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  1. A Magical 61 points? So, will we have one more day of hope after Wednesday?. First, we must beat Palace and that has proved tricky in recent seasons. Then we must beat Brighton to get the magic 61 points. They have also been difficult for us as has Graeme Potter. We absolutely need 61 points to have a hope. Everton look the most vulnerable as they can win and draw and we finish above them. They are only one point above us. They have to win both matches if we do. They have Wolves which they must win, and, finally, Man City away. City will not want to lose on their last day at home. There is some chance we can finish 8th, even without winning our last 2. However, that will not get us Europe. What will? We need Spurs and West Ham to drop points. If they both win on Wednesday we are out. Let’s take the Spuds first. They are on 59 points but a far superior goal difference. They have Villa at home and Leicester away. Even 2 draws is enough for them as we would need to make up 11 goals in the 2 matches. We haven’t been scoring at that level for a long time. We need Spurs to only get one point from these 2 matches, so, and it is possible but unlikely. They are the Totteringham specialists, though, so you never know. Do the Arse a favour and only get a point from your last 2 matches, thank you very much, Mr Levy. C'mon, Dan, you can do it for us, you are an expert at it. And Magically into Europe? West Ham also have 59 points. They play West Brom away and Southampton at home. This time we can allow them 2 draws as our goal difference is much better. It is possible, I suppose. Certainly a defeat against Sam Allardyce could happen as he would want to teach his old club a lesson. And then Saints? You never know. West Ham are not firing fully right at the moment so they could drop points. If they both flounder we go 6th and straight into Europa League. If one does then we go 7th and Europa Conference. Of course, assuming Everton doesn’t get 6 points but I am pretty certain they won’t. Make us smile, Sam. So, can we do it? Beat Palace and Brighton? Yes, we can. However, like most fans, I don’t have that much confidence after the season we have had. Do it, and we will finish 8th minimum, and that is an upgrade on last year in points but not position. Arteta, and the Kroenkes (OUT) can claim improvement. If it gets us 6th, they can definitely claim improvement. Also 7th but for me, this conference doesn’t seem attractive. It might be better to have plenty of weekdays free to concentrate on the League than travelling to the backend of nowhere. Less matches might be better for the young kids. A Dead Man Walking Of course, if we get very little from these 2 matches we will finish worse than the 8th place of last year. What then? Certainly better ammunition for the Kroenke out movement. And Arteta? I doubt if he will be fired but he will totally need a flying start to next season or he is a dead man walking, like Bertie Mee all those years ago, and Terry Neill, also a long time ago. He won’t get anywhere near as long as either of those. Wins are his only currency from now on. For me, his biggest weakness, and that of Emery, is his reluctance to have a settled team, partnerships that work, players that know each other. Look at Smith Rowe and Saka. They find each other. They strengthen each other. Wenger believed in a settled team, so did George Graham. They didn’t do too badly, did they? And can I mention Leicester? Rodgers has a team that play for each other and we all pretty much know what he feels is his strongest team. Even Tuchel does the same, plays his preferred players in the big matches. They are showing us the way For me, it would be develop the kids. Keep a spine of experienced players, but give these lads a chance. Fans keep saying buy, buy, buy, and I say why? Are they better than Willock, Maitland Niles, Reiss Nelson, Saliba, Balogun, Nketiah, and others? Then why buy? Only if they improve the team should we buy. Otherwise we are just bringing in players, interrupting the flow of understanding, constantly saying they need time to adjust to the Premier League and, critically, not improving. The young players already there know all about English football and what is required. Top players like Pepe and Partey have struggled. All I am saying is “Give youth a chance”, and next year I might be writing at the same stage that we have a good chance of Champions League. Up the Arsenal and Kroenke out.
