By Tony Attwood
What I want in writing these profiles of players – especially profiles of players I remember from my youth, is that they have done ok in life. For most professionals the period that you can spend playing professionally is at most 16 to 18 years. But then what? The transition is not always easy.
Maybe they have only had a minor career at Arsenal (minor that is in comparison with some of the great names, but massively major in comparison with the likes of me who never even got near playing semi-pro let alone in the top division) but I want them to have found a good life after that.
Not necessarily a public life, but a life in which they fit in, and hopefully find happiness.
I don’t know how happy Brian Hornsby has been and is now – I sure hope his life is ok – but here I think we find a fellow who has made the adjustment to life beyond the game, and found his continuing connection with football at the same time.
Brian Hornsby was born 10 September 1954, in Cambridgeshire. He came up through local football at Peterborough, and got caps at schoolboy and youth level for England.
Brian joined Arsenal as soon as he left school, in 1970, and was part of the Youth Cup winning team in 1971. Their achievement was of course a little overshadowed by the FA Cup and League double, but it was very much (for those of us into such things) a treble, and the success of the youth team made many of us hope that Arsenal’s bright future under Bertie Mee and co would continue for a decade or two.
In September 1971 he signed professional forms and made his first team debut on 9 May 1973 in the last game of the season. The season was over by then, and Arsenal were second, and the side put out was not the strongest – Arsenal lost 6-1.
In 1973/4 Brian made six first team starts and 3 appearances as a sub, scoring three goals in the attacking midfield role. 1974/5 gave him 12 starts and three more goals, and then in 1975/6 it was four starts – and that was that.
He was released by Arsenal when Bertie Mee resigned as manager, and he signed for Shrewsbury Town in May 1976 for £40,000.
At this lower level of football not surprisingly, things were very different and he instantly shone, playing 75 games for Shrewsbury over two before being signed by Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday for £45,000.
The story is told that the always very odd Jack Charlton took his Wednesday team to Shrewsbury just before the transfer, and he told the Wednesday player Jeff Johnson “You’re up against the lad Hornsby, he’s a very skilful player … I’m buying him to replace you”.
By 1978/9 Brian was top scorer for Wednesday and played in the FA cup matches against Arsenal including the game on 15 January 1979 – the second replay, played at Leicester.
The Arsenal team on the day was
- Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Price, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix
with Brady and Sunderland getting the goals.
Brian Hornsby, who scored a penalty for Wednesday, was naturally interviewed by the press about his old and new clubs, operating two divisions apart. He declared there was nothing between them, while philosophising that as Arsenal had tried three different formations in taking on Wednesday and trying to win the tie, they would now be far more worried than Wednesday who always play the same way. Ultimately in the fourth replay Arsenal prevailed 2-0 and went on to win the cup.
In October 1980 Brian suffered a hamstring injury and that injury marked the start of the decline in his career. He played briefly in Canada, and played for Carlisle and Chesterfield before playing for IK Brage in Sweden, and then Falu FK as player-manager.
Finally back in England he finished his career with Spalding Utd and Holbeach Utd.
So a varied footballing career for a man clearly not averse to taking the chance in a foreign country. And so we might expect that he would be able to develop a new career thereafter.
According to Wiki, Brian is now back in Peterborough, where it all started and has a business involved in summer houses.
But more to the point from a football perspective, Wiki says that for more than 15 years he has been captain of the Arsenal F.C. ex-professionals and celebrity team raising money for charities and the Arsenal Trust. Wiki also says he is also involved with the charity Action Medical Research and along with friend Tony Hadley undertook a trek to Machu Picchu to raise funds for the charity.
Now although there are occasional old references to Arsenal Ex-Professionals on the internet a search of Arsenal.com reveals nothng, which is a shame.
Do you know if it is still running? I’ll try and find out more from Arsenal.com. But whether they still play or not, it looks like Brian, the man, has adapted to life after football and put a lot back as well. And that makes me feel good.
The Anniversary files now have over 4000 entries, and are now divided into six sections:
If you would like to contribute an article to this site, please see this note on submissions etc.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal