Back in 2007 I penned the following appreciation of Peter Storey for Arsenal-Land. Thanks again Darren for letting me reproduce it here. It was written three years before I had the added resource of Peter’s autobiography to lean on. Fortunately ‘Snouty’ left an impression on all who saw him, or indeed played against him!
Let me take you back to March 27th, 1971. Arsenal, chasing Leeds United for the League Championship, are losing 2-0 to Stoke City in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. Stoke are something of a bogey side, having thumped the Gunners 5-0 at the Victoria Ground earlier in the season. One man makes it his mission to salvage Arsenal’s double dream.
Early in the second half Ray Kennedy chips a hopeful ball towards the Stoke box. It breaks to Peter Storey, principally a defensive midfielder, and his instinctive twenty yarder flies like an arrow into the net.
‘Snouty’ is engaged in what seems like a personal battle with the City midfielders, particularly the persistent John Mahoney. An injury fifteen minutes from time denies Arsenal the services of the enigmatic Charlie George. The two minutes that are added on by referee Pat Partridge for Charlie’s injury are critical.
Ninety minutes plus have been completed as Arsenal earn a last chance corner. Skipper Frank Mclintock heads for the far post and Mahoney palms the ball clear. Only one man will take this penalty.
It’s time to tell younger readers a little more about the combative Storey. He first appeared in the Arsenal side, as a homegrown twenty year old right-back, at Leicester in 1965. For the next half a decade he alternated between right and left back, earning a reputation as a fierce tackler yet possessing a keen eye for a pass and a tidy shot.
How fierce a tackler, I hear you ask. John Spurling paints a wonderful picture in his 2003 book, ‘Rebels For The Cause’, as he describes how Storey felled the formidable Norman Hunter in one particular battle with Leeds United.
“When the Leeds man hauled himself off the floor, he nodded at Giles and Bremner, then at Storey. The Arsenal player was ‘targeted’ for the rest of the game, but Leeds contract killers failed to destroy their man and Storey gave as good as he got. Even the Leeds hatchet-men must have been quietly impressed.”
His contribution to Arsenal’s first trophy in seventeen years, the 1970 European Fairs Cup, was immense. His partnership on the right flank with wee Georgie Armstrong provided many aerial opportunities for striker John Radford.
Storey seemed to have no concept of pain, and rarely missed games through injury. In an era of genuine hard men Storey was as tough as any, but his footballing ability led to a switch into midfield in 1970-71. He was taking on the opposition ‘enforcers’ anyway, and his ‘promotion’ meant that Pat Rice could move up to fill the right back slot.
With his abrasive style, intelligent runs, and probing passes Storey helped to transform a good side into a great one. How ironic it was that as Storey made this footballing leap, he should win international recognition as Sir Alf Ramsey picked him for the first of nineteen caps – at right back!
Back to Hillsborough, and Storey faces World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks in injury time. He shows why he is nicknamed ‘ice-eyes’. There is not a flicker of emotion, no hint of where he intends to plant the spot-kick. Banks goes to his right, a strange choice for those of us who had seen Storey take penalties before. With the instep Storey passes the ball to the keeper’s left and the Gunners have a replay. The double is secured six weeks later.
Storey would survive the capture of England midfielder Alan Ball in the following season as Bertie Mee tried to lead Arsenal down the path of ‘total football’. His particular skills were required to ensure the likes of Ball and a young Liam Brady could demonstrate the full range of their abilities.
Strangely, when Mee departed Arsenal to be replaced by Terry Neill in 1976, Storey was one of a number of stars that had played with the new boss, but didn’t stay long. A move to Fulham was short lived, just seventeen appearances in fact. Contrast that with his 501 games (17 goals) in Gunners colours.
At just thirty-two, Storey was lost to football but sadly not to the newspapers. A series of convictions and a couple of prison sentences kept him in the public eye. After a spell of driving he is now reported to be living in France with his fourth wife. Those of us fortunate enough to have witnessed him at his peak wish him well. In all honesty we wouldn’t dare do anything else!
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