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Steve Williams. Never gave less than his all, never short of an opinion.

Steven Charles Williams known to the world as Steve was born on 12 July 1958 in Romford, Essex and is number 38 in the list of the 50 greatest players of Arsenal, as elected by Arsenal supporters.

He was loved because he was very much a man who loved Arsenal and he was never anything but committed to the cause.

But he started out at Southampton, and played his first match for them against Portsmouth on 6 April 1976; an interesting fact given that his first match for Arsenal was against Tottenham.

During his time at Southampton he played in a league cup final, became captain of the club, played in the FA cup semi-final and took the club to runners’ up in the first division in 1984 – their best ever performance.

But this was a team employing a tough tackling, often illegal, approach to football under Lawrie McMenemy, a man who once said that his team had to kick Arsenal a lot “because they’ve got better players than we have”.

When McMenemy found he could get his team to kick their way no further things started to fall apart and in December 1984 Steve Williams asked for a transfer.  Don Howe at Arsenal responded at once, announcing publicly that he wanted to sign Steve Williams, which he did in December 1984 for what was then the club record fee of £550,000.  Steve had played 349 times for Southampton.

His first game, as I said, was against top of the table Tottenham on 1 January 1985 where he came on as a sub in a 1-2 home defeat for the last two minutes.  He had a few words to say about that.

This left the league table looking like this

    P W D L F A Pt
1 Tottenham Hotspur 23 14 4 5 47 23 46
2 Everton 23 14 4 5 49 29 46
3 Manchester United 23 12 5 6 46 29 41
4 Arsenal 23 12 3 8 43 30 39
5 Sheffield Wednesday 23 10 8 5 37 24 38
6 Southampton 23 10 7 6 29 27 37
7 Nottingham Forest 23 11 3 9 36 34 36
8 Chelsea 23 9 8 6 39 28 35
9 Liverpool 23 9 8 6 29 22 35
10 West Bromwich Albion 23 10 4 9 37 34 34

Steve Williams went on to play 14 games that season, scoring his first Arsenal goal against Leicester on 16 March 1985.

But the club was in decline, and Don Howe was moving slowly towards the end of his tenure – he left during the following season.   Arsenal finished the 1984/5 season in 7th and also went out of the cup to York City in round four, a match Steve played in.

    P W D L F A Pt
1 Everton 42 28 6 8 88 43 90
2 Liverpool 42 22 11 9 68 35 77
3 Tottenham Hotspur 42 23 8 11 78 51 77
4 Manchester United 42 22 10 10 77 47 76
5 Southampton 42 19 11 12 56 47 68
6 Chelsea 42 18 12 12 63 48 66
7 Arsenal 42 19 9 14 61 49 66
8 Sheffield Wednesday 42 17 14 11 58 45 65
9 Nottingham Forest 42 19 7 16 56 48 64
10 Aston Villa 42 15 11 16 60 60 56

Arsenal won just seven games that season after Steve’s first appearance as a sub, and clearly other changes were needed.  But injury stopped Steve making a major impact in his second season at Highbury, and he played just 17 league games as Arsenal again finished seventh and Steve Burtenshaw took over as manager.

Under George Graham Steve got his first start in match 6, a 0-0 away draw with Luton.  He kept his place for 19 games until injury again forced him out, during which Arsenal lost only one match.

But although he missed the “one nil down two one up” semi final games against Tottenham in the league cup, he did play in the final, and won a League Cup winners’ medal in the “Liverpool never lose when Rush scores” final.

This was the team that had Williams at number 4 – replacing Robson who later gained notoriety as a commentator (and who according to commentaries, Steve really didn’t like or rate), with Viv Anderson at 2 and David Rocastle at 7, with Steve Williams as the man who made it all happen.

England recognised his talents and he won six caps – five earned during his Arsenal residency.  International recognition duly came and Williams went onto win six caps for England, all earned while at the Club.

Eventually Steve was dropped in favour of Micky Thomas in the team that now had Lee Dixon playing at right back.  He finally left in July 1988 having played his last game in a 4-2 defeat away to Southampton on 9 April.  I remember it well – I was there.   In total he played 121 games for Arsenal, scoring five goals.

Years Team League Games League Goals
1976–1984 Southampton 279 18
1984–1988 Arsenal 95 4
1988–1991 Luton Town 40 1
1991–1993 Exeter City 48 0
1993 Derry City 2 0

Steve Williams was assistant manager at Exeter and he retired in 1993 moving into magazine publishing, followed by the property development company Angela and Steve Williams Ltd.

I bet none of his tenants are late paying the rent.

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2 comments to Steve Williams. Never gave less than his all, never short of an opinion.

  • Darrell FitzGerald

    I was the club accountant at Exeter City club and of course I met Steve Williams and I was not impressed, firstly he was not a well mannered person and prone to outburts of temper indeed some players from other teams would have loved to meet Williams after games, due to his late tackles and vocal abuse, but Williams could never be found but most of all the wonderful Alan Ball brought Williams to the club as his assistant and Williams repaid him by spying on him and relaying details to the CEO who Alan Ball had little respect for, due to CEO power mad approach, needless to say that when Alan Ball left the club for another managers posistion the friendship that was formed at Southampton finished

  • Nigel

    Although a current England international with six caps, whilst with Southampton, when Steve Williams signed for Arsenal in December 1984 he was never capped again.

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