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While the achievement of Arsenal's title-winning 'Invincibles' side will likely never be forgotten, sadly the same cannot be said about every member of their history-making squad.
The Gunners completed the truly unique feat of going a whole Premier League season unbeaten during the club's victorious 2003-04 campaign, with a star-studded squad managed by Arsene Wenger and boasting the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp. But while most of that iconic Arsenal team went on to establish themselves as household names, some members of the squad were kept away from the limelight and confined to a mere foot-note in the history books.
One such figure is that of Graham Stack: the Gunners back-up goalkeeper otherwise regarded as the 'forgotten Invincible'. As Stack's team-mates soaked up the plaudits and carved out high-profile careers at the pinnacle of the beautiful game, the former stopper took an altogether different career path – which included 13 clubs and a short stint in India.
With Jens Lehmann very much Arsenal's No.1 at the time, an injury to second-string stopper Stuart Taylor left Wenger on the lookout for an able deputy to cover the German should circumstances forbid him from playing. Up stepped Stack.
The then 22-year-old, who formed part of the club's 2000 FA Youth Cup winning side alongside the likes of Steve Sidwell, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd, was handed the most unlikely of opportunities to make the step up into Arsenal's senior squad and play a part in a season which will forever be regarded as one of football's greatest achievements. Though Stack wouldn't experience a single minute of Premier League action that campaign, the aspiring stopper kept Taylor out and embraced being a fly-on-the-wall in the Gunners' most memorable season in their history.
"The quality was frightening and training was always competitive, it had that edge to it but that's why we had such a successful team," Stack told the Daily Mail back in 2018. "It was a team of men, a team of leaders and there was a lot of experience in there, a lot of know-how.
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"There were players in there that played in World Cups and won World Cups, captained their countries and played in the very best teams in the world so there was always going to be a difference of opinion as well. But I think that's what made that team so great, the fact that it wasn't just a team of average individual players that were content and happy to be in the top four.
"They weren't like that, they wanted to win absolutely everything, in every game they played in. And that would be the case in training, that would be the case in a game of cards, whether we played Uno or whatever it would be on the bus. That was their mentality, and none of them in that group wanted to lose."
Not only did Arsenal's 'Invincibles' season see the club complete the unprecedented feat of going whole campaign without defeat, but a 2-2 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane saw Wenger's side clinch the Premier League title in the backyard of their most bitter of rivals. Stack admitted that it's easy to overlook the sheer magnitude of the achievement as the years tick by and asserted that he believes we will never see the like again.
"You only have to look at today's climate of football and realise what an achievement it was at the time," Stack added. "I don't think anyone quite believed what an incredible achievement it was.
"Now, when you look at the Manchester City team, previous squads that have not quite gone as far, like the Chelsea side, people now realise just how incredible it was and I don't think it will be done in this country ever again but who knows.
"Looking back on it, I realised what a great set of players we had there. It is not until you take yourself back in time and think 'blimey I used to sit with him or I used to train with him'. I think looking at it now I appreciate it far more than I did at the time."
Though Stack was denied the opportunity to play his part in the Premier League – and earn a winners' medal due to not meeting the 10-appearance requirement – the former goalkeeper played in all five of Arsenal's League Cup matches that year as the Gunners advanced as far as the semi-final stage. While his peers established themselves as some of the game's greatest icons, Stack departed North London for Reading in 2006, before embracing on a journeyman career, which spanned 13 clubs.
Stack' later represented the likes of Plymouth Argyle, Hibernian and Barnet before the former Gunner spend a short stint in India with Kerala Blasters in 2016. Having hung up his boots in 2018 after returning to English football with Eastleigh, Stack has since taken up a role at Watford as their head academy coach – though Chesham United did coax him out of retirement for a one-off early this year.
While many football fans may well be oblivious to the fact Stack was part of Arsenal's iconic 'Invincibles' squad, the former Gunners stopper certainly made some memories that he will never forget.
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