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Found 6 results

  1. Our very own ‘Nam In contemporary American folklore, Vietnam (The ‘Nam) has a unique place. Many soldiers came back traumatised or got attacked for having been there in the first place. It was an unpopular war and the ‘Nam has a grim place in American folk memory. But we here at Arsenal have our own ‘Nam – Totten-Nam! But as we will see here, In contrast to the American one, they have a happy place in our folk memory. And why? Because they were mostly crap and we flew high above them. I will take a look at the 90’s this time and our position versus London clubs and the ‘Nam. It is good reading. Even their badge is a cock on a ball. What were they thinking? What cocks! As I have mentioned before in these pages, most of the time I have been an Arsenal supporter, The ‘Nam were second best. The only real times The ‘Nam were better than us was when both were struggling. The ‘Nam have not won the league since I became an Arsenal supporter (1969) whereas we have won it six times. They have won the FA cup 3 times compared to our 10. The League cup is better for them at 4 times to our 2. They won the Uefa cup twice compared to our one and European cup-winners cup one apiece. Overall we are very clearly ahead up to the end of the 90’s. The same is true of the other London clubs, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, QPR, Watford, Fulham, etc. 3 Immense managers Mr Chapman, you gave us so much class I think it is fair to say that Arsenal have had 3 great managers: the incomparable Herbert Chapman, who brought titles, innovations, marble halls, physiotherapy, training, and an Arsenal way of doing things that oozed class. You could be proud of Arsenal. George Graham took on the mighty Liverpool, then undisputedly the best team ever in English football, and cut them down to size. He won many trophies and brought a level of onfield organisation that has never been seen before or since. And of course the magnificent Arsene Wenger, who comes close to matching Chapman in how he organised the club off the pitch, with his superior stadium, training and medical facilities. And he, of course, surpassed the previous 2 in terms of trophies, although he did get a lot longer. Graham and Wenger coexisted in this decade, the 90’s, and that is unusual, to have 2 superlative managers in the same decade. So we were easily the kings of London in this decade as The ‘Nam were pretty good by their standards , as also were Chelsea, and other London teams were popping up and sometimes doing good things but we were well ahead. For the previous 2 decades I made a case that we were the best as we were the only team to win the league, which is the ultimate domestic trophy. But in the nineties, I do not have to make a case for Arsenal. We were the best. Not the best in England, as Man Utd had that distinction, but Kings of London for sure. A little stutter at the start 4, 1, 4, 10, 4, 12, 5, 3, 1, 2 was our final league standings giving us 2 league titles, one better than the previous decades. We had 2 Fa cups compared to The ‘Nam one. We both had one league cup but we had 3 Charity Shields to their one. The emerging Chelsea won the Fa cup once, League cup once, Cup-winners cup once and Uefa Super cup once. West Ham had 2 promotions from the second tier in this time. Promotion was the best for the others. But let’s take it year by year. 1989-90 we were 4th, the ‘Nam 3rd and Chelsea 5th with the rest down the table. Palace were 15th but got to the final of the FA cup to be beaten by Man Utd. So the ‘Nam in the lead but waiting for us to knock them down again as we always did. But then we took off Bye, bye, Spuds 1990-91 we were top, Palace were 3rd, the ‘Nam, Chelsea and QPR were 10th, 11th and 12th respectively. The ‘Nam won the cup but now us clearly in the lead. Can you even see us? We can sell you binoculars. 1991-92 we were 4th but Palace were next in 10th, QPR 11th, Wimbledon 13th, Chelsea 14th, The ‘Nam 15th and West Ham had come up but went straight back down. Further into the lead. We can offer you a telescope. 1992-93 10th but we did the double of both domestic cups. QPR 5th, The ‘Nam 8th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 12th, and Palace relegated. I say further into the lead. A long range telescope might help. 1993-94 4th. Wimbledon 6th, QPR 9th, West Ham 13th, Chelsea 14th, Tottenham 15th. Chelsea got to the FA cup final but we won the Cup-Winners cup. Again further into the lead. A space telescope might be needed. 