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The Best Matches Ever Part 2

This is match famous for so many reasons and is on of my fondest early moments supporting Arsenal. On May 2, 1992, deposed champions Arsenal played the final match of a campaign that promised so much. Having won the league at a canter in 1990/91, Arsenal flattered to deceive and their title challenge had fizzled out by Christmas. A humiliating Cup defeat to Fourth Division Wrexham put paid to our cup ambitions in the one of the most famous F.A Cup 3rd Round Ties in the competition's illustrious history. But after dishing out a 7-1 drubbing against Sheffield Wednesday (when, amazingly, the teams were tied at 1-1 with twenty minutes to go) had given Arsenal something of a renaissance. Spurred on by the flair of Merson, Limpar and Rocastle and the exuberence of new signing Ian Wright, the Gunners' finished the season strongly.

But May 2nd, 1992 started out as a melancholy occasion for Gunners' fans. With the Taylor Report ready to kick in, it was to be the last ever game in front of the North Bank terrace. Chants of 'you'll never take the North Bank' reverberated around the ground at sporadic intervals and a sit in protest was planned for after the game. But it was not only the old North Bank that would steal the headlines. For the entire season, Spurs talisman Gary Lineker and Arsenal's new star Ian Wright went toe to toe in a battle for the Golden boot. With sky sports, the Premier League and the Taylor Report on the horizon, the battle between Lineker and Wright would foreshadow the way in which the game would change forever. Lineker's boot sponsor Quasar and Wright's sponsors Nike became embroiled in a banter laiden publicity battle. It was also a tidy footnote to the Britpop battle of the bands between Oasis and Blur. The rough edged, gobby council estate kid versus the well coiffured and immaculately grammared gentleman. I remember being driven to football training as a child and seeing the billboards change every week, 'Gary Lineker, 48 goals for England. Ian who?' would soon see a tidy riposte in the wake of the Southampton fixture.

The first half saw a drab and goalless encounter, with a wistful crowd mourning the loss of the North Bank stand and with Arsenal having no silverware to go for. After 66 minutes, Kevin Campbell headed the Gunners' into a one goal lead. The goal raised little more than a muted cheer. Smith scrambled home a second before the Saints pulled one back. Anders Limpar went off with a bloodied face after forming the meat in a sandwich between two Southampton players and the corner flag. Wright's arch companion and the supplier of his ammunition had gone. Suddenly, news broke that Gary Lineker had scored at Old Trafford, putting him two goals ahead of Wright for the Golden Boot. Arsenal won a penalty and Wright grabbed the ball off of the appointed taker Dixon, smashing high into the roof of the net in front of the North Bank. News of Lineker's goal had obviously reached Wrighty. With two minutes left he dropped deep into the Arsenal half to collect the ball from Seaman's throw out. He embarked on a forty yard run, evading the sharpened studs of Terry Hurlock (who used to take the pitch with boxer's grease on his eyebrows), this was not a mazy of run of stepovers and silky skills, this was sheer bloody mindedness, refusing to fall under the coccophany of Saints' challenges, Wright slammed the ball past Tim Flowers to equal Lineker's benchmark.

Wright was not done yet, in injury time Kevin Campbell squared a low ball into the box which Wright unceremoniously shinned into the net to clinch the golden Boot. In what became an iconic celebration, Campbell hoisted Wright high in front of the North Bank Stand, allowing the old stand's wake to become something more akin to a celebration. Once Wright wrestled himself from Campbell's grip, he pointed defiantly at his boot, acclaiming his success. The moment was famously captured in a Nike commercial to the tune of A Tribe Called Quest's 'Can I Kick It?!' It was not only the fact the Wrighty had robbed a Spurs player of the golden boot in the dying seconds of the season, but being the showman he was (and still is), he had picked his moment with all the finesse of a Hollywood star, a Roy of the Rovers moment to give the North Bank terrace one last eruption of glory. The feat was all the more poignant given ex Palace chairman Ron Noades' assertion that black players lacked bottle just a year earlier, which was probably a key factor in Wrighty leaving Palace for Arsenal. It took Nike a matter of days to paste over the Quasar billboards, 'Ian Wright. Golden Boot Winner 1991/92. Gary Who?'

