The opening day of the 1993/94 season was one of new beginnings.
The previous campaign had been the first year of the newly-formed Premiership, but 93/94 season saw the league renamed the FA Carling Premiership as a stream of sponsorship money flowed into this brave new world.
As clubs sought to strengthen their squads with the increased revenue, Roy Keane joined Manchester United from Nottingham Forest for £3.75m, while Tim Flowers became the division’s most expensive goalkeeper, heading to Blackburn Rovers from Southampton.
Two of the most celebrated players in English football’s recent history returned to the top flight as Kevin Keegan led Newcastle United on their maiden Premiership campaign and Glenn Hoddle was named as the new Chelsea player-manager.
Norwich City embarked on their first and only European adventure, one that would lead them to ties with European giants Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
And then there was Arsenal.
There were new beginnings at Highbury, too. Their famous old ground had a new look with the unveiling of the new North Bank Stand signalling the demolition of the controversial mural that been in place while building work was undertaken.
Some things never changed at Arsenal, though, such as their famous back line of Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams and Bould. This quintet provided strength, discipline, organisation and coordination in abundance as the Gunners were tipped to be among the title challengers.
But on the opening day of the 93/94 season the new North Bank saw the supposedly watertight defence breached on three occasions by one player.
The Premier League was littered with talented strikers. Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, Ian Rush and Teddy Sheringham all hit the net on a regular basis that season. But on the opening day the limelight was stolen by a forward who had become a cult hero at former clubs Portsmouth and Newcastle United.
He had also gone a long way to securing that status with his new side Coventry City, scoring 17 goals in twenty six games during his first six months with the Sky Blues. When Micky Quinn walked out onto the Highbury turf, he knew he was about to face one of the toughest tests of his career.
“They were double Cup winners because they had won the FA Cup and League Cup in the previous season,” Quinn recalls.
“Coventry were 16/1 to win the game and we were expected to get a battering. I remember it was the new Carling Premiership and they had opened the new stand that day.
“The sun was out, the place was bouncing and I think everyone just thought we would roll over and take a hammering. I didn’t fear anyone physically or mentally and I always relished challenging myself against the bigger players.
“This was as big as it gets, there were nerves around the dressing room, but not from myself.”
Quinn’s season got under way with a yellow card in the eighth minute of the game. It exploded into life with thirty-four minutes on the clock.
The Sky Blues were awarded a penalty and with it came a golden opportunity to take a shock lead. Quinn stepped up, nerveless, and lashed the ball into the top left-hand corner of Seaman’s net. The England keeper dived the right way, but the precision and power of Quinn’s strike made it unstoppable.
Coventry expected a strong response from their hosts, but in reality Sky Blues keeper Jonathan Gould was rarely worked by an Arsenal attack containing Ian Wright, Kevin Campbell, Paul Merson and Anders Limpar.
Half-time arrived and Bobby Gould urged his side to keep going forward.
“Bobby was a great character and he knew what was happening,” says Quinn.
“We had been on top and he could see that we had their defence worried. I played up front with Peter Ndlovu, the Zimbabwe international, and Roy Wegerle, who was very talented.
“We were ripping this famous Arsenal defence apart and let’s not forget this was a big part of the England defence for a number of years. We knew this could be our day.”
The trio were at it again just after the hour mark. USA international Wegerle played Quinn into the right-hand side of the Gunners area after turning Tony Adams inside-out.
Without breaking stride, he lashed a rising effort past Seaman into the top corner. The new North Bank end had witnessed its first goal, but it wasn’t from one of the home favourites.
But Quinn still wasn’t finished, and within three minutes he had his hat-trick. Ndlovu’s intelligent movement created a yard of space for Wegerle on the edge of the Arsenal box. He attracted the attention of three defenders, leaving Quinn on his own on the right side of the area.
Wegerle didn’t hesitate with the pass, allowing Quinn to take a touch before beating Seaman for a third time. The England stopper got a touch on the ball, but could only deflect it into the net.
Quinn had completed a historic feat, securing a 3-0 win for Coventry in the process, and it remains one of only six hat-tricks scored against Arsenal in the Premier League era.
Interestingly, four of them were scored by Scousers, with Quinn’s treble followed by two from Robbie Fowler and one from Wayne Rooney. Dwight Yorke and Andy Carroll are the non-Liverpudlians to trouble the Gunners defence.
But Quinn’s hat-trick was a rare feat back then – although he wasn’t aware just how rare it was until he received a phone call on the day after the game.
“I got a call to say that no opposition player had scored a league hat-trick at Highbury for 75 years,” he remembers.
“The amazing thing is nobody did it after that either and I think I must have been one of the only people that was happy when Highbury was taken down.
“The hat-trick was one of the highlights of my career, there is no doubt about that.”
And no doubt Coventry City’s long-suffering support will still fondly remember the opening day of the 1993/94 season, when their star striker plundered his way past Arsenal and into the history books.