1994-95 12th. Tottenham 7th, QPR 8th, Wimbledon 9th, Chelsea 11th and Palace relegated. The ‘Nam got to FA cup semi and Palace got to both domestic semi’s. But we got to the Cup-Winners Final. Maybe we moved back a tiny bit. 1995-96 Again top London team at 5th. The ‘Nam 8th, West Ham 10th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 14th and QPR relegated. A semi in the League Cup fpr us as well means back out in front. By now the ‘Nam need to start tracking us by satellite. We are that dot in the sky laughing down at you. 1996-97 We were 3rd, Chelsea were 6th, Wimbledon 8th, Tottenham 10th and West Ham 14th. Chelsea won the FA cup. Possibly a little bit back this year because of Chelsea but still well out on front over the ‘Nam. They need to get on to the Space Station telescope to see where we are. We put a rocket up our Arse 1997-98 Ah, but now Mr Wenger had properly come and we nearly did a domestic sweep winning League and Fa cup and being beaten by Chelsea in the semi of the League Cup which they won. Chelsea 4th, West Ham 8th, The ‘Nam 14th, Wimbledon 15th and Palace up and back down. We had flown so far ahead at this point no other London team was remotely close. The poor old ‘Nam now needed the Hubble telescope to find us. This could help you, Spuds 1998-99 Arsenal 2nd, Chelsea 3rd, West Ham 5th, the ‘Nam 11th and Wimbledon 16th. We got FA cup semi-final and Chelsea Cup-Winner cup semi. Further away from the pack for us. Oh, what fun we had as the ‘Nam went down to Greenwich observatory begging for advice to see where the stars of Arsenal were, and will they ever be able to get into our orbit again. Spuds scurried down to Greenwich to find where we were Ah, we had a great big laugh No London team got close to us in the 90’s as you can see. Chelsea had started the investment process and were moving closer. The ’Nam and the rest were nowhere near. I have to say that was the case for me regarding the ‘Nam, they were mostly well behind us. I never hated them as they were very rarely serious challengers when we were good. I think that is why they always seem to hate us more, because we were much better. And we had a habit of humiliating them on their own ground. And they couldn’t afford space telescopes. And we had got the magical Wenger. The guy we didn’t know we wanted was our saviour. He transformed Arsenal, we had great great players, he was to give us a magnificent stadium, unbelievable training and medical facilities, an exhilarating style of play, lots of trophies, 2 doubles, an unbeaten season, oh, the wonder of it all. We still needed to be better In fairness, though, yes, we were clearly kings of London but not of England as the Millennium approached. We had a good decade and in most other decades it would have been a great one but Manchester United had an unbelievable decade. They had to be our target. The ‘Nam were a joke by comparison and Chelsea were still well behind us. We needed to be Arsenal and we needed to send the Mancs scurrying home north crying all the way. We could not, and should not accept second best. Having a laugh at the ‘Nam was good fun but that was easy, getting on top of the Mancs was harder.
  2. We could win things with these two 1997/98 again We weren't all that happy Last week, I explored the changes Arsene Wenger had made or he was putting in place. But what actually happened on the pitch? Honestly, most of the season we weren’t very happy. Yes, we had a nice spell from game 8 to game 12 when we were top, including a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham and a 5-0 of Barnsley, but after that we were back to the old Arsenal and down the table to 5th. We didn’t look like winning anything nor qualifying for Champions League. So it was same old same old. His £2M salary looked bad value in many ways. Lots of players playing meant some of our old favourites like Ian Wright weren’t playing every week. We were in the UEFA Cup and were dumped out in our first round in September by PAOK Salonika despite playing the top squad, only without Bergkamp in the away match because he wouldn’t fly. That didn’t help Wenger’s cause. Beaten by Pensioners in the League Cup We did better in the League Cup, beating Birmingham and their neighbours Coventry in our first two rounds, although we made hard work of it as we had to go to extra time in both matches. Here Wenger did play many squad members but he got away with it. Then we played some Pensioners in the semi’s. That wasn’t so good. We were beaten 4-3 over 2 legs. Chelsea were turning into a top team and had lots of fancy foreigners such as Ruud Gullit and Dan Petrescu, plus De Matteo, Vialli and Zola from Italy. Wenger played a strong team for both matches only giving starts to a small number of squad players. He kept saying his priority was the league but we weren’t lighting any fires in that. It was frustrating for fans not to see our absolute top team playing in a semi against our true biggest London rivals at the time. In fairness, Vieira got sent off on 48 and on 51 and 53, Chelsea made it 3-0 and the tie looked over after we won 2-1 in the first. Ill discipline was costing us again and Vieira was making it a habit. Wonderful player but loved red and yellow. Bergkamp scored a late consolation penalty but we were out. The FA Cup? Our trophy? We had Port Vale to start and bizarrely, Wenger put out a strong team only to draw 0-0 and go to a replay where he once again put out a strong team and they took us to penalties after 1-1 after extra time, both of which were scored in extra time. Pretty much our top team couldn’t score in 2 matches in normal time against Port Vale? I hope you are getting the idea that Wenger wasn’t really feeling the love from the fans. Next time against Middlesbrough we scored 3 goals, Overmars and Parlour put us 2-0 after 19 minutes and Merson got another on 62 to make it 3-0. Just joking, he had been