Ten things we learned in Lockdown with Arsenal’s unused reserve keeper Graham Stack

10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Graham Stack by Dan Smith

So, I been following the Lockdown series on Arsenal.com and clearly the website was running out of guests (or money!) as this week their guest was Graham Stack, a keeper who never featured for us in the Prem. Not that he hasn’t got some great stories to tell…….

Here are 10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Graham Stack

He Could Have Been A Midfielder
Just to help manage his boredom, one summer Stack’s parent sent him along to a Bob Wilson camp for a few days. Wilson had his contacts at Arsenal and rang about checking out this young talent he had spotted.
When the club asked for his details they were confused. They already had a midfielder at the academy who went by the same name and address. From that point forward some coaches campaigned for the kid to be a midfielder while others tried to convince him to be in goal. Eventually his dad suggested that he listen to Bob Wilson as he might know a thing or two about being a decent keeper.

Shouting At Adams
Stack’s Dad advised him as a teenager to never be intimidated or show fear. So when the 16 year old trained with the first team, he followed his father’s instructions to treat his teammates like they were anyone else he had ever played the game with, so he began barking instructions, ordering his back 4 where to stand, etc. One of these defenders happened to be the Captain Tony Adams who politely explained he did the shouting!

Pitch Invasion In Belgium
Beveren was our feeder club, with Arsenal often loaning them our young talent to develop. In one game a section of the crowd started throwing objects on the pitch and succeeded in opening the gates onto the pitch. When two fans approached Stack, he physically restrained them. This incident changed the rules in Belgium regarding crowd trouble.

Mini Celebrity
While the crowd trouble story wasn’t picked up on by the English media, over in Belgium Stack found himself on various chat shows where he was applauded for how he dealt with the situation. Stack credits this publicity as advertising him to other clubs, letting them know who he was, and that Arsenal were willing to loan him out.

The Gloves
Stack’s first team debut for Arsenal would be at Highbury in the League Cup. Stack thought he had everything organised, including getting 100 tickets for family and friends. Apparently, keepers are taught to never use a brand-new pair of gloves on matchdays so the day before in training Stack ‘ broke in ‘ the pair he planned to wear against Rotherham.

His intention was to wear his new ones in the warmup and put on the old ones before kick-off. When the teams entered the pitch, our goalie had an attack of his confidence when he realised that he had not swapped the gloves. The usually confident Stack got himself so worked up that he was certain to now drop a clanger on the biggest day of his life. After saving his first shot he was okay.

Dream debut
Imagine a goalie growing up as a gooner. Can you write the script better than your friends and family at Highbury watching you in a penalty shoot-out? Normally saving a couple of pens would be the stuff of dreams, but Stack went one better, scoring one as well.

Lehmann’s Understudy
Lehmann had a bit of a temper if things were not exactly how he liked them. The German however not just trusted Stack, but the two became close friends. Stack believes the two had a mutual understanding. Jens was playing for a side undefeated so knew that as long as he was fit his position was safe. Stack couldn’t argue because the team were not losing (and wouldn’t). So, Stack explains the Invincible campaign as him being a coach, working on drills as much as a teammate.

He Didn’t Want To Come On
As it became more and more possible that we might go the whole of the 2003/2004 season undefeated Stack became more and more conflicted. The professional in him wouldn’t have minded if an injury to Lehmann meant he would make his League debut as a matter of course. However, what if he came on, made a mistake and forever be the man known for costing Arsenal history?

The Standing Ovation At PFA
I have always wondered how reserve keepers feel about winning titles. Technically they don’t play a part, as in Stack didn’t play a second in the League, but you’re involved daily around the squad and in training, etc. Well on the day we won the championship at the Lane, our players got a standing ovation when arriving at the PFA awards. Stack found himself walking in with Vieira and Henry, and like he said in the podcast, it was something to tell the kids.

Coaching Badges
Stack admits in his twenties getting into trouble as he struggled with the down time away from football. So, it was important to him to have the distraction of another challenge in the form of taking his badges. He is now fully qualified to begin coaching.

Dan Smith

1 Comment

  1. jon fox says:

    A good read DAN. He seems a good type of person.

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