All aboard the time machine and its back to the 1990’s for the latest Highbury Hero. He’s the most decorated goalkeeper ever to play for The Arsenal, who also made more appearances for the club than any other goalkeeper. It’s our genial giant Yorkshireman. It’s “”Safe Hands” David Seaman.
The famous back four got plenty of plaudits and rightly so. But the Fab Four had a wonderful goalkeeper behind them in David Seaman. Standing 6 foot 4 inches tall David was an imposing figure in the Arsenal goal for opposition players.
Seaman was outstanding in every aspect of the art of goalkeeping. A natural athlete with superb agility and reflexes. He had an extraordinary presence in the penalty area which gave great confidence and reassurance to the defenders playing in front of him. In his deep Yorkshire accent he’d calmly tell the players what position to take up when the opposition had a set piece.
His handling was immaculate. David controlled and dominated his area and was excellent at coming for crosses. His kicking and throwing were also first class. He had marvellous positional sense and was a master at getting his angles right when opposing players were either shooting or bearing in on goal. His huge frame made him look so intimidating to strikers, when going one-on-one with him or taking a penalty against him.
David had a great temperament never flustered, even when making a rare mistake, as all keepers do, even the great ones like Seaman, it wouldn’t affect his game. He had the great character and professionalism to come back all the stronger from any setback.
This is what Bob Wilson said about him “David Seaman’s consistency is second to none. For the vast majority of his time at Arsenal, he conceded fewer goals per season, or second fewer, than any other keeper at the top level. On the training field he always demands perfection of himself. When a shot escapes him that should have been saved, he reacts with genuine anger at himself. If he pulls off a wonder stop, a loud deep chuckle will ensue. He loves his job, goalkeeping in general and appreciates the lifestyle it affords him”.
Born in Rotherham on the 19th September 1963 David started his career with Leeds United where he understudied John Lukic, the man who he would later replace at Arsenal.
Leeds let David go without playing a game for them to Peterborough United in the 4th Division for £4,000 in August 1982. He played for them for two seasons and it was there he toughened up and learned how to handle the physical buffeting that goalkeepers take from the forwards.
In October 1984 he went to Birmingham City in the 2nd Division for £100,000. He won promotion to the top flight in his first season there but the following season they were relegated. However Seaman stayed in Division One as Queens Park Rangers paid £225,000, in August 1986 for his services. It was there he first worked with another legendary Arsenal keeper Bob Wilson. It was also whilst there that Seaman got his first full England cap.
Arsenal tried to do a swap deal with QPR for Seaman with John Lukic going to QPR on loan, shortly before the end of the 1989-90 season but the deal collapsed when John Lukic didn’t want to sign for QPR.
George Graham went back in for Seaman at the end of the season and saw off competition from Manchester United to sign David for £1.3 million, a British record fee for a goalkeeper. John Lukic went back to Leeds United. He was a crowd favourite at Highbury and many supporters were angry at him being sold to accommodate David Seaman. George Graham looked on it as an upgrade for Arsenal saying “John Lukic is one of the best keepers around, but David Seaman is the best”.
When George Graham asked Bob Wilson for his assessment of David Seaman Bob told him “Buying the Rangers keeper wouldn’t be a risk; he could be as good as, if not better than, Pat Jennings”.
David soon won the Arsenal fans over and was outstanding as Arsenal won the Title at a canter in 1990-91, losing just one game and Seaman who played all 38 games, kept 24 clean sheets and conceded just 18 goals.
The medals kept on coming for David as Arsenal won the domestic cup double in 1992-93. Playing a big part in The Arsenal winning the League Cup and FA Cup beating Sheffield Wednesday in both finals, needing a replay to lift the FA Cup. Before the FA Cup Final David found a good luck note that Bob Wilson had put in his bag saying simply “1930 Preedy, 1936 A. Wilson, 1950 Swindon, 1971 R. Wilson, 1979 Jennings, 1993 Seaman?”. Before another one of Arsenal’s FA Cup Finals Bob left a pair of his old green cotton goalkeeping gloves on the bench in the Wembley dressing room with a note for David saying ” If I could play well in these, there can be no excuse for you today”.