sold to them by Wenger so I am sure he was delighted to show he wasn’t finished. It ended 2-1. Paul Merson happy to prove Wenger wrong Then Palace in the next and a scattering of second choice players gave us no goals and a replay which, again a bit understrength, we won 2-1. Considering Palace finished last that year, it wasn’t good. The glory days of George Graham looked to be far back in the distance. We couldn't really understand Wenger's logic with Alex Manninger West Ham up next with a young Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard in their line-up. Except for Manninger in goal, a strong line-up. But we couldn’t understand Wenger’s logic of resting a goalkeeper. They rarely have physically demanding matches, particularly with our defence, and we felt that he was messing up the understanding by playing him in cup matches. And we struggled again but came through after a replay with a restored David Seaman. We were making it hard Championship Wolves in the semi, and again a bit of a struggle to win. An understrength side got an early goal via a squad player. Christopher Wreh, after 12 minutes and that was enough. Now I am going to switch to the league. We were frustrated, Arsenal were playing attacking, fast football, scoring lots of goals but also many poor displays. Suddenly, though, on March 11 we beat Wimbledon 1-0 to the Arsenal and couldn’t stop winning, Wenger must have put premium petrol in our tank because we won 10 in a row culminating in sending Everton back home to Scouseland crying after we lashed 4 goals against them. We were back, we were Arsenal and we had won the league with 2 games to go. We were the best, Wenger was the best and the players were glorious. We weren't scared of Shearer On to Newcastle in the final. We had done the double over them in the league and duly won 2-0 from Overmars and Anelka. But it went wrong for Wright. He didn’t play, Christopher Wreh being preferred. No sub for him either. He was to be shipped out to West Ham in the summer and a bit of a sad end to a legend. I guess records like that are only going to be broken at the end of your career anyway. Anelka was seen as increasingly first choice, and raw or no, he looked explosive and set to be a world great. Wright was top class but not a world great. But he did get a league title and another FA cup medal courtesy of Arsene Wenger. Surely he would turn out to be an Arsenal great? But we, now, were surely world greats? Who was better than Bergkamp, Overmars, Petit, Vieira and Anelka? Our defence was still super and we had 5 one nils to the Arsenal in the league, Wenger’s nod to George Graham. And his nod to Bertie Mee with a magical double. Enchantment was performed before our very eyes by a wizard Frenchman. The Brightest star in the sky I can’t really convey the emotion we had. A season that had stuttered and spluttered like a firework gone out, unexpectedly exploded into a lightshow unlike any we had ever seen. We were Arsenal, we were fast, bright and shone throughout the sky. And hey, Mr Ferguson, that is us, the Arsenal, that you can see as a new star in the sky.
  3. The Kings? But of where? Arsenal - KIngs of English football 1971 This time I have decided to look at the decade, the 70’s, and try to sum up what it was like going from a kid to a man. As you know from my first blog, Swindon beating Arsenal in 1969 was the catalyst for me choosing Arsenal. They kept trying to win but somehow couldn’t. I was selecting gallant losers then, was I? Probably, and certainly I had no idea of what was to come as I hungrily devoured knowledge of this red and white team, but winning and greatness was well in the past. And so, in 1970, as we finished 12th in the league, out in the 3rd round of both cups and single wins over West Ham and Palace, beaten both times by Spurs and Chelsea, we were a long way from the best team in London, let alone the league. But we won that year! The Inter cities Fairs Cup (now the Europa League) was captured by the Arsenal. It lifted my 12 year old heart, particularly as we came from well behind to win and beat Anderlecht, then a top team, 4-3 over 2 legs. Nothing whatsoever there to prepare me for the astonishing double that was to come in 1971. The league won at White Hart Lane and beating Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in the FA cup final. Matt Busby’s Manchester United couldn’t do it, nor Don Revie’s Leeds, nor Bill Shankly’s or Bob Paisley’s Liverpool, all the great teams that had been around since I first got into football or emerged in the 70’s. Somehow a little above average Arsenal battled their way to the impossible and I became ten feet tall. Kings of London? We were the Kings of England. Or were we jesters? Gunnersaurus brings fun to Arsenal 1972 brought me back down to earth, 5th in the league, 4th round of the League Cup, beaten by a wonderful Ajax in the 3rd round in Europe and at least got to the final of the FA cup but beaten by the aforementioned Don Revie’s Leeds. We were still Kings of London as we finished above Spurs, a win and a loss, Chelsea, 2 wins, West Ham, win and a draw, and Palace, win and a draw. We also beat Orient in the FA cup. Enough good performances to make me hopeful and Irish players were starting to come through. 