My Highbury Hero this week is another legend from the 1971 Double team. Arsenal’s famous enforcer Peter Storey; the man who kept Arsenal’s Double dream alive by scoring a last minute penalty, against the World’s number one goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
Storey had a reputation as a hatchet man. There is no doubt he was very intimidating on the pitch. He was as hard as nails and very tenacious. This was an age when the game was far more brutal than it is today and every team had a player like Peter Storey in their side. Chopper Harris at Chelsea, Tommy Smith at Liverpool and Norman Hunter at Leeds United to name but three. If a player needed to be man marked and put out the game. Bertie Mee or Don Howe would simply say in the dressing room before the match “You know what to do Peter”.
Every side needed a player like Peter but Storey had far more to his game than just that side. He was a vital cog in the 1971 Double side. As Frank McLintock says, “Despite his reputation as a hatchet man, he was an excellent footballer and would have been equally at home in any position in midfield or defence. He’s been underrated because of his fearsome qualities in the tackle, on the pitch he was not very nice at all and could be quite frightening”.
“Cold and focussed, Peter was great at sensing danger and was unflappable when we were under pressure. His gift for the simplest, but most vital tasks – winning the ball then giving it – gave a framework for the way we operated”.
Bob Wilson said of Peter “Off the field, he was shy and polite; on it, he was anything but, and could scare his own team-mates to death”.
Peter Storey was also the only player at Highbury that got picked regularly for England by Sir Alf Ramsey, winning 19 caps in all between 1971 and 1973. This at a time when it was a damn sight harder to get into the England team than it is today.
Born in Farnham, Surrey, not far from Aldershot, Peter was an outstanding schoolboy player and reached the pinnacle of schools football, being chosen to represent England at that level. He’d been approached by Arsenal’s Chief Scout Ernie Collett and had informally agreed to join Arsenal when he left school. There were quite a few clubs interested in signing him. Chelsea were very keen but Peter had his heart set on joining The Arsenal. In fact when his careers teacher asked what he was going to do for a job when he left school. She was taken aback when he told her “I’m going to be a professional footballer with Arsenal”.
Sure enough one day in spring 1961, Arsenal 1930’s legend George Male turned up at the Storey’s for afternoon tea. “You would still like to join us at The Arsenal, wouldn’t you, Peter?’ The 15 year old Storey blushed, almost choked and spluttered out words to the effect “Of course” and Mr Male, as Peter always called him, told his parents that they should travel to Highbury the next day to complete the formalities.
He signed the next day as an apprentice on £7 a week, with a bonus of £1 for a win and 10 bob for a draw. Peter said he had a big soppy grin on his face, as he was so proud and happy to sign for The Arsenal, on the train journey home with his parents.
At Arsenal Peter had soon earned a nickname. When he innocently butted into a conversation with some other apprentices asking “What’s up, lads?” David Court who was a year or so older than Peter, light-heartedly told Storey to “Keep your snout out”. When Storey turned for training the next day David Court said “Here he is, old Snouty!” The nickname ‘Snouty’ then stayed with him at Arsenal for the rest if his time there.
Peter made his first team debut for Arsenal on the 30th October 1965 at Filbert Street, against Leicester City. Arsenal lost 3-1, but Storey did enough to stay in the side for the rest of the season. Billy Wight gave Peter his chance at Left Back, replacing Billy McCullough and he stayed in the team for the rest of the season and never looked back.
Storey was the latest off the conveyor belt of fine young talent to come through the youth team, along with Geordie Armstrong, Peter Simpson, Jon Sammels, John Radford and David Court. So I think although Billy Wright was a poor manager. He must be given credit for the way he brought those young players through and into the side.
The following season 1966-67 Billy Wright had been sacked and Bertie Mee was the new manager. Again Peter was a first team regular but swapped to right back to allow Bob McNab to play on the left of the defence.
We came close to winning silverware, in the League Cup in 1967-68 and 1968-69 losing first to Leeds United, then disastrously to Swindon Town and Storey played in both finals.
Of course Peter was our right back in the Fairs Cup Final in 1969-70, helping us win our first trophy for 17 years. I’ve put the video clip up of that game a couple of times. So this time I’ve decided to give you a snapshot described by Bob Wilson of what was going on in the Arsenal dressing room, just before the Arsenal side came down the Highbury tunnel and took the field, with the noise from the Highbury crowd at fever pitch.
“In the dressing room you can hear very little of the din outside. Howe is still talking to anyone who will listen. There is the stink of camphor oil being meticulously rubbed in. Each player steps gingerly, preparing their legs like blades, to be stretched and oiled and bound. Once they have their boots on nobody stands still, the noise is deafening. With 15 minutes to go Charlie George is being sick, Bob Wilson is standing in the showers hurling a ball at the wall, which is a foot away. Peter Simpson has put on his cigarette and is saying, ‘relax just treat it like a cup final’.”
“The dressing room is covered with telegrams. Amongst them one from Wally Barnes, who was carried off during the club’s last FA Cup Final in 1952, a 2-0 defeat by Newcastle and another from former colleague Jimmy Robertson at Ipswich.”
