Tag Archives: George Graham

Shock Results: Arsenal 0-3 Coventry City (August 1993)

Goalscorers: Mick Quinn 34 PEN, 62, 65

Teams:

Arsenal: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Andy Linighan, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, John Jensen, Paul Merson (Eddie McGoldrick 67), Anders Limpar (Martin Keown 73), Ian Wright, Kevin Campbell

Coventry City: Jonathan Gould, Phil Babb, Peter Atherton, Tony Sheridan, Stewart Robson (Steve Morgan 10), David Rennie, Sean Flynn, Roy Wegerle, John Williams, Mick Quinn, Peter Ndlovu

Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 33,016

Optimism was high at Arsenal ahead of the start of the 1993-1994 season. The Gunners’ might have finished a distant 10th in the first Premier League campaign but were the reigning holders of both the FA Cup and League Cup. Manager George Graham had won the league championship twice before so expectations of a title tilt were well-considered.

Although beaten via a penalty shootout in the curtain-raising Charity Shield against Manchester United, Arsenal had performed very well. They were expected to brush aside a Coventry City side that had been beaten in both head-to-head encounters the previous season without scoring. Coventry were among the favourites with the bookies’ to be relegated but they also loved to prove the punters wrong and they did so spectacularly on the opening day at Highbury.

Arsenal started brightly but if there was one criticism of Graham’s management, it was he had a perfect Plan A, but no back-up solution if his side got into trouble. Within 10 minutes, they had slipped back into their comfort zone. David Seaman was the playmaker with long punts up the park towards Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell. However, David Rennie and Phil Babb had a comfortable afternoon, dealing with anything the Gunners’ frontline had to offer.

In Mick Quinn, Coventry had an unpredictable presence upfront but someone who knew where the back of the net was. He put the Sky Blues’ infront on 34 minutes from the penalty spot and from that moment on, Bobby Gould’s side were always in control. Only the injected pace of Anders Limpar gave them the odd concern. When he was replaced by defender Martin Keown in the 73rd minute, you knew that Graham simply had no clue with what to do.

Arsenal had been linked seriously with the England international Andy Sinton who was destined to leave Queens Park Rangers. On this evidence, Sinton made the right call to join Sheffield Wednesday instead because this brand of football would have simply bypassed him. Quinn, nicknamed “Sumo,” doubled his tally on 62 minutes, firing a shot into the top corner after the tricky Roy Wegerle had bamboozled Tony Adams with his skill and flair. Three minutes later, almost a carbon-copy move occurred with Wegerle the provider and Quinn producing the perfect finish. The ball went through Seaman’s defences. Graham said afterwards: “Football is about more than ability. It is about application and it’s about winners. Coventry seemed to have more desire than us.”

Arsenal bounced back from this opening day setback to finish fourth and beat Italian giants Parma to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg. Gould resigned from his Coventry position two months later but ex-Liverpool FC defender Phil Neal comfortably steered them to a top-half finish. This was a day where underestimating the opposition was the fable. Arsenal did and paid a heavy price.

The Managers: George Graham

Premier League Clubs Managed: Arsenal (1992-1995), Leeds United (1996-1998), Tottenham Hotspur (1998-2001)

George Graham enjoyed a successful managerial career, notably at Arsenal where he managed to guide the club to two league championships and multiple cup success in domestic competitions.

He had a distinguished playing career and was part of the famous Gunners’ squad that won the league and cup double in 1971. Graham spent six seasons at Highbury, playing over 220 games. He ultimately finished his playing time with a brief spell in America in 1978, figuring for California Surf.

After learning under the tutelage of Terry Venables on the coaching staff at Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers, Graham first became a manager in December 1982 at Millwall. He spent four years at the Den, steering them from the bottom of the old Third Division to promotion during his reign.

Former club Arsenal came calling following Don Howe’s resignation in 1986. Having not won a trophy in seven years, the Arsenal board were keen to get the club back into silverware contention during a time where the Merseyside teams were sweeping the majority of the trophies. He added a stricter discipline to the dressing room and Arsenal instantly became winners. They won the League Cup in his first season in charge.

Building a team around young skipper Tony Adams and a tight defence, the flair of Paul Merson, Alan Smith and Michael Thomas took Arsenal towards the league title in sensational circumstances in 1989. Thomas scored the vital second goal on the final evening of the season at Anfield to win the game against Liverpool FC. The 2-0 victory was enough to snatch the title away from the Reds’ grasp. Two seasons later, he led the North Londoners to another title, losing just one league match all season with the likes of Swedish winger Anders Limpar and future England no.1 goalkeeper David Seaman added to his valuable assets.

Premier League management

In 1992, Arsenal were considered among the title favourites for the first Premier League season but started badly with back-to-back defeats to surprise packages Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers. A victory at Anfield did follow a week later but league form was inconsistent and the team finished tenth – Graham’s lowest finish in the league. However, that disappointment was soothed by a domestic cup double, beating Sheffield Wednesday in both matches.

Graham’s side became very defence-minded and was almost fully reliant on goals from Ian Wright. They averaged just 48 league goals in each of the Premier League’s first three seasons and were the lowest scorers in the division during the inaugural season. His reign at Arsenal ultimately ended very controversially. In late 1994, it emerged Graham had accepted a £425,000 payment from a Norwegian agent, Rune Hauge following the signings two years earlier of Scandinavian pair, Pal Lydersen and John Jensen. Graham was sacked by the club in February 1995 and the FA later banned him for a year for his part in the transfer dealings.

After serving his ban, he returned to football management with Leeds United, replacing Howard Wilkinson in September 1996. As ever, he worked on getting the defence right and despite scoring a meagre 28 goals, Leeds finished comfortably in mid-table in 11th spot. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was signed a year later and the Yorkshire side became a more exciting side to watch. There were thrilling 4-3 victories over Blackburn Rovers and Derby County and a 5-0 trouncing of the Rams at Pride Park. Leeds finished a creditable fifth in the 1997/1998 table.

Tottenham courted his services following the departure of Christian Gross and there was an uncomfortable afternoon when Leeds visited White Hart Lane with Graham still employed by the club but almost about to take over at Spurs. The banners “Who are you supporting today George?” pretty much summed it up.  A 3-3 draw meant the entertainment value on-the-field matched the boardroom discussions between the two clubs.

Graham eventually took over at Tottenham at the start of October 1998. For the fans, an ex-Arsenal manager was not a popular choice but he did guide Tottenham to their first silverware in seven years, defeating Leicester City 1-0 in the 1999 League Cup final. However, Tottenham couldn’t finish higher than 10th in the table and he was sacked in March 2001, shortly after the club’s ownership changed hands. An alleged breach of contract was given as the reason for his sudden departure and it was fair to say, things ended rather acrimoniously between ENIC, who had purchased the club and the manager.

Graham has been out of management ever since, instead focusing on being the chief pundit for Sky Sports’ pay-per-view Premiership Plus coverage from 2001 to 2007. He has been linked with vacancies at Leicester City, West Ham United and Sunderland but opted to stay away from the dugout.

George Graham achieved plenty in his career and his 10 managerial honours in very impressive. However, his best days ultimately took place before the formation of the FA Premier League.