The North Bank Hall of Fame: Peter Storey
How many times in recent years have we moaned about a lack of physical or mental toughness? We wonder what we might achieve if we put Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira in this current side. Ask fans who’ve followed Arsenal since the less flamboyant days and they’ll add another name to that list; Peter Storey.
Football in the late 60′s and 70′s is almost unrecognisable when compared to its modern equivalent. Back then every team had a hard man, if you didn’t, you might as well not turn up. In a time of genuinely hard competitors, Storey was amongst the most feared.
A consistent right back turned central midfielder for Arsenal between ’65 and ‘77 he, as we will later see, was a key part of our first double winning side in 70/71.
Storey is also credited with having scored the most important goals in our first double winning campaign of 70/71. The FA Cup Semi against Stoke started badly as Storey failed to clear from a goal mouth scramble and Stoke took a 1-0 lead. This was doubled shortly after and led to Stoke resolutely protecting their lead.
Characteristically, Storey began to scrap from his right-back berth and the tide began to turn as he drove a right footed strike past Gordon Banks. Then came the Roy of The Rovers ending as we earned a penalty through a handball on the goal line. In a team containing Kennedy, Radford and Graham, Bertie Mee preferred the steely nerve of Storey who forced home a scruffy spot kick and bought about a replay. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was as a combative central midfielder that he claimed most of his 19 international appearances, taking up where World Cup winner Nobby Stiles left off.
Some of his performances for England help to provide a picture of the type of character we’re talking about here. Storey played at a time when the rivalry between England and Scotland was at its most heated and, given his confrontational attitude, this was the atmosphere he thrived in.
The historical Home Nations rivalry arguably became most volatile after England won the ‘66 World Cup. In ‘67 the Scots travelled to Wembley and won 3-2, walking away as the self proclaimed unofficial World Champions.
England couldn’t return the favour in ‘68 and, despite victories at home in ‘69 and ‘71 a reputation restoring away win eluded them until 1972. Peter Storey had broken into the England team in 1971 and seemed to make it his personal business to redress the balance.
In front of a mind boggling 119,000 Hampden Park crowd Storey’s aggressive attitude put the hosts on the back foot and showed the likes of Billy Bremner and Archie Gemmill that not everyone south of the border was soft. A solitary strike from Arsenal’s Alan Ball saw England reclaim bragging rights.
After Arsenal, Storey played for Fulham, as so many fading internationals did in the 70’s. He made 17 appearances in 77/78 before eventually calling it a day.
Clearly a man with a penchant for the more colourful side of life, he was plagued by off field problems and spent time in prison for assorted crimes. However, it is for his professional talents that he’ll always be remembered by Gooners of a certain vintage.
Whilst the game has moved on and bone crunching tackles are rightly clamped down on, there are elements of Storey’s character that we could doubtless do with nowadays. Somebody with the resolve to take a pivotal last minute penalty would be reassuring but deep down, we know we’d all like to see Peter Storey in his prime settling some scores next time we travel to the Britannia Stadium.
Huge thanks to Ken Smith (North Bank Lower, Block 10, Row 4, Seat 299) for the anecdotal input.