Arsenal’s forgotten Invincible lifts the lid on untold stories from historic campaign

Arsenal’s 2003-04 squad was named the Invincibles after they won the 2003-04 title while undefeated – and now a forgotten member of the squad has exposed his experience

Goalkeeper Graham Stack holds the Premier League trophy in his hands

When asked to list the most influential members of Arsenal’s Invincibles squad, Graham Stack is probably not the first name that comes to mind.

But the goalkeeper was there all season, a real member of the squad, to take it all in and make unforgettable memories for a lifetime. And no one can take that away from him.

Stack was called up to the first team by Arsene Wenger after his reserve goalkeeper Stuart Taylor suffered an injury. At the time, he was only 22 and a relatively inexperienced stopper, but the opportunity to team up with some of Arsenal’s legends was an experience he would never forget.

While Wenger’s Invincibles achieved the unthinkable, playing an entire season of 38 games without losing, and 49 in all for good measure, Stack was there to watch it all from the sidelines. Jens Lehmann was always present in goal, meaning the youngster was never seen in the Premier League for a minute. But after observing the likes of Sol Campbell, Roberts Pires and Thierry Henry in training every day, he has gained a sense of what it was like to compete alongside them – on and off the pitch.

“The quality was scary and training was always competitive, it had that advantage, but that’s why we had such a successful team,” said Stack. “It was a team of men, a team of leaders and there was a lot of experience, a lot of know-how. There were players who played in World Cups and won World Cups, captained their country and played in the very best teams in the world, so there would be always have a difference of opinion.

“But I think that’s what made the team so great, the fact that it wasn’t just a team of average individual players who were satisfied and happy to be in the top four. They weren’t like that, they absolutely wanted to win everything, in every game they played in. And that would be the case in training, that would be the case in a card game, whether we were playing Uno or whatever it was on the bus. That was their mentality, and neither of them wanted to lose in that group.”

Graham Stack poses with Arsenal’s co-title-winning goalkeeper Jens Lehmann

Stack was part of the squad for the title-winning 2-2 draw at Tottenham, but was also on hand for the final day’s win over Leicester. And he spoke about how the squad felt a tinge of disappointment at not beating arch-rivals despite taking the title with that result.

“It was nice to have the result in the game, of course becoming champions and also going undefeated, but even then the job wasn’t done because there were players who couldn’t relax completely or couldn’t go out all the way and enjoy some they accomplished because they still wanted more, which just summed up the group,” he said. and remain undefeated.”

But for Stack, all those minutes on the bench were worth it as the players headed for the PFA Awards that season. As Arsenal took home the trophies, the goalkeeper got his moment of glory as the crowd applauded as they received a memorable ovation – and 18 years after his birthday, it still stands wonderfully in Stack’s memory.

Arsenal celebrate unbeaten Premier League win against Leicester City

“I remember going to the PFA awards that night and we got a standing ovation when we came in because there were so many players involved,” he recalls. “I think that was a bit special, even though I hadn’t played that day. It was a nice feeling to just be there and walk in with such a great group. I will always remember it was a special day.”

That was about as good as it got for the budding goalkeeper after he spent the next five seasons on loan at Millwall, Reading, Leeds and Wolves, before joining the Royals on a permanent contract. Longer spells with Hibernian and Barnet followed, with a short trip to India with Kerala Blasters and finally Eastleigh Town.

Now 40, Stack is the head of Watford’s academy goalkeeping – and if they’re lucky, the young Hornets he’s teaching may get a chance to hear more stories about that prodigious season.

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