Coconuts has written much over the years about Brendon Batson, and quite rightly too: great player, great man. On the other hand, you have to ferret around on the internet to find proper tributes to another bloke who has done as much as anyone for the game.
Put your natural modesty aside and step forward, Vic Akers.
Yet this is a man who, as kit manager, intimate confidant and bench buddy, was Wenger’s most trusted and influential lieutenant over the decades. This is a man who formed, moulded and managed his beloved Arsenal Ladies team to the surely unbeatable total of 32 major trophies.
This is a man who was Dennis Bergkamp’s best pal during the Dutch maestro’s time at Highbury. This is a man who knows how football works.
Here at Coconuts, we’re naturally most interested in what Vic contributed to the United cause. And that’s a considerable amount.
He was 24 when, in July 1971, Bill Leivers signed the left back from Bexley United for £500 (not the £5K quoted elsewhere). He made his bow – and scored – in a 1-1 Division Four draw at Chester on August 14 of that year, and his last game in amber, before departing for Watford, was in another 1-1 draw, at home to Newport on 15 November 1974.
He had clocked up 129 appearances and, playing mostly in defence but sometimes in an attacking role, had knocked in five goals.
Wholehearted, energetic and possessed of no little talent, he had found friends among the Abbey faithful. The relationship had got off to a good start in that debut at Chester when Vic, playing in midfield, profited from a collision between Terry Eades and the home keeper by lobbing the ball calmly over a packed penalty area and into the empty net.
Not everyone always appreciated his efforts. We can laugh about it now, but few found it funny on Boxing Day 1971 when the Abbey PA announcer, departing from the official script, made uncomplimentary remarks about Vic’s and keeper Trevor Roberts’ performance against Grimsby. The numbskull quickly found his services no longer required and United won a thrilling game 3-1.
It’s telling that both photographs on this page show Vic in attacking mode. When Leivers played him as a striker in that Plymouth match, he obliged with two goals and explained: ‘I sometimes play up front in practice sessions, but no one ever takes me seriously.’
The end came when Ron Atkinson took over the managerial duties, and Vic was granted a free transfer in recognition of his loyal service. But his career was just beginning.