Kenny Sansom: To Cap It All

Kenny Sansom: To Cap It All

by Kenny Sansom


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Kenny Sansom: To Cap It All by Kenny Sansom

Strong, reliable, and known for his ability to work in pinpoint crosses from the left, Kenny was a firm fixture in the cup-winning Arsenal and England defenses for most of the 1980s. He won a record-breaking 86 international caps and featured in many of the most exciting England matches of the era. Among many insights from old team-mates and respected managers, Kenny reveals the truth about Maradona's controversial "Hand of God" goal. Throughout it all, Kenny's positive attitude never came into question. He was never booked, let alone sent off. But off the pitch, the addictive side of his personality threatened to destroy not only his career but his rock-solid family life too. Fans were kept in the dark by protective manager George Graham, but it was the two women in Kenny's life who saved him—his devoted mother and the wife he'd met during his school days. Kenny has found the strength to fight back from the brink and defeat the demons of drink and gambling. For the first time, he reveals the story of a man at the peak of professional achievement, yet dangerously close to losing it all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843582748
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Pages: 286
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

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To Cap it All ... My Story

By Kenny Sansom, Rita Wright

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2008 Kenny Sansom and Rita Wright
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84358-274-8



My teenage heroes were Frank Spencer, Norman Wisdom, Steptoe and Son, Del Boy and Rodney. The closest I ever got to a copper was putting on a dirty old coat and impersonating Detective Columbo. There was never any chance I'd go down the same road as some of my relatives.

How many books begin with, 'I was born and raised in a humble but happy environment'? Lots, thank goodness, and I'm glad to say I join the ranks of the lucky ones.

I came into the world on 26 September 1958 in my mum's bedroom at 55 Jardin Street. There I joined my three sisters and a big brother in a small south London prefab – and, for those of you too young to know what a prefab is, it's a kind of 'bitsa' home, made up of slabs of concrete. Home was small and crowded, but also warm and happy. In those days back doors were left wide open welcoming in neighbours for cups of tea and a slice of homemade cake, and all problems were shared and aired. We were of the fortunate generation, raised in an age of relative innocence where the worst local crime was to kick a ball through old Mrs Smith's window and the most feared punishment of all was a clip round the ear.

The last child to be born into the family was my little brother David, and, shortly after that, my dad George left home to lead a more exciting life over in the East End, where he and his brothers chose to live on the wrong side of the law, rubbing shoulders with the Krays. It has been said that Ronnie and Reggie asked my dad to be their driver but that he turned them down. I find it hard to believe. Not that they asked him, but that he had the cheek to say, 'No, thanks,' and they didn't shoot his kneecaps off. Everyone knows that what the Twins wanted the Twins generally got.

My dad was one of the original 'spivs' – always ducking and diving – and I'm glad I wasn't around him to be influenced by his lifestyle. He never went to prison and I've heard it said he was too much of a coward to do anything really bad – unlike his brother Terry, who was, by association, involved in 'the crime of the century' – the Great Train Robbery, and is named in Mary Wisbey's bestseller, A Gangster's Moll. Mary was the daughter of Terry Wisbey, the girlfriend of 'Mad Frankie Fraser' for 10 years, and the godchild of Freddie Foreman. All three were notorious gangsters and all three were good friends with the Sansom brothers. There must have been something about that sinister world that fascinated the Sansom brothers and fed their edgy personalities.

If I am to believe family gossip, Dad inherited his ways from his father, and probably from his father before him. It's as though you just get set on a path and breaking strong patterns in families is difficult.

Dad couldn't stand being bored. So it should come as no surprise that he became addicted to anything that would give him an instant buzz. Needy kids like us didn't figure in his world. We didn't provide the instant 'hit' he craved. So off he went to find an atmosphere that did it for him.

I guess Dad was never going to hang round a decent woman like my mum for too long – not with all the tarts (his word, not mine) available in his chosen world, the underworld.

