Sammy Nelson
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Sammy Nelson

Sammy Nelson
Personal information
Full name Samuel Nelson
Date of birth (1949-04-01) 1 April 1949 (age 71)
Place of birth Belfast, Northern Ireland
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)[1]
Playing position(s) Left-back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1966-1981 Arsenal 255 (10)
1981-1983 Brighton & Hove Albion 40 (1)
National team
1970-1982 Northern Ireland 51 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Samuel Nelson (born 1 April 1949) is a former footballer who played as a left back in the Football League for Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion. He was capped 51 times for Northern Ireland and played at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Club career


Nelson was born in Belfast where he attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, a rugby-playing school.[2] He joined Arsenal as a 16-year-old,[2] and turned professional on his 17th birthday in 1966.[3] Originally a left-winger, he was later moved back into defence to become a left back.[3] Nelson played in the 1966 FA Youth Cup final in which Arsenal beat Sunderland 5-3 over two legs.[2][4]

He was a regular in Arsenal's reserve side for several seasons, before making his first-team debut against Ipswich Town on 25 October 1969. He was understudy to the Gunners' established left back, Bob McNab, and only when McNab was injured in the 1971-72 season did Nelson become a regular. Even then, whenever McNab returned to fitness, Nelson was forced to step down.[3] He made two appearances in Arsenal's successful 1969-70 Fairs Cup campaign but played no part in the final itself, and his four league matches during the 1970-71 Double-winning season were not sufficient for a medal.[2][5]

McNab left Arsenal in the summer of 1975,[6] and Nelson finally became Arsenal's first-choice left back. An aggressive, hard-tackling player, he was a crowd favourite and known for his cheeky sense of humour.[7] For the next five seasons he was a near ever-present in the Arsenal side, and he played in all three of their successive FA Cup finals, in the starting eleven in 1978 and 1979 and as a substitute in 1980. The only win was in 1979, in which Arsenal beat Manchester United by a 3-2 scoreline.[7][5] Nelson also played in the 1980 European Cup Winners' Cup Final, which Arsenal lost to Valencia on penalties.[8]

With the arrival of England international Kenny Sansom at the club in 1980, Nelson again found himself out of the first team. He left Arsenal in 1981 to join Brighton & Hove Albion.[3] He played 339 first-class matches for the Gunners in total, and scored 12 goals.[7]

Brighton & Hove Albion

Nelson made 45 appearances in all competitions in his two seasons with Brighton.[9] In the second, 1982-83, they were relegated from the First Division but reached the 1983 FA Cup Final, losing to Manchester United 4-0 in a replay after the original match finished 2-2;[10] Nelson was not selected for either match.[11] He retired as a player that summer.[12]

International career

Nelson made his debut for Northern Ireland as a substitute against England on 21 April 1970. He went on to win 51 international caps, two of which came in Northern Ireland's matches at the 1982 World Cup.[13][14]

Later career and personal life

After spending a season as a coach at Brighton & Hove Albion, Nelson left the game completely and went into the insurance industry.[12] He has also led the "Legends Tour" at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.[15]

Nelson is married with three children.[12] His daughter Emily is married to English cricketer Matt Prior.[16]




  1. ^ Rothmans Football Yearbook 1980-81. London: Macdonald Futura Publishers. 1980. p. 50. ISBN 0362020175.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jones, Max (28 April 2016). "Defining moments: Sammy Nelson". Arsenal F.C. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Harris, Jeff (1995). Hogg, Tony (ed.). Arsenal Who's Who. London: Independent UK Sports. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-899429-03-5.
  4. ^ "Academy honours". Arsenal F.C. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Andy. "Arsenal first team line-ups". The Arsenal History. Retrieved 2017. Select season required.
  6. ^ Harris, Jeff. Hogg, Tony (ed.). Arsenal Who's Who. p. 199.
  7. ^ a b c "Greatest 50 Players - 35. Sammy Nelson". Arsenal F.C. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "1979/80: Valencia hold nerve for shoot-out success". UEFA. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010.
  9. ^ "Sammy Nelson Brighton & Hove Abion FC". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ Pye, Steven (25 May 2017). "When Brighton last played in the top flight - and the FA Cup final - 34 years ago". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ Fort, Didier (15 February 2006). "England - FA Cup Finals 1946-2000". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF). Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Culley, Jon (28 March 1994). "Where are they now?: Sammy Nelson". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ "Sammy Nelson Northern Ireland". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ "Sammy Nelson: Profile". FIFA. Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ Rahman, Emdad (28 February 2012). "Emirates Stadium Tour". East London News. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ Brenkley, Stephen (31 July 2010). "Matt Prior: 'I was public enemy No 1... I hope people warm to me now'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2017.

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