When Stack saved AND scored a penalty on his debut

Graham Stack
Graham Stack

We've seen some dramatic debuts over the years, but few have been as memorable as Graham Stack's League Cup display against Rotherham in 2003.

Speaking exclusively to our In Lockdown podcast, Stack explained why his first game as a Gunner will live long in the memory.

"It was my first game at Highbury so I'd got new gloves, and I thought I'd save them for the game," Stack said. "You shouldn't wear new gloves straight out of the packet, it's just common sense for keepers, especially if it's wet.
"I'd worn the gloves the previous day and they felt absolutely fine. Then I wore another set for the warm-up, and then switched into my new ones for the game. I remember being out there and taking a ball out with me for the warm-up, and I could not get any grip - it was like a bar of soap. I actually couldn't hold a thing and I was a bag of nerves thinking, 'If someone has a shot, it's going to go straight through my hands'. 
"To have that negativity... Someone had a shot early on and I made a decent save, and that just put my mind at rest. I'd gone out there panicking but I was coming for crosses, kicking quite well. Looking back on the game, which I've done numerous times with my children, I actually played really well in the game and was seconds away from a clean sheet.
"You think the dream's over when that happens but then it was incredible the way it ended. Darren Byfield had scored a goal, a cut-back, it goes to extra-time and then the biggest thing in my mind was going through because I wanted to play another game. They had their keeper sent off in extra-time and then it went to penalties. 
"I went from that anxious nervousness to excitement. If I could save a penalty on my debut, it would be unbelievable and would live with me forever. Regardless or whether we won or lost, I just knew that I had to save a penalty on my debut at Highbury. I saved one, so I was over the moon with that, and then it kept going. 
"They kept scoring, we kept scoring, and there weren't actually many bad penalties. The one I saved was a poor penalty but then the score was getting out of hand. They were pointing at me to take one because someone must have gone off or couldn't take one, so they were calling me forward to take one. 
"Now I'm stepping up to the ball and thinking, 'Blimey, I could score, save one and go through'. I've ended up scoring it, sticking it in the side netting, and then they scored the next one before Sylvain scored again. So we went through 9-8 winners on penalties. It's not really until you look back on that where you think, 'Blimey, you couldn't have put a better script together if you tried'."

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