Lee Dixon has revealed how his move from Stoke to Arsenal came about.
Back in 1988, Dixon joined Arsenal from the Potters and during the recent sports documentary, ’89’, the former full-back reveals what it was like to receive the news that the Gunners wanted to sign him and he was about to meet George Graham.
“Out of the blue I got a call from Mick Mills, who was manager of Stoke at the time, and he said ‘we need you to come in a bit early before training’,” Dixon revealed in a clip from ’89’, released by the Evening Standard.
“I went in and he said ‘it’s the big one’. I said ‘who’s that then?’ and he said ‘Arsenal’. When the words came out of his mouth, I remember being in his office and feeling all the blood drain from my face.
“Mick Mills told me we needed to go to Watford Gap service station to do the deal with George. We drive down and on the way there I said to Mick Mills, ‘what sort of money d’you think George might offer me?’ He said, ‘you’ve made it, it’s first division, it’s Arsenal, it’s the big league. They’ll offer you £1,000 a week minimum’.
“I couldn’t even comprehend money like that. I had that figure in my head when I got out the car at the service station.
“George is sitting in his car like a million dollars. He’s suited and booted, he’s got his Arsenal blazer on, Arsenal tie. He puts his hand out and says, ‘welcome aboard. The deal’s been done, the clubs have agreed a fee’.
“He shakes my hand again and starts to get out the car. So I said to him, ‘George, can we just talk about wages?’ He said, ‘why what do you want?’ And I said, ‘£1,000?’
“As I said that, he basically gets out the car, shuts the door and walks off into the service station. The next day I phoned George up and I said, ‘look you’ve got me all wrong, I’m a bit naive. Can I come down and see you’.
“I went straight to George’s office,” Dixon added, “and I said, ‘where do I sign, I’ll sign for whatever you want’. And he went, ‘I tell you what, I’ll give you £750’.”
Dixon would go on to spend 14 years in north London, winning four titles, three FA Cups, scoring 25 league goals and making over 600 appearances.
He was part of the squad that won the title at Anfield in 1989 after Arsenal had failed to win it since 1971, which is precisely what ’89’ is about.
The defender also witnessed a change in eras from Graham’s ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ to Arsene Wenger’s total football and featured in both.
In 2002, the ex-England international hung up his boots for good at the age of 38. I guess, after reaching such success at ‘the big one’, there wasn’t much else for Dixon to do.
It’s interesting to watch his face light up when he talks about first hearing that Arsenal wanted to sign him, even though it’s almost 30 years ago now. It was genuinely a huge moment in his life and he would see out in career in north London, even after the man who brought him on board was sacked.
That’s something of a rarity nowadays.