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banner Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 03:59 GMT
Take a look at me now
John Lukic
Lukic had a distinguished career with Arsenal and Leeds
BBC Radio Five Live's Adrian Chiles talked to former Arsenal and Leeds goalkeeper John Lukic about scrapes with disaster and long-distance commuting

John Lukic would like to clear one thing up straightaway. His mother was not, repeat NOT, involved in the Munich air disaster that killed half the Manchester United team.

This may seem a strange denial for the former Arsenal and Leeds keeper to have to make, but rumours persist that his pregnant mother was a stewardess on board the fatal flight.

"There was a stewardess called Lukic, and this is where the urban myth has come from," he explained.

"But I can categorically say that I was not on the aircraft in any shape or form.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work it out. I was born in December 1960 and the disaster happened in March 1958, so it must have been the longest pregnancy in history!"

I am a man of leisure for the most part
John Lukic

Lukic has spent much of his career clearing up confusion over his surname.

Born in Chesterfield to Yugoslav parents, the veteran keeper was brought up learning Serbo-Croat.

And even after a distinguished career spanning 23 years and over 700 senior games, some fans still wonder why he didn't represent the former Yugoslavia on the international stage.

While a hoped-for England career did not materialise, Lukic did use his bilingual talents on occasion to surprise opposing centre forwards.

"I am not quite as fluent now as 20 years ago but I can get by," he laughed.

"I was playing in an Under-21 tournament in Germany years ago, and it was all going off in the 18-yard box.

"I threw in my two-pennyworth and it caused a bit of consternation at the time."

Having officially retired as a player in May last year following a second spell at Arsenal, Lukic still helps out with some goalkeeping coaching at the club.

I did a couple of weeks' coaching recently and over 17 days, I did 4,500 miles
John Lukic

But having remained in his native Chesterfield, after leaving Leeds for a second time to move back to Highbury in 1996, work for the 41-year-old now involves an arduous road-trip.

"I am not permanently on the staff at Arsenal. I did a couple of weeks' coaching there recently and over 17 days, because of the intensity of the work, I did 4,500 miles," he said.

"It can be quite daunting that drive, but fortunately I don't have to do it on a regular basis. I am a man of leisure for the most part."

Lukic's last game for Arsenal came in the Champions League 18 months ago, a competition he believes causes more worries than most for the man between the sticks.

But it is not the extra tension of the occasion that is the problem. It has more to do with over-active ballboys, apparently.

"When you play in the Champions League it is difficult for keepers," said Lukic.

"When you are playing a normal match, you use the same ball and the outer coating on the ball tends to go during the game and you get a better grip

"With the Champions League now it is difficult for keepers because when the ball goes into the crowd you get new balls coming on at different times.

The newness of the ball is still there and they are slimy on the gloves."

At Arsenal, fans used to chant "Johnny, Johnny, do the twist" at Lukic, in recognition of his trademark wiggle as he approached a goal kick.

These days the players he coaches joke that he's round the twist!

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