'A special football man': tributes pour in for Arsenal and Ireland hero Theo Foley

A much-travelled player and coach, Foley most famously was George Graham's assistant manager when Arsenal won the First Division title at Anfield on the final day of the season in 1989.
'A special football man': tributes pour in for Arsenal and Ireland hero Theo Foley
Theo Foley with Michael Thomas on the night Arsenal won the league at Anfield in 1989.
Theo Foley with Michael Thomas on the night Arsenal won the league at Anfield in 1989.

Former Republic of Ireland soccer international Theo Foley has died, aged 83.

A much-travelled player and coach, Foley most famously was George Graham's assistant manager when Arsenal won the First Division title at Anfield on the final day of the season in 1989.

In those days, he was widely regarded as the good cop that complemented Graham's stricter demeanour.

Foley grew up in Inchicore, in Dublin, where St Patrick’s Athletic’s Richmond Park was visible from his back garden

He played for Home Farm and Exeter, before going on to captain Northampton Town in the English First Division, winning nine Ireland caps, mostly at full-back.

The end of his playing career was hastened when he aggravated a knee injury playing against Franz Beckenbauer’s Germany in Dublin.

He was shortlisted for the Ireland manager’s job in 1975 and George Burley wanted to bring him in as his assistant in 2005, but Brian Kerr got the top job.

Foley's playing career also took in Burnley and Charlton. He also managed Charlton for a spell and coached at Millwall, Northampton, QPR, and Fulham.

A fondly regarded figure throughout football, he became a popular pundit on London radio station LBC, predicting the First Division scores with a young Jeff Stelling.

In recent years, he worked as a matchday host at Charlton

In his autobiography Theo Give us a Ball released in 2018, written with his son Paul, Theo calls that famous night at Anfield 'the pinnacle', but freely admits he hadn't much faith travelling to Liverpool that night.

“If I’m completely honest, I didn’t give us much chance.”

Michael Thomas wrote him into Arsenal folklore and he won't be forgotten around North London.

In his book, he wrote: “I have been fortunate enough to have been invited over to The Emirates for the odd game to see Ricey or Bouldy and was blown away when Arsene Wenger came over to our table and knew exactly who I was.”

Today, Arsenal said, on Twitter: "A highly respected coach. A hugely popular member of the dressing room. And a hero of 1989. Rest in peace, Theo."

And the FAI extended its sympathies, in a statement:

"On behalf of the Football Association of Ireland, President Gerry McAnaney has extended our sympathies to the family and friends of former Ireland defender and respected coach Theo Foley who has died at the age of 83. May he Rest In Peace."

Ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell also wrote: "I am totally shocked and saddened at the passing of Theo Foley. What a special football man and gentleman he was! He helped me so much behind the scenes at The Arsenal and always was a pleasure to be around. R.I.P. Theo Foley."

Goalkeeper John Lukic, who played that night at Anfield, wrote: "Totally saddened to hear of the passing of Theo Foley. One of football's true gents. He was a massive part of our success in the mid/late 80’s. RIP Theo."

Arsenal photographer Stuart MacFarlane added: "So sad to hear that Theo Foley has passed away, a lovely guy and a real football man."

Northampton released a statement that read: "Northampton Town Football Club are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Cobbler Theo Foley. We send our condolences and best wishes to Theo’s Family and friends."

A Charlton statement added: "The club is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Charlton player and manager Theo Foley at the age of 83."

Sadly, Theo's son =https://www.kentonline.co.uk/maidstone/sport/a-great-character-a-real-winner-and-a-top-lad-225496/Paul also passed away in April. He played for Maidstone United among many clubs and had fought a long battle with illness.

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