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  • Our most significant era, part two

    Augustine Worth


    The greatest of all time

    And so in 1953, we had more championships than any other English team with 7 titles and 3 FA Cups achieved in 16 competitive years between 1931 and 1953 with 6 war years lost. We were the best, the famous Arsenal and the only southern team, to that time, to win the league more than once. We were about to embark on an unprecedented spell of winning everything. And then it all went wrong, in a scenario so familiar to Gooners, just when it all goes right, it goes haywire. Because we settled into mid-table obscurity from that point, not frightening anyone except our own supporters.


    The Mee Howe dynasty brought us back to greatness

    Then we, rather strangely, appointed the physio, Bertie Mee, as acting manager in 1966 presumably waiting for a proper candidate to appear. But Don Howe was appointed coach and that surely was the key decision. Howe was a real football man, good with players and tactics and a vast football knowledge, a bit like Arteta in our time. The Chinese dynasty sounding combination took time to get going but in 1968 we got to the League Cup final against Leeds and again the next year against Swindon, when I first set my eyes on bonny Arsenal as my love. We lost both but something was stirring in that old sleeping beast. We won the predecessor to the Europa League the following season, meaning the long wait to be Arsenal again was surely over?

    Howe did Mee do it?


    The Double 1971 - the Mee Howe dynasty's greatest achievement

    And wow it was! The next year we captured the almost mystical double of league and cup, only won by the Spuds in the 20th century to that point, and something our great teams of the past could not do. The combination of Mee and Howe, accidental though it was, enabled us to get back to the top, one complementing the other as it is hard to see Mee achieving it by himself and Howe never had great success as a manager. That accidental pairing brought great rewards to the Arsenal and we were surely crazy to let Howe go to West Brom straightaway as Mee found himself out of his depth and we started another downward spiral, although we remained competitive for a year or so, almost getting relegated over the next few years.


    The Neill Howe dynasty - not so great

    Terry Neill was appointed in 1977, still Arsenal’s youngest manager. He brought Don Howe back and got us to 3 FA Cups in a row and a Cup Winners Cup Final, of which we only won the famous Brady final of 1979 against Manchester United. He had 6 Irishmen to choose from and that gladdened my heart. More crucially, the pairing got us back near the top again. But then, being Arsenal, we fell back to being mediocre.

    Our wonderful Georgey boy

    And so the next crucial time was the double winner George Graham taking over in 1986. He hadn’t managed at a top club and it was a definite gamble. But it worked! He won two titles in 1989 and 1991, the FA Cup in 1993, our second European title in 1994 with the Cup Winners Cup and our only 2 league cups in 1987 and 1993, The thing is that 2 events happened fairly close together, one was the creation of the Premier league in 1992 and Graham taking a bung in 1994 which led to him getting banned and losing his job.


    George Graham deserves a statue

    The Premier league also introduced the no backpass rule and this severely discommoded George as he liked to play it very tight at the back and his team were struggling a bit in the league. The thing is that he was a very knowledgeable football man and he may well have been able to put that right and Graham seemed to be the only one to get punished for taking a backhander as it was rife in football at the time. Possibly David Dein had a hand in this as he was generally regarded as the real creator of the Premier League and had a very prominent position within it. He may not have wanted to be tarnished by dirty dealings. But if Graham had not lost his job he could have been at Arsenal for another ten years or more if he was reasonably or very successful. The Arsene Wenger era would not have happened and the magical changes he wrought turned into dust.

    David Dein – the magician who made everything happen

    Now, I am going to take a jump backward at this point to talk about David Dein as I believe his time at the Arsenal to be crucial to Arsenal once again becoming a major force in world football. He became vice-chairman of Arsenal in 1983 until 2007 and proved himself a very knowledgeable football man who cared about everyone associated with the Arsenal. Most people accept that he ran Arsenal in his time. So, the appointment of George Graham was done on his watch to bring us the great times back, and he pretty much forced the appointment of Arsene Wenger through believing that English football had fallen behind the great teams from the continent of Europe in many areas, from training facilities, to medical practices, grounds, tactics, diet, etc. He pushed for Wenger to allow him to revolutionise English football as befitted its status as the pioneers of the Premier League.


    David Dein - at the heart of everything Arsenal

    Dein was very close to the players and staff at Arsenal, he was involved in every major decision, he pushed for top players to be signed such as Ian Wright, David Bergkamp and David Platt. He allowed George Graham the freedom to bring his tactical know-how, his discipline, and his ability to shape a team where he had the best possible player available for every position to make Arsenal once again winners.

    The new giants

    He did the same with Wenger, giving him the freedom to find the players he wanted, control over training, facilities, diet, pitches, and the holistic approach to football that garnered so much success. They worked as a double act, a sounding board for each other as Dein discussed team issues and Wenger discussed financial and control issues. And as I have said, most people credit David Dein as being the creator of the Premier League which gave Arsenal and Wenger the opportunity to take their place among the giants of the era in the new televised and analysed from every angle global phenomenon that is professional soccer.


    The European Cup winners cup - Graham's last trophy 

    Next week, I will finish up with the Wenger era, the expansion of mega money in football, the creation of the Emirates, the overthrow of Dein and then Arsene, the doldrums following their departures, and the hopeful awakening of a new epoch for that grand old club, the Arsenal, under Mikel Arteta. And finally, I will choose my candidate for the most important era.


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