George Graham offers advice to Villa boss Tim Sherwood

Saturday 30 May 2015
George Graham was Arsenal boss from 1986 to 1995

George Graham became an Arsenal legend as a player and a manager, but started his career with Aston Villa in 1961, signing on his 17th birthday.

The young Scottish forward only played a handful of games for the Villans before moving to Highbury, via Chelsea, in 1966.

He won the League and Cup double with the Gunners as a player in 1971 and also guided them to FA Cup victory in 1993 as a manager.

Arsenal v Aston Villa

The FA Cup Final
5.30pm, Saturday 30 May 2015
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Live on BBC One and BT Sport

As his two former clubs prepare to go head to head at Wembley on Saturday, the 70-year-old says he sees parallels between himself and Villa boss Tim Sherwood, a former player of his at Spurs.

"We have all the makings of a close game, with Arsenal doing so well in the second half of the season and Aston Villa rejuvenated under Tim Sherwood," said Graham. 

"Tim has done an absolutely fantastic job and while Premier League safety would have been his top priority, he will enjoy leading his side out for his first FA Cup Final as a manager. 

"There are similarities with my appointment as Arsenal manager all those years ago."

Tim Sherwood and George Graham

George Graham and Tim Sherwood during their Spurs days

He continued: "While I’d played at the highest level, the board took a chance on me. 

"I came into a big club that had gone a long time without success, where the winning mentality had gone, but I helped bring the passion back and was not afraid to blood the youngsters. 

"I would tell Tim to just enjoy the occasion, and I’m sure he’ll relish – yet respect – going up against Arsene Wenger who has seen it, done it, and has a tremendous record in the Cup."

Graham, who also managed Millwall, Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur, expects Villa's frontline to cause problems for The FA Cup holders.

However, with recent experience of winning a Cup Final at Wembley, he believes the Gunners are in the driving seat.

George Graham and Charlie George

George Graham (left) with Charlie George and The FA Cup in 1971

"Arsenal should win the game but they do not like facing teams with great pace up front," he said. 

"They have attacking full-backs who can sometimes leave the centre-backs with work to do and I’m sure Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor will look to exploit those spaces. 

"Arsenal also have the advantage of playing regularly at Wembley these past couple of years, although against Wigan, Hull and Reading, they did just enough to get over the line. 

"The fans might want more in terms of performance, but as anyone will tell you, winning at Wembley is all that matters."

The full interview with George Graham, and other former Arsenal and Aston Villa stars, is in the official FA Cup Final match programme, which will be available to buy at Wembley on Saturday, order online here, or to download to your device via the Apple Newsstand.

By FA Staff