Where does Frank McLintock rank amongst Arsenal's greatest captains?
Where does Frank McLintock rank amongst Arsenal's greatest captains?

Arsenal have had some great captains over the years from Tony Adams to Pat Rice to Patrick Viera. However, perhaps a forgotten great is Scottish defender Frank McLintock.

Time at the club

McLintock was signed from Nottingham Forest for a then-club record £80,000 by manager Billy Wright in October 1964.

Wright, who was a legendary defender for Wolverhampton Wanderers and England in the 40s and 50s should have linked up well with the Scottish international but McLintock didn’t enjoy Wright’s tactics and had a rocky start to his Arsenal career.

During his first three seasons, Arsenal struggled in mid-table and McLintock unhappy with the club’s management handed in a transfer request, which was denied by the board.

The denial and a new appointment at manager turned around Arsenal and McLintock’s fortunes as Arsenal looked to make themselves a force in English football again.

Bertie Mee and Dave Sexton took over from Wright but Sexton left for Chelsea in 1967. 

It was the appointment of Don Howe who was promoted to first team coach that began to turn the Gunners around. 

Howe’s defensive mindset turned the Gunners into a hard-to-beat force although success was still not easy to come by.

1968, Arsenal began a terrible time of successive League Cup final defeats; the first was to Don Revie’s Leeds United in 1968.

The win kick-started a period of success for Revie’s Leeds team as Arsenal remained without a trophy since the 50s.


However, the 1967-68 season saw McLintock named Arsenal Player of the Year and in 1968 he signed a new four-year contract and was named captain by Mee ahead of Terry Neill.

1969 saw another disappointing League Cup final defeat; this time going down 3-1 to Third Division Swindon Town at Wembley in one of the biggest cup upsets in English finals history.

McLintock famously blamed the flu for the team’s bad display and the Horse of the Year show for the Wembley pitch – the team eventually finished fourth which was enough to get them into the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (a prequel to the UEFA Cup - now known as the Europa League).

In 1970, the Gunners finally secured their first title in 17 years, beating Belgian giants Anderlecht over two-legs 4-3 to win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

McLintock captained the side throughout the season and saw him form a great defensive partnership with Peter Simpson at centre-half – a partnership that would be crucial for the season to come.

Following, the Fairs Cup triumph of 1970, Arsenal set about creating history becoming only the third Football League side to secure a League and Cup double in 1971 – 10 years after rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

McLintock was instrumental in the success of the team that was built on a strong defence and slim 1-0 victories.

The team never took any plaudits for it’s attacking displays, it was perhaps comparable to the performances of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2005, however, McLintock’s solidity saw him named Football Writer’s Player of the Year in 1971.

The Gunners clinched the league title at White Hart Lane with a predictable 1-0 victory and won the FA Cup in Extra Time against Liverpool thanks to a Charlie George screamer.

After the departure of Don Howe to West Bromwich Albion however, the team declined, McLintock blamed it on complacency and by 1973 the Scot handed in another transfer request after being dropped by Mee in the 1972-73 season.

He was sold for £25,000 to QPR in June 1973 and made 155 appearances for the Hoops before retiring in 1977.

Where does he rank?

Being captain of Arsenal’s first European trophy winning side and captain and Player of the Year during the club’s first double success, McLintock should rank amongst the club’s greatest captains.

He’s certainly in the top five, however, his time as captain was brief and his time at the club was marred by off-field incidents with him handing in two transfer requests.

Adams pips him to top spot in many eyes

Regardless, Tony Adams, in many Arsenal fans opinion is the club's greatest ever captain.

The Romford born one-club-man and Mr. Arsenal was one of Arsenal’s most successful captains and was even given the armband by George Graham at just 21.

As captain Arsenal won four league titles, three FA Cups, a league cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

He had great leadership qualities on and off the pitch and even though Adams’ career was marred by off-field controversies he was still retained as captain and beloved by the fans due to his talent and on it.

The only captain to win a league title in three different decades, Adams was an Arsenal stalwart and although McLintock’s leadership returned the Gunners to success, Adams’ captaincy two decades later marked the most successful 14 years in the club’s history.