  2. The Don had taken over Our godfather, Don Howe had given us hope after Terry Neill. He had done well in the second half of the season bringing us from 16th when he took over to 6th at the end. In 1984-85 we could challenge, we could be Arsenal, again, surely? He was highly respected, a gentleman and true Arsenal. Terry Neill had just brought in Tommy Caton and Howe had brought in good players, Paul Mariner, and in the close season made Steve Williams and Viv Anderson offers they couldn’t refuse. Steve Williams was an Arsenal fan and he did well for us until he fell out of favour under George Graham. Steve Williams achieved his boyhood dream of playing for Arsenal I always liked Viv Anderson, he was class, an England fullback who had won the European cup for Forest twice. He was also the first ever black player to play for England. I was always up for the black players, they were the underdogs, and getting, yes, dogs abuse every time they played. It wasn’t right and it still isn’t. Viv Anderson, a very classy full back Don Howe didn’t have that Bada Bing But Don Howe was no Don Corleone. He was an English gentleman. There was no fear of him dispatching a horse’s head to Howard Kendall’s bed, the Everton manager who had his dream year in 1985. Nor would he ever send dead fishes to Joe Fagan, the Liverpool manager. Or send some concrete blocks to Peter Shreeves of the Spuds. Far too nice and maybe we were, too. We would have to win by playing better football than the rest. I wasn’t sure we could do that. However, we had a good squad of England internationals now, with Woodcock and Mariner up front, Sansom and Anderson at full backs, Rix, Williams, and Talbot in midfield. Not to forget Tony Adams pushing for his place. Only O’Leary and Jennings were left of the Irish contingent, although there was a beanpole centre-forward trying to work his way through called Niall Quinn. Nor did the players have it So, looking at the players, surely we had a chance this season? We started well, 9 wins, 2 losses and a draw up to Oct 20th and we were up near the top. Then it fell apart, beaten 3-1 by West Ham and 4-2 by Man Utd and a draw with Villa. After that we never had a real run of form and we ended up 7th behind Chelsea and Spurs. Everton probably had their greatest ever season, winning the league and almost winning the double, being beaten by Man Utd in the FA Cup final. Plus winning the European Cup Winners Cup. We were knocked out early in both cups although there was a highlight in beating Hereford 7-2 in a replay after a shocker at 1-1 in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Then we were sent home crying by York 1-0 in the next round. The League Cup was no better. We were beaten in the 3rd round 3-2 by Oxford Utd. Robson made him an offer he couldn’t refuse Poor old Don Howe was not going to be the answer. We knew that long before the end of the season. He was a top class coach, but a consigliore, not a godfather. Most football people credited him for the double, rather than Bertie Mee, but he probably needed that steel beside him. Mee never cared about being popular with the players. And Howe was to go on to coach England successfully alongside Bobby Robson, who, despite his cordial image, had a tough side and could play mind games and physical battles with the best of them. Bobby Robson had a toughness behind the smile And where was Arsenal? 7th and mediocre. Incapable of taking to the mattresses. Surely we needed someone new to come in but Arsenal don’t sack managers. Don Howe would be given his chance but could he take it, next season 1985-86? Next week I will tell you how he got on. And then football all went wrong But I can’t mention this season without talking about the big event that overshadowed all else. And it had an Italian connection. Liverpool played Juventus in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels in the European Cup Final. It was the most shocking football event I had ever seen. I will try to report it as I remember it and not with hindsight knowledge which I will get to later. Fences and walls were broken allowing both sets of fans access to each other. They were fighting with whatever they could use, bricks and stones were being hurled and there were charges by fans and by police. It was mayhem. It was obvious people were badly hurt and most likely dead. I was certain that we not going to see a kick-off. Somehow, the decision was given to start and it went ahead in the weirdest atmosphere, a bit like these Covid matches now. I couldn’t really take an interest in the football. I had been to many grounds, seen lots of incidents, but nothing like this. Juventus won 1-0. As everyone knows by now, I guess, there was a multiple of factors, bad organisation by Belgian officials and police, a crumbling old stadium that fell apart creating plenty of weapons, and Liverpool fans were given the majority of the blame, with some of them receiving sentences for manslaughter. Mayhem mixed with chaos English sides sent into exile It led to a long ban on English football teams getting places in European competitions, a decline in the excitement of the seasons because of that, and English football dominance of such competitions suffered a hammer blow that to this day, has never really come back. As for Arsenal, quite a few of the seasons in my fandom were without Europe anyway, and now, no matter what we won, we could not claim those trophies. It was a very sad time for football. And I feel I should mention Everton again. They had their dream season, winning the league and the Cup Winners Cup and almost winning the FA cup. They had a very good side under Howard Kendall. They would not be able to claim a European cup to rank with the greats. Nobody was talking about them. It was the worst end to a season I can remember.
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