Where are they now? The Search for Forgotten Gooners – Week 8: Andy Linighan

This week’s Where Are
They Now? Sees us delve back into the distant (but not too long ago) past, more
specifically the 80s and the 90s.

The player in question this week is someone who four major
titles with Arsenal, as well as netting a dramatic winner in the final seconds
of a cup final.

He was born in Hartlepool, into a footballing family where
his two brothers were also professionals, before starting out at his local
club.

It took him 10 years at four different clubs before he
managed to rather reluctantly find his way to Highbury, where he enjoyed seven
years of success.

The man in question is none other than centre-back Andy
Linighan.

The imposing but calm defender was a real hit at hometown club
Hartlepool, where he made over 100 appearances in a four-year spell at
Bloomfield Road before heading for the exit door in 1984.

His next trip was down south, not particularly that far
south but there aren’t too many places north of Hartlepool in England, where he
checked into Elland Road to join the public’s favourite club Leeds United.

Linighan didn’t hang around too long at the Yorkshire outfit
– clearly not too great a fan of gravy or rugby league – but did manage to rack
up 66 games with three goals in a two-year stint.

Next up for the defender was a short journey from Leeds to
Oldham Athletic in 1986. He ended up turning out more frequently for the
Latics, 87 times to be exact, but again this was crammed into just a double
season, and he was off again in 1988.

Linighan’s final destination before becoming a Gooner saw him
evolve into a Canary, where Norwich City welcomed him on board. His tenure at
Carrow Road was almost identical to that of his stints at other clubs; a two
year stay that included 74 appearances and six goals.

So apart from Hartlepool, Linighan had failed to settle down
at a team, and after 10 years in the game, his record came in at four clubs,
337 games and 19 goals.

Then came the defining moment of his career. George Graham
got in touch with Norwich, and before you knew it, Linighan was signing for the
Arsenal for a fee of around £1.2m in 1990.

The funny thing about the move was that Linighan didn’t want
to go. Arsenal already had Tony Adams and Steve Bould occupying the centre-back
places, and Linighan didn’t want to be third choice. However, Norwich chairman
Robert Chase told him it was too late, and off he went to N5.

Linighan’s concern was proven during his first season at Highbury.
He won the league title in 1991 but only just scrapped picking up a winners’
medal after playing just 10 times that campaign as he failed to break the
partnership of Adams and Bould.

The Gunners had, arguably, their best-ever defence during
that time period, with Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn owning the full-back
spots, and Linighan found it very difficult to break in.

The 1991-92 term ended trophyless and lacking in joy for
both Arsenal and Linighan, but their fortunes changed the following year.

The Gunners had already wrapped up the League Cup in the
early stages of 1993 by beating Sheffield Wednesday, and they met the Owls once
more in the conclusion of the FA Cup in the same season.

Linighan’s finest moment came in the replay of the final, on
May 20. The game was destined to end 1-1 once again, before Arsenal won a
corner in 119th minute. Up came Linighan from the back and found the
back of the net with his head to win Arsenal the FA Cup, despite nursing a
broken nose.

Thanks to his goal, Arsenal
became the first club in English football to win the Cup Double, and his
strike also meant that the Gunners had secured a place in next season’s
European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Despite winning the latter
the following year, that’s as good as it got for Linighan in North London in the
end, as the arrival of Martin Keown demoted him to fourth-choice at the back
and ultimately ended his time at the club. He continued to try to fight for a
place in the side, but the appointment of Arsene Wenger as the club’s new
manager resulted in him being sold to Crystal Palace in 1997 at the ripe old
age of 35.

Linighan’s luck instantly
changed with the Eagles, as he captained the side to promotion from the second
tier to the Premier League. He enjoyed his time at Palace, and stuck by the
club even after they had loaned him to Queens Park Rangers in the 1998-99
season to reduce the wage bill while they struggled financially.

He returned to win the fans’
Player of the Year for the 1999-2000 campaign, but then fell out with owner
Simon Jordan. Like many who get on the wrong side of Jordan, Linighan was soon
out the door and flogged to Oxford United.

He spent just one year
getting relegated with Oxford before calling it a day and retiring from the
game, before he briefly turned out for St Albans City in the Non-league.

Upon retirement, Linighan started
his own plumbing business, having served
an apprenticeship with a tradesman as a teenager. Linighan Plumbing Services is based in
Harpenden, Hertfordshire where he was rumoured to drive around in a van emblazoned
with the slogan: Andy Linighan – Average Footballer, Excellent Plumber.

When questioned
about this, Linighan revealed: “I bumped into Ray Parlour at the last game
at Highbury. I think I made a joke or something about this van and sign and the
next thing talkSPORT are calling to ask if it’s true.

“Ray Parlour. Cheeky
chappie. I don’t even have a van.”

And now you know.

Matt Cotton

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