Legendary Arsenal assistant ma...

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Legendary Arsenal assistant manager Theo Foley dies

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

03:59 26 Jun 2020


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Former Republic of Ireland international and popular Arsenal assistant manager Theo Foley has died at the age of 83. 

The Inchicore native was George Graham's right-hand man when Arsenal ended their 18-year title drought on a famous night at Anfield in 1989.

During his playing career, Foley graced the Home Farm, Burnley, Exeter and Charlton sides.

He also won nine caps for his country.

But it was at Northampton where Foley enjoyed the biggest successes on the pitch.

He joined them while in the old Fourth Division and helped them rise up the Football League ladder all the way to the First Division. Foley was Northampton's captain in the top flight.

Foley's coaching career began at one of his former club's Charlton, first as assistant, and then as manager.

He also had two spells on the coaching staff at Millwall, and one at QPR under Terry Venables.

It was the latter spell at The Den that saw him work with future Arsenal boss George Graham.

"George was a youth coach at the club and we worked closely together developing players for the first-team," Foley told London Football Scene in 2019.

"Even at that age I was impressed with him – he knew exactly what he wanted to do in the game."

Graham would take Foley with him to Highbury when he was confirmed as Don Howe's permanent replacement.

"When he told me he was going, I just laughed and told him not to – he didn’t know the ‘Millwall Way’ and they would eat me alive at The Den. Little did I know he was taking me with him!"

Graham and Foley led Arsenal to the First Division title in 1989, helped by the most dramatic of goals from Michael Thomas.

"It was some achievement to go there and win. It was undoubtedly the pinnacle for me and one of the most outstanding nights of my life," he said.

"It was such a great team with great characters but the tragedy for me was Hillsborough had happened and as a kid coming from Dublin I always had a soft spot for Liverpool.

"Each time I remember the occasion it gets little bit sadder – those people losing their lives so unnecessarily."

After being demoted to reserve team coach with Stewart Houston's promotion, Foley left Arsenal to manage Northampton in 1991.

He also had stints working at Fulham and Southend under Ronnie Whelan.

In 2005, prospective Ireland manager George Burley had Foley lined up as his assistant. The job instead went to Brian Kerr.

He'd recently worked as a matchday host at Charlton's Valley stadium, and published his autobiography, Theo Give us A Ball: A Life in Football along with his son Paul in 2018.


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