I signed for Arsenal but it ruined my international career – Sir Alex Ferguson saved the day

Charlie Nicholas signed for Arsenal instead of Liverpool in 1983

Arsenal hero Charlie Nicholas’ international career was saved by Sir Alex Ferguson.

The former striker, 62, rose through the ranks at Celtic and won the Scottish Premier Division twice between 1980 and 1983. He was a hot prospect in the early '80s, attracting interest from Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan after scoring 48 goals in 53 appearances during the 1982/83 season.

Nicholas decided instead to sign for Arsenal in 1983, where he became a club legend thanks to his brace against Liverpool in the 1987 League Cup final at Wembley. Yet his performances for the north Londoners between 1983 and 1985 were not deemed good enough to earn him a call-up to the Scotland squad.

Speaking on the 'Football's Greatest' podcast with Jeff Stelling, the former Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundit revealed that then-Scotland manager Jock Stein did not select him as he preferred Nicholas to join Liverpool, which boasted Scottish stars such as Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish.

Nicholas also stated that Stein refused to travel to London to watch him play. His international career would have been further derailed had it not been for Ferguson, who stepped in following Stein's death after an '86 World Cup qualification match, ensuring Nicholas was included in the Scotland squad in time for the 1986 World Cup.

Nicholas told Stelling, as per the Mirror: "[I have] tremendous memories of the World Cup, Jeff. I wasn't anticipating going. Jock Stein had stopped picking me because I'd joined Arsenal [from Celtic in 1983]. He wanted me to join Liverpool.

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"We had a discussion. Jock never really came and watched Arsenal, he would never come that far south. So he came to Anfield, and we always watched [Anfield], and he had a word after with me saying I chose the wrong club. And I thought, 'There's nothing I can do about that now!’

"At that time I actually thought I was playing okay. I thought I should still be in the squad, but he just said I was having a bad time and didn't pick me."

His struggles took a turn when Ferguson stepped in as manager, with Nicholas explaining: "In 1986, Ferguson took over temporarily. He was Aberdeen manager still but he came to watch me at Aston Villa. He said to me after the game 'I don't know why you've not been in the squad, I hear you're playing well but because we don't see much of you in Scotland everybody thinks the opposite'."

Nicholas did get to play in Mexico, featuring in two group stage matches against Denmark and Uruguay. However, Scotland's campaign was short-lived, failing to advance past the group stages after losing two games and drawing against a 10-man Uruguay team in their last match.