In this edition of the 300+ club, we will be looking at some of the Irish players at Arsenal who have made over 300 appearances for the club. It’s hard to believe that for such a small Island there was a time when some of the best we had would go to be some of the best ever seen, be it John Giles at Leeds, Ronnie Whelan at Liverpool or Roy Keane at United to name a few. However, this is all about Arsenal so we will be looking at greats such as Liam Brady, David O’Leary and we will also have a brief look at Frank Stapleton and Pat Rice.
“Don’t put too much pressure on Jack Wilshere… in years to come I think he will be an Arsenal great like Liam Brady” the words of Paul Merson. Indeed the 61-year-old Dubliner is a great of the club making over 307 appearances with 59 goals to his name, a winner of the PFA Player of the year, affectionately known as ‘Chippy’. Liam Brady was ahead of his time as a player with a sublime left foot and the vision to pick out the perfect pass. He joined Arsenal as teenager in the ’70s and remained there until 1980. Brady’s time will always be remembered with fondness. Who will ever forget that goal against Spurs in ’78, his performance against Juventus in the 1979-80 Cup Winners Cup semi-finals, and while Alan Sunderland scored that goal in that famous “five-minute” FA Cup final of ’79 let’s not forget it was that cross from Brady earning him his only major honor at the club. After his time at Arsenal he moved onto Italy playing for various clubs, one of them being Juventus and winning two league titles. Six years after retiring from football, Brady returned to Arsenal to take up the role of Head of Youth Development – only recently giving up the post. He can now be seen on RTE television as a regular pundit on Ireland games as well Champions League games.
The nation holds its breath. David O’ Leary will always be remembered in Ireland for scoring that famous final penalty to send Ireland through to the Quarter Final of the World Cup in 1990. At Arsenal, he will be remembered for his 18 seasons at the club racking up over 722 appearances, the most in the clubs history. A centre-back by trade, O’Leary could slip into right-back when needed. His time at Arsenal saw him collect two First Division titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups, O’Leary himself has stated that his greatest moment at Arsenal was playing in that famous 1989 match against Liverpool. Once he left Arsenal he would go onto play for Leeds for two seasons. He would also go onto manage the club with the highlight bringing them to the semi-finals of the Champions League, he would also go on to manage Aston Villa. These days O’Leary is still living in Yorkshire but has indicated if the right job became available his love for the game still remains strong.
At 300 appearances exactly, Stapleton just makes the list. The Dubliner scored 108 times at the club and is widely regarded as one of the best headers of a ball Arsenal have ever had. Stapleton made his debut as an 18-year-old at Highbury against Stoke in 1975. From there he would go onto be Arsenal top goal scorer for three seasons, the highlight of his time at Arsenal being the 3-2 win over United in the FA Cup Final of ’79, a game in which he scored in. That FA Cup win would turn out to be the only major honor he would win at Arsenal. He left Arsenal in 1981 for United after failing to get his move to Liverpool. He would go onto have a successful spell at United. An interesting fact about Stapleton is his short lived spell at Ajax saw him keep a young Dennis Bergkamp from starting.
Pat Rice has done it all for Arsenal, from player to youth coach to manager (granted it was in a caretaker capacity) to assistant manager. The Northern Irishman played 528 times for the Gunners picking up two FA Cups – as captain for one of them – as well as winning with the League. After his playing career at Arsenal, he moved onto Watford before returning to North London to take up various coaching roles with the club. He was Arsene Wenger’s right-hand man up until 2011, with Wenger giving high praise to his former number two. “Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his whole life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion, I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight.”
Coming up later in the 300+ club we will be looking at “Safe Hands” with Wilson, Seaman and Jennings, the “The French Connection” Henry, Viera and Piers, England’s finest “Adams, Merson, Sansom” Until then you can keep up to date with all news Arsenal at ArsenalInsider.com follow us on @ArsenalInsider and feel free to follow me at @Michael_Mac_39