Gun­ners re Gra­ham af­ter bungscan­dal

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Arse­nal man­ager also banned from foot­ball for a year af­ter re­ceiv­ing “un­so­licited gifts”

“I can­not re­call a sad­der day,” said Arse­nal chair­man Peter Hill-wood af­ter sack­ing Ge­orge Gra­ham, the club’s most suc­cess­ful man­ager since Her­bert Chapman. But it seems Hill-wood had lit­tle choice.

A Dou­ble-win­ner with the Gun­ners as a player, ‘Stroller’ re­turned to High­bury in 1986 hav­ing earned his man­age­rial stripes with Mill­wall, and pro­ceeded to win six tro­phies in eight years thanks largely to a miserly de­fence that Gra­ham him­self had drilled.

But in April 1994 a let­ter was sent to Arse­nal’s ac­coun­tants by the In­land Rev­enue, say­ing it had ev­i­dence that “coach­ing staff have re­ceived pay­ments or monies… which have em­anated from trans­fer fees paid by your client.” The word ‘bung’ was about to en­ter the foot­ball lex­i­con.

Gra­ham re­ceived over £400,000 from Nor­we­gian agent Rune Hauge re­lat­ing to trans­fers that took John Jensen and Pal Ly­der­sen to Arse­nal – small change in to­day’s Premier League, but more than Gra­ham’s an­nual salary back then.

Be­liev­ing he would be al­lowed to leave Arse­nal qui­etly at the end of the 1994-95 sea­son, Gra­ham was in fact told to clear his desk as soon as the al­le­ga­tions came to light in a Dan­ish news­pa­per, even though he re­paid Arse­nal the £400,000 plus in­ter­est on what he main­tained were “un­so­licited gifts” and not il­le­gal bungs. An FA dis­ci­plinary com­mis­sion thought oth­er­wise, ban­ning Gra­ham from foot­ball for a year, af­ter which he re­turned to man­age­ment with Leeds United. His per­ma­nent suc­ces­sor at Arse­nal, mean­while, lasted lit­tle more than a year, al­though Bruce Rioch did sign Den­nis Bergkamp from In­ter.

As for Gra­ham, he rarely talks about the af­fair and re­mained as res­o­lute as his fa­mous back four when, in 2000, he did break his si­lence. “I was wrong to ac­cept the money. I con­cede that greed got the bet­ter of me. I shouldn shouldn’t t have done it,” he told jour­nal­ist Hunter Davies. “But, re­ally, is it any dif­fer­ent from big busi­ness? It’s com­mon­place in the com­mer­cial world for such gifts to be given – and re­ceived.”

Also in this month

1999 Arse­nal agree to re­play an FA Cup fifth round tie with Sh­effield United af­ter break­ing a gen­tle­man’s rule by scor­ing a con­tro­ver­sial win­ner in­stead of giv­ing the ball back to their op­po­nents af­ter United had kicked the ball out to al­low treat­ment for an in­jured player. 2003 A fly­ing boot launched by Alex Fer­gu­son cuts Manch­ester United mid­fielder David Beck­ham above his left eye, caus­ing a me­dia storm. 2010 0 Chelsea de­fender John Terry is stripped of the Eng­land cap­taincy fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing his pri­vate life.

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