Ray Parlour says one of Arsenal’s worst-ever players signed after training prank
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Ray Parlour has revealed Arsene Wenger signed one of Arsenal's worst-ever players because of a training prank pulled on Martin Keown.
Heading into the 2000/01 season Wenger was short on centre-back options because captain Keown was out injured, so he brought a trialist on board.
The man in question was Latvian defender Igor Stepanovs who had impressed against the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea in European competition for Skonto Riga in his homeland.
Stepanovs was signed for £1.35m after his spell on trial during pre-season, which Parlour has explained only happened as a result of Wenger overhearing a wind-up by him and Dennis Berkgamp.
Speaking on talkSPORT, the ex-Gooner said: "We were on a pre-season tour and Martin Keown, you could wind him up big time.
"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 me and Dennis Berkgamp had a wind up. We had £50 on it. I had the first half to try and wind up Keown while Bergkamp had the second half.
"So every pass Igor did, it could be five yards, I was clapping him and saying 'what a player this guy is! Fantastic!'
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"Half-time whistle goes and Martin hasn't bitten yet.
"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. '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.
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"Two weeks later and Igor is sitting there. I never knew he was coming. Wenger's probably been listening to Bergkamp going 'what a player' and he's thought he'd buy him.
"I said 'what are you doing here?'
"He said 'they've signed me to a four-year contract.' I was like 'what?!' He couldn't believe his luck."
Stepanovs made just 31 appearances for Arsenal, one of which came in the damning 6-1 defeat to Manchester United, and he has gone down in history as one of the worst players to feature for Arsenal in the Premier League.
- Arsene Wenger
- Arsenal FC
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