I have no memories of young fatherly love – any fatherly love, to be honest. But I can't say I missed him or felt I was lacking in care and affection, as my mum made up for his absence by making her children the centre of her universe. She couldn't be bothered with men after he left – well, he'd come and gone so many times and was such a womaniser that he ruined any trust she had in men.

Thankfully I was lucky enough to have my older brother Peter around. Being 10 years older than I was, he took on a paternal role and always looked out for me. He even chose my name. 'I like the name Kenny,' he told my mum and my mum said, 'Kenny it is, then.'

When I was about 2 years old we all moved to a small estate in Tulse Hill, which wasn't far from Crystal Palace, where I was much later to become one of the players dubbed the 'Team of the Eighties'.

Peter missed our dad something terrible, and went off to see him as much as he could. I remember his saying, 'I need my dad.' It was weird for me to hear that, and later very difficult to comprehend his loyalty. I guess being a decade older than I was, he got to know dad as a person, but for me he was no more than a man who'd left us.

If there was pain or anger inside, I never felt it and I guess friends and football filled the gap where grief might have otherwise festered.

My mum has often said I was sad whenever he went away. 'You had a broken heart, Kenny,' she would sigh. It all sounds a bit too far-fetched to me, but as they say, there's no smoke without fire, and it's for sure the fire ignited and raged within me as time went by.

All I can say with absolute honesty is that my mum more than made up for the loss of my dad. She was, and still is, in the words of the Barry White song, 'My first, my last, my everything'.

All of us adore her and are eternally grateful for the effort she put into bringing us up. She may have been small in stature, but she was a giant in every other way.

Off she'd trot in the late evening to do a night shift cleaning. But before she went she made sure we had everything we needed. Always determined to be around for us, she only ever worked while we were either asleep or at school. We were 'well turned out', as they say. Neat and tidy with shiny hair and scrubbed faces, we wore our Omo-white shirts with pride. I remember one kid asking, 'How come you and your David are always so clean?' I didn't have an answer – that's just how it was. But it set a precedent, because all through my career I kept my kit spotless while all around me were knee deep in mud with grass stains all over their bums.

There were no washing machines or modern-day gadgets to make life easier in our house. I tell you, the women of that era just soldiered on against any adversity, and my mum was one of them. She led the bloody parade.

Mum features heavily in my story and quite rightly so, as she has been with me every step of the way – following me all over the world. My number-one fan, she loved telling people, 'My son's the famous footballer you know. My son's Kenny Sansom.'

I suppose you could say she was bragging, but she did it in such an endearing manner that everyone who met her wanted to spend more time in her company. If she asked for a lift to a match people would almost fight each other to have the company of lively Louise in their car. She was pure entertainment.

Born Rose Louise Culwick, Mum had been one of twenty children. Twenty! Imagine that. By all accounts, my granddad was a bit of a character, and I'm told he enjoyed a pale ale – I'd say he enjoyed much more than that.

My Nanny Culwick gave him the responsibility of registering their children – she was probably too knackered to think about such trivia as what to name her latest baby. Granddad loved the names Rose and Louise so much that he gave two of his daughters the same name. He'd intended to call one Rose Louise and the other Louise Rose. But he got in a muddle and so they both got named Rose Louise. I'm guessing he'd downed a few pale ales beforehand – and perhaps a Scotch or two in celebration. To end the confusion they referred to mum as Louise and her sister as Rose.

All the Culwicks were knee high to a grasshopper and Mum was probably the smallest of them all. Her brothers were stocky, though. At 5 foot 8, I have inherited the Culwick stature, with short legs and a solid frame.

One of Dad's brothers was a middleweight boxer, so it should have come as no surprise to me when Terry Venables pointed out how lucky I was to have a six-pack without trying. It was true. Other boys had to sweat their nuts off in the gym or on the training pitch to build muscles that didn't even come near mine. Thank God I wasn't scrawny. If I'd been born minus the muscles, I'd never have made it in football.

