Igors Stepanovs – it’s a name to strike fear into the hearts of Gooners everwhere.

  • Igors made 17 Premier League appearances for Arsenal
  • He cost £1.28m
  • The biggest club he played for after leaving Arsenal was Grasshoppers

Most likely, Igors Stepanovs will always be remembered for being port of a backline that shipped six at Old Trafford.

So how did he come to play for Arsenal in the first place? Because the Arsenal players tried to play a joke on Martin Keown and Arsene Wenger thought they were all praising Stepanovs on trial.

Writing in his autobiography, “The Romford Pele,” Ray Parlour explained how it was clear Stepanovs was not up to scratch when he arrived at Arsenal. But, he said, Martin Keown was always easy to wind up when a new centreback arrived. So, during his trial, all the players went out of their way to praise everything Stepanovs did.

Wenger’s reaction? To hand the player a four-year deal.

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18 Feb 2001: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of Chelsea is challenged by Igors Stepanovs of Arsenal during the match between Arsenal and Chelsea in the fifth round of the Axa Sponsored FA Cup at Highbury, London. Credit: Jamie McDonald/ALLSPORT

Ray said, “Incredible. Arsene didn’t know we were just trying to tease Martin.

“He just kept listening to us heaping praise on this player.

“And if Dennis Bergkamp says ‘what a player,’ Arsene would be entitled to take a bit of notice.

“I suppose it looked like a bargain at around £1m.

“No disrespect from anyone from the lower leagues but Igors was a yard behind us on the pitch it was like taking my brother to  training.

“You could see Dennis’s face thinking’what have we done here’.”

That would have been bad enough, but an injury crisis saw Arsenal head to Old Trafford with a back four of Oleg Luzhny, Gilles Grimandi, Igors Setpanovs, and Ashley Cole.

By half time they were 5-1 down and Dwight Yorke was asking “Where the hell did you get that centre-half from?”

“Look, it’s a long story…” replied Ray.

The game finished 6-1 and Igors was hardly seen again.