To Hell (and Baku): the Arsenal team you’d pick to deliver against the Devil’s Eleven
If Arsenal were to play a fictitious game a match in hell against a team made up of peak 1970’s dirty Leeds United, Wimbledon’s 1980’s crazy gang and the 1960’s Italian assassins all rolled into one. In a foreign stadium in front of the most intimidating fans on the planet. A must-win fixture for The Arsenal. A special type of player is required that would give everything and be prepared to die for the shirt. Who would bow down to nobody. All my players must be Arsenal to the core. Who would I pick to play for us from the past?
As this cauldron of hate would be no place for today’s pampered players. It will take players who were focused and would deliver, despite extreme provocation and rise above it all to deliver the sweetest of victories against all the odds:
BOB WILSON is my keeper. The most courageous goalkeeper I’ve ever seen. A man who wouldn’t hesitate to put his head in amongst the flying boots. Arsenal through and through who loves the club and knows exactly what it means to play for the Gunners.
PAT RICE is my right back. A man who worked harder than any player I know to get to the standard to be an Arsenal player. Pat was perfect Arsenal man to teach the “Arsenal Way” to the young Arsenal youth players like Ray Parlour.
NIGEL WINTERBURN is my left back. There were more talented left backs such as Kenny Sansom or Ashley Cole. But there was no finer competitor when your back was against the wall than Nutty Nigel who loved a tackle and went in like an express train.
FRANK McLINTOCK is one of my centre backs. Uncompromising inspirational leader from the Gorbals. You would want Frank to be beside you in the trenches. Team mates would run through brick walls for Frank.
TONY ADAMS would be my other centre back. Mr Arsenal was a born leader who demanded the highest of standards from his colleagues. The bigger the game the better TA played nothing would faze him. A fantastic winning mentality.
PATRICK VIEIRA is in the engine room in the centre of the park. A player who excelled in the heat of battle. A midfield colossus who was physically intimidating and who bowed down to nobody. A powerhouse of a player.
PETER STOREY would partner Paddy in midfield. A true warrior who struck fear into his opponents. A legendary enforcer that took no prisoners. But that wasn’t all there was to Peter. People don’t realise what a talented player he was. He could play as well as being hard as nails.
DAVID ROCASTLE is wide right. Rocky knew what it meant to be an Arsenal player. “Remember who you, what you are and who you represent” was his motto. Such a skilful player but relished the physical battle. Wouldn’t show one iota of trepidation when playing against the likes of Stuart Pearce or Norman Whiteside. Rocky would mix it with anyone.
GEORGE ARMSTRONG is wide left. Geordie played in the era of the hatchet men and thrived in that era. Nobody kicked Geordie out the game. He would run forever and a full back couldn’t ask for a better back up when the defence was under the cosh. Geordie was so reliable. There wasn’t a more consistent player or finer crosser of the ball in the game.
JOHN RADFORD would lead the line for me. Strong and powerful. If defenders tried to kick him Raddy would give as good as he got. An underrated player who worked his socks off for the team. Brilliant in the air and so unselfish. The perfect partner for my other striker.
IAN WRIGHT would partner big Raddy upfront. He would love all the intelligent knock downs from Raddy. Wrighty grew up playing in non-league football and was used to playing against rough house defenders. He had a nasty edge to his game and had a fierce temper. But put him one on one against any keeper and he’d be ice cool. The best out and out finisher Arsenal ever had.
So there you have it. That is my team to win this one off game. Not the greatest Arsenal team. There is no Brady, Bergkamp or Henry for instance but one that would do us proud in surviving in the most hostile of environments to deliver a result as if their very lives depended on it in this special one off imaginary match. Apologies to Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Steve Williams, Joe Baker, Ted Drake and Wilf Copping who I’m sure would all have given a great account of themselves.
As always thanks for reading. What do you all think?
Started going to Highbury in ’66. Season ticket holder since ’76. Love The Arsenal. Need I say more?