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.
David Price is next to recall his favourite memories.
Leeds United in 1972 had been the best team in the country for the past five years. Elland Road was a daunting place to go. So to make your debut there as a 17-and-a-half-year-old – like I did – was pretty special.
Sometimes younger players will be taken along to away games to give them a bit of experience. Show them how it’s all done. It was exciting for me, especially when Mr Mee – it was never ‘Bertie’ always Mr Mee – told me I was on the bench. We’re 2-0 down at half time and I am pouring the tea for the boys as they trudge back into the dressing room.
“Get your tracksuit off, you’re coming on,” says Don Howe, turning to me. I carry on pouring the tea. “GET YOUR TRACKSUIT OFF – YOU'RE COMING ON,” he repeats. Loudly. And with some ‘choice’ words thrown in.
I come on and the lads toss me the ball to kick off – a nice gesture.
I pass the ball to Geordie Armstrong on the wing who sprints past Trevor Cherry and crosses for Ray Kennedy to immediately make it 2-1. Game on. It felt good.
We lost 6-1.
...AND UNITED AT HOME
The following season, I made my full debut against Manchester United. I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, but I think I played pretty well.
We won 3-0 and United got relegated.
MY BIG BREAK
Mr Mee decided to loan me out to Peterborough.
I had a great time and learned a lot from their manager, the former Man United skipper Noel Cantwell. There was a lot more running without the ball but, in fairness, I genuinely believe it improved me as a player. I was also getting first-team football so that was also really good for me.
Peterborough wanted to buy me but they couldn’t agree terms – I think they wanted to pay in installments and Arsenal would not allow it – so I came back to Highbury.
I broke my left ankle at Leicester in a reserve game – I controlled the ball and the next thing I know this huge defender came through me from behind – and, stupidly, I tried to get back up but only ended up damaging ligaments.
I was out for months and months – probably well over half a season – and when I came back Mr Mee told me he would give me an extra year on my contract, which was really good of him.
MY (OTHER) BIG BREAK
Mr Mee, though, left the club and the next thing I know we are on a pre-season tour of Australia and our new manager was Terry Neill.
Terry gave me a chance – he sat down with me and we had a good talk. He told me he would play me in some games. I was a midfielder but I recall playing up front against Stoke and scoring with a header in a 1-1 draw.
That was a big goal for my Arsenal career and I played a few more times in the starting XI. It was just terrific to be in the first team and making an impact. I felt good and I felt I was playing well. Terry had believed in me and I am forever grateful.
This has to be in. My pinnacle as an Arsenal player.
We raced into a 2-0 lead and were seeing the game out. But – and I have thought this many times – I am still gutted I was subbed with 15 minutes to go. I felt good, I wasn’t really that tired. But Steve Walford came on and I felt we changed a little as a team (and that is absolutely no disrespect to Steve, by the way).
As I say, we were seeing the game out but did I really need to come off? However, the game did change very quickly. A few minutes later United pulled a goal back and then – very quickly – they scored again. It was 2-2 in a game we had dominated from the start. Liam Brady and Graham Rix immediately weaved their magic down the left and Alan Sunderland restored our lead to make it 3-2, but it should never have really come to that.
If the game had gone to extra-time I think United would have won. So there was a lot of relief from an Arsenal perspective. I remember running around the pitch with Willie Young, getting back to the hotel and calming down, just taking it all in.
There was a big function that night but it is the next day when it really hits you. It is almost surreal. “I played in the cup final yesterday – wow.”
That is a great feeling.
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