“Ken Aston the Fairs Cup Committee representative comes in from the Anderlecht dressing room to say their studs are two inches long.’Fucking hell’, says Radford ‘Go over the top with those and they’ll cut the leg in half’, his gloom invariably deepens before a match. He goes out to the pitch like a man facing the firing squad. Charlie George, famous for being the only man who could find a short cut across the cross-country course, is taping on his shin guards. ‘Anybody puts a kick through that, I’ll buy him a drink after’. The noise of running, jumping studs on the marble floor reaches crescendo. The brandy flask is going round faster and faster. Nothing unusual in that. Apparently, at Manchester City in the old days, they used to get through a bottle before every game”.
“Everyone is dressed now, except Frank McLintock who has neither his shorts nor his boots on and is still fussing about his laces. George Wright is checking his bag for pain-relieving spray, lint dressing, brandy, smelling salts, Deep Heat rub, eye wash, adrenaline chloride, Vaseline, an inflatable polythene splint, anti-tetanus shots, a field dressing, a camel hair eye brush and steel pin to adjust blood pressure, plus the traditional sponge. Everything to keep an injured man on the field until the game ends. Bob McNab runs a last comb through his hair. Peter Storey applies the last clot of Vaseline to his eyebrows and the lads are lining up ready to run out.” The rest is history.
So we come to the Double season of 1970-71 and Don Howe pulled a masterstroke by moving Peter Storey into midfield, where he did an absolutely brilliant job of protecting the back four and making the occasional marauding run further up the pitch.
When we played Stoke City in the FA Cup Semi-Final, at Hillsborough, we went in 2-0 down at half time. A freak rebound from a Peter Storey clearance and a suicidal back pass from Charlie George, so often the hero in that seasons FA Cup run. Don Howe and Frank McLintock fired up the team for the second half and Peter Storey volleyed the ball home to make it 2-1. Time was ticking away, with the Stoke fans baying for the final whistle. Frank McLintock sends a header goal bound. But John Mahoney handles the ball on the line, penalty!
With nerves jangling, Bob Wilson couldn’t even bear to watch the spot kick and the Double dream was in the balance. But Peter Storey showed nerves of steel. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Peter stepped forward and slid it low past the great Gordon Banks and into the back of the net to send the Arsenal fans wild.
The dramatic 1971 FA Cup Semi-Final against Stoke City at Hillsborough
Stoke were shot and Arsenal comfortably put them to the sword 2-0 in the replay at Goodison Park, with goals from George Graham and Ray Kennedy. As bad luck would have it, Storey got injured in the penultimate League game, also against Stoke at Highbury. His replacement Eddie Kelly came on and scored the winner but it meant Peter missed the final Title decider at White Hart when Arsenal completed the first part of the Double.
Arsenal finish off Stoke City in the Semi-Final Replay at Goodison Park
Peter felt understandably gutted at missing out at White Hart Lane and was determined to be fit for the FA Cup Final at Wembley. He was still struggling and only had five days to get himself fit. Peter felt that Bertie Mee wanted to play Eddie Kelly, when Mee said at a team meeting “You’re going to be sitting with us, Peter”. Don Howe said “Hang on, he might be fit. You never know Bert”.
Storey was convinced that Bertie Mee made his Friday fitness test so stringent in order for Peter to break down and fail the test. Bertie conducted the test himself. He was an excellent physiotherapist and knew exactly what was required to get Storey to fail the test and tried everything he knew to try to make that happen
Despite his body screaming for mercy by the end of the test, Peter managed to pass it. Bertie ended it saying “You’ll do, then” before walking off. But the ankle was still giving him pain and Storey lasted just over an hour before Eddie Kelly came on to replace him and Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup, thanks to Charlie George, and complete the Double.
In 1971-72 when Alan Ball arrived in December, Storey was the man left out to accommodate Bally. But eventually Peter forced his way back into the side and played in the FA Cup Final against Leeds United. Storey played 51 of the clubs 53 matches in 1972-73 when we finished 2nd in the table three points behind Liverpool, as well playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final defeat against Sunderland. Peter only missed one game in 1973-74 and played in 46 out of 52 matches in 1974-75. But in his final two seasons at Arsenal, he hardly played. He made 11 league appearances in 1975-76 and just 7 plus 4 sub appearances in the League in 1976-77.
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Peter played his final game for The Arsenal, coming on as a sub for Malcolm McDonald on the 29th January 1977, in a 3-1 win against Coventry City in the FA Cup. He eventually left to join Fulham for a nominal £10,000, in March 1977.
At Fulham he played a dozen games to help them avoid relegation, then played a handful of games the following season, playing his last game against Spurs, at White Hart Lane, on the 10th September 1977. Before calling it a day and hanging up his boots.
After Peter finished with football, he led an incredible life which would have been made into a film, if the people had managed to come up with the finances to make it. But I’m sure Peter would agree, he made some regrettable errors of judgement back then, which were primarily due to naivety.
But I don’t want to dwell too much on that period of Peter’s life. I’d prefer to remember Peter Storey as the warrior who went to war for The Arsenal 501 times, scoring 17 goals and giving his all for 12 seasons.
Peter now lives a very different life, content with a tranquil, quiet existence in Southern France, with his fourth wife Danièle. He still visits England from time to time to visit his family.
Another Highbury Hero next week……
Started going to Highbury in ’66. Season ticket holder since ’76. Love The Arsenal. Need I say more?