A former member of the Arsenal backroom staff has auctioned off a spectacular haul of the club’s shirts, medals and memorabilia for more than £100,000.
Paul Johnson, who worked at Highbury and then at the Emirates Stadium as the travel and equipment manager, amassed the collection over 30 years from players past and present, and occasional swaps with the opposition’s kitman.
The extraordinary horde, which has been largely stored in Johnsons’ garage, included winners’ and runner-up medals from FA Cup, Champions League, Carabao Cup and Community Shield, all of which raised £30,800 alone.
Paul Johnson’s incredible collection included Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid shirt from the match they played against Arsenal in the Champions League 2006 Round of 16 (pictured)
Zidane’s number five shirt sold for £1,000 and team mate Roberto Carlos’ top for £440
Pennants, football boots, and shirts from club greats such as Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, Robert Pires and Patrick Viera went for thousands more.
The sale also featured strips worn by Arsenal’s most illustrious opponents, like Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos, whose shirts from a 2006 Round of 16 Champions League game against Arsenal were sold for £1,000 and £440, respectively.
Even a carriage clock from the 1997 testimonial of celebrated left back, Nigel Winterburn, who made 440 appearances and scored eight goals was up for grabs and fetched £120.
Two of the most popular shirts at the sale previously belonged to Nicolas Anelka (right),which sold for £6,500 and Ashley Cole (left), which went for £3,000. Pictures Graham Budd Auctions
Among the more unusual items was a carriage clock from Nigel Winterburn’s 1997 testimonial
Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls shirt, one of Johnson’s favourites, from 2014 went for£620
Johnson, who served Arsenal under George Graham and Arsene Wenger was let go in 2018 when the backroom staff were culled as the club prepared for a new era.
‘Paul fell out of love with Arsenal,’ reflected auctioneer, Graham Budd, after the sale of 221 items over the course of two events.
Johnson acquired the items from players, who would pass on shirts, medals – eight in all – and other items they didn’t want.
Johnson worked under great Arsenal managers, George Graham (above) and Arsene Wenger
‘It felt like the right time,’ Johnson told Sportsmail, who disclosed that he recently lost some of his collection when he was burgled, which influenced his decision to sell.
‘Arsenal has been my life. It has been a hard decision. All the items in the sale have got memories. You have to move on, and I am moving on.’
Johnson, who has retained his season ticket at the Emirates, said players would also pass on shirts they had swapped with opponents.
The most expensive item sold at Graham Budd Auctions, which specialises in sport, was a FA Cup Winners’ medal from the Gunners thrilling 2014 victory over Hull City, when they recovered from 2-0 down inside 10 minutes to win 3-2 in extra time. The pendant went for £9,000.
One of Johnson’s favourite items was an English shirt worn by Arsenal legend Tony Adams
A 2014 FA Cup winners’ medal fetched £9,000. Santi Cazorla (above) played for Arsenal
The least valuable items to sell were a trio of shirts from opposition clubs encountered during pre-season friendlies, including Kickers Offenbach, Real Mallorca, and the Slovenian side, Maribor, which all went for fifty quid apiece.
Shirt and kit sales give an interesting insight into what and whom fans truly value.
Out of around 200 items of clothing, Nicolas Anelka, 41, proved the most popular player.
His blue third strip number nine shirt from 1998-99 season, just before he signed for Real Madrid after scoring 23 goals in 65 top-flight games for the Gunners, fetched the highest price of £6,500.
Brian Talbot’s 1981-82 shirt fetched £4,000 at auction. He is pictured scoring against Liverpool in a FA Cup semi final replay in 1980 en route to the final, which Arsenal lost 1-0 to West Ham
Next in the hall of fame comes Brian Talbot, a midfield stalwart from 1979 to 1985, making 327 first-team appearances for the Gunners, scoring 49 goals. Talbot’s 1981-82 number four shirt went for £4,000.
Most of Ashley Cole’s shirts proved popular after the left-back’s seven-year career at Arsenal from 1999 to 2006. His spare ‘redcurrant’ number three shirt from the last match played at Highbury, a 4-2 win over Wigan on May 7, 2006, secured £3,000.
Johnson’s personal favourites, Tony Adams’ number six from England’s 1982 European Championship campaign, was bought for £1,100, and Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls top from a preseason friendly that Arsenal won 1-0, secured £620.
An Ashley Cole ‘redcurrant’ shirt from the final match at Highbury in 2006 made £3,000
On the other hand, some players’ items did not sell at all. A number of pieces relating to former keeper, Lukasz Fabianski, 35, were left on the shelf, including a signed 2009 jersey and a pair of his old boots, despite seven years at the club.
But Per Mertesacker’s size ten-and-a-halfs, complete with a German flag on each shoe and ‘wear to soles and studs’, went for £150.
Mertesacker, 36, made 156 Premier League appearances for Arsenal as a centre back, winning the FA Cup three times and is now head of the club’s academy
Sportsmail understands Arsenal were aware of the sale. The north London club also supplies shirts for auction to support charities and good causes. These items are supported by a letter of authentication and a hologram.
Per Mertesacker’s (left) size 10 boots sold for £150 despite showing signs of wear and tear