Arsenal legend Ray Parlour recalls funny story about defender joining club

Photo: The Times

Former Arsenal player Ray Parlour has opened up about the time a prank that he and Dennis Bergkamp played with Martin Keown led the club to sign Igor Stepanovs.

“We had this trialist come in at centre-half. He was probably thinking ‘we don’t need another centre-half, I’m not going to play!’ So, I and Bergkamp had a windup. We had £50 on it. I had the first half to try and wind up Keown while Bergkamp had the second half.” Parlour talkSPORT.

The incident dates back to the 2000/01 season when Arsene Wenger lacked centre-back options. The then Gunners captain, Martin Keown, was out of action due to an injury and the club had to bring a trialist on board.

“So every pass Igor did, it could be five yards, I was clapping him and saying ‘what a player this guy is! Fantastic!’ Second half and Igor hits this ball, I think he miss-kicked it. Went to one of our players 20 yards away and Bergkamp stood up and goes ‘what a player’ and starts clapping,” the ex-Gunner said.

“‘I’ve played against some great centre-halves and I wouldn’t want to play against this guy’. All of a sudden Martin says ‘He isn’t that good. He should have been pushing up, he’s dropping off too deep’. He bit, big time. So Bergkamp won the money.”

Two weeks later after the incident, the Latvian player was signed for  £1.35m. “Wenger’s probably been listening to Bergkamp going ‘what a player’ and he’s thought he’d buy him,” Parlour joked.

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