History – Who remembers the Arsenal and England defender Kenny Sansom

Kenny Sansom

Towards the end of the 1950s, the infamous 1987 League Cup winner with Arsenal was born his name is Kenny Sansom.

As a youngster Sansom believed he was a natural goalkeeper however during his time at his youth team Spring Park Wolves he took over from an injured teammate at left back, he would remain in this position for the rest of his playing days. Whilst at secondary school he was called up for England schoolboys.

His flair for the game caught the attention of Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur scouts but he would end up joining Crystal Palace instead, pulling on the Eagles shirt versus Tranmere Rovers in 1975.

Two years later he skippered Palace’s junior team to FA Youth Cup victory whilst also leading England’s youth side at the same level to be awarded “Player of the year” during his first campaign.

Rapid, relaxed and hardy in tackle and a great passer of the ball, Sansom played all but one league match during a stretch of 156 games, commencing in 1976 when The Eagles were in the Third Division. By the finish line of the 1978/79 campaign Crystal Palace secured the Second Division championship with Sansom playing a pivotal role in the youthful prospering squad. Soon afterwards they received the nametag of the “Team of The 80s”, briefly sitting top of the 1979/80 First Division before dropping to 13th in the table.

The Gunners placed a bid of £1 million for Samson during the summer of 1980, witnessing attacker Clive Allen swap clubs in an odd deal, considering he was as talented and as promising as Sansom, and had only entered North London a few weeks beforehand after moving from QPR without making his Arsenal debut. Anyway the deal was struck.

Sansom wore the red and white jersey for the first time versus West Bromwich Albion in August 1980 and remained in the line-up till the end of the season and the next at left-back. In 1981 he was handed Arsenal’s player of the season. Despite a third place finish which meant European football for The Gunners, no real challenge for the title was made.

However, for the next two years The North Londoners finished in the top five, but by 1983 they had dropped to tenth. They did manage to mount a challenge on both cups during the 1982/83 season but were knocked out of them both by no other side but Manchester United. Towards the end of 1983 manager Terry Neill had his contract ripped up at Arsenal with Don Howe walking through the brown wooden doors and into the Highbury marble halls, with the eyes of legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who had won two league titles and an FA Cup staring down into his eyes.

The Gunners then came sixth in the league and seventh with Don Howe leading the team. During this period Sansom remained an ever present beacon of light in the line-up. After six years at Highbury the reliably consistent defender had only missed seven games being one of a handful of players who could really say they did well during this miserable period in Arsenal’s history.

In 1986 George Graham, former Arsenal 1970/71 double winner as a player who was in charge of Millwall, returned to Highbury as this time around manager. Sansom only improved at now trophy hungry Arsenal who were located at the top of the First Division by Christmas. At last by the end of the 1986/87 season Samson had his hands on some silverware after The Gunners beat Liverpool 2-1 in the 1987 League Cup final. Captain Samson assisted Charlie Nicholas to the winning goal of the match whilst the fulltime whistle was bearing down on Arsenal at a rammed pack Wembley.

The next campaign saw Samson’s working relationship with Graham wane which saw him lose his position in the starting line-up to future Arsenal defensive hero Tony Adams who was only 21. During the 1987/88 campaign The Gunners looked certain to retain their League cup against Luton Town before bowing out 2-3 in a pulsating game of football. The seventh May 1988 watched Sansom feature in his final Arsenal match at Goodison Park versus Everton.

In December of that year Sansom said farewell to North London having not been selected for a first team match during the 1988/89 season. This was because Graham had brought Lee Dixon into the pack, with Dixon slotting in at right-back and Winterburn on the other side of the defensive wall to fulfil Samson’s place in the team. After having represented Arsenal in 394 games. All in all he grabbed six goals.

The Gunners accepted Newcastle United who came in for Sansom in a fee worth £300,000 in December 1988. After less than a year Sansom moved back to London turning out for QPR in deal worth £300,000 and netted a goal versus Arsenal in a 2-0 FA Cup fourth round replay win at Loftus Road. At QPR he made 64 games before transferring to Coventry City for only £100,000 during March 1991 where he would run out 51 times.

Sansom then endured a short career at Everton where he played seven times, scoring against Tottenham, before then transferring to Brentford in 1993, however he would struggle to stop the Bees from being relegated from the second tier of English football. After being at non-league side Chertsey Town, he formed an alliance with Glen Roeder at Watford as player and first team coach. He only played for the Hornets on one occasion before stepping down from football league action. However he did feature for non-league outfits for instance Croydon FC and Slough Town.  In 1995 he retired from football completely.

During his full on career Sansom managed to receive an impressive 86 England call ups from 1978-1986 and scoring once.  He is the Three Lions second most capped full-back with only 11 players surpassing his achievement.

Sansom has occasionally been invited onto Sky Sports as a football analyst after kicking off his boots. Sadly, in 2020 he was diagnosed as having a type of dementia.

Liam Harding

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  1. Great LB with good tight control and ball skills. I remember watching him play for us. If my memory serves me right his arrival was part of a deal which involved Clive Allen (but I may be wrong here.).

  2. I remember him. I’ve always had an image of his face on a football sticker stuck in my head from when I was a kid.

  3. He was a super player and a regular in an England shirt as well.

    Like so many footballers of his generation, the demon drink took hold and I was sad to realise that he too suffers from a form of dementia

  4. Kenny was one of our best ever left backs, at least as good as Cole.
    It’s sad to hear of his current situation, and I wish him the best.

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