As the mists of history grow ever foggier, it is easy to forget the significance of these events. This game marked David Rocastle's last in an Arsenal shirt. The old North Bank was duly torn down and replaced by the infamous mural facade. Sky Sports and the breakaway Premier League arrived on the scene the next season, the backpass law came in, the half time break was extended from ten to fifteen minutes, and the very next season was my maiden voyage as an Arsenal season ticket holder at the tender age of eight. That summer John Jensen signed for Arsenal following his excellent strike for Denmark in the Euro 92 Final, 'great, a goalscoring midfielder' we all thought! The day of May 2nd though, despite the revolution that lay ahead, belonged very much to two larger than life characters, the North Bank stand and the flamboyant Ian Wright, the day he proved beyond doubt, that he could kick it alright.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday December 3 2007

Time: 9:29PM

Your Comments

I knew this game would come....but not this quickly!!! This is one of my favorite seasons, that spawned the famous "92 for 92" end of season review video with some of the great Arsenal goals that would fit in well with Wenger's Arsenal. 91/92 was a season of real moments, Alan Smith scores four in a european cup match, Ian Wright signs, Ray Parlour makes his debut for Arsenal and gives away a penalty, Rocastle scores a beauty against Utd at Old Trafford and Lee Dixon scores one of the best own goals ever against Coventry!!! LD - You forgot to mention Wrighty had a goal ruled out for offside in the first half (I didn't think it was offside) from a sublime pass from Magic Merse with the outside of his right foot.
Rocky7
Nice one LD! Wrighty is a gold mine of iconic moments. I remember him scoring against Everton (I think?) while he was wearing the skippers armband and dementedly running around the pitch with his chest puffed out pointing to his armband.
Amos.
One of my favourite seasons too, when the Big Match was still around. If memory serves, the famous "splodge" home kit was the first one I ever bought. I remember Parlour's debut at Anfield being live on TV, and of course Dixon's o.g which was, in hindsight, hilarious. But for me this campaign was all about Limpar, probably my favourite ever Gooner and the player I always imitated in the playground, being the dazzling winger I was. Probably no great surprise that some three years later, with Rocastle and Limpar gone and Merse in rehab, I switched to centre half. Monkey see monkey do and all that!
Little Dutch
Anyone that don't luv Wrighty is quite frankly a furry cup. Sure after his playing career ended he's gone on to do and say $hit that have'nt endeared him to some but I'd still love him even if I turned on the telly and saw him flanneling his arse with our shirt whilst whistling glory glory t*ttenham hotspur.
nikolaijns
The kit with "afc" on the collar? That was my first kit too. Limpar was awesome, his chip over Mike Hooper against Liverpool at home in a 4-0 win still to this day is one of my favorite goals ever (along with Rocky's chip at OT) and his four assists for Wrighty against Everton was another magic moments.
Rocky7
My favourite Wrighty celebration would have to be either him and Campbell apparently arguing after Wright scored at Wednesday, or after scoring at Coventry he ran around the perimeter of the pitch, hand cupped to ear with the most crazed smile on his face. That also spawned a favourite quote of mine when Wright was fined by the F.A for the celebration, "I got fined £15k for calling Coventry fans *****ers, worth every penny!"
Little Dutch
c c c c
Bosko-Macedonia
Thanks for the history tidbits LD. Very important for those of us who only recently have began to enjoy the EPL on a regular basis due to Satellite TV and geographical reasons.
KenyanGooner
Favourite Wrighty celebration was after be beat the scum 3-1 at home (Bergkamp scored a beaut) after his brilliant cross on the right. Was caught shouting '**** off home w**kers) = brilliant
AFC85Lew
Excellent stuff LD. I enjoyed this one more, coz I wasnt a fan then, and this helps me understand some of the history far better. Looking forward to more such articles.
prits
i remember this game well. It was the match when Trry Hurlock got smacked square on iin the nadgers by a rasping shot (to roaring approval by the Arsenal fans), and Limpar was done by an elbow by Francis Benali, a bit of a hopeless footballer, but a good thug. Even the soton fans recognised it, chating 'you'll always beat Benali!!!' to the Gooners...
»»Arsene Knows««
Wingston75
 

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