1973 was the most topsy turvy of the decade for me. We finished 2nd in the league to Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, starting on their road to becoming a winning machine. We finished way above any London teams, West Ham, Spurs and Chelsea well down from us and Palace relegated. But Spurs got the Uefa Cup place because the English FA alone kept to the one city, one team rule and they had won the League Cup. We did beat Chelsea in the 6th round of the FA Cup to cement our place as kings of London. But we were hammered 6-1 away to Leeds and 5-0 away to Derby as bad points of the season. Such defeats were hard for me, watching on Match of the Day or the Big Match with Arsenal sent home crying and me wondering will we ever be Arsenal again? The Irish coming through was making me hopeful that next year we could do it. A Royally Bad Time But we didn't want this type of fun 1974. No we couldn’t. The bad years started with 18 year old Liam Brady getting playing time, joining Rice and Nelson but we were 10th, doomed by a bad start. But, you know, it is a pattern with Arsenal, just when we think we are ready to dominate, we go backwards, even the invincibles never won the league again. We did little in the cups, beaten by Tranmere (League Cup) in our 1st round and Aston Villa in the 4th round of the FA cup. And London? No, promoted QPR finished above us in the league, the Spuds did the double over us, no kings of London for us. 1975 was worse, 16th! And the quarter finals of the Fa cup was our best effort, beaten by West Ham. Kings of London? Don’t make me laugh. A very poor London that year and we couldn’t even top them. Luton (sort of London) came up and went down again and we only took a point off them. QPR were 11th and West Ham 13th, the Spuds in 19th and Chelsea relegated. But a very young Stapleton and O’Leary appeared on the scene and Brady had nailed down his place, the only bright spark that year. Surely we couldn’t do any worse? 1976. Oh, yes we could. How about 17th? Out in our first round in both cups. 1 point from Spurs, and they finished 9th, way above us. QPR finished 2nd, totally out of our sight, and only West Ham behind us. We did beat them 6-1 in our second last game and we beat Coventry 5-0 earlier in the season but well away from being kings of London. We now had 7 Irish (with Terry Mancini declaring late for Ireland) challenging for places but were we going down? A New King Arrived King Terry to bring us success? 1977. No we weren’t. Bertie Mee was out and Irishman Terry Neill brought in. We jumped to 8th, the top London team, QPR fell apart to 14th from 2nd, West Ham took our position of 17th and the Spuds? Down at the bottom and relegated. We did the double over them and QPR did the double over us and knocked us out of the League Cup but I will still claim kings of London for that year, wouldn’t you? 1976-77 was the year that all 3 Irish newcomers became regulars so we had 5 starters as Terry Mancini had moved on. 1978. But then Neill pulled a masterstroke and got Pat Jennings on a free from the poor old stupid Spurs to become our best keeper in my time. 6 Irish, now we could win things surely? Definitely closer. 5th in the league, semi’s in the League Cup, beaten by the mighty Liverpool, and in the FA Cup final against Ipswich 1-0. But definitely kings of London. West Ham, win and draw, QPR won and lost, Chelsea win and draw and beat Orient in the Cup. Chelsea were the highest of those at 16th, and West Ham got relegated. Surely now we were ready to be Arsenal? 1979. Almost. A bit weaker in the league at 7th but we won the FA Cup creating the memorable Liam Brady final and beating Man Utd 3-2 at the last gasp. Although we had a low point getting knocked out by Rotherham in the League cup in our first round. As for London, we were easily the kings. We beat QPR 5-1 and 2-1, Chelsea 5-2 and 1-1, and the Spuds? With superstars Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa? 5-0 and 1-0. Kings of London? We were the steamrollers of London, helping to send Chelsea and QPR down to the second. Could we be Emperors in the 80’s? Could we bring the great days back? So, we finished the 70’s with 1 League title, 2 FA Cups, and 1 Uefa cup including a magnificent double. What else did we get? Liam Brady was 3 times in a row club player of the year and in 1979 was PFA player of the Year, the first foreign player to do so. If it wasn’t for Arsenal, London would have had a not so good 70’s, but the Spuds did win the League cup in 1971 and 1973, plus the Uefa Cup in 1972. Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1970 and the Cup Winners Cup in 1971. West Ham won the FA Cup in 1975. But we were clearly the kings of London for that decade, with our trophies, despite the almost disastrous years from 1974 to 1976 being the low point. We are Arsenal, we don’t get relegated but all other London teams did, Spurs, Chelsea, West Ham, Palace, QPR and also if we include Luton. The 80’s would be Arsenal, I could feel it in my bones. My first decade had been amazing, up and down, a scary rollercoaster, but we started with a win and we ended with a win and now I was ready to win all. We were Arsenal.
