Former Burnley keeper Marlon Beresford on his decision to turn down Arsenal

Marlon Beresford has no regrets about his decision to turn down Arsenal while in his first spell at Burnley.
Marlon BeresfordMarlon Beresford
Marlon Beresford

The former Clarets keeper had just helped win promotion to the First Division via victory over Stockport County at Wembley in May 1994.

However, out of contract after two stellar seasons with the club, he was tempted by a switch to Highbury under George Graham.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Gunners had just finished fourth in the Premier League and lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup, beating Parma 1-0 with an Alan Smith goal in Copenhagen.

However, in his way was David Seaman, who was emerging as England's number one at that time.

First capped in 1988, Seaman had played in the last two games of England's ill-fated qualifying campaign for World Cup 94, before emerging as Terry Venables' undisputed custodian.

Beresford recalls his trip to the Marble Halls of Arsenal, and meeting with Graham: "I'd heard about interest from Newcastle, but I was kept in the dark about that really, I think there was an offer, but I don't think it met Frank (Teasdale)'s valuation so it never materialised.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I went, after the play-off final in 1994 to Arsenal, I spoke to George Graham.

"I was out of contract at the time and sat with George at Highbury and went through the contract and everything else.

"At the time, Arsenal weren't renowned for paying huge wages, and money was never a motivation, but you just thought if it was a contract that blew everything out of the water, I'd have to do it for that reason.

"And I never did. I was earning okay money at Burnley and they'd offered me a new contract, and I thought 'do I want to leave and sit on the bench again?' after playing every game for two years?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Do I want to then go back to the reason why I left Sheffield Wednesday, to sit on the bench at Arsenal as number two to David Seaman?

"It just didn't feel right."

As it turned out, Beresford would have played more games than he expected, with Seaman out injured for a spell in what was a traumatic season for the Gunners: "I know it was Arsenal, and they'd won the UEFA Cup and got to the final again that year - hindsight is a great thing, but at the time I remember sitting down and making my own mind up, thinking 'no, I just want to keep playing'.

"I was loving what I was doing, and we'd obviously just been promoted up a level as well, so I didn't want to lose that fact of playing each week at a higher level.

"I said 'no' and they went and signed Vince Bartram from Bournemouth, and Vince actually got a few games that season round about Christmas, so I may have got a few games, but ultimately Seaman was going to be number one and he was for a long time, so the decision was the stay and play football."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Crowd favourite Beresford remained at Turf Moor until March 1998, when a move to Middlesbrough - then looking for an immediate return to the Premier League after being relegated the year before - came from out of nowhere.

Burnley were at Walsall, as news filtered through that Beresford had been sold to Boro for £400,000, with Chris Woods filling in for the remainder of the season.

The switch was a surprise to Beresford as well at the time: "It was really out of the blue, Middlesbrough had just lost 4-0 and 5-0 and suddenly decided they needed to make the change.

"Mark Schwarzer was injured, and Andy Dibble, the number two, had come in and played in those games and had a bit of a nightmare.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"They thought 'we can't have this', and it was coming up to the transfer deadline, and they went out to get someone in as a stop gap until Schwarzer was back fit again.

"He was always going to be number one.

"Viv Anderson, who knew Chris Waddle, and knew me, from Sheffield Wednesday, had followed me, and just made the call and it materialised from there.

"It happened very quickly and all of a sudden I was in a hotel by Manchester Airport meeting Bryan Robson and doing a deal.

"It happened as quick for me as it seemed to everyone else I imagine."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The move saw Beresford make his Premier League debut the following season, as Boro finished ninth, their best top-flight finish for 20 years.

He would only make 13 appearances for Boro in four years, but looked back on a good time in the north east: "It was a fantastic place to be at the time, second in the league, I signed and played on the Tuesday night, and if we won 6-0 we went top, and lo and behold, we played Swindon and won 6-0!

"It just went from there, we won the league and got promoted to the Premier League.

"About a week after I signed, Gazza signed, and there were some faces, Andy Townsend, Paul Merson, the Italian lads, Branca, Boksic came...he was some player.

"We ended up the highest we'd finished in the top division the season after, good times."