Slack Jaw 17 September 1988
Of all the players you could have picked to be the first to be banned based on video evidence, Paul Davis would surely have been low on your list.
Arsenal were playing an early season game against Southampton at Highbury in September 1988 and things were not going too well. They found themselves two goals down, but had pulled one back and were pressing for the equaliser when the Saints’ Glenn Cockerill fell to the ground in the middle of the pitch. Very few people in the ground saw what had happened and the officials certainly didn’t have a clue. But ITN’s cameras had picked up that Arsenal’s previously mild-mannered midfield maestro had connected with a full blooded left hook which broke Cockerill’s jaw and they made the most of the footage on that evenings news bulletins.
Cockerill revealed in a newspaper interview years later that they’d been having a running verbal battle during the game but that he didn’t feel it was anything out of the ordinary. Davis obviously had a different view but, to my knowledge, has never elaborated on the incident.
Davis was subsequently fined £3,000 and banned by the FA for an unprecedented nine games. He had started the season brilliantly and was in the frame for a first England call-up, but this incident put paid to that and he finished his career without the caps his ability deserved. The team did manage to scramble a late equaliser against Southampton (in the 98th minute!) and Kevin Richardson grasped his opportunity while Davis was suspended to play a significant role as we eventually ended the season as champions, courtesy of a rather dull last game of the season at Anfield.. Andy Wynn
A Wright Howler 12 December 1992
Wrighty always played with a fire in his belly and that undoubtedly helped him be as successful as he was. However, there was always a feeling that he was also a bit of a loose cannon who could go off at any time and, whilst such occasions were rare, this incident during the North London derby at White Hart Lane in December 1992 provided compelling evidence of a malicious streak.
Wright, who was taking some abuse from the everfriendly home fans on “The Shelf” about his lack of goals for the national side, was not getting much service from our midfield trio of Jensen, Hillier and Parlour and was visibly getting more frustrated. His mood was helped when we had what appeared to be a nailed-on penalty turned down by referee, Alf Buksh, who would feature on the front cover of the next issue of The Gooner as we proclaimed that Christmas was the time of goodwill to all men “apart from Alf Buksh”. However, although play had been punctuated by fouls at regular intervals, there had been nothing particularly malicious, so why Wrighty decided to land a right hander on David Howells in the centre of the pitch with the ball at least 30 yards away is a mystery which even Ian was unable to explain in his subsequent autobiography.
Predictably, Buksh didn’t see it – well, he hadn’t seen anything else that day – and therefore it was trial by TV again. Wrighty picked up a three match ban and a hefty fine . Sarah-Jane Butler Malcolm in the Middle 4 November 1989
David O’Leary made more appearances for Arsenal than any other player (722) and this game against Norwich City at Highbury in November 1989 was probably one of the most incident-packed games of his career. Not only was it the game when he surpassed George Armstrong’s previous record of 621, but he scored a rare goal to tie the scores at 3-3 (after Norwich had led 2-0 and 3-2). He was also involved in a number of bad-tempered tussles with the annoying Malcolm Allen, one of which resulted in the usually placid O’Leary picking Allen off the turf by the scruff of his neck and dragging him towards the referee. However, the reason this game is featured is here is because of the injury time dust-up which followed our late winner.
We were awarded our second penalty of the game and Lee Dixon, who had just become our first choice penalty taker and converted the earlier one, again took responsibility, but his shot was parried by Bryan Gunn and the ball ran loose in the six yard box. Players from both sides converged on it and although Dixon got there first and scrambled it over the line, Alan Smith was also bundled into the back of the net by three Norwich defenders, one of whom (Mark Bowen?) gave him a kick as he tried to get out which provoked the mass brawl involving every player on the pitch apart from John Lukic, who later pointed out that the length of the pitch was a long way to run for a bit of pushing and shoving! If memory serves me right, the Old Bill had to come onto the pitch to separate the warring factions and there were more heated exchanges when the final whistle was blown seconds later.
Predictably enough, the FA subsequently got involved and although Norwich were fined £50,000 for being the aggressors compared to our £20,000 fine, this incident was the reason we would be dealt more harshly than Manchester United in the following season’s dust-up Mike Francis
Master Class July 2011
There is no such thing as a meaningless game between Arsenal and Tottenham. Just ask David Hillier. He was playing for the Gunners team of ex-pros in the London Masters tournament at Wembley in July and was on the receiving end of what I think we can describe as a robust challenge from Darren Caskey (and, to be fair, any challenge from Caskey these days carries a fair amount of weight). Clearly smarting from the fact that the Spuds were winning the game, Hillier attempted retribution by swinging a haymaker at Caskey and, for a split second, it looked like it was all going to kick-off. But the referee was quick to intervene and send them both to the sin-bin to cool-off. Hillier appeared to be carrying on the debate as they left the pitch, but by the time the Sky Sports pitchside interviewer reached them 30 seconds later, they were best of friends. Mike Francis
Are there any we’ve missed out? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org onlinegooner.com 11