What’s the missing number in this sequence 4, 12, _, 5? Well, we will get to it at some point. As we saw last time in 1969-70 we finished 12th and the only highlight of the year was winning the InterCities Fairs cup, now the Europa League. It was very difficult to feel optimistic. A climb up the table though, surely was necessary.
Strangely enough, my young mind really hated the idea of relegation. Arsenal had never been relegated and I wanted that to continue, at least.
No team though, had ever done the double in the 20th century, except, amazingly, the Spuds in 1961. They had a magnificent team full of big names and won the league with 8 points to spare. They beat Leicester 2-0 in the FA cup final. But that was before my time. I was a voracious reader, though and I knew all the stats. The Spuds won the first European trophy for England in 1963, the European Cup Winners cup (you might need to ask your dad). Manchester United were the first English team to win the European Cup in 1968 although Celtic from Scotland had won it before them in 1967.
Arsenal, though? Winning the league? Or the Cup. Or even the League Cup? It was hard to be optimistic even with having a trophy sitting in our cabinet reminding us that we can win. It was 18 years since we last won the league, long before my time. Nobody was tipping Arsenal. Leeds were extremely strong as were Liverpool. 2 draws against West Ham and Everton at the start meant we were already behind and relegation might be a possibility. Then a nice 4-0 against Man U and we beat Huddersfield before our first defeat 1-2 v Chelsea. 6 points, 5 games, it didn’t look too good. 2 points for a win in those days.
Honestly, that is what it was like for the whole season. My memory is that we were never top. Plenty of good results, but Leeds looked stronger. Every time I dared to dream a little we would lose or draw.
There is a comparison with Leicester’s win a few years ago. However, Arsenal had many trophies in their cabinet, even if old ones. Leicester came from 14th, we came from 12th. The big teams for Leicester collapsed, the 2 Manchester’s, Liverpool, Chelsea, etc. Arsenal came second, our best over the past few years. It was the same in 1971, the 2 Manchester’s, Liverpool, Everton who all had won titles the previous seasons., came nowhere. Leeds and Spurs were strong.
Towards the end, our 4th last game against West Brom, we drew 2-2. Then Leeds beat us 1-0. The league seemed out of touch as we had Stoke and then the Spuds away. We had to win both. Spurs were playing very well and they were at home. Leeds only had to beat Forest and that was pretty certain as Forest were poor. But a good finish was assured. To be honest, going into school, I felt happier. I was hoping for a win in the Cup. We were beaten by Palace in the 4th round of the league cup and by FC Cologne in the quarterfinals of the Inter City Fairs Cup, but moving along nicely in the FA cup. I was hoping and hoping we could do it. I was challenged to put a bet of 10 shillings on Arsenal doing the double by a friend of mine Michael Nolan, and not wanting to lose face, I accepted. For a poor 13 year old student, this was big money.
But in the Cup that year, we could never seem to beat anyone. Ok we beat Yeovil in the 3rd round 3-0 but after that, what struggles we had. Portsmouth, after a replay, we scraped home 3-2. Then we beat Man City. Then it took 2 games to dispatch Leicester. Again we found a way through, 1-0. Then we met Stoke in the semi’s. Another 2 games and we finally were going to Wembley after beating them 2-0 with Ray Kennedy and George Graham (pictured) scoring. Three times replays and waiting and hoping all the time. This was Arsenal. Up and down, up and down, emotions pitching one way and then the other. Somehow, we were going to play Liverpool at Wembley.
Like Leicester, when they won the title, few people regarded them as the best in the country and honestly, I have to say I regarded Leeds and Liverpool as better than Arsenal. Leicester were 500-1 to win the title but I guess Arsenal were at least 50-1 as Arsenal did have a history of winning things. I was too young for betting shops then.
Leeds had a squad of top players, Giles, Bremner, Gray, Hunter, Cooper, Clarke, Lorimer, etc. Liverpool had Toshack, Heighway, Ian St. John, Thompson, Hughes and many more. And we were just playing match after match, the fixtures piling up so we had lots to do and Leeds could concentrate on just beating Forest. They duly did. 2-0. We beat Stoke 1-0 to set up a final day against White Hart Lane. We had to win.
Next week, I will put the final instalment of Creation of a Gooner. The game against Spurs and the final against Liverpool. Our players, the manager, and that crazy time. And what it meant to me.
Anyone able to name the 2 captains here?