Chris Armstrong (footballer, born 1971)
|Full name||Christopher Peter Armstrong|
|Date of birth||19 June 1971|
|Place of birth||Newcastle upon Tyne, England|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
He grew up in North Wales, where he played in the amateur game for Llay Welfare before making his professional debut for Wrexham in 1989. After one season at Millwall, he made a £1 million transfer to Crystal Palace of the Premier League in 1992. In March 1995, he became the first Premier League player to receive a doping ban, testing positive for cannabis. He joined Tottenham Hotspur that June for a club record £4.5 million and was part of their team that won the League Cup in 1999. After a one-game spell at Bolton Wanderers, he returned to Wrexham for the remainder of his career.
Armstrong was tracked by the international teams of Wales, Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland but rejected all three. He earned one cap for England B in 1994 and was called up to the senior side in March 1999 but did not play.
Armstrong was born in Newcastle upon Tyne to an Irish father and Nigerian mother, and moved to London at age three. He was raised by foster parents in Wales, where he began playing as an amateur goalkeeper in local leagues, before leaving school and giving up on football aged 16. A friend reintroduced him to the game by bringing him to Llay Welfare in the Welsh National League, while he packed burgers during the day for £30 a week. He gained the attention of local professional club Wrexham.
At Wrexham, Armstrong made his professional debut as a teenager during the 1989–90 Football League season in the old Fourth Division, and managed to score three times through the course of the season. In his two-year spell at the club, he went on to play 60 games, scoring 13 times. He took part in the 1990–91 European Cup Winners' Cup, where he scored the only goal of the first round tie against Denmark's Lyngby before elimination by eventual champions Manchester United in the second round.
After one season with Millwall, Armstrong joined Steve Coppell's Crystal Palace for £1 million in 1992, ahead of the inaugural season of the Premier League. He found a home at Selhurst Park, where he was the club's top-scorer with 23 league goals in his first campaign.
In March 1995, Armstrong tested positive for cannabis, becoming the first Premier League player to fail a drug test, and was banned for four matches. The Independent sports writer Glenn Moore criticised The FA for punishing Armstrong despite not taking action against Dennis Wise and Vinnie Jones for recent violent offences, adding that cannabis was extremely unlikely to have aided his performance. Armstrong finished the season on 18 goals, not enough to save the Eagles from relegation.
After interest from FA Cup holders Everton, Armstrong joined Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £4.5 million in June 1995, replacing Bayern Munich-bound Jürgen Klinsmann. With the funds coming from a new kit deal and the sales of Klinsmann, Gica Popescu and Ilie Dumitrescu, this made him both Tottenham's most expensive signing, until Les Ferdinand for £6 million in 1997. It was also Palace's most expensive sale, until Andrew Johnson joined Everton for £8.6 million in 2006.
Armstrong made his Spurs debut on 19 August in a 1–1 draw at Manchester City, and scored his first goals in the form of a brace on 20 September in a 4–0 win over Chester City in the second round of the League Cup. He totalled 22 goals (15 league) in his first season, including the winner in the North London derby against Arsenal on 18 November at White Hart Lane. At the start of the season, he was criticised by tabloids for a slow start, and was seen as an inadequate replacement for Klinsmann and inferior to Arsenal's new striker Dennis Bergkamp. However, he built up a prolific partnership with Teddy Sheringham; Armstrong's two goals in a 4–1 win over Manchester United on 1 January 1996 brought their combined total to 23 goals.
On 28 December 1998, Armstrong scored a late hat-trick in a 4–1 home win over Everton, and when he was substituted at the end of the game his teammate David Ginola got in his way to bow down to him. He scored five times in their League Cup run that season, including two in a 3–1 win over Manchester United in the quarter-finals, but was unused in the final at Wembley Stadium which Spurs won over Leicester City.
On 28 August 2002, Armstrong signed for Bolton Wanderers in a deal that would see him earn a low wage until his first-team debut, estimated at two months away due to fitness. His only appearance came on 2 October, in a 1–0 home defeat to Bury in the second round of the League Cup, lasting just 53 minutes before being substituted for Henrik Pedersen.
Armstrong returned to Wrexham aged 32 on 4 July 2003, signing a three-year deal ahead of their return to the Second Division.
Towards the start of his professional career, Armstrong was tracked by Wales, and was called up by Nigeria ahead of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, but turned them down in hope of representing England. Republic of Ireland managers Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy also tried to enlist Armstrong in the late 1990s; he later revealed that his Tottenham contract said that he could only play for England as to avoid limits on foreign players in European fixtures.
In July 2016, Armstrong was arrested for possession of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy after a raid in West Kensington. He pleaded guilty to possession of Class A and Class B drugs at Hammersmith Magistrates' Court and was fined £375. He denied having a drug problem.
- Hugman, Barry J., ed. (2003). The PFA Footballers' Who's Who 2003/2004. Queen Anne Press. p. 27. ISBN 1-85291-651-6.
- "England Uncapped & Black Players - Chris Armstrong". www.englandfootballonline.com. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- Mackay, Duncan (27 April 2002). "Why English football has a drugs problem". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Moore, Glenn (7 March 1995). "The FA has suspended Chris Armstrong of Crystal Palace for smoking a private spliff". The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- "Ten things you didn't know about Chris Armstrong". The Guardian. 25 March 1999. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Moore, Glenn (26 August 1995). "Why Armstrong put Spurs before money". The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
-  Sporting Heroes - Extracted 24 January 2012
- "Armstrong opts for Spurs". New Straits Times. AFP. 21 June 1995. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Fayiga, Kunle (28 August 2018). "Wilfried Zaha can truly be fulfilled at Crystal Palace". Goal.com. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
- "The record sale progression of every Premier League club". Football 365. 28 June 1997. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- "Games played by Chris Armstrong in 1995/1996". Soccerbase. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Moore, Glenn (2 January 1996). "United's frailties exposed by Spurs". The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Rowbottom, Mike (29 December 1998). "Football: Armstrong treble traumatises Everton". The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Fordyce, Tom (20 July 2001). "Spurs' forgotten striker fights back". BBC Sport. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- "Chris Armstrong: The first interview". Daily Post. 20 April 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Nixon, Alan (29 August 2002). "Bolton sign Armstrong on low-wage deal". The Independent. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "Bolton 0–1 Bury". BBC Sport. 2 October 2002. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "Armstrong joins Wrexham". BBC Sport. 4 July 2003. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "England - International Results B-Team - Details". RSSSF. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "England hit by striker crisis". BBC. 24 March 1999. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Bell, Jess (19 September 2016). "Former Crystal Palace star Chris Armstrong guilty of possessing cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis". Wandsworth Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Chris Armstrong at Soccerbase