In 'Defining Moments', former Arsenal stars select the situations that defined their career with the Gunners.
Kevin Campbell is next to recall his favourite memories.
From the terraces…
Make no mistake, The Arsenal was always my club. I used to head up to Highbury from Lambeth but couldn’t afford to pay to get in, so I would sneak in when they opened the gates 20 minutes before the end of the game. That was back in around 1977.
So just to confirm, Arsenal was in my blood from the off. As I got older I began to train with other clubs: Chelsea, Millwall, Charlton and a few others. But when Arsenal came in it was a one-horse race.
Terry Neill was the manager at the time and they had great people there like Terry Murphy, Pat Rice – the same man I had watched in awe skipper us to the FA Cup in 1979 – was the Youth Team manager and there was Steve Burtenshaw too.
Thinking of Pat Rice I always remember his mantra: “Never settle, never settle.” He always wanted more. Never rest on your laurels and Pat was absolutely right. So to sign for my club. Well, it doesn’t get any better.
A DEBUT AT MY FUTURE HOME
Football is full of ironies. I made my debutvfor Arsenal at Everton on May 7, 1988 in a 2-1 win. These were the two clubs that would have such a great impact on my life. Two clubs I really love – that Arsenal-Everton connection is massive for me. I was meant to make my debut versus Sheffield Wednesday just beforehand but got a dead leg in the Youth Cup final against Doncaster.
I had scored a hat-trick in the first-half before I got the injury and was gutted as it ruled me out of playing the Owls – I thought my chance had gone. Fortunately that first team chance came just weeks later.
That said, our kit man Tony Donnelly refused to give me a first team tracksuit.“No mister,” he said – in fact he always said that – “you’ve got to earn that tracksuit.”
So while the rest of the boys were walking around Liverpool before the game in their club tracksuits, I had to wear my own bright red Fila one. Not that I minded, of course. It was just a thrill to be a part of it. I played the last 12 minutes of that final game of the season and it meant the absolute world to me.
From the North Bank, here I was – playing for my club. We were up against the last truly great Everton team: the likes of Gary Stevens and Trevor Steven before they went to Glasgow Rangers and Kevin Sheedy. It was a great team. George Graham had come in the season before and he had been really great for me, setting little targets and improving me.
CHAMPIONS IN 1991
Winning the league in 1991 was special. We only lost one game all season – at Chelsea.
The lovely thing about that squad was so many of us were homegrown. At the time, myself and David Hillier – another south London lad – broke into the first team and were making real progress. Alan Miller was also in the squad, another of my youth team pals.
We were built on that rock solid foundation of David Seaman and the best back four around. You always have a chance with a defence like that. And don’t forget, future titles won by the club were built on that defence. But it was a team effort and I tried to do my job at the other end. During the run-in I had a really good goalscoring patch, something like eight in 10 games.
I’m often asked about pressure, well every day there is pressure at a club like Arsenal. You are expected to win every game, home and away. As a youngster they prepare
you for that pressure. And we all responded. It was a really fantastic time to be at the club.
The double domestic cup wins of the previous season was special – and so was
the Cup Winners’ Cup victory of 1994. People remember my goal against PSG in the second leg at Highbury, but I wasn’t even expecting to play in that game.
We had played really well to get a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Paris against a very strong PSG team with the likes of George Weah, David Ginola, Bernard Lama, Valdo… that was a real team. But we went there and played really well. George Graham liked to rotate players and I was going to miss the second leg, but Paul Merson was injured or something and I was drafted back in. I ended up scoring the winner as we went through 2-1 on aggregate.
And by the way, PSG came to Highbury and really put on a performance. It was tense and very tough. That said, before the game we fancied our chances and just shaded it. George had a certain way of playing and it worked for us, especially in those tight games in that European campaign. In the final we had no Johnny Jensen and no Ian Wright after he was booked against PSG at Highbury.
Before the game George was winding us up and telling us how Parma were on £160,000 per man to beat us or something and that they expected to win. Our team was also a bit busted. Lots of us were carrying knocks. I needed two injections to get me through the game.
But Alan Smith scored that great goal and then we did our job. They had chances – and lots of possession, which we never really minded – but we were comfortable in the end. David Seaman made some terrific saves as well. Once we had something to hang on to we were very hard to beat. And on that brilliant night we did enough.
Copenhagen was a night I will never forget.
I was out of contract in the summer of 1995 and was expecting to stay. But after one meeting with Bruce Rioch, our new manager, I knew I was off. It was clear I would not get on with him – and I like to think I get on with most people. But that’s life.
I had played for the club I love. I had won trophies. I don’t recall ever being really unhappy or anything. There were lots of laughs and a lot happiness at Highbury. I could not have asked for any more. But I had to move on. That’s life. It was really difficult for me, but Nottingham Forest came in and the time was right.
If it had been a year later, when Arsène Wenger came to the club, I am pretty sure I would have stayed. I was just a year out. But just because I left Arsenal over 21 years ago, I am still an Arsenal man. I love the club. I love them as much as I did all those years back when I sneaked in without paying!
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