Ray Parlour, Martin Keown and Graeme Le Saux sign for non-league Wembley FC
It’s certainly not everyday that a 3000 capacity ground welcomes three FA Cup winners and six internationals to the wage bill, but that’s what happened yesterday.
Non-league Wembley FC – who play in the Combined Counties Football League – were the lucky recipients of a mid-1990s nostalgia trip yesterday with former Arsenal trio Ray Parlour, David Seaman and Martin Keown committing themselves to help coach and play for the small London outfit.
Also joining the party are ex-Chelsea full-back Graeme Le Saux, former USA international Brian McBride and that Argentinean bloke who got brutally tackled against Cameroon at World Cup 1990, Claudio Caniggia.
To top off the blast from the past, ex-Three Lions manager Terry Venables will continue in his role as technical advisor/media-friendly cheeky chappy of the club.
The signings come off the back of significant sponsorship from Budweiser, who also sponsor the FA Cup. The American lager giants have backed the club in a bid to champion the magic of the oldest cup tournament in the world and highlight grassroots football as the lifeblood of the game.
OTP’s Stuart Dalmedo was in attendance as the signings were unveiled, and while we were intrigued by old greats and Martin Keown chancing their arm at the game again, our eyes were most commonly focused on what has to be the plushest non-league clubhouse in existence.
With that splashing of cash in mind, it’s easy to be cynical at the slightly ludicrous signings, but having chatted to a few of the veterans, there certainly appeared to be a genuine hunger to help out.
Ray Parlour – holder of the strongest London accent award 10 years running – told us what was in it for him.
The former Gunner said: “I’ve come in and done a bit of training and I’ve really enjoyed it, just giving them a sense of positioning as a midfield player. They took it all on board and they are a real good genuine bunch. And to play with my former teammates David Seaman and Martin Keown, I thought ‘what a challenge, why not?’”
While Parlour will take to the field, friendly man-mountain Dave Seaman will focus on coaching the goalkeepers, partly because he doesn’t fancy playing football again one bit.
Old ‘Safe Hands’ told OTP: “If I’m truthful I don’t miss the game at all. But I do enjoy doing this.”
The former England number one added: “The best thing about this is that the guys love to learn. You teach somebody and they actually put it into their game within minutes.”
The new recruits will display their rusty skills and glittering expertise with the first kick of the new FA Cup 2012/13 Season – an extra preliminary round tie on August 11, 2012.
We quite fancy watching that tie. With the Wembley FC team transformed from a rickety group of financially struggling nearly men to a squad with 310 international caps, we can only assume seething tackles will be flying in thick and fast from the opposition.
With that feisty encounter in mind, Claudio Caniggia may have to revisit this painful experience at least two or three times per half.