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  1. Arsenal vs QPR The not rich club from west London Terry Venables was a player and manager for QPR I have a soft spot for QPR. I worked for a time in Shepherd’s Bush in London and their ground Loftus Road, was close by. On Saturdays when there was a match on, our local pub would be closed to avoid trouble which meant we had to find one a bit further away. Having a few beers after work being traditional on a Saturday. I didn’t find their supporters to be much trouble and we had some good tussles on the pitch. A good striker for Ireland as well They also seemed to have many flamboyant players who have stuck in my mind, the Irishman Don Givens, Gerry Francis, Terry Venables, Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Les Ferdinand, Trevor Sinclair, Dave Thomas and a player called Clive Allen who had a connection to Arsenal that was interesting. I will get to it later. I had some friends who were big QPR fans and they were a team who had spells of making life difficult for us. We sent them down Certainly our first 2 meetings did not go well. 2-0 in the FA cup 1st round in 1921 where they lay down a marker. Then the following year we got them again in the first round of the cup and this time a 0-0 and a replay. We won that 2-1 and I guess we were showing them that we could match them. It didn’t matter too much though in the end as the next time we got them was 1968 in the old First Division. We had been poor enough since the early fifties and a long way from the great Arsenal teams of the past. They were young, hungry and had come up from the 3rd division in successive seasons having achieved their only major trophy on the way, the League Cup in 1967. We did the double over them and they went straight back down. So I reckon that was our modern day marker as we helped them on their way. I am sure there are QPR fans who still remember that. Their greatest ever trophy was the League cup in 1967 with this team But they did come back up in the seventies with our own Dave Sexton as manager. They had lots of top players including some mentioned above and managed a little parallel with us in our greatest match against Liverpool in 1989. In 1976 they were top by one point after 42 matches but Liverpool still had a match to go against Wolves which they won to pip them to the title. We beat them and they beat us that season but if they had done the double over us it would have been their first and only top division title. In December 1976 they beat us 2-1 in the League Cup, their only time to play us in that competition so they can claim victory there. Dave Sexton was a superb manager for QPR And sent them down again The seventies was a pretty strong time against us with 5 wins and 3 draws and we had the same. Even stevens, I suppose but we did record our biggest league win against them in 1978, 5-1 with Brady one and Stapleton and Rix getting 2 each. This was 1978-79 and we did the double over them, sending them down again to the second division. Plenty of their supporters will remember us badly for that season. They got a sort of revenge when they came back up in 1983, doing their first double over us. The following season it was one apiece, then we had 2 doubles in a row. We did manage a win and a draw against them in 1989, our famous year, so they did us a favour. Overall the 80’s head to head were a bit better for us but they were a good side considering the smallness of their ground and their lack of tradition amongst the big boys. Finally they showed us they could play They beat us 2-0 in a 4th round replay of the Cup in 1990 so that was payback for our good results against them. And then they beat us in the league that season 2-0 to have two 2-0 in a row. We did the double over them the next season but they then went on a long unbeaten spell against us from August 1991 to April 1995, easily their best time against us. They beat us 3-1 in both matches in the 1994-95 season but it was to be their last good spell against us. They went down in 1996 courtesy of our win and a draw and didn’t come back up until 2011. And we got revenge for their last FA Cup win, in 2001 with a massive 6-0 win at Loftus Road in the 4th round. Which made us equal in the Cup at 2 wins apiece. And so they came up in 2011 and stayed up until 2015 but only managed one win 2-1 at Loftus Road in 2012. We won all the rest. The Mystery of the Transfer that wasn’t And so we are better, yes, in 53 matches we won 24, drew 14 and lost 15. They won our only League cup tie against them so they can claim that metric. We won lots of trophies to their one. And we weren’t kind to them in their relegation seasons so I figure their old time supporters who remember such things would love to do us over. Their biggest