In 'Defining Moments', former Arsenal stars select the situations that defined their career with the Gunners.
Anders Limpar is next to recall his favourite memories.
SIGNING FOR ARSENAL
In 1990 I was playing for Cremonese in Italy and a scout called Steve Burtenshaw had been looking at me for a long time on Arsenal’s behalf, even dating back to when I was playing in Switzerland for Young Boys. They also knew exactly the type of player they wanted to have. George Graham wanted to buy a winger, a goalkeeper and a new centre half, and he brought in those three players in one transfer window in me, David Seaman and Andy Linighan. That was good scouting by Arsenal because they looked at me for almost two years.
I can’t even describe what was going through my head at the time. It was massive for me to be able to sign for a club like Arsenal. I had a few offers to stay in Italy and I didn’t know that much about English football, but in Scandinavia everybody knows who Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are.
I was actually blessed to be scouted and it wasn’t a hard decision at all to sign a four-year contract for Arsenal. When people ask me about it now, I’m really, really honoured to have played for the club.
A PERFECT START TO LIFE IN LONDON
We won the league in 1991 and we only lost one game – and that was my very first season. We were very nearly the original Invincibles, but unfortunately we lost against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, which was pretty gutting for everyone. Still, from a personal perspective, it was probably my best season in an Arsenal shirt. I scored 13 goals, played lots of football and won the league in my first season at the club. It’s something you dream of.
In addition to all of that, I scored a hat-trick on the final day of the season in a 6-1 win against Coventry City. Let’s face it, though, we were already champions and my team- mates were excellent, so that made it very easy for me. That wasn’t just the case for the final day, either. My team were fantastic the whole season. Because of them and the great support from the fans, that was probably the best year of my career. In fact, looking back on things now, it seems ridiculous that we didn’t even have one player from England’s starting XI in our line-up.
We only lost one game and we were beating sides like Liverpool and Aston Villa by four or five goals, yet the likes of David Seaman and Paul Merson were not even guaranteed starters for England at that point. It was amazing.
In a way, though, that worked in our favour. We had players who wanted to prove people wrong and that really helped me on the pitch. I knew that if I did my job on the wing, the other players on the pitch would support me and give their all to get a great result, which is exactly why we were so impressive in my first season.
THAT LIVERPOOL LOB
This was just one of those instinctive moments where you don’t realise what’s happening at the time. That kind of shot is not something you practise over and over again, you just get the opportunity and you have to be able to produce it at the right time. Luckily for me, I could. It happened in such a freaky situation as well. Kevin Campbell made a good run but I didn’t spot him until he was offside, so I couldn’t play him in. Then I saw the Liverpool goalkeeper, Mike Hooper, off his line and I just tried my luck. Luckily for me, it came off and it was a brilliant goal.
At the time, however, I didn’t realise how good the goal was. We were desperately trying to make up points on the league leaders so I didn’t think about it too much that season, but looking back on it in the years that followed I was able to see that it was an amazing goal. It’s quite easy for a footballer to kick straight like that, but to be able to chip the goalkeeper and find the back of the net is so much more difficult to execute. It was such a joy to see it go in. Fans regarded me as the ‘flair’ player in that team but to be honest, there was lots of flair in the squad.
We had David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and others. We had a solid team and everywhere you looked, you had international players. For me to be able to fit into a team like this, it wasn’t hard at all.
LEAGUE CUP AND FA CUP DOUBLE
In 1993 we won the cup double and it’s a really special achievement for me as I don’t think many teams have been able to do it. It was a nice reward for me as well because, after winning the league in my first season and then playing such a key part in 1991/92, it felt as though we were part of something special as a team.
Looking back now, though, it’s quite a bittersweet moment for me as I knew my contract would be up the following year. I signed for four years, and when I was into my third year I asked the manager for an extension.
He told me he couldn’t guarantee me regular football. I said: "Fair enough, but I would love to have another four years here to try to work my way back into the team," but he had other thoughts. It’s a shame and my biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to play for another four years. Arse?ne Wenger joined the club soon after and I’ve always wondered whether I’d have been a good fit for his sides.
So I went to Everton and Birmingham City after that, but nothing came close to the love I received from the Arsenal fans. My time in north London was definitely the best period of my career. I was here for four years, won six trophies, scored goals and claimed a lot assists too. I also had a tremendous time winning the FA Cup with Everton in 1995, but I feel my best years were at Arsenal.
Just being involved with the club for those four years was a real blessing and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.
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