Ben Parker backing Leeds United against Arsenal as former defender reflects on own Gunners memories

FORMER Whites defender Ben Parker says Leeds United’s players will back themselves to beat Arsenal tomorrow - just as Simon Grayson’s side so nearly did as a Championship outfit in 2011.

By Lee Sobot
Saturday, 21st November 2020, 11:28 am
Updated Saturday, 21st November 2020, 11:32 am

Leeds will take on the Gunners in the first top-flight clash between the two sides in 16 years in Sunday’s showdown but Parker was involved in three meetings between the two in the FA Cup third round at the turn of the decade.

As a newly-promoted Championship side, United led 1-0 at the Emirates through a Robert Snodgrass penalty in a third round clash of January 2011 but Parker was then adjudged to have pulled back Theo Walcott in the 90th minute for a Gunners penalty.

Cesc Fabregas converted to seal a 1-1 draw and Arsenal then secured a 3-1 victory in the Elland Road replay through goals from Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie with Bradley Johnson netting for the Whites.

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SO CLOSE: Leeds United defender Ben Parker, left, and Alex Bruce, right, sandwich Arsenal's Russian midfielder Andrey Arshavin during the third round FA Cup clash of January 2011. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images.

The two sides were again drawn against each other in the following season’s FA Cup third round with Parker an unused substitute as Thierry Henry came off the bench to score the only goal in a 1-0 victory at the Emirates.

“From our point of view, whenever it is talked about, it is seen as a free hit because we were in the Championship and Arsenal were one of the top four teams at the time,” Parker told the YEP.

“But we backed ourselves just because of the experiences of knocking Man United out and doing well against Tottenham in the cups so in house we backed ourselves.

"We didn’t think of it as a one off fixture, we wanted to go down to Arsenal, give a good account of ourselves and win the game.

“But the current players again will back themselves too. This current team believes they can win every game of football they are going in to and you need that mindset because Arsenal have got world class players.

“They have got world class players all over the pitch and they did when we played them but the mindset you have got to have is one of backing yourself and believing yourself every game.”

Reflecting on his memories of those three encounters against the Gunners, Parker said: "The first one was when Walcott dived for that penalty and all that kind of stuff but that was a good experience to play there even though it was disappointing because we backed ourselves to win that game.

"But they got a penalty and it was a running joke at the time about how I had done the chairman at the time Ken Bates a favour because a big replay earned the club a lot of money back at Elland Road and a full house.

"We just came up a bit short in that one and then in the third one Thierry came back and got his goal but there are some good memories there."

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Thank you Laura Collins