before, and the manager Graham Taylor made me captain too. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out and I moved on after a season. As for Arsenal, my grandchildren are all big fans and I remain very, very proud to be a member of the ‘100 Club’.
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