Ray Parlour celebrates his 40th birthday this week and to mark the occasion we're publishing an interview with the 'Romford Pele' that first appeared in the February edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
Ray, let’s start by talking about January, as it was a very important month for you.
Yes it was my debut back in January 1992. A very special and proud moment for me having come through the Arsenal system as a young kid dreaming I would one day make my first-team debut. And there I was pulling the shirt on. It didn’t get much tougher than playing at Liverpool in those days and it was such a great buzz walking out at Anfield with the Kop singing; the atmosphere was unbelievable.
"The goal that sticks vividly in my mind however is Tony’s against Everton - a left-foot half-volley straight in the corner to clinch the championship. An amazing moment, an amazing goal, from the boot of one of my best mates"
I remember it as if it was yesterday and although I gave a penalty away and the result [Arsenal lost 2-0] wasn’t good it’s still a very special memory playing alongside the late David Rocastle, who was a fantastic player and a great influence on my career.
Pat Rice was also a real big help as my youth team manager and Tony Adams, George Graham and Arsène Wenger all played their parts in my development.
George was very organised, a great tactician, and he knew how to win games. He got results; that was the main thing. Arsène was more offensive-minded and the training regimes were a little different. It was all on the clock: 15 minutes at this, 15 minutes at that, making you concentrate and think a bit more.
George was a Sir Alex Ferguson type of manager. He would tell you straight at half-time if he wasn’t pleased and have a go straight after the game. Arsène was much calmer at the break, relaxing us to take time to recover the body before saying a few words. Then after the game he didn’t really say a lot. But on Monday morning we would have a meeting to analyse what we did.
Romford Pele at Arsenal
|Competition||Games + sub||Goals|
|League||283 + 57||22|
|FA Cup||40 + 4||4|
|Europe||48 + 12||5|
|Total||390 + 76||31|
Arsène Wenger has implied that he wants to base the team on a nucleus of British players, which was very much how it was when you established yourself, wasn’t it?
It was with the famous back six of David Seaman in goal, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould. We had Paul Merson and me in midfield, Alan Smith, Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright.
Foreign players have been fantastic for the game but you still want to see some British players in your side. It’s good for the national team as well, and at present Arsenal has a really great bunch of young Brits to work on and I’m sure under Arsène they will improve even further.
Overall how would you sum up your life at Arsenal?
I feel very privileged to have played with such great players and proud to have played for Arsenal. I wish I could still play; I miss the banter in the dressing room - we had such a fantastic spirit. We got on well as a team and I loved every minute of it.
Our sense of humour is different to that of many of the foreign players but I think they enjoyed it. Thierry Henry used to pull my leg and I his. We talked a bit of Cockney slang and it was totally different to what they were used to but we all had a right laugh. After training we sat down together for lunch and had fun and I think they enjoyed this mentality after the stricter regimes they had experienced abroad.
Everybody joined in, none more so than Dennis Bergkamp, the quietly spoken genius, who even embraced Ian Wright’s sense of humour after he got up to his old tricks by drawing on Dennis’s underpants while they were hung up in the dressing room.
The tradition of Arsenal lives on for ever and I’m lucky to have been part of the history. There were many special times at Highbury; scoring a goal against Valencia in the first leg of a Champions League quarter final.
But the goal that sticks vividly in my mind however is Tony’s winner against Everton - a left-foot half-volley straight in the corner to clinch the league championship. An amazing moment, an amazing goal, from the boot of one of my best mates.
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