Players Out Of Time: No.4 Alex Cropley
The return of a part-time series, players who might have thrived in the current Arsenal squad.
When researching this piece, I came across news which had passed me by, namely that Alex Cropley had suffered a mild stroke in 2010 and had been hospitalised as a result. He seems to be recovering but that is purely on the basis of an interview with Hibernian TV earlier this year. I hope that his health continues to improve.
Cropley made a name for himself at Hibs, part of their (relatively) successful side of the early 1970s. Whilst there are parallels with Peter Marinello, Cropley was more comfortable in the centre of midfield and certainly had more of an eye for a goal. His was a more all-round game, comparable to Arteta now; quick-thinking with a good range of passing, capable of mixing it with the best of them if circumstances required.
His Arsenal career was blighted by injury. He made his debut at Carlisle in December 1974 with the club very much still in transition. Silverware was still several years away. Ironically, he scored his first Arsenal goal in the return fixture in January 1975 in a 2-1 win. The following game, he suffered a broken leg at Ayresome Park.
He missed the remainder of the season, returning in an end of season tour match in Malaysia. Cropley started 1975-76 in a rich vein of form, showing why the now-departed Mee had signed him. He scored five goals in the nineteen matches he played before his leg was once more broken. He returned in April 1976, featuring in the final five games of the season but in the September of that year, he was sold to Aston Villa. Including friendlies, he made just 47 appearances for the club in his twenty one months there.
If you mention his name now, English supporters are more likely to associate him with Aston Villa where he won the League Cup. As if to prove his ill-fortune, he broke his leg again in 1977 whilst leaving Villa Park in 1980 the summer prior to the league title being secured and their subsequent European Champions Cup trimuph over Bayern Munich.