  4. The forging of a lifelong bond The Arsenal jersey when I was a kid So, I went from being 11 years old in 1969 and watching Arsenal being beaten by a 3rd division side Swindon, to 1972 and 14 years old when beaten by Leeds in the FA cup. I was a voracious reader and I had learned of Arsenal’s history after that Swindon defeat. We used to be great, we had the glorious Herbert Chapman years, winning trophy after trophy. But in 1953 we won our last league title, in 1950 our last FA cup. We were has-beens. We were mostly a mid -table team since ’53. And we had no real Irish connection at the time. Everyone around me loved the glamorous Liverpool and Manchester (though, not so much City) teams with Leeds emerging with the Irishman, Johnny Giles as their maestro. These cities had big Irish connections with huge numbers having Irish ancestry. They had top class Irish players. I loved the Shirt Somehow, I was attracted to Arsenal, though. I loved the jerseys which I could only see in full colour in the football magazines at the time. TV was black and white as were newspapers. Other kids around me teased me about Arsenal. My older brother was a big Man U fan. Arsenal were beaten by a 3rd division team. But there was something about Arsenal rescuing the next season by winning the Fairs Cup and our first European trophy (now the Europa league cup)despite finishing 12th in the league and being dumped out of the FA cup and League cup. If we had done nothing in the Fairs Cup, would I have stayed with the Arsenal? I am really not sure. It was hard to explain why I liked them in the first place. They didn’t have top players, playing in the World cup or European Nations cup which were the real glamour matches of the time. The excitement flowed from watching the great Brazil team of the era, Pele, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, The English with the Charltons, Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, The Italians with Fachetti, Boninsegna and Riva, West Germany with Beckenbauer, Müller, Overath. These were the great fixtures, football played at a tremendous level. We were out on the streets and greens being all those players, not Arsenal ones. Charlie George was the most exciting player we had, but even he was up and down. Still, he had long hair and was flamboyant. And everyone knew him. As for me, I wanted to be Pele, he could do everything. Our first European trophy Coming back from a poor season to capture our first European trophy was significant, then. We were on the big stage. The match was shown live on TV. Only big matches and internationals were shown live at the time. The win against Anderlecht meant I had something to talk about. Arsenal were a football team with a trophy. It kept me there, hanging in. But the Double was the clincher. From 12th, we started far better, we were keeping pace at the top, if never really being there. We kept battling on in the Cup, fighting through the replays. Slowly, the season was turning out to be good. It reminds me of years later, of the Invincible season, where lots of draws early on, meant we probably wouldn’t win the league. In the Invincilble season, though, we had a great recent history. Then we had no such, high mid-table was our best. I refused to let myself believe. I was just hoping we would stay up there, finish as high as possible. As I have said before, the other teams had the top players, the players you wanted to be out on the green. Afraid of being relegated To be honest, at the start, because I was aware of the one record that we had, being the longest serving team in the top division, I wanted that to continue, so pretty good results at the start meant we wouldn’t get relegated. When you are 12th, you worry about such things. Drop a few places and you are staring at the 2nd division as it was called then. Relegation might well have meant the end of the dream. I can’t truly answer if I would have taken the easy option and switched to maybe Man U or some other team. I cannot remember really thinking about other teams, much, though. Arsenal just kept coming through all tests, winning the replays, staying close to the top of the league, finally, and gloriously, capturing the title at the home of the Spurs and coming from behind to beat Liverpool. Arsenal were top dogs and I was top dog. By that stage I was Arsenal forever. Next season was disappointing, yes, 5th in the league, behind Tottenham even, and beaten by Leeds in the FA cup final, didn’t put a tiny dent on my allegiance. Arsenal were my team. I would stay with them always.
