Stack - Why I stand by that punch at Beveren

Graham Stack
Graham Stack

Graham Stack’s loan spell to Beveren was eventful to say the least.

Our academy graduate joined the Belgian side on loan in 2002 and although he featured in every game, his European stint is perhaps best remembered for the confrontation he had with two Royal Antwerp fans during a heated derby game.

"They had issues in the past with their hooligans,” Stack told our In Lockdown podcast. “Anyway, we were winning 3-1 and I'd been hit by countless objects during the game. When the third goal came in, I decided to lob one or two back, which I probably shouldn't have done - but I did. 
"At the stadium, this big steel gate was just getting rattled for fun. I was thinking, 'There's no way they can push that gate through' but there was just one elderly steward there at the time. I'm thinking, 'If they do get this gate through, this bloke's not going to do much'. 
"The game was still going on at the time and then there was just a bit of a hush around the stadium. Then I've turned around and the gate's been opened. Naturally, the game was going on so I didn't want to leave the pitch because I was still involved. I was just hoping that they would get off the pitch or go elsewhere, or that stewards would come on and stop it, but it didn't quite work out like that. 
"I ended up being confronted by two fellas. One was slightly more intoxicated than the other but they were both physically ready to have a punch up. It just so happened that I've defended myself as best as I could, one of them has ended up on the floor and the other has ended up back-peddling. 
"The publicity really did grow from the back of that and I got a load of really positive press from supporters up and down the leagues, from grassroots to the top flight, telling me it was the right thing to do. I still stand by that and I would stand by any goalkeeper that stood and defended himself. I think it's absolutely wrong for anyone to enter the field of play at any time. 
"The FA came down quite strong on the team but then they also said that they didn't want me to play in the return leg at Antwerp due to the potential trouble. I also took the stance that it would be wrong for me to do that, because they win. I was looking forward to the game so much because I knew the atmosphere would be red-hot and I wanted to play. 
"I ended up playing the game and we lost 1-0 on the day, but after that so many clubs realised I was on loan from Arsenal - a 19-year-old - and I was playing week in, week out. 
"It did grab the attention of a lot of clubs and coaches, so it ended up being a real positive for me. I spoke to Arsène after the incident and my wellbeing and safety was paramount to him. I was happy with staying over there. My kids have seen it now and they think it's great."

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