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 Bobby Gould is next to recall his favourites.
SENT FROM COVENTRY
I signed for the Arsenal on February 2, 1968 for £90,000. I know dates and numbers because I’ve kept an extensive log of my career: clubs, games, goals… the lot.
I loved Jimmy Hill. I loved working with him at Coventry and it was a shame for us when he went to enjoy a new career in television. The man was so ahead of his time, such a great innovator. I think we were the first club to have an electronic scoreboard. I was a No. 9 and I recall scoring a hat trick and the numbers ‘9’ ‘9’ ‘9’ lit up the scoreboard.
I loved it and remember looking up at Jimmy and thinking the man was God. Anyway, Arsenal had been watching me for a while and I was well aware of that fact. But I tore my medial ligaments earlier that season while playing for Coventry and was in plaster for 12 weeks. That was at West Bromwich Albion on September 23, 1967.
In my comeback game just before Christmas I scored a hat-trick against Burnley. Arsenal had a scout there and I think that was enough for them to make their move. I was coming to the Arsenal and was very happy about it too.
BREAKING MY HIGHBURY DUCK
It took me five home games before I finally scored at Highbury for the Arsenal. It was against Leicester City and was a huge relief. I’d cost £90,000 and that was not an inconsiderate amount of money back then and there was pressure on me to deliver. Alan Evans had cost Liverpool £100,000 but there weren’t many – if any – players who had commanded such a fee.
Do I remember the goal? You bet I do. The ball came back off the ‘keeper and I pounced to rifle in from all of three inches (I was particularly deadly from that range). That said, it wasn’t the first goal I had scored at Highbury that season. Back in September (September 2, to be precise). I had taken the ball round Jim Furnell to score for Coventry in a 1-1 draw.
I hadn’t played in the 1968 League Cup final defeat to Leeds as I was cup tied. I had to watch from the stands as Terry Cooper’s goal gave Leeds a 1-0 victory.
The following year we played Swindon who were in the third division. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t think we’d win it – we had a very strong side and we were playing Swindon. So of course we fancied our chances. A couple of days before the game Bertie Mee took us to Wembley and we could have cried when we saw the state of the place. The Horse of The Year Show had taken place on the pitch and it was in a terrible state. An absolute quagmire. It was dreadful.
We’d won 5-0 at Sheffield Wednesday in our previous game but we could not get past Peter Downsborough, Swindon’s ‘keeper. If you watch that first half we were rampant. But he saved everything. What a performance from the man.
Swindon scored after a mix up at the back but I equalised with four minutes to go when I headed in after the ball ricocheted up and over Downsborough. Swindon’s Frank Burrows caught me with his boot as I scored, kicking my Adam’s apple – which tells you how high his boot was!
I ran to the crowd and was mobbed by my teammates. “He kicked me in the Adam’s apple and it REALLY hurt,” I cried as my teammates jumped all over me.
Well, we lost two goals in extra-time and I cried again. There is a famous picture of me sobbing. It was awful. We so wanted to win that game. Arsenal being Arsenal laid on a posh do for us afterwards, our wives and girlfriends were all dolled up to the nines, but we really didn’t want to be there.
I am certain, though, that was the game that made Bertie, Don Howe and the skipper, Frank McLintock, so determined to win a trophy the next year, which they subsequently did.
GOODBYE, NORTH LONDON
I signed for Wolves on June 2, 1970. My time at Arsenal was up but I didn’t regret a single moment of coming to Highbury. Maybe the club felt I was not good enough. I just know that maybe the style of play was not for me. People talk about pressing football these days but we were doing it in the late 1960s. We’d target the weakest defender when he had the ball and it was a tactic that worked well for us.
You had to really run and be alert for it. I was a goalpoacher who did my work in the box. But I wasn’t as sharp as I’d been at Coventry because when I got a chance I would be shattered. I still averaged maybe one in three, but I was used to scoring one in two.
I played in the reserves and did really well. I actually scored 31 goals in just 21 games, which is a very good record, but I was not an awkward customer. I respected and loved Arsenal, and sometimes these things happen. I always believed in myself and was still a young man, in my early to mid 20s.
Arsenal was an education for me. I had moved away from Coventry – my home town – and grown up at a great club. Ipswich and Crystal Palace were both after me, but I remember playing in a reserve game at Peterborough when Wolves approached me and I was happy to move. They just wanted me to stay in their half and score goals. No pressing. Just like at Coventry. It was music to my ears, when they told me that.
THE SOUTH GOAL
Just going back to Wembley, the south goal had massive significance for me. I scored in that goal in the 1969 League Cup final. Liverpool fans will remember the 1988 FA Cup final when my Wimbledon team beat them 1-0. Lawrie Sanchez also scored at that end – and Dave Beasant saved John Aldridge’s penalty in that goal too, the first ever cup final penalty save.
Geoff Hurst scored his hat trick goal in the ’66 World Cup final there too. What’s the connection? I was Geoff’s assistant between 1979 and 1981 when he was manager at Chelsea. And to top it off, my son Jonathan made a world class save in that goal when he played for Bradford there in the ’96 Division Two play off final.
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