A Safe Pair of Hands
The player who quick-stepped his way to the top of English football

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

SeamanBrumIt is alleged that this footballer entered the world hands first. If it had been feet first he might have become a better dancer. As it was he became one of English football’s great goalkeepers. Just ask ex-Liverpool stopper David James who was kept out of the England side by this man.

On 5 October 1984 a 21 year old David Andrew Seaman began his meteoric rise from the lower reaches of league football to the very pinnacle of the game.

By the time he hung up his gloves he had played 564 times for Arsenal and won 75 full England caps. He is also credited with keeping a record 130 clean sheets in the Premier League. Not bad for the boy born in Rotherham on 19 September 1963.

However, his start in the top flight didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. More of that later…

Seaman started his football career with Leeds as an apprentice. Though he never made an appearance for the Yorkshire club, fourth division Peterborough saw something in the young keeper and took him to their London Road ground where he stayed for just over two years.

His spell at Posh brought him to the attention of a number of clubs playing higher up the Football League and on 5 October he was sold to second division Birmingham City.

SeamanQPRCity were a club desperate to reclaim their First Division berth and in young Seaman they saw a keeper who could help them realize that ambition.

With Seaman in the side they were promoted at the end of the 84/85 season.

The next stop on his travels was west London club Queens Park Rangers where he stayed for four years.

Then in 1990 Arsenal came calling.

At the time John Lukic was between the sticks but George Graham had other plans. He is reported as saying: “I still think John Lukic is one of the top three keepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best.”

The Gooners took a lot more convincing. On hearing that their idol in goal could be replaced they would chant “We all agree… Lukic is better than Seaman!” during games.

Seaman soon won them over and proved George Graham right when he signed for the Gunners for £1.3m, then a record fee for a goalkeeper.

arsenal-david-seaman-1-proset-1991-1992-football-trading-card-20425-pOn the England front he went from hero to zero in the space of six years.

During Euro 96 his penalty saves against Scotland and Spain – cometh the hour cometh the man – helped propel England to the semi-finals where they lost to the other ‘auld enemy, Germany. Seaman was a hero to every English fan.

Fast forward to the 2002 World Cup finals where Seaman’s blunder, when he was caught out by a Ronaldinho free kick from 40 odd yards, left England exiting the tournament at the hands of Brazil.

There is a defining incident in many player’s careers and for Seaman, this was his.

But that one bizarre moment shouldn’t overshadow his tremendous contribution to English football, though it did see him leave Arsenal on a free for Manchester City a year later.

He finally hung up his gloves in January 2004 after a career spanning over 1,000 games for club and country. And he can be justly proud of all that he achieved.

One question still remains. Did a BBC producer on Strictly Come Dancing recall Seaman being left flat-footed against Brazil and think ‘Aha, another contestant’?

 

@richardbowdery
richardbowdery@live.com

 

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