  5. The aftermath of greatness The mystical double had been achieved. Arsenal and Spurs were the only teams to date to have done it. Arsenal, though, at the time, did not have any players who were regarded as first choice internationals, and many who never got a cap. This was a time when the international team mattered more than club sides to most fans. Arsenal fans, who, to this day, can still sing out the names of Charlie George, George Graham, George Armstrong, and even players without George in their name such as Bob Wilson, Ray Kennedy, John Radford, Frank McLintock and Peter Simpson, may not realise that they were eclipsed by famous players from other teams. Other teams, Manchester United with Best, Law and Charlton, Leeds with Giles, Bremner, Clarke, Hunter, Liverpool with Toshack, Callaghan, and Heighway, Manchester City with Bell, Lee and Summerbee and Everton with Labone, Royle and Alan Ball had players at the top of their game. We had none. Not one. The Arsenal double winners of 1971 We made a big statement But then we bought Alan Ball, crucial to England, World Cup winner and one of the best midfielders in the world. We broke the British transfer record at 220,000 pounds sterling. Now we had a top player. And we were the double kings. We had young players coming through like Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson, and Peter Marinello had been signed as the next George Best. We were surely ready to take our place as the top team in England. But as can happen with the Arsenal, something like what happened with the Invincibles years later, happened. Just as we were ready to kick the ass off all other teams, we went backwards. We didn’t do much in the League cup being dumped out by Sheffield United in November after a replay. We were doing pretty good in the league, though, and retaining our title was certainly possible. A lot of teams were bunched together and maybe we could do it again, sneak ahead at the end. The extraordinary Johan Cruyff Playing against total football and the Ides of March We were in the European Cup, of course. As with today, it was the glamour trophy to win. You had to be the champions. In those days, Europe had far fewer countries. Much less matches were played. We hammered Strømsgodset from Norway in round 2, our first round. Then destroyed Grasshoppers from Switzerland in the next. Unluckily we came up against Ajax in the quarterfinals in March. They were the champions of Europe and one of the best teams of all time. Johan Cruyff, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens and Arie Haan were some of the standouts. Total football had arrived but we played well, though beaten by one goal both home and away. We gave them tough games and they went on to win it again that year against Inter. What Ajax were doing with football was amazing. March was a bad month for us just as it was for Julius Caesar. We were beaten easily enough three games in a row in the league by Manchester City, Leeds United and Newcastle. The European impact. In what was one of the tightest leagues of the time, that destroyed our hopes. Derby, under the miraculous Brian Clough, won with 58 points. Man City, Leeds and Liverpool had 57. We ended fifth with 52 so you can see the effect those 3 losses had. March finished our season. Or did it? Or were we still Arsenal? We were still fighting We did have the FA cup. But, as always with the Arsenal, we had to fight the hard way. Swindon, our nemesis from 1969, were dispatched 2-0 in round 3. Reading 2-1 in round 4. Then 3 tough matches against Derby, who would win the league. But after the second replay, we won 1-0. Those 3 matches were played in March as well, if we can consider the 29th February as really the 1st of March. Then we had Orient in the quarterfinals, also in March, and we won 1-0. March just seemed to be match after match, against top teams, and except the win against Derby, only beating minor ones. But we battled. We were Arsenal and we got through to April and the semifinal against Stoke. They made us play another match but we did it in the replay, 2-1 with Charlie George and John Radford stretching the net for us. The final was against Leeds. We had stolen the title from them the year before. This was their best ever team even up to now. And they had never won the cup before. They were full of superb players at the top of their game, being mostly first choice internationals. They had a world cup winner in Jack Charlton, but hey, so had we, in Alan Ball. (Both sadly passed on) Maybe, though, it was the hard season, all the replays, or maybe it was hard to keep our players playing above themselves as they had been doing so often. The final wasn’t great. Leeds were better and scored through Clarke early enough in the second half. We couldn’t really threaten them and a poor final petered out. They were a tough physical side, known for their intimidatory tactics. Charlie George, John Radford and Ray Kennedy, were easily held by them. Leeds won with that goal and won the cup for the first time. Alan Clarke of Leeds who destroyed our final hope of glory The last promise of glory was gone. But that team was going to make way for a new one with plenty of Arsenal youngsters waiting in the wings to grab their chance. The Irish were coming. And a different chapter was about to be written.
  6. 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. Ray Kennedy 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. George Graham with hair 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?
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