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George Graham (born 30 November 1944) is a Scottishmarker former football player and manager. He is best remembered for his success at Arsenal, as a player in the 1970s and then as manager from 1986 until 1995.

Early life

The youngest of seven children, Graham grew up in poverty in Bargeddiemarker, near Coatbridgemarker. He was raised by his mother, Janet, after his father, Robert Young Graham, died of tuberculosis and heart failure on Christmas Day 1944, when Graham was barely a month old. His elder sister also died of Tuberculosis at the age of 19, in 1951. When growing up, Graham showed considerable promise as a footballer, and Newcastle United, Chelsea and Aston Villa displayed an interest in the young Graham.

Playing career

Despite being Scottish, Graham played exclusively in Englandmarker and the United Statesmarker. He signed for Aston Villa in 1961, on his 17th birthday. He spent three seasons at the Birminghammarker club, but only made eight appearances – though one of them was the club's 1963 League Cup final loss to Birmingham City. Chelsea signed him in July 1964 for £5000. Graham scored 35 goals in 72 league games for the club and won a League Cup medal in 1965 but he, along with several other Chelsea players, increasingly clashed with their volatile manager Tommy Docherty. This culminated in Graham and seven others being sent home and disciplined by Docherty for breaking a pre-match curfew in 1965.

Bertie Mee's Arsenal were looking for a replacement for Joe Baker, and paid £75,000 plus Tommy Baldwin in 1966 to bring him to Highburymarker. He made his debut on 1 October 1966 at home to Leicester City, and although the result was a 4–2 defeat he immediately became a regular in the Arsenal side. He was Arsenal's top scorer in both 1966–67 and 1967–68, having started out as a centre forward for the club, but later moved to inside forward with John Radford moving from the wing to up front.

With Arsenal, Graham was a runner-up in both the 1968 and 1969 League Cup finals, before finally winning a medal with the 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. He followed it up with being an integral part of Arsenal's Double-winning side of 1970–71, and even had a claim to scoring Arsenal's equaliser in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool, although Eddie Kelly is officially credited with the goal.

Winning the Double brought the attention of Scotland and Graham was selected for the national side for the first time against Portugal on 13 October 1971. He would go on to win twelve caps over the next two years for Scotland, scoring three goals, his final one coming against Brazil on 30 June 1973. By then, however, Graham was no longer an Arsenal player.

The arrival of Alan Ball midway through 1971–72 had made his place in the Arsenal side less assured and he therefore moved for £120,000 to Manchester United in December 1972. In total, he played 308 matches for Arsenal, scoring 77 goals. He spent two years at United, and was relegated to Division Two, before seeing out his career in England at Portsmouth and Crystal Palace. He played the summer of 1978 in America for the California Surf.

Managerial career


After retiring from playing, he became a coach at Crystal Palace and then later Queens Park Rangers. On 6 December 1982 Graham was appointed manager of Millwall, who were then bottom of the old Third Division. Graham turned the side around in a short space of time—they avoided relegation that season and in 1984–85 they were promoted to the old Second Division. After he left the club in 1986, they went on to win the Second Division and win promotion to the First in 1987–88.


Graham's achievements at Millwall attracted attention from bigger clubs, and he was appointed manager of his old club Arsenal on 14 May 1986. Arsenal had not won a trophy since the FA Cup in 1978–79, and were drifting away from the top teams in the League. Graham cleared out much of the old guard and replaced them with new signings and players promoted from the youth team, while imposing much stricter discipline than his predecessors, both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Arsenal's form immediately improved, so much so that the club were top of the League at Christmas 1986, the club's centenary, for the first time in a decade.

Arsenal finished fourth in Graham's first season in charge, and they went on to win the 1987 League Cup. While Arsenal lost the League Cup final the following year (a shock 3–2 defeat to Luton Town), their League form steadily improved. Graham's side featured tight defensive discipline, embodied by his young captain Tony Adams, who along with Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, formed the basis of the club's defence for over a decade. However, contrary to popular belief, during this time Graham's Arsenal were not a purely defensive side; Graham also employed capable midfielders such as David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, and striker Alan Smith, whose prolific goalscoring regularly brought him more than 20 goals per season.

