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 Martin Hayes is next to recall his favourites.
#1 Huddersfield calling
George Graham came in the summer of 1986 and I played the first three games of the new season under him before I was dropped. “Huddersfield want you, Martin. And I think it would be in your best interests if you talked to them,” he told me, barely looking up.
I didn’t want to go and had just bought my first home with my now wife. We were settled and happy. I did not see it coming at all, to be honest. So I went to Huddersfield and met Mick Wadsworth and realised immediately I didn’t want to go there. It wasn’t home.
Mick drove me up a hill on the edge of town – the car barely made it because it was so steep – but we got to the top when he declared this is where we he sometimes brought the team for a run. The car, as I said, barely made it and I was definitely not going to be doing that.
So I went back to Highbury. Well, London Colney, in fact, and told George that I decided to stay. “It’s not for me,” I mumbled. He could not look at me. “OK” he said, I think. He was not happy. I was banished to the reserves for a few weeks…
#2 Huddersfield again
Football throws up so many strange things. Within days of that awkward moment with the Boss at London Colney, I was in the reserves, with no hope of getting in the team. George had signed Perry Groves too, which just put me further down the pecking order.
Then, there was an injury crisis at Highbury and striker after striker was in the treatment room. We had a League Cup game coming up at … Huddersfield. And from nowhere I found myself on the bench.
It was up at the old Leeds Road and with not long to go I was thrown on and scored – I was ecstatic. I had got a goal at Huddersfield, of all places. And with so many injuries – and a goal to my name – I had a chance.
#3 Paying The Penalty
From nowhere, 1986/87 became my season. I could not stop scoring goals. The week after I scored again. And again. Now I was indispensible and was staying in the team. It was a great time as the team was all firing on all cylinders, there were no real enemies, we all got on.
"People remember my goal at Middlesbrough during the title run in during the 1988/89 season, and it was a special moment for me. I had barely played so to come on and grab a vital goal – from a long John Lukic punt – was memorable"
And I was playing – and scoring – regularly. I broke the 20 goal barrier which was special. And everyone remembers that I got 12 penalties that season. In fact, I took 15 pens and missed three.
Typically, I remember the ones I missed far more than the ones I scored. I blazed one over at Norwich at the end of the season that would have made it 25 goals. I was still the first homegrown player for God knows how many years to score more than 20.
That meeting up at Huddersfield at the beginning of the season seemed an eternity away. In fact, there were similarities with Harry Kane. He started slowly but by the end of the season he could not stop scoring.
I scored one versus Luton that was actually on Match Of The Day 2 the other week – I had forgotten about that one! I felt little pressure at the time because I was young and just enjoying playing for a big club. Pressure was for others. Looking back I find that incredible.
#4 Littlewoods Cup heartache
People remember my goal at Middlesbrough during the title run in during the 1988/89 season, and it was a special moment for me. I had barely played so to come on and grab a vital goal – from a long John Lukic punt – was memorable.
But I also remember the previous season, and how I wished I had come on in the Littlewoods Cup final against Luton and scored a goal. What people do remember is me hitting the post from a couple of yards. It was terrible but really unlucky.
I had just come on and had actually scored a goal – we had been 1-0 down but turned it around to go 2-1 up. And we were on top. I could have scored another but the ball came to me at an awkward angle and hit my shinpad and then the post.
I will never forget it. Of course, Nigel Winterburn also missed a penalty in that game – Luton came back and stole it 3-2. It was awful. I felt I should have taken that penalty but in the semi final against Everton I was brought down by Neville Southall and picked myself up to take the penalty.
I skied it into the Clock End and George Graham told me afterwards I was off penalty duties. So that is the reason I did not take that penalty in the final.
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