The impossible cannot happen!
I told you a lie last time. I said that Arsenal had to beat Tottenham away to win the league in 1971. When I checked just to make sure my memory was right, it seems that a 0-0 or a win was required. As a 0-0 is very difficult to get my memory wasn’t far out. Spurs were good, they were 3rd and we were 2nd. It was White Hart Lane. If we won, they would have to endure the humiliation of giving their biggest rivals the title on their own ground. They did everything to spoil the Arsenal party and it was 0-0 late in the game.
Spurs forced to give us the title and our party
Till George Armstrong got the ball and Ray Kennedy popped it in the net very late on, becoming the top scorer in the division that year. Spurs forgot one thing, we are Arsenal, we know how to win. And the fans piled on to the pitch.
Winning the league was beyond my dreams. We were now big boys. We would play in the European Cup. Manchester United, the top Irish team, were in decline. I could go to school as a winner. And we still had the cup against Liverpool. I couldn’t believe it. We had gone 4, 12, 1. in league positions over 3 years. It was a fairy tale, somehow the players became giants, Arsenal were big boys.
I had my bet to win, 10 shillings on the double with Michael Nolan, my schoolmate. I just thought, though, that we can’t win the double. That would be a fairy tale too far. Liverpool, despite being 5th, were on the way to becoming a feared machine under Bill Shankly, who looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to meet on a dark alley way. Bertie Mee, our manager, by contrast, looked more like a kindly school master, who would bring you home safely if you were in trouble.
Liverpool the Giants in our way
Bill Shankly Liverpool manager
Liverpool had many star names, from Ray Clemence in goal, Tommy Smith, their feared captain, Emlyn Hughes who became captain of England, Steve Heighway and John Toshack up front. We had a tired , stretched team playing our 64th match. But we still had good players, Mclintock our captain, John Radford, Ray Kennedy and Charlie George up front, Peter Storey, George Graham and George Armstrong in midfield, and we had an Irishman at right back, Pat Rice. If we weren’t too drained, we did have a chance.
The game started with Liverpool the better team. But we came back and we had chances, they had chances, and nothing went in. The game went to extra time. I was really worried. We had just had an emotional win in White Hart Lane, Liverpool were playing for their season. They surely would be better now.
The Double is over
Bertie Mee Arsenal manager
And so it turned out, within 2 minutes, Heighway stuck the ball past Bob Wilson into the net. Then Toshack produced a great save from Wilson and Liverpool were dominating. The double was over. How could we come back? I was still really learning that we were Arsenal. And we were and are.
Because towards the end of the first half, with Liverpool on top, a breakaway produced a goalmouth scramble and Eddie Kelly got a touch to become the first sub to score in an FA cup final. I celebrated like crazy. I should say that by now a couple of my younger brothers had become fans also. Could it be possible? A team coming from nowhere to win the impossible double?
In the second half, both teams looked tired, movement was slow, players were going down with cramp. But Radford got the ball in the 11th minute, passed it to Charlie George who fired a bullet into the corner of Ray Clemence’s net. It was 2-1. And nobody was going to take away the double from us after that.
Charliе George lying on the ground at Wembley after scoring the winning goal to clinch the 1971 Double
So who knows what this picture above represents? It is the Arsenal legend Charlie George celebrating scoring the winning goal after extra time in the 1971 cup final. His famous lying down pose, immortalized for us Gooners as one of the most iconic pics of all time. And if you talk nicely to Mr George at one of his legends tours, he may even sign one of these pictures for you.
I went into school with my head ready to explode. In my excitement, the first thing I said to Michael Nolan was give me my ten shillings. After some teasing, he paid up.
We had come from nowhere to win the impossible double. Leeds were behind us, Liverpool left lying on the floor at Wembley, and the Spuds handing us the trophy at White Hart Lane. Life could not get any better.