foes, though, would be their close neighbours, Chelsea and Fulham in west London. A rare picture of Clive Allen in an Arsenal shirt But I said I would mention Clive Allen, a story without an answer to this day. In 1980, Terry Neill had sold Liam Brady and wanted a statement buy. He chose Clive Allen from QPR, a dynamic and free scoring 19 year old who had scored 34 goals in 55 games for them. He played a couple of pre-season games for us and then, bizarrely, was swapped with Crystal Palace’s Kenny Sansom. Nobody understood it, including Allen himself. He wanted to play, to prove himself at a big side, but was shunted to Terry Venables Palace. Lots of the protagonists in this story produced books, including Allen himself, but nobody came up with a convincing explanation as to what happened. Terry Venables never shared the secret about Clive Allen He got his revenge He felt aggrieved with Arsenal, though, and when he pitched up at the Spuds in 1984, he got some revenge. In 1986-87 he scored 49 goals over all competitions for them, a record that even Harry Kane hasn’t beaten. He said he always wanted to beat Arsenal after that strange transfer. I can not offer any explanation either. Surely Arsenal could have afforded both Sansom and Allen? Sansom was a fullback and they don’t normally attract huge transfer fees. And we needed someone to knock in the goals. Maybe typical Arsenal stinginess was the answer but probably we will never know. Terry Neill also never shared the secret It is a derby I miss, though, and I hope they come back up again, and, honestly, I’d love to go to that nice little ground at Loftus Road once more, and watch us be Arsenal, and send them home crying.
  2. DON’t go breaking my heart Why oh why, Don, did you do it? Without that famous league cup final, I doubt if I would have become an Arsenal fan. I started out up for Swindon as did nearly everyone. But Arsenal kept trying to win on a muddy pitch and somehow a dogged Swindon side got a goal by Roger Smart against the run of play. It was all Arsenal but no goals until Bobby Gould scored on 86. I now cheered for Arsenal and was sure, being a top team against a 3rd division one, that now they would win. Arsenal had flu problems though, and the massive effort to get themselves back in the game seemed to take its toll in extra time. The most famous Swindon player ever, Don Rogers, who forms part of their name, scored 2 and Arsenal were beaten. The fact that I was gutted told me something. This was my team. I was born to be a Gooner. But despite wrecking my dreams, I retained a soft spot for Swindon. And I was always going to choose them for this series. Because they made me Arsenal. From now on I would cry when we lose and add an az when we win.* Their greatest day ever They gave us a harder time than the Spuds You might suspect that Arsenal are going to easily come out on top in this rivalry. You would be wrong. Yes we have far more trophies but not on the head to head. They win by virtue of going home with the League Cup and we got no trophy in our nine matches against them. 3 wins each and 3 draws. There is something likable about Swindon, though. They sport the Arsenal colours, Don Rogers, their iconic winger, has a stand named after him, always nice to see a player being recognised in this way. I could be wrong but I am not sure many clubs have stands named after players. The rest of the County Ground seen from the Don Rogers stand Now, I am guessing you would think that every metric I look for Arsenal would come out on top. And you would be wrong. Let’s talk about most league appearances by a player. We have David O’Leary on 558, they have John Trollope 1960 to 1980 with 770 and a total of 889 easily beating O’Leary on 772. More ways they are ahead Arsenal were always the innovators in English football? Eh, hello, Swindon beat us by 6 months in having floodlights in the 1950’s. They were founded in 1879, well ahead of us in 1886. And their first game against us was in 1911 in the FA Cup. They lay down a marker for what is to come with a 1-0. One nil to the Swindon would have been ringing out if it was the modern day. First blood to Swindon. Even Herbert Chapman found them hard The next came in the FA Cup again in 1929 in the 5th . Now this was the era of Herbert Chapman, with all the star names – Eddie Hapgood, Bob John, David Jack, Joe Hulme and others. We were the mighty Arsenal and they were in the 3rd division. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy? No are Arsenal and we make life hard for ourselves. 