Mum's family were all full of life. My sister Maureen has this funny old black-and-white picture in her album of all the Culwicks waiting to board an old-fashioned bus, which was to take them to the seaside for a day out, courtesy of ITV.

My auntie Rose (who was by now Rose Welsh) had appeared on a new television programme called Take Your Pick, hosted by Michael Miles, and won the family an 'away day' to Margate. This show was hugely popular with the public. Up till 1955 viewers could receive only BBC, but the introduction of ITV was very exciting. Suddenly, television wasn't all serious news stories but had game shows, soaps and comedy.

In his show, which drew in massive audiences, Michael Miles invited audience members to go up onto the stage, where they would answer questions and were then given a key to a box. In the box was a prize. Smiley Michael Miles welcomed Auntie Rose onto stage and among the cheering of the lively audience he tried to buy the key back off her for £20. Good old Rose stood her ground and ended up winning the prize of a holiday for herself and her family.

The following weekend an old green bus pulled up outside No. 133 Kennington Lane, which was Nanny Culwick's home, fifty family members and friends climbed aboard and off they all went for a good old jolly-up down in Margate.

Whether they were cowboys or angels, both the Sansoms and the Culwicks were colourful characters. No one was academically bright, but from spivvy George Harry Sansom to his English Rose Louise, it was pure entertainment all the way.

Mum told me they'd met at a local dance hall close to Westminster Bridge. By all accounts he was not only very handsome but also a hardworking man – just the type my mum was looking for. Like his dad, he had worked the markets, and it wasn't until later when times got hard that he found he could earn large sums of money the easy way. Mum said they were happy together until his brothers 'turned his head'.

My brother Peter remembered Dad having very little cash in the early days, but that he always managed to get hold of money when things got desperate. It was a typical feast or famine lifestyle. Although Peter hated to admit it, he always knew deep down that Flash George destroyed Mum's trust in men, and, if you took away his good looks and seductive manner, he was really a dirty dog. But he was a dog in heavy disguise. He made Mum laugh and brightened her world. It's little wonder, then, that she took him back time and time again – until she really had had enough.

As for me, I knew nothing of this man called 'Dad'. He meant nothing to me or my life. I was happy that he was never around, but, unfortunately, he came into it with a loud bang when I became famous. You could say he chose to be with me when it suited him and being around me and my new world enhanced his life – not mine. My dad's wish to be around famous people, whether on the wrong or right side of the law, was to cause me untold trouble and chaos.



Like our fathers before us, we formed gangs as children. We had our small tribes and let off bangers and Jumping Jack fireworks to scare our enemies. Never in a million years would it have entered our heads to use knives and guns like the gangs roaming our streets today. Our tribal gangs would rather play football or cricket against each other than look for trouble. Revenge was not on our minds.

The Sansom kids were all wild and free, but I think my little brother David and I were the naughtiest. We took no end of risks. Nicking Mars bars from Woolworth's was a must for us. Although we never went short of essentials such as chops and chips, there wasn't much spare money left over for sweets. Anyway, if the truth be known, we'd rather enjoyed the thrill of grabbing the chocolate bars and running away.

Playing 'Knock Down Ginger' filled hours of potential boredom and by the age of 8 we had progressed to nicking lead from roofs.

The scrap-metal man must have heard us coming from streets away as we pushed a pram full of lead towards his yard. We must have looked a comical sight and, of course, he knew we'd been up to mischief, but he always paid up and we eagerly shared out our ill-gotten proceeds.

We never went out looking for trouble. Who does? But trouble always seemed to find us. It's funny how that happens. Nothing was our fault, you know. Like the afternoon we happened upon an old factory with a smashed window.

