The Bald Facts: The David Armstrong Biography
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Like many gifted footballers of the seventies and eighties, the story told by legendary Middlesbrough, Southampton and England winger David Armstrong includes some spectacular ups and downs; but the speed and ferocity of his personal rollercoaster ride are surely unique. Starting out at Leeds, David resisted signing for Don Revie – later followed by Clough’s Forest and Manchester United. He played an incredible 356 consecutive matches for Middlesbrough before being forced out after ten years. On to Saints with Keegan, Ball and Channon – and more near misses in the league and cup. Armstrong’s promising England career was sadly curtailed by a falling-out with Bobby Robson – and just four years later he was forced to sign on the dole. The break-up of his first marriage, his desperate desire for an ankle amputation and bailiffs at the door lend David’s riches-to-rags story of stardom and poverty a human appeal far beyond football.
off the pitch and it was probably one of the finest moments of my entire life. Not long later we were doing the first of many laps of honour and experienced team-mates said much the same as Jack. ‘Take it all in, it might not happen again.’ And of course it didn’t. There were other great moments. Bobby Moore’s Fulham debut on 19 March ended in that big win of ours but it was just a privilege to be on the same pitch as a man of his stature. Only eight years previously, as an impressionable
much-impersonated high-pitched trill, everybody listened because he knew what he was talking about. He could be very funny and carried with him a charisma that matched Keegan’s. The best way to describe him socially was as the life and soul of a party and he liked nothing better than to get on a microphone and belt out ‘New York, New York’ or another Sinatra standard, ‘My Way’, all delivered in a surprisingly deep voice. Not surprisingly we made a poor start to the season, struggling to recover
player from Sheffield United, but some of his other recruits were not consistently up to it. Gerry Forrest from Rotherham was a good right-back and wasn’t the worst of his signings by any means but like a lot of players coming into the top flight at an advanced football age, he lacked a little self-belief and confidence. In effect he was replacing Mick Mills, who had left in 1985, and it wasn’t fair to expect a guy with his background to fill the boots of a former England captain. Others like
Sheffield United 1-0 on the opening day with the chaos and the misery which was to follow in a matter of weeks seeming impossible to imagine as I drove home that evening, very content in the belief I had chosen well. I got a penalty against Exeter in the Littlewoods Cup and goals against Bradford City and Birmingham but on 5 September my playing career was all but over. I did try in vain to make a comeback but I knew in my heart of hearts it wasn’t going to happen. There were substitute
side in my time, credit to Bobby Robson. Left to right: Paul Cooper, Keegan, Stuart McCall, Mick Mills, Terry Butcher and Roger Osborne. England v Denmark in Copenhagen, 22 September 1982. From the left in the England dug-out are Tony Woodcock, myself, Alvin Martin, Ricky Hill, Ray Clemence, Don Howe, Bobby Robson and Fred Street, our physio. I didn’t get any action, again. (BOB THOMAS PIX) Always proud to represent my country. This picture is dear to me because it was taken at what I