At the end of Graham's third season (1988–89), the club won their first League title since 1971, in highly dramatic fashion, in the final game of the season against Liverpool at Anfieldmarker; Arsenal needed to win by two goals to take the title; Alan Smith scored for Arsenal early in the second half to make it 1–0, but as time ticked by Arsenal struggled to get a second, and with 90 minutes gone on the clock, Arsenal still needed another goal. With only seconds to go, a Smith flick-on found Michael Thomas surging through the Liverpool defence; the young midfielder calmly lifted the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar and into the net, and Arsenal were League Champions.

Unable to retain the league title the following season, Graham signed goalkeeper David Seaman and Swedishmarker winger Anders Limpar in the close season; both players proved vital as Arsenal won a second title in 1990–91 and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, losing to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Graham went on to sign striker and eventual second all-time top scorer Ian Wright from Crystal Palace in October, and the club's first entry in the European Cup since 1971–72. The European venture went badly; Arsenal were knocked out by S.L. Benfica in the second round and failed to make the lucrative group stage. The season went from bad to worse when the Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Wrexham, though Arsenal recovered to finish fourth in the League.

After this season, Graham changed his tactics; he became more defensive and turned out far less attack-minded sides, which depended mainly on goals from Wright rather than the whole team. Between 1986–87 and 1991–92 Arsenal averaged 66 League goals a season (scoring 81 in 1991–92), but between 1992–93 and 1994–95 only averaged 48; this included just 40 in 1992–93, when the club finished 10th in the inaugural season of the FA Premier League, scoring fewer than any other team in the division.

Graham's Arsenal became Cup specialists, and in 1992–93 Arsenal became the first side to win the FA Cup and League Cup double, both times Arsenal beating Sheffield Wednesday, 2–1 in the League Cup Final and 2–1 after a replay in the FA Cup Final replay. The next season they continued in the same vein, winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, their second European trophy; in the final Arsenal beat favourites and holders Parma 1–0 with a tight defensive performance and Alan Smith's 21st minute goal from a left foot volley.

The 1994 Cup Winners' Cup proved to be George Graham's last trophy at the club; the following February he was sacked after nearly nine years in charge, after it was discovered he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge following Arsenal's 1992 acquisition of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen, two of Hauge's clients. Graham was eventually banned for a year by the Football Association for his involvement in the scandal, after he admitted he had received an "unsolicited gift" from Hauge.

Leeds United

After serving his ban, George Graham's return to football management came with Leeds United in September 1996. He took over a Leeds team that was struggling against relegation at the time and his first priority was the defence; although Leeds scored fewer goals than any other Premiership club (28) they still finished in a secure 13th place. Bringing in players such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the close season, 1997–98 saw Leeds score twice as many goals as the previous season finish fifth in the Premiership and secure UEFA Cup qualification.

Tottenham Hotspur

In October 1998 Graham's two-year spell as Leeds manager came to an end when he was appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Just five months after taking charge he guided the club to victory over Leicester City in the 1999 League Cup Final, and with it a place in the 1999–2000 UEFA Cup. However, Graham could never get Tottenham above tenth in the Premiership, and he was sacked as Tottenham manager in March 2001 after falling out with the club's new chairman Daniel Levy. Despite guiding the club to its first trophy in eight seasons, Graham remained unpopular with a large section of the supporters, because of his previous role at Arsenal, Tottenham's most bitter rivals.

Since 2001

He has been out of management ever since, concentrating on his career as a football pundit for Sky Sports.

Career statistics

Managerial statistics

Performance by club


As a player



As a manager



Tottenham Hotspur


External links

1961-62 Aston Villa First Division 0 0
1962-63 2 1
1963-64 6 1
1964-65 Chelsea First Division 30 17
1965-66 33 17
1966-67 9 1
1966-67 Arsenal First Division 33 11
1967-68 38 16
1968-69 26 4
1969-70 36 7
1970-71 37 11
1971-72 40 8
1972-73 16 3
1972-73 Manchester United First Division 18 1
1973-74 24 1
1974-75 Second Division 1 0
1974-75 Portsmouth Second Division 19 3
1975-76 39 2
1976-77 Third Division 3 0
1976-77 Crystal Palace Third Division 23 2
1977-78 Second Division 21 0
P W L D Win %
Millwall FC
6 December 1982
13 May 1986

Arsenal FC
14 May 1986
February 1995

Leeds United FC
September 1996
October 1998

Tottenham Hotspur FC
October 1998
March 2001

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