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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Seaman's final hurrah
By Tom Fordyce

David Seaman applauds the fans
Seaman's last Arsenal game was the FA Cup final win
Should we be surprised by David Seaman's move to Manchester City?

From Seaman's point of view, it makes perfect sense.

As soon as Arsene Wenger made it clear that Seaman would no longer be Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper next season, he had to ask himself if he wanted to continue his playing career.

At 39 years old, he felt that he still had something to offer - which meant turning down Wenger's offer of a goalkeeping coach's role at Arsenal and looking elsewhere for first-team opportunities.

The end for Seaman at both international and club level came quickly. At the turn of the year he was still England's number one, still very much first choice at Arsenal.

Only when injuries kept him out of England's games against Australia, Liechtenstein and Turkey did David James get the chance to secure the England slot as his own.

When he returned to the Arsenal team, Seaman felt he did more than enough to prove his worth - notably en route to the Gunners' FA Cup win, when his stop from Paul Peschisolido in the semi-final was dubbed "the greatest save in history" by Peter Schmeichel.

That was in his 1,000th career game - and so it is easy to understand why he was reluctant to hang up his gloves just a month later.

Schmeichel also provided an inspirational example for Seaman.

Ignore the fact that the Englishman is a couple of months older than the Dane.

What Schmeichel did in his time at Man City and, before that, Aston Villa, was to prove that great goalkeepers can enjoy Indian summers even when others have written off their careers.

SEAMAN AT ARSENAL
David Seaman smiles
Signed: 18 May 1990
Fee: 1.3m
Games: 566
Honours: 3 League titles, 4 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Cup-Winners' Cup

Most critics thought Schmeichel was easing into retirement when he left Manchester United for Sporting Lisbon after winning the Treble in 1999.

Yet when he came back to Villa two years' later and then, 12 months down the line, switched to his former club's city rivals, his form was good enough to keep him among the top five keepers in the Premiership. Maybe he was not the very best, as he had been, but still a huge credit to both clubs and himself.

It is the same with Seaman. While he is no longer as dominant as he once was, he is still worthy of a Premiership place at more than half of the top flight's clubs.

Of course it will be a shock for him to be playing in different colours and in front of different fans after 13 years at Highbury.

But it can be done. If Schmeichel can leave United after six league titles and put down roots afresh elsewhere, so can Seaman.

And what of Arsenal, the club he served so well for 566 games? For them the future is somewhat cloudier.

Wenger has let Seaman go without a ready-made replacement in place. Stuart Taylor was not considered good enough to displace Seaman last season, and it is unlikely that Wenger has changed his mind since the FA Cup final. Meanwhile, Rami Shaaban has not played since breaking his leg last December.

Wenger may well have a summer signing in mind. But for Arsenal fans there will be sadness that the last link with the famous back five of the George Graham era has been broken.

Lee Dixon and Tony Adams retired last summer; Nigel Winterburn left on a free in 2000. Steve Bould moved to Sunderland four years ago. Martin Keown is still around, but he was a late addition, not arriving at Arsenal until 1993.

Seaman could still return to Arsenal in some capacity, possibly in that coaching role when his one-year deal at City expires.

In the meantime, the fixture between the two teams at Highbury next season will act as both a farewell and welcome home party for Arsenal's greatest goalkeeper.




ARSENAL

MANCHESTER CITY

SEE ALSO
Seaman's career profile
04 Jun 03  |  Man City
Seaman to join Man City
04 Jun 03  |  Man City
Schmeichel leads Seaman praise
13 Apr 03  |  Arsenal
Seaman reaches grand milestone
14 Mar 03  |  Arsenal
Seaman offered coaching deal
25 Feb 03  |  Premiership

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