WTTGT Writer: Mikey Mumford – Follow Me
Listen to the full interview with Eddie McGoldrick
By his very own admission things didn’t quite go to plan at Arsenal. After completing the rout in the Gunners’ record European victory at Standard Liege in 1993, Eddie McGoldrick sealed his name in the Arsenal history books.
A George Graham signing that same year, McGoldrick swapped Selhurst Park for Highbury where he linked up with former Palace team-mate Ian Wright who had also left the Eagles a couple of years prior to their relegation from the Premier League in 1993.
“I went from being the biggest fish in the pond at Palace to then becoming a tiddler in the ocean at Arsenal but I expected that. You don’t get many opportunities to play for top clubs like Arsenal so I couldn’t really turn it down,” McGoldrick told WTTGT.
The Republic of Ireland international’s career path started in the clutches of non-league obscurity with Kettering Town. A brief spell at Nuneaton Borough culminated in a move into the Football League with Northampton where he scooped his first major honour – a fourth division winners’ medal.
But it wasn’t until Steve Coppell gave him his big break at Crystal Palace that McGoldrick started to prove his worth at this much higher level. Arsenal and George Graham came calling with £1m in 1993 but that’s where Eddie’s dramatic rise to the pinnacle of English football came to an abrupt halt.
He struggled to establish himself in the Gunners’ first-team and a procession of injuries and the general consensus around Highbury that he wasn’t good enough to wear the shirt hampered his early progression.
He said: “I knew the rotation policy that George had and it wasn’t the same for anybody else as it was for me.
“George actually bought me to play as a sweeper to replace Dave O’Leary because that was my natural position and to play alongside Steve Bould and Tony Adams really excited me, [and] you never know if that had been the case it might have been a totally different scenario.”
Despite making just shy of 60 appearances in three years at the club, Eddie’s finest hour in an Arsenal jersey came as a substitute in the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup final when the Gunners defeated Parma. It proved to be quite a year on the international front too with Jack Charlton naming McGoldrick in his provisional Republic of Ireland squad for the World Cup in the USA.
However, the Highbury faithful failed to warm to McGoldrick in the same way they took to another signing from Palace – Ian Wright.
“Sometimes supporters take to you and sometimes they don’t and that’s just part and parcel of the game so in an ideal world I would have loved to have stayed there,” Eddie admitted to WTTGT.
Managerial uncertainty arose at Arsenal during McGoldrick’s time at the club. George Graham was given the boot in 1995 and Bruce Rioch’s short-lived tenure ended as soon as it had begun. Up stepped caretaker boss Stewart Houston to fill in the void before Arsène Wenger’s imminent arrival in ’96, but McGoldrick was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped out on loan to Manchester City.
“Certainly I would’ve loved to have had the opportunity to play under Arsène Wenger like the majority of the players I played with at Arsenal did,” confessed McGoldrick.
“I just wish they had the steel they had in ’98 now. The backbone of the side when I played there was Seaman, Adams, Wright and Campbell up front, [and] there was a good base. Then Petit, Vieira and Bergkamp took that mantle on so it curtailed nicely but I think they’re just lacking that now.”
It took Steve Coppell, the man responsible for selling McGoldrick to Arsenal, to end his disappointing spell in North London when he found time to sign him for Manchester City during his 32-day stint as manager at Maine Road in 1996.
Eddie failed to impress the City hierarchy and much like his time at Arsenal, injuries and a whirlwind of managerial changes restricted his playing time and he was consigned to the reserves in his final season in Manchester. He retired from the game shortly after in 2000.
Still an Arsenal fan at heart, McGoldrick was an interested onlooker to former team-mate Ian Wright’s recent comments regarding Arsenal’s stance as a potential feeder club for his former employers at Manchester City.
Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gaël Clichy have all swapped the Emirates for Eastlands and McGoldrick believes the ambition of Roberto Mancini’s side makes them an attractive proposition for any footballer.
He said: “The top players now want to be playing in the Champions League; the Europa Cup is no good for them. [The Champions League] it is the Holy Grail and the ambition the club have got with the owner and the money they can pay in terms of wages is there to see.
“Maybe it is becoming a feeder club but Arsenal must hang on to their prized assets and Fabregas, Van Persie and Wilshere at the moment are those assets and you would just fear for them.”
After hanging up his boots, short spells as manager of hometown club Corby Town and non-league Bashley in 2003 now point towards a career in the dug-out for McGoldrick. His impressive work with the Northampton youth set-up thereafter saw eight players receive scholarships and four handed pro-contracts with the Cobblers.
“Without wanting to sound big headed I [have] done a terrific job at Northampton with the kids on limited resources.
“I’m good at what I do, I know how what it takes to get players at that age to the next level and help them progress in the game so I believe I’ve got a lot to offer,” he added.