We had been entertaining ourselves by jumping across rooftops when we landed on the roof of what looked like a derelict warehouse. On closer inspection we were astonished to see loads of marbles inside. Well – this was like the Crown Jewels to us scallywags. Marbles! My God, finding a shedload of marbles was the luckiest thing ever. So we thought.

We scrambled through the broken glass and found ourselves gawping at Aladdin's cave. From the outside, the building had appeared to be abandoned; but it wasn't. It was a bloody chandelier factory, and the marbles were bloody crystals.

How could we possibly leave without pocketing some of the gems? Not a chance. We were going to take the jewels home to our mum and then we would be rich. Bingo! The lottery was won. But we didn't get far.

As we were boldly leaving with our stash, the police sirens screamed down the lane and flashing blue lights came into view, scaring the hell out of us. Being a nippy little bugger, I was off up the drainpipe and across the roof before David was even out of the window. But how could I leave him? I was supposed to be looking after him. Mum would kill me if I abandoned him.

As I peered over the drainpipe I could see a burly policeman dragging David by the scruff of his neck over to his panda car. Damn! We had so nearly got away.

I shimmied back down the drainpipe and slid into the panda car next to my terrified brother. We were both wearing grey shorts and long socks that had fallen down around our ankles – so his bony knees were visibly knocking. We had been nicked. I was 7 and he was 5. What in God's name was our mum going to say? We knew she loved us, but we also knew she would kill us for bringing trouble to her door.

Thankfully, the policemen took pity on our sobs and pleas for mercy and let us go with a clip behind the ear – but a great lesson was learned. We never nicked again. At the ripe old age of 7, I knew I didn't like getting into trouble.

Maybe this is why I've only been booked once and only once been given a red card (Crystal Palace v Coventry). I can't stand being told off, let alone be sent off. Being sent off meant being in someone's bad books and therefore unloved. I needed to be loved.

I remember clearly that, once, my mum gave me one and sixpence (7?p) and sent me up the shops to get her a loaf of bread and some potatoes (for chips). The items only came to a shilling (5p) and for some reason I forgot the sixpence (2?p) change was in my pocket. When I found it I gave it straight to mum and she said, 'For your honesty, Kenny, you can keep that sixpence.'

I was so chuffed and felt so good about myself that during my growing years I was never in danger of dishonesty. It was a bigger buzz to be trusted and loved, than naughty and always in trouble. Not that there wasn't temptation all around me. I was growing up in south London, after all, where being naughty was the norm.


Excerpted from To Cap it All ... My Story by Kenny Sansom, Rita Wright. Copyright © 2008 Kenny Sansom and Rita Wright. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Foreword Terry Venables xi

Introduction: Knowing Me, Knowing Kenny xv

Chapter 1 Born to be Lucky 1

Chapter 2 Kids on the Block 7

Chapter 3 Elaine, Family Links and Love 19

Chapter 4 The Eagles 29

Chapter 5 Land of Hope and Glory 51

Chapter 6 A Bad Night in Basle 59

Chapter 7 Joining Arsenal 67

Chapter 8 Inhabiting an Emotional Wasteland 83

Chapter 9 1982 World Cup, Spain 89

Chapter 10 England Matches 97

Chapter 11 Mexican Heartbreak 103

Chapter 12 Enter George 'The Stroller' Graham 113

Chapter 13 The End for Me at Arsenal and England 139

Chapter 14 My Stories off the Pitch 149

Chapter 15 Samantha Fox or Fatima Whitbread - You Choose 183

Chapter 16 Going North of Watford 189

Chapter 17 All Over the Place 199

Chapter 18 Glenn Roeder - A Strange Defeatist Attitude 207

Chapter 19 Tony Adams - A Sporting Chance 215

Chapter 20 Rehab, and 'Who the Hell is Kenny Sansom?' 223

Chapter 21 Going Home 237

Chapter 22 China and the Soccer Prince 249

Appendix A My Caps 273

Appendix B Information for Addicts 279

Appendix C In Praise of Kenny 283

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