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21.31 5 Feb 2014


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For a player who excelled while winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups for Arsenal, Ray Parlour's international career left a lot to be desired.

The Romford Pele won just 10 caps and tonight he told Off The Ball about the innocuous joke that cost him his spot in the 1998 World Cup.

Speaking at our Drogheda Roadshow, he told us how a quip at Glenn Hoddle's faith healer Eileen Drewery saw him miss out.

"1997/98 was one of the best seasons I had. I thought it was my big chance for the World Cup. I might not play but just to travel to a World Cup and be involved in the team...I remember pulling my calf in training and I went to the medical room and Glenn Hoddle came in. He said 'before you go for your scan', go see Eileen Drewery, our faith healer.

"I went upstairs to room 36, knocked on her door. She opened the door and I sat down in a chair. She pulled the curtains, went in the bath and I'm thinking she's quite an attractive lady for 50. Next minute she's circling me and all of a sudden she puts her hand on the back of my head and all I said innocently was 'short back and sides, Eileen, while your there.' I didn't think anything of it. I laughed, she laughed and she ended up telling everyone at the bar and all the players. Next minute it's front page of The Sun newspaper."

Parlour was left out of the extended World Cup squad and Arsene Wenger made some inquiries to find out why one of his standout players was being ignored. As it turned out, Parlour was dropped for "disrespecting" Hoddle's faith.

While faith was a stumbling block for Parlour during Hoddle's tenure, Arsenal's players did not have much faith in Thierry Henry when he first arrived at Highbury.

"The first seven games when he first came to Arsenal, we were looking at the situation thinking we can't win the league with Thierry Henry. Nicolas Anelka who was a brilliant player had just left for Real Madrid and in the first seven games [Thierry] didn't score. Then he scored his first goal at Southampton and after that he was amazing. To get 235 goals...I didn't think Ian Wright's record would be broken."

Ray Parlour celebrates with Thierry Henry after scoring the opening goal in the 2002 FA Cup final ©INPHO/Allsport

Henry was one of many foreign players to make their mark for Arsenal and the Romford Pele had a funny anecdote to highlight the cultural difference between the English lads and their foreign counterparts.

After a satisfactory pre-season, Wenger gave the players permission to let their hair down. While five English players including Parlour and current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould went to the pub, the French contingent headed for a cafe. 

"So Gilles Grimandi, who had just signed, said 'lads, would you mind if I come out with you to see what the English lads get up to on a night out?' I said 'Gilles, you'll have a much better time with us. So next minute we're in this pub and Steve Bould - who was a big drinker - went up to the bar and he asked Gilles what he wanted. Gilles said a small glass of wine. So Steve goes, '35 pints and one small glass of wine please' and Gilles was wondering when the coach was going to come with the rest of the people. And I told him it was for us - seven pints each. We went to the next pub and we were a little bit tipsy and as we walked past the coffee shop, we saw all the French lads in there and they're all smoking! We were thinking 'How are we going to win the league this year if we're all drunk and they're all smoking!'"    

Parlour also told the Drogheda crowd about the "walking disaster" Arsene Wenger and his genius as a manager, where the Romford Pele nickname came from and his relationship with Liam Brady. 

 

The Roadshow is in association with Setanta Sports and they will have live and exclusive coverage of the Liverpool v Arsenal (8th February) and Arsenal v Manchester United (12th February) games.

As part of thet three former legends of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United were in Ireland to promote the games.

Further information on the Setanta Sports Pack can be found at setanta.com


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