0-0 in the first game and then a little revenge in the 1-0 we got in the second with the fabulously named James Brain allowing the fans to sung our song if only they had known about it at the time. It took us 3 games to get a goal against them so they are ahead in that, too. All the rest came in my era. I remember them all. The first match was also my first blog and you can read about it here. Like I said at the start, they beat us so the first 2 trophies they played us they beat us. Swindon, you are breaking my heart. So did Bertie Mee and especially Terry Neill And so we got a chance to get revenge for ’69 in 1972, FA Cup 3rd round. On a muddy, muddy pitch, Geordie Armstrong of the double winning side, and Alan Ball, who wasn’t, got the 2 goals needed for us to progress. It was Alan Ball’s first goal for us and at least it was a bit more than a tap in like Geordie’s. So now we had 2 Fa Cup wins to their one. But they still had that trophy up on us so I put them ahead. Even the great Liam Brady couldn't stop them The next time was the League cup in 1979. We had a top side with all the Irish players. They were in the 3rd division. We were at Highbury. 1-1 and it went to replay and a classic cup game. Steve Walford scored an own goal and then gave them a deflection for their second. 2-0 to the Swindon at halftime. We had no Liam Brady for the first game and he came back for the second. Probably the best player in the league at the time, he would surely put manners on these upstarts? Eh, sort of, he played out of his skin, still referred to as the best display ever seen at Swindon’s County Ground, scored 2 goals and assisted Brian Talbot for the other but they scored one in the second half to take it to extra time. And Andy Rowlands got a late winner to mean that for the League Cup, Swindon are our daddies. A very small revenge in the Premiership You might be amazed but Swindon once got into the Premier League. In 1993-94, we played them twice. Now, they fell like a stone back down into the championship and we played our part in that a couple of days after Christmas at the County Ground. 4-0 to the Arsenal with Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell with a rare hat-trick. They conceded 100 goals, still the record. They got a little bit of revenge at Highbury in April with a 1-1 but for the Premier league, we can claim the win in the head to head. Or maybe this was their greatest day ever? But as you can see, I have to give them the lead overall. They beat us at Wembley, their most significant trophy. And they and QPR are the only 3rd division teams to win it. The FA Cup was never won by a 3rd division team. Swindon – better than us? So there you have it. A tiny team, with tiny attendances, trying to play in the mud at other tiny teams all their life, are laughing at us in the League Cup. We are a bit better than them in the FA Cup and they managed a draw against us in the Premier league, when we were packed full of top players and playing at Highbury. Be afraid, Gooners, be very afraid, if the name Swindon Town pops out of the spinning balls in any of the cups. They like beating us. Cry + az = crazy *
  3. The Creation of a Gooner part 3 Terry Neill, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson. Ah, 1969-70, a sad season, or was it? It was certainly a reality check for me at a time when young kids in Ireland followed the winners with Irish ties, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton and Leeds had strong teams with equally strong managers and all with Irish connections and top players. Manchester City were another powerful team with one of their best trophy hauls until the modern era. But they didn’t really have Irish players. Arsenal didn’t have really have Irish players either but that changed this season. Terry Neil was there and Sammy Nelson and Pat Rice appeared on the scene, all to become inextricably entwined with Arsenal for a long time. Pat Rice only retired recently with the collapse of the Wenger era. Northern Ireland I will explain one little thing now, in as short a way as I can. The above trio were Northern Irish but in general, at the time, they were our second team. They comprised players from both sides of the political divide and players from the nationalist side could become heroes for the unionist side and vice versa. We, in the south, loved Georgie Best, Derek Dougan and many others whose origins were unionist. The nationalist side wanted Ireland to be united as one country, the unionist wanted to remain part of the UK. This led to a long terrorist war starting in the late 1960’s and continuing until well into the 1990’s. Many sports, boxing, rugby and others were all Ireland, but soccer had two sides. Still most people in the South supported the Northern Ireland side, cheered them on and a lot of people on both sides wanted them to come together. Both sides had players playing for top teams so if they were together, qualifying for major tournaments would be more likely. So, the arrival of the trio generated good