The Jack Kelsey Fan Club Proudly Presents

Sammy Nelson (Arsenal F.C. 1969-81)

Sammy Nelson

Sammy Nelson

Sammy Nelson in Statto's Corner

Sammy Nelson - The man who dropped his shorts

Sammy Nelson didn't join Arsenal as a full-back, when he signed as a professional on his seventeenth birthday in April 1966 he was all set to be a winger in our youth team. The amiable Ulsterman soon converted to the fullback role however, and in the 1966-67 season he established a regular slot in the reserve team. Despite playing over a hundred reserve team fixtures it wasn't until October 1969 that he made his first team debut against Ipswich, although during that same season, 1969-70, he won the first of his fifty one Irish caps. Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson were to become the regular full back pairing for both club and country. Not a pairing as famous as Male and Hapgood perhaps, but certainly one as familiar to the Arsenal fans of the day.

Sammy was the understudy for Bob McNab during our first double season of 1970-71 and played just six first team games, but the 1971-2 season saw his Arsenal career take off due to a number of injuries suffered by the England international McNab. It was not until 1974 however, when Bob McNab was released by the Club, that Sammy became the automatic first team choice, having already spent some eight seasons at the Club.

The jaunty Sammy Nelson was a popular player with the fans because he was always looking to go forward, his audacious overlaps down Arsenal's left flank were, I'm told, only matched by the corniness of his wisecracks. He could be a demon in the heat of the battle but this hid a disarmingly gentle and humorous nature which were partly to account for the high esteem and genuine affection with which he was held by both team-mates and supporters alike. Nelson was strong in the air, quick and agile as well as being an effective crosser of the ball. Fierce in the tackle, even occasionally wild, but not the best reader of the game. He never was the greatest defender but he was always very brave and consistently wholehearted in his efforts. His goal-scoring feats which were limited to just 12 in 339 first team games were minimal, but I recall a real scorcher in Arsenal's 7-0 annihilation of Leeds United during a League Cup tie in 1969. Sammy's first team appearances included four Finals for Arsenal but he was on the winning side in just one: the F A Cup against Manchester United in 1979. Nelson's total number of games for the Club amounted to 768 competitive appearances at all levels. At the time this had been bettered by just six players, the illustrious six were: Simpson, Armstrong, Storey, Rice, Radford and O'Leary.

Sammy smiles for the North Bank

Sammy: all smiles for the North Bank

Sammy was well known for his antics and is infamous for once baring his behind to the North Bank in a moment of levity. A stunt that dropped him into deep water with the authorities, but endeared him to the fans. His team-mates will probably better remember an incident one night at the team hotel when a fire alarm sounded. Sammy emerged in just his underpants clutching his wallet. Despite his clowning Sammy Nelson was an intelligent man and after a year in the reserves when Kenny Sansom had taken over the left back slot he moved on from Arsenal to Brighton where he played a further 40 matches. His much deserved testimonial match against Celtic at Highbury netted him £30,000, this clearly indicated the high esteem in which he was held by both the club and the fans.

Brian Dawes

© Brian Dawes 2001

Sources used and recommended further reading:

Arsenal an Illustrated History - Phil Soar and Martin Tyler

The Gunners - Ivan Ponting

Arsenal Who's Who - Jeff Harris

Arsenal a Complete Record - Fred Ollier

Sammy Nelson in Statto's Corner

Samuel Nelson 1969-81

Born Belfast 1st April 1949

Position left back

Signed professional April 1966

Debut v Ipswich home 25 October 1969 (drew 0-0)

Debut goal v Manchester City 13 November 1971

League appearances 225 Goals 10
F A Cup 35 1
League Cup 27 1
European Cup 5 0
Cup Winners Cup 7 0
EUFA Cup 9 0
Charity Shield 1 0
Arsenal Total 339 12

FA Cup Winners medal 1979

FA Cup finalist 1978, 1980

Cup Winners Cup finalist 1980

Charity Shield finalist 1980

51 internationals for Northern Ireland

2 Northern Ireland under 23's caps

2 Northern Ireland Youth caps

Other Club Brighton



Thanks for Visiting The Jack Kelsey Fan Club