May 19 2013 Latest news:
Exclusive by Jem Maidment
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Former Gunner remembers his FA Cup winner from 25 years ago, and why Arsenal need to repeat that result on Saturday
Arsenal’s make-or-break FA Cup fourth round trip to Brighton on Saturday is Arsene Wenger’s biggest game of the season, according to the man who scored the winner the last time the two sides met.
It is 25 years ago this week since George Graham’s side scraped a 2-1 win at the Goldstone Ground at the same stage of the competition courtesy of a Kevin Richardson strike and a late Perry Groves decider.
All eyes are on the south coast again this weekend as the two teams prepare to do battle at Albion’s new state of the art Amex Stadium.
After a stuttering run in the league – including defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea – Groves believes the competition represents Arsenal’s biggest hope of winning a trophy.
“This is massive. Swansea in the last round was the biggest match of the season in my eyes. Now it is Brighton away,” the former striker says ahead of the Saturday’s game.
“If I am being honest, we have more chance of winning the FA Cup than anything else. We are way off the Premier League and, let’s face it, the Champions League will be very tough – we have Bayern Munich in the next round and they are class.
“So this brings us to the FA Cup. We need to win a trophy and win one fast. Look at Manchester City – they won the FA Cup and their confidence visibly grew. It is so important to win something to breed that confidence.”
Groves, who won two league titles and a League Cup with the Gunners before moving to Southampton in 1992, sees similarities with the Arsenal side he joined back in the late summer of 1986.
“When I arrived we had a core of young players coming through but it was seven years since they last won a trophy – I see a big correlation with the current situation at the club,” he says.
“Arsenal needed a trophy then – and we won the Littlewoods Cup at the end of the season, sparking those successful years under George Graham which continued under Arsene Wenger.
“And Arsenal need a trophy now. These lads need to know what it is like to be winners. Brighton will be tough – they have a great stadium and Gus Poyet has got them playing great football in a similar style to us.
“I just hope we get the job done and progress because, with two teams who like to play football, it should be a cracking game.”
Unlike that game a quarter of a century ago. Groves recalls: “It not a pretty one. My old mate Kevin Bremner – who I played with at Colchester United – missed a few chances for them.
“I shouldn’t have been playing but Alan Smith had a stomach bug or something and I was called into the starting 11 – I was a last minute stuntman
“I remember before the game George [Graham] telling us if we won we’d get a five-day holiday in Marbella – but only if we won. That was incentive enough.
“It wasn’t easy. They had over 26,000 there making a lot of noise and Brighton were up for it.
“But we rode our luck a bit and Rico scored before I hit one late on to put us through – it was with my left foot, which was rare, so I don’t forget it in a hurry. It gave me great confidence as I scored the winner at Everton in the next game.”
But that was after their trip to Spain. “At the final whistle the Brighton fans must have wondered why we were celebrating so wildly. It was because we were off to Marbella in the morning!” recalls Groves. “I’m surprised we didn’t wear flip flops and Bermuda shorts for the last few minutes of the game, because we were determined to get that holiday.
“When we got off the coach back in London George told us to go home and get packed as we were on an early flight out of Gatwick on the Sunday morning. I sat on the plane and read every match report and headline! But I can’t believe it was 25 years ago this week.”