interest in the Republic of Ireland and was the start of Arsenal’s strong Irish connection over the coming years. I was beginning to feel not so alone. But back to Arsenal and the year of the slide. Peter Marinello came that year, heralded as the new George Best. Didn’t quite work out for him. But Charlie George and Ray Kennedy emerged and it really did work out for them. It didn’t look like that though when we ran out for the games after being beaten by Swindon the previous season. We did mediocre, the only real highlight being sending the Spuds home crying. We ended 4th. This season was even worse. The team from White Hart Lane beat us home and away and finished one point above us in the league. We drew 18 times and were beaten 12 times. And we ended 12th. We managed only 12 wins mostly over weaker sides. Somehow, we beat Liverpool home and away as a highlight. We were knocked out early in the League Cup and FA cup. As a young kid, watching the league table was depressing. We saw highlights on the 2 main tv channels Match of the Day on the BBC and the Big Match on ITV. Arsenal rarely looked good. Live matches were rare in those days. Finals and internationals mostly. Arsenal looked like a team on the slide. I was getting laughed at for my choice by other kids. Drama in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup But this was the Arsenal. We came back. We won the Inter-city Fairs cup which is now the Europa League. We beat Glentoran, Sporting of Portugal, Rouen of France, Dinamo Bacau of Romania, Ajax in the semi-final and amazingly, got to the final with all the heartache and glory that came with being sent home 3-1 down by Anderlecht in the first leg. The little ray of hope was the away goal scored by the superb Ray Kennedy. There were 2 legged finals in those days. Highbury was abuzz but fearful and I didn’t really believe we could do it. But we did! 3-0 to the Arsenal brought us home our first European trophy. Eddie Kelly of Scotland, our hero John Radford and the soon to be discarded Jon Sammels scored the goals that brought us one of our most legendary comeback wins, something Arsenal is famous for. It certainly gave me plenty to smile and cheer about and an antidote to being made fun of for supporting the Arsenal. And it set the stage for next season in which all sorts of miracles happened. Tune in next week for our most momentous season in my young age. We are Arsenal. The team was the same for both games and as you can see, very similar to the losing League cup side the year before. The Fairs cup final 1970 Arsenal GK 1 Bob Wilson FB 2 Peter Storey FB 3 Bob McNab CM 4 Eddie Kelly CB 5 Frank McLintock (c) CB 6 Peter Simpson RM 7 George Armstrong CM 8 Jon Sammels FW 9 John Radford FW 10 Charlie George 77' LM 11 George Graham Substitutes: FW 12 Ray Kennedy 77' Manager: Bertie Mee
  4. 1983 горе и долу (Up and down) повече надолу, отколкото нагоре (More down than up) Up It is very hard to describe the season 1982-83 so I have borrowed the Bulgarian term which is also used in English- up and down. However, in Bulgarian it is a much more common saying. Good things did happen and let’s start with one of them. We finally replaced Frank Stapleton with an equally good player, England international Tony Woodcock was signed a year after Stapleton was let go. I am sure he cost a lot more than Stapleton in wages but that was Arsenal at the time. And we saved a years spending. And that’s a good up in the eyes of the board. We had finished 5th the previous year so now with a proper centreforward we could challenge? Tony Woodcock fired in plenty of goals for us Down Er, no we couldn’t. We started disastrously with 3 defeats and a draw before finally beating Coventry 2-0 on game 5. By December 16th we were hovering above relegation. It was one of our worst starts ever and similar to this year. I liked Terry Neill but his time had gone. He had lost our Arsenal. Don Howe was true Arsenal, player and coach He and Don Howe tried to steady the ship. However then we were beaten 3-0 by Sunderland. There was talk of Don Howe taking over. Honestly, although I liked Don Howe, he hadn’t got a great managerial record and I wanted us to get a top manager instead of going the cheap route. Ambition was our big problem, we wanted to do everything on the cheap. The magnificent marble halls of Highbury hid our big weakness, we got a heart attack if we wanted to spend money. It was very frustrating. Up But then we beat the Spuds 2-0. And that made us happy. But we still only had 24 points at halfway, 21 matches in a 42 match season. That was just above relegation form but they manufactured enough wins for us to finish a comfortable 10th with 58 points getting 34 in that second part. That type of form for the whole season would have put us a lot closer