1993 Pre-season: Osama bin Laden spotted at Highbury – we reveal the chant

By Tony Attwood


In the season 1992/3 Arsenal won the Cup Double – the first ever club to do so, playing 17 FA and League Cup matches en route.

It was a matter of great pride and success, and yet it came at the expense of the league.  40 goals in 42 league games – fewer than even Nottingham Forest who came bottom.  Arsenal came 10th which sounds ok, but were just nine points off relegation.

But amidst the gloom of eight consecutive games without a win during which Arsenal scored two goals, there were occasional highlights, like the re-signing of Martin Keown on 4 February 1993, to replace the about to retire David O’Leary.

As the club headed for the finals (with five rounds having to be replayed because of draws) Arsenal knocked up on 3 March 1993 the unenviable record of 12 consecutive games in which neither side scored more than one goal.  This run stretched on to two league wins in 15.

As the season ended some youth players came in – on 6 May 1993 Gavin McGowan and Scott Marshall got their debuts.  McGowan had won the youth cup, and ultimately played seven league games.  Marshall played 23 league games before moving on to Brentford.

It ended in the league with Arsenal 1 Tottenham 3 on 11 May 1993. Only 26,393 turned up.

On 15 May 1993 as Arsenal played the second of three final games against Sheffield W (two in the FA Cup one in the League Cup) “Shouting for the gunners” enters the hit parade and on 17 May 1993: David O’Leary’s farewell game v Manchester United.  He played 622 games for Arsenal before going into management, where he was involved with Leeds.


Arsenal’s problem was obviously scoring goals.  Wright had scored 15 in the league, second best was Merson with six.  But the solution was already in the club – Campbell who got four in 1992/3 was seen (rightly) as the solution and from the off we saw why.  Not only could he score goals (he got 14 in 1993/4) he also distracted defenders from Ian Wright whose goalscoring shot up to 23 in the league.

On 20 July 1993: Eddie McGoldrick played his first match – an opening friendly v Orient.  He had played 147 matches for Crystal Palace where he had played alongside Ian Wright and went on to play 57 games for Arsenal.  The result was a 3-3 draw, Wright, Merson and Limpar scoring.

There then followed a three match series in South Africa and a final friendly at Charlton

  • 25 July 1993: Arsenal 2 Man U 0 (Wright, 2 pens)
  • 28 July 1993: Orlando Pirates 0 Arsenal 1 (Smith)
  • 31 July 1993: Kaiser Chiefs 0 Arsenal 1 (Campbell)
  • 3 August 1993: Charlton Athletic 2 Arsenal 1. (Wright)

The on 7 August 1993 Eddie McGoldrick’s first “proper” game; the Charity Shield against Man U again.   It was a 1-1 draw which sent the game to penalties, Man U winning 5-4 with Wright and Seaman missing their penalties.


Dixon (Keown) Linighan Adams Winterburn

Jensen Davis Merson Limpar (McGoldrick)

Wright Campbell

What happened next

On 11 August 1993 Colin Pates transferred to Brighton after a loan move, having made just 16 league starts for Arsenal and so the league began … with an awful defeat 0-3 at home to Coventry…

However there was a recovery with four straight wins including a 0-1 at White Hart Lane, although the goals were still a bit hard to come by, Arsenal scoring six and letting in three in this opening spell.

Then on 28 August 1993 Ian Wright’s single, “Do the Wright Thing” entered the charts although fortunately for the lovers of quality music, disappeared again a week later.

A draw against Blackburn and then a 4-0 thumping of Ipswich put Arsenal in a good mood for the opening of the Cup Winners’ Cup on 15 September 1993, when they beat Odense BK 2-1 away.   The return leg was a 1-1 draw but Arsenal were on the way again.

But what, you are saying, is this about bin Laden.

Well, during 1993/4 he is reported in many sources as being an occasional visitor to Arsenal, and a supporter – particularly being seen at the European Cup-Winners’ Cup campaign which of course resulted in victory.

Indeed there are reports of him buying a replica shirt for one of his sons in the club shop at Highbury.

Of course there is no verification other than the fact that the story does turn up in a number of books including several biographies of him including Bin Laden: Behind The Mask Of Terror, by Adam Robinson.  Plus on 11 November 2001, the BBC reported that Arsenal had barred the terrorist from Highbury.  In their commentary they suggest Bin Laden favoured the Clock End.  So that’s all right.  I was in the East at the time.

Sometime after the story came out, so did the chant,

Osama, woah-woah,

Osama, woah-waoh,

He’s hiding in Kabul,

He loves the Arsenal

The only problem was his tendency to come out of his cave shouting “Come on you gunners”.

And that was it, apart from this footnote from that famous summer…

15 August 1993: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain born.  He was a youth player with Southampton, playing in their first team in 2010/11 before joining Arsenal.


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