Q&A with Former Arseanl Midfielder David Hillier
By Chris Lappin
I recently had the pressure to talk to former Arsenal midfielder David Hillier about his time at Arsenal.
You joined Arsenal at the age of 14 but how were you spotted?
I think through some local scouting networks over in Southampton’s Sunday Leagues. Through that really and through the schools systems.
You went on the Captain the youth cup winning side, must have been a proud moment for you?
Yeah, I wasn’t actually the official captain of the side until the later part of the competition. It was fantastic; we had a really good side and some player who went on to have some decent careers like Steve Morrow and Kevin Campbell.
You broke into the first aged 20, what are you memories of your debut?
Yeah, came quick really being called in to the first team as I was part of the reserve side at the time. The gaffer called me in and said you’ll be playing tomorrow night, it was Chester away in the Rumbelows Cup (League Cup). Yeah I didn’t get much warning and it turned out to be a wet, muddy game but we got through.
How did it feel playing the championship winning side in 1991?
The rest of the season just carried on like that, I hadn’t really prepared to be a first time player but the gaffer was happy went what I was doing and I was playing every week. Won’t really until the end you realise what you’ve achieved. I suppose it was dream start for everyone during the period and to have a decent season and win something.
When the Premier League started in 1992, from a playing perspective did it feel different or just a name change?
I think it did feel a bit different with the influx of foreign players and having a bit more money around but we had been preparing for that for a couple of seasons. When I first got in the squad, there were only 1 or 2 foreign players in each squad but by the start of the premier league there was probably 30% or 40% of each squad were from overseas.
You had a bit of heart break in the early 90’s when you missed 3 vicarious cup finals due to injury
I did that’s right, I think when you been involved in the team all the way through the rounds it’s disappointing but that’s part of it really.
Did you still receive a winner’s medal?
Yeah, still got the winners medals for the finals. Really disappointed I got injured, I think I got injured against Middlesbrough or Sunderland a few weeks previous to the finals so yeah really disappointed.
Looking at the current squad who do you wish you could have played alongside?
Haha I’ve never been asked that before, current players for me I’ll have to say Alexis (Sanchez) because he’s just so lively, you know he’ll be everywhere helping you out and he’s one of those players you wouldn’t need to chase a pass to the corner as he’ll just do it anyway.
I think anyone with our era would love to play in today’s side. To be trained the way they’ve been trained and play that style of football. I think the defensive midfielder role would suit me, I could still get the last 5 minutes of one game, one day you never know I might call me up.
I read a quote from you that George Graham would tell you to just win the ball and pass it to Anders Limpar
Yeah his (George Graham) philosophy was pretty simple. We had players in the team to stop the opposition from scoring and we had players in the team that will score for us. Part of a midfielder’s job was to win the ball and to get it wide to Limpar or Brian Marwood that was the way we played. It wasn’t like we didn’t get forward but that was the general style of play.
You moved on shortly afterward Arense Wenger arrived, did you get the sense when he arrived that he’d be sure a success and manage the club for almost 20 years?
Back then Managers weren’t changing jobs every 6 months or every season. I think it was looked at as more long term so you expected him to come in for a couple of years at least, it wasn’t a quick fix.
I think with his initial changes he made in his first few seasons, I think it was apparent they need to hang on to him. 20 years later it’s an incredible team.
For someone who hasn’t won a lot of things over recent seasons, most clubs would have changed their manager but it just shows you what he’s done at the club and how respected he is that he’s still there. I think he should still be there.
You can hear the full interview here (Audio slightly sketchy in parts)
Former Arsenal, Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers midfielder David Hillier discusses his playing career and what he's been up to since retiring.
Follow David on Twitter - @davehillierr
Checkout David's coaching school - www.bhelitesoccer.co.uk/home.html