9 June: Arsenal legend told he’s not good enough to play for Arsenal.

Martin Keown signed for Arsenal in 1980 under Terry Neill and made his début during Don Howe’s reign, went on loan to Brighton in 1985, and then was transferred to Aston Villa after George Graham had come to power.  He was re-signed by Graham near the end of his (Graham’s) reign, and then strode into his pomp as a  player of supreme brilliance.  He played 311 league games for Arsenal after his return, including one against Manchester United which none of us will ever forget.

If a player ever showed desire, commitment and utter, total and absolute belief in our club it was Martin Keown having a nice little chat on September 21 2003 with that Van Nistelroy fellow.   To take the issue of a player cheating, and of him being supported in this endeavour by the ref, and let the player and the world know what he thinks takes courage, and Martin showed it that day.

He was, and forever will be, one of us.

Martin was born in 1966, and won nine trophies with Arsenal as well as getting 43 caps for England.  He since worked for Arsenal as a coach and scout, and is a pundit on a whole variety of stations.  He is also played for Wembley FC in the FA Cup.

He joined Arsenal in 1980 as a schoolboy and after the Brighton affair started out for Arsenal for the first time on 23 November 1985 but only got 22 games before Graham moved him on.  Villa were in a state of near-terminal decline, for having won the league and Euro Cup they were within a couple of years fighting relegation and sacking managers.  Martin played for Villa in the second division and got them back into the first, before being sold to Everton.   They meandered around mid-table and eventually, Graham brought Martin back.

The club had Linighan, Bould, Adams and Keown at this time and at first Martin missed out on the Cup Double (he was cup tied) and the Cup Winners Cup final.  But then came Mr Wenger.

Martin won the Double in 1998 and 2002 and of course won the league in 2004.  His last season gave us all a lot of good feelings for him as he was regularly brought on in the last ten seconds of a match in order to qualify for his 10 games to get a medal.   Quite often as he would prepare to come on at the end, one of the other subs would run on instead and then feign surprise that it was Martin and not he who was being invited to play for ten seconds.

He subsequently had a few games for Leicester and Reading, before finally retiring from playing – at least until returning for the FA Cup where he played with Ray Parlour, with David Seaman as goalkeeping coach.

Although of course I don’t know Martin at all, I love the way he talks on TV, his calmness and knowledge, and the fact that he has never tried to push himself as a big time operator.  After retiring, for example, he went to coach for Newbury FC, and coached the Oxford University team.  OK not my favourite University but still, a great thing to do, without fuss, just done because he lives there and he can help.

And now the roll call of honours – the roll call of a man who was shipped off to the sinking Aston Villa, but a man who never once stopped believing.

Every one of these honours is with Arsenal – the other clubs never got a look in.

  • Premier League: 1997–98, 2001–02, 2003–04
  • FA Cup: 1997–98, 2001–02, 2002–03
  • UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1993–94
  • FA Community Shield: 1998, 1999, 2002

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal 

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