On this day in August 1991, Denis Smith was seeking defensive reinforcements before the impending season’s start, and had earmarked Arsenal’s Andy Linighan as the man who’d add some defensive stability.
After narrowly being relegated after only one season in the top flight, Smith was hoping to build a team capable of bouncing straight back up.
While Gary Bennett and Kevin Ball were regulars at the heart of the defence during 1990-91, Ball’s disciplinary record – he received two red cards, and was banned for the first two games of the new season – was a cause for concern.
Question marks lingered over Bennett, too.
After being a no-show for a post-season trip to Ibiza, Bennett was stripped of the captaincy, and replaced by Paul Bracewell, and a move away from the club was rumoured.
This was the second time Smith had taken the captaincy off Bennett – during the 88-89 season, he’d had the armband taken off him in favour of John MacPhail, before being officially reappointed before the 89-90 season.
A £750,000 move for Linighan (‘well within Smith’s budget’ said Brian McNally, optimistically), of course, didn’t materialise, The defender, who Arsenal had signed from Norwich for £1.2m just a year earlier, had only made 10 appearances during 90-91, but stayed at Highbury and scored an extra time winner in the 1993 FA Cup Final, which sealed Arsenal’s cup double.
Bennett and Ball went on to be the regular central defensive partnership throughout the new season, which of course saw the promotion bid fall flat on its face – but brought with it an FA Cup Final appearance instead.