Search

Exclusive: Arsenal need leaders like Tony Adams to overcome Spurs, says former Gunners star

07:06 04 March 2016

Arsenal

Arsenal's Tony Adams scores the winner in the 1993 FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham

Archant

Former Arsenal enforcer Steve Williams says Saturday’s north London derby will be the “biggest in living memory”.

The Gunners travel to White Hart Lane desperately needing a win following back-to-back league defeats against Manchester United and Swansea.

And despite the manager’s assertion earlier this week that “the team is the leader”, Williams says individuals must battle for every ball against their bitter rivals.

“This game is massive, I never played in a bigger north London derby certainly – and I played in a few,” says Williams, a combative midfielder in the Gunners engine room who became a fans’ favourite after signing for the club in December 1984.

“It is as big a derby as I can remember in the past 30 years or more, probably the biggest since Arsenal won the title at the Lane back in 1971.

“Arsenal have to win this one, but then so do Tottenham. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that whoever wins this game can go and win the title – knocking their biggest rival out of the race along the way. It is THAT big.”

And Williams has also urged the Gunners to “do it for the fans”.

He added: “Arsenal fans – or any fans, for that matter – will forgive a defeat if they know the players have worked their socks off.

“These Arsenal players have to stand up and be counted. They need leaders in there pulling their team-mates through and chasing every ball and cause.

“They need the likes of Tony Adams and, dare I say it, me. This Arsenal side can go and win any game they want to – we all know that.

“But we also know they need to get stuck in, right in Tottenham’s faces, and they need to understand that sometimes a scrappy 1-0 will do.

“Tottenham have been very impressive this season but now it is getting to the business end of the season, how will they cope?

“Arsenal have more experience and knowhow and that could play a decisive role on Saturday and over the final quarter of the season.”

Williams also – characteristically – is not shy to point out he knows what he is talking about when it comes to success in the north London derby, claiming he was never beaten by Spurs when he was a Gunner.

“I grew up an Arsenal supporter and had little time for Spurs, so when Arsenal came in for me from Southampton I actually signed in double quick time so I could play against Spurs two days later – only for Don Howe to put me on the bench,” says Williams, who played 121 games, scoring five goals, for the Gunners before moving to Luton in July 1988.

“I still can’t get over that. He signs me and plonks me on the bench – and then with two minutes to go, with us 2-1 down, he throws me on expecting me to turn it around for him.

“But I don’t count that because I was barely on the pitch and only got the one touch. If I’d been on longer…

“But after that I never lost to Spurs, not once as an Arsenal player. I fought hard in those games and never gave them an inch.”

To illustrate this point, one piece of footage on YouTube shows Williams getting booked at White Hart Lane – and giving Osvaldo Ardiles an earful into the process – after some overzealous tackling on his opponents.

Williams – who also made his debut for Southampton as a 17-year-old in a 1-0 win at their closest rivals Portsmouth and remained unbeaten in Hampshire derbies – added: “I loved derbies.

“I always wanted to win them, especially when I was at Arsenal, either at the Lane or when they came to us – and I did a few times. I just wish I was out there this Saturday.”

Latest Islington Sports News

Yesterday, 07:14
Middlesex's Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan feels Middlesex’s impressive County Championship form has been a key factor in their recent improvement in white-ball cricket.

Friday, July 22, 2016
Dominic Ogbechie was given the Outstanding Individual Boy award at last weeks Camden Sport and Physical Activity Celebration night. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Already standing 6ft 1in tall at the tender age of 14, Highgate Harriers’ Dominic Ogbechie clearly has a knack for defying gravity – and the sky is the limit for the prodigious teenager.

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Eoin Morgan batting for Middlesex

Middlesex overcame Surrey in front of a record crowd at Lord’s to strengthen their hopes of reaching the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals.

Thursday, July 21, 2016
North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll. Pic: Paolo Minoli

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll has entered his name into the Middlesex County League’s record books after scoring a century and taking eight wickets in a stunning individual display.

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Emmanuel Nmecha, 17 (left) riding a two seater bike with support worker Harold Bennett during a disability cycle session run by Pedal Power at Emirates Stadium

Many might think that when you’ve seen one bicycle, you’ve seen them all – but a Thursday morning visit to Emirates Stadium would certainly change your mind.

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Middlesex batsman Nick Gubbins

At this stage of the season, you want to make sure you’re still involved in all three competitions, and that’s certainly the case at Middlesex.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Isledon Wolves' Nicky Marshall on the attack in their friendly against Oxford United's academy side at Market Road

Isledon Wolves coach John Powles is hoping the Under-16s’ packed pre-season schedule could bring their star players to the attention of Football League scouts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Middlesex's Ryan Higgins

Ryan Higgins says a new mindset in the Middlesex dressing room this season has propelled them into the hunt for a NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final spot.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now