Perry ‘Biker’ Groves: exclusive interview with Arsenal legend
Men United are going Dutch. On the eve of the 2014 World Cup,
we’re stepping up our bid to beat Prostate Cancer by taking on a
150-mile cycling challenge from London to
Among the ex-pros, fans and Football League club officials
blazing a trail across the continent will be Arsenal cult hero –
and former Colchester, Dagenham and Southampton winger – Perry
Groves. So how is Perry preparing for the two-wheeled challenge? We
asked another former Gunner, Adrian Clarke – who once upon a time
cleaned Mr Groves’ boots – to find out…
Adrian: Hi Perry, great to speak to you again. What’s
all this I hear about you cycling from London to Amsterdam to raise
money for Prostate Cancer UK?
Perry: Yes, it’s true and I can’t wait to get
cracking. As you know, Clarkey, I’m getting a bit old these days,
so whenever I go running my knees, ankles and joints all begin to
hurt pretty quickly. Six months ago I gave cycling a try, and now
I’m hopelessly hooked on it as a way to keep fit. I did buy myself
a lovely bike and chained it up at Colchester train station a few
weeks back, only for it to get nicked! Honestly, if someone had
told me they’d run over my dog I’m not sure I’d have been this
upset. Losing that bike felt like a bereavement to me. I’m back in
training again now on a new one, and I’m like Forrest Gump. I ride
for miles and miles, losing track of time. I love it.
Adrian: I’m guessing you must have an extensive Lycra
collection by now then, mate?
Perry: I quickly learned that you HAVE to have
a gel seat. If not, you’re done for, and I know that I would come
off the bike looking pretty bow-legged, what with all that nasty
chafing. I think I’ll be kitted out in some decent gear to be fair.
Honestly, I know I’m going to really enjoy it. I’ll get fit, lose a
bit of weight and raise money for a fantastic cause. It’s a
Adrian: You’re riding alongside a few other members of
the talkSPORT team, aren’t you?
Perry: There are eight of us in total and we’ve
all bought into it big-time. I did some stuff for Men United in
Movember, and noticed the fantastic response we got, so now that we
know it makes a difference we’re all up for it. Catherine, the
producer of the Colin Murray show, is taking part, and we’ve all
bonded over it, swapping training stories. It’s great fun.
Adrian: What was your most memorable European excursion
as a player?
Perry: During most of my era English clubs were
banned from Europe, but I was part of the side when we made a
return in 1991. The away match I remember most was against Benfica
at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon. To us at the time it seemed like
such an exotic place, and for us to go overseas for a big boy’s
game, not just a pre-season friendly, was really exciting. There
was a very different feel to it. We drew out there, and lost after
extra-time at home, even though we battered them. Our inexperience
playing continental sides probably cost us.
Adrian: The London to Amsterdam ride will have a pit
stop in your home town of Colchester. What are your memories of
playing for the U’s?
Perry: I learned my trade as an apprentice and
young pro at Layer Road in the old Fourth Division and they were
good times. It was real muck and nettles football, where you
quickly turned from a boy into a man. If you didn’t, you’d get
eaten alive! I remember coming up against some gnarled old pros but
enjoyed it a lot. My fondest memory is scoring two hat-tricks
against our Essex rivals Southend United. Doing the business in
important derbies like that, in front of big crowds, gave me a lot
of belief. I loved Layer Road. It was rickety, small and a bit
scruffy but it smelt of proper football. It was some atmosphere in
Adrian: If you could pick one former manager or
team-mate to issuing a rallying cry that inspires you for this
cycle trip, who would it be?
Perry: Good question, Clarkey! I think it has
to be Tony Adams. He’d sit us all down and tell us what it meant to
us as a team to succeed, and he’d make us all feel really together.
Then, just like in the old days, he’d start screaming and
head-butting the walls, telling us that we were like caged lions
and tigers. “Lions and tigers, that’s what we are!” he’d shout,
rousing us into a frenzy. If only to see the shock on everyone’s
faces, I’d want Tony to give us that team-talk. The first time me
and Merse [Paul Merson] saw him do it, we looked at each other as
if he’d lost it.
Adrian: On the Holland theme, who’s your favourite Dutch
Perry: That’s easy, it’s got to be Dennis
Bergkamp. I never played with him, sadly, but Merse tells me he was
on a different level to anybody else at the club – and for a player
of Merse’s talent to say that is good enough for me. His vision and
touch were just so good; he was a pleasure to watch. This may sound
odd but Dennis played football as if he was watching it from a
helicopter hovering above the pitch. He saw things that no one else
down there on the pitch could see. So many times I watched him on
TV or live, and thought ‘wow, how did he think to do that, so
quickly?’ He was unreal.
Perry Groves is cycling 150 miles to Amsterdam in aid of
Prostate Cancer UK. Feel like joining him? Read our interview with
the Arsenal cult hero and register your
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