to the top so it put us in better heart for the prospect of next season. Highlights were beating both Manchesters 3-0 at Highbury in that second half, and beating Luton 4-1. Vladimir Petrovic, a one season wonder but I liked him Vladimir Petrovic of Yugoslavia was brought in, our first such foreign player under the system that had been created a few years before. But then we weren’t really a buying team. He was good, I liked him, but he didn’t get many games and was let go at the end of the season. At least it showed that we were prepared to look at foreign players. Down The Spuds hammered us 5-0 in the return on the 4th April. Chris Hughton the Irishman knocked in 2 superb goals, Mark Falco fired in 2 more great goals and Alan Brazil notched up his first of many. George Wood was in goal and I feel that was the end of him. He had been brought in a couple of years before to provide competition for Pat Jennings but allowing the Spuds to put 5 past him meant it was his last season. They were all great goals and it was a bit tough on him but we are Arsenal, we beat the Spuds not the other way round. And 5-0! Echoes of when we had run riot a few years before in 1978 and beat them by the same score. They had the FA Cup and the Charity Shield! They were now better than us for 2 seasons in a row, something that I never remember happening in my time before or after until the modern day, although maybe I should check that. My memory hasn’t been too bad in all this blogging. And I wasn’t very confident for next season. Oh no, Tottenham better than us. What nightmare is this? We had qualified for the Uefa cup but Spartak Moscow sent us home crying in the first round. A respectable 2-3 away from home gave us a chance in the second leg with 2 away goals. Eh, hello, they destroyed us 5-2 at Highbury. We were poor. Coupled with our results in the league it seemed we were going nowhere. It was a bad time to be Arsenal. I didn’t feel we were Arsenal at all. Up (and down) The League cup. Could we do something in this cup? We hadn’t won it in my time. Well we beat Cardiff 5-2 over 2 legs, then Everton 3-0 in a replay. Then one nil to the Arsenal at Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. Then Man U in the semis. A disaster, 2-4 at Highbury in the first leg with Stapleton scoring and even our 2 goals coming at the very end to make it look like a tight match. Then 2-1 for Utd at Old Trafford. They now had Ron Atkinson in charge, a team full of top players and their ambition was to overtake Liverpool to put to an end of years of misery. They faced Liverpool in the final but got beaten 2-1. Well, the FA cup? Our trophy? We could win that? Well, let’s see. Bolton 2-1, then 3 matches against Leeds before another 2-1. Then 2 matches against Middlesbrough before 3-2. Then Villa 2-0 in the quarters to set up a return against the Mancs in the semi. This time we would send them home crying. And it started out that way. Petrovic blasted the ball at Bailey in the Manchester goal, he dropped it and after a scramble, Woodcock tipped it in. But Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside scored and again they sent us home crying. Down What sort of Arsenal were we at all? Definitely not one that could challenge the big beast Liverpool, nor Manchester United, or even the Spuds. Watford had come up to the 1st division for the first time and came second, way ahead of us in tenth. West Ham were 8th and Spurs 4th. Seems we were a mediocre team, the worst in London, unless you include Luton, who were 18th. 2 semi-finals were all we had to show for our season. Could Don Howe jump us back to the top? We were better in the second half, but surely we needed players, we needed ambition, we needed something. But where was it going to come from? Instead of all this nonsense, could we not just be Arsenal? Fighters, punching above our weight? Making comebacks? I didn’t think Don Howe could be the magic man to do it. A good coach, very knowledgeable, but better as a coach. In all fairness, Neill was reputed to be trying to sign big players during his time and Platini and Maradona were mentioned, among others, but most of the players he actually signed were like Hollins and Talbot, good pros but not world beaters. He did get it right with Woodcock, though. Up (ish) Some good things did happen in our next season but you will have to wait till then to find out. But the teaser is, a donkey arrived. Oh, and I checked our record against the Spuds. I was right, they never topped us 2 seasons in a row before the modern day except for this season. I think most of us had come to the conclusion that Terry Neill could achieve no more, a bit like Bertie Mee before him. We needed a fresh approach but would we get it?
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