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Kenneth Graham Sansom (born September 26, 1958 in Camberwellmarker, Londonmarker) is an Englishmarker former footballer. He holds the record number of caps for an England national football team full back, having appeared 86 times for his country between 1979 and 1988.

Crystal Palace

Sansom started out playing in the youth team at Crystal Palace, whom he joined while still at school, and made his first team debut at the age of just 16 - remaining to this day Palace's third youngest ever debutant. In 1977 he captained the Palace juniors team to FA Youth Cup success while also skippering the England team at the same level, collecting Palace's "Player of the Year" award in his first season.

Quick, calm, strong in the tackle and an excellent crosser of the ball, Sansom missed just one league game in 156, starting back in 1976, when Palace were in the old Third Division and were about to be labelled as the "Team Of The '80s". Palace progressed through the divisions with this young side and briefly topped the old First Division at the end of 1979. However Palace were unable to sustain this form and did not win any trophies in this period.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1979, Sansom made his debut for the full England team, in a goalless draw against Wales.

Arsenal and England

Arsenal put in a bid of £1million for Sansom in the summer of 1980, with striker Clive Allen going in exchange; this was an unusual move, as Allen was an equally prized young player and had only joined Arsenal weeks earlier, and had yet to play a competitive match for the club. Palace accepted the bid and Sansom left for Highburymarker. The same summer he had starred for England in the 1980 European Championships in Italymarker, though England did not make progress.

Sansom made his Arsenal debut against West Bromwich Albion on August 16 1980 and was an ever present for that season and the next, and a near-constant figure at left back for Arsenal for eight years in total. He was voted Arsenal's Player of the Year in 1981, but it took him seven years to win a trophy, with the Gunners largely underachieving through the early and mid-1980s.

Therefore, it was for his England career for which Sansom gained plaudits and recognition. He was rarely out of the team and played in the 1982 World Cup in Spainmarker, in which England exited in the second group phase. He was still the first-choice left back for the 1986 World Cup in Mexicomarker, playing in all of the matches up to and including the quarter final defeat against Argentina, in which game he was one of the England players left behind by Diego Maradona as he burst from inside his own half to score his second goal.

Sansom missed only a handful of England matches between 1980 and 1988, with only the odd rest given to him in friendly matches so that coaches Ron Greenwood and then Bobby Robson could check on potential replacements (Derek Statham, Alan Kennedy, Nick Pickering) in the event of Sansom suffering from either serious injury or chronic loss of form. Neither happened, but the first genuine sign of competition came in 1987, when the Nottingham Forest left back and captain Stuart Pearce was given his England debut against Brazil and played well, setting up England's goal for Gary Lineker. However Sansom was still the regular left-back during England's 1988 European Championships qualifying campaign.

Sansom finally won some domestic silverware in 1987, captaining Arsenal to a League Cup final victory over Liverpool at Wembleymarker; Arsenal came from a goal down to win 2-1, and Sansom had started the move which had led to Arsenal's late winner, scored by Charlie Nicholas.

The following season, Sansom's relationship with his Arsenal manager George Graham soured and he was replaced as captain by fledgling defender Tony Adams, who was just 21. Sansom did, however, keep his place in the side; although Graham had just signed a long-term replacement in Nigel Winterburn, he was played at right-back rather than left for his first season at the club. Arsenal reached the League Cup final again in 1987-88, only to lose 3-2 to Luton Town in a dramatic and exciting match.

Euro 88

That summer, Sansom was Robson's first choice left back for the European Championships, but England were a disaster, losing all three of their group games, starting with a humiliating 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in their first ever finals match, having qualified under the management of Englishman and 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton.

Sansom made a horrible error for the only goal of the game, toeing an attempted clearance high into the air and putting pressure on his fellow defenders, from which John Aldridge won a header for Ray Houghton to nod the ball past Peter Shilton. Sansom played in the other two group fixtures but after the tournament Stuart Pearce replaced him as England's first-choice left back. After nine years and 86 caps (plus one goal - scored in a World Cup qualifier against Finland in 1984) Sansom's international career was at an end, months before his 30th birthday, despite being briefly recalled as a back-up in 1989 when Pearce was injured, though he did not play.

To this day, Sansom is England's most capped full back (replacement Pearce came close, ending his international career in 1999 with 78 caps) and only seven players - Peter Shilton, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright, David Beckham, Bryan Robson and Michael Owen - have appeared more times for England than Sansom.

After Arsenal

Sansom left Arsenal in December 1988, having not played a first team game at all for the first four months of 1988-89; Graham had signed Lee Dixon and had reshuffled the side, with Dixon playing at right-back and Nigel Winterburn on the left, replacing Sansom. Sansom had played 394 matches in total for Arsenal, scoring six goals. He is Arsenal's second-most capped player of all time, with 77 caps while at the club (Patrick Vieira holds the record with 79).

Sansom continued to play for many years. He initially joined Newcastle United, then continued with QPR, Coventry City, Everton, Brentford and Watford, as well as three short spells in the non-league game with Croydon F.C., Chertsey Town and Slough Townmarker.


After playing, Sansom fell on hard financial times with business and gambling problems and alcoholism but has recently been back in football as a player on the veterans' circuit. He is frequently called upon as a pundit to make comments on the game, especially with matters concerning Crystal Palace or Arsenal. He also makes occasional appearances on Australian football show Fox Sports FC via satellite. He is also a tour guide on the "Legend's Tour" of Arsenal's new Emirates Stadiummarker.

He is the co-presenter of LBC Radio's Saturday afternoon football programme.

In 2005, Sansom was voted into Palace's Centenary XI.

Career statistics


  1. Venables back at the Palace once again, BBC Sport, February 14 2003
  2. Kenny Sansom: I lost my wife, drank away my money and almost died like my old pal George Best The Daily Mail, 17th May 2008

External links

1974-75 Crystal Palace Third Division 1 0
1975-76 6 0
1976-77 46 0
1977-78 Second Division 41 2
1978-79 42 0
1979-80 First Division 36 1
1980-81 Arsenal First Division 42 3 1 0 4 0 0 0 47 3
1981-82 42 0 1 0 5 1 4 0 52 1
1982-83 40 0 8 0 8 0 2 0 58 0
1983-84 40 1 1 0 4 0 0 0 45 1
1984-85 39 1 2 0 3 0 0 0 44 1
1985-86 42 0 5 0 7 0 0 0 54 0
1986-87 35 0 4 0 9 0 0 0 48 0
1987-88 34 1 4 0 8 0 0 0 46 1
1988-89 Newcastle United First Division 20 0
1989-90 Queens Park Rangers First Division 36 0
1990-91 28 0
1990-91 Coventry City First Division 9 0
1991-92 21 0
1992-93 Premier League 21 0
1992-93 Everton Premier League 7 1
1992-93 Brentford First Division 8 0
1994-95 Watford First Division 1 0

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