The following season 1993-94 Seaman was again superb in the Cup Winners Cup Final in Copenhagen, withstanding a bombardment on his goal, with Seaman saving everything Parma threw at him, as Arsenal hung on to lift the trophy 1-0 with an early Alan Smith goal.
1994-95 Arsenal again reached the Cup Winners Cup Final, facing the Spanish side Real Zaragoza in Paris. With the game heading towards a penalty shoot out Nayim chipped the ball forty yards to agonisingly go over Seaman and though he got a hand to it he couldn’t keep it from going into the net. People have been very critical of David for that goal. But as Bob Wilson says Goalkeepers have to play the percentage game on what is most likely to happen and David positioned himself perfectly moving off his line to cover the possibility of a through ball to Juan Esnaider. What people also forget is the heroic part David played in the penalty shoot out when he performed wonders to save three spot kicks to knock Sampdoria out in the semi-final to take us to the final. But despite Bob telling David Nayim’s goal was a fluke Seaman still blamed himself, was in tears and inconsolable after the gameSeaman is the hero in the penalty shoot out with Sampdoria
When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury more trophies and medals followed for Seaman. The Double in 1997-98. Another Double in 2001-02. In his final season at Arsenal in 2002-03 David won a fourth FA Cup Winners medal and had the honour of captaining the side and lifting the trophy, after their 1-0 win over Southampton, when Robert Pires scored the winner. It was fitting that Seaman kept a clean sheet in his last ever game for The Arsenal.
Also that last season Seaman made his greatest ever save in the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United up at Old Trafford. It was Seaman’s first game for a month, following a hamstring injury and six minutes from time with Arsenal leading 1-0 from a Freddie Ljungberg goal, Paul Peschisolido’s header seemed certain to be going in the back of the net when David pulled off an almost impossible save, throwing himself backwards stretching one of his big paws out to somehow claw the ball away to safety. Peter Schmeichel a BBC pundit that day called it “One of the greatest saves he’d ever seen”. It was also appropriate that Seaman made his greatest ever save in his 1,000th senior game.That magnificent save by Seaman
Unfortunately time catches up to everyone eventually, even one of the greats like David Seaman and Injuries were becoming more frequent and taking longer to recover from. Seaman joined Manchester City in 2003-04 He only managed 19 games due to injury, before calling it a day and hanging up his gloves in January 2004 at the age of 40.
David had a long and distinguished international career making his debut in 1988 and winning his 75th and last England cap in 2002. He played in many major tournaments and became a national hero and was picked in the team of the tournament at Euro 96. He had a brilliant tournament making two world class saves against Scotland a penalty save from Gary McAllister and another save from Gordon Durie which was reminiscent of Gordon Banks save against Pele in 1970. David was also England’s hero in the quarter-final when he saved a spot kick in the penalty shoot out against Spain to knock them out the tournament.
Seaman also had a great tournament at the World Cup in France in 1998. But sadly he will always be remembered for getting beaten from a free kick from Ronaldinho when Brazil beat England in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final. He’d been having another fine tournament when disaster struck and Ronaldinho chipped it over Seaman and into the net. As for the Nayim goal Bob Wilson said his starting position was perfect. But now the first thing people mention when talking about Seaman and England is that goal and not all the great games and brilliant saves he’d made for England.Bob Wilson talks about the Nayim and Ronaldinho goals
David Seaman was Arsenal’s goalkeeper for thirteen seasons. He was incredibly consistent over that long period. He won nine trophies in that time, three League Titles, four FA Cups, won the Double twice, he also won the League Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. No other Arsenal keeper comes close to that trophy haul. He remains the most successful Arsenal goalkeeper of all time.He made 564 appearances for Arsenal keeping 238 clean sheets again no other Arsenal keeper can match those figures.Great compilation of Seaman saves with tributes from George Graham and Arsene Wenger
I’ve watched every Arsenal goalkeeper from Jim Furnell to Petr Cech and in my opinion David Seaman is the best of the lot. Seaman Seaman Seaman Seaman!
As always thanks for reading
Started going to Highbury in ’66. Season ticket holder since ’76. Love The Arsenal. Need I say more?