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Charlie Nicholas and John Lukic with Terry Neill at the start of the season 1983-1984 We didn’t have a George or an Orwell but we did get a Charles and a Nicholas in one person. Charlie had signed for us. The most promising talent on the island was brought on board by Terry Neill. He had got us a big player, as everyone had wanted him. £750,000 was spent which was a huge sum at the time. He was 21 and was to be the new George Best. He had dazzled with Celtic, who were then the footballing equivalent of a major English side. Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness implored him to go to Liverpool. I still don’t know why he chose Arsenal. Maybe Terry Neill told him Maradona and Platini were coming. We were 10th, the worst in London but somehow he must have felt we were going somewhere. Unless the thoughtpolice had got to him and he thought he was joining a top team. He may have thought it was Animal Farm when he saw Tony Woodcock and Brian Sparrow in the dressingroom. Allied to Tony Woodcock, our top scorer last season, surely now we could start winning again? Yes we could. Two wins on the bounce against Luton and Wolves. 2-1 both times but wins nonetheless. Charlie, you are our darling. Except this was Arsenal and reality came back to bite us. We lost away to Southampton before being beaten at home by Manchester Utd and Liverpool. We would go on to lose 6 more times by December 10th and by the 16th, Terry Neill was turned into an unperson by Peter Hill-Wood. But, as expected, Don Howe took over. It was very hard to have any great expectations with him as he had been there so long. I wanted a fresh approach but it wasn’t to be. Not Newspeak but Newplayers What he did, though was bring in good players. Paul Mariner, the England international centreforward came in in February, Tommy Caton, centrehalf, came in December and formed a good partnership with David O’Leary. A very young Tony Adams played 3 times, making his debut at barely 17, almost a miracle for a central defender to play that young. Colin Hill, of Northern Ireland, had got the right back spot the previous season for the last 7 games and he became a regular. He was good but never quite made it. John Lukic had arrived in the summer to be Pat Jennings understudy. It took him some time but he eventually did it to become a firm fan favourite and is a hero to us in the Arsenal Supporters Club of Bulgaria. Mr Arsenal himself appeared and he was never a donkey We had a better second half of the season and finished 6th in the end. But it was a yoyo existence, full of ups and downs, lots of big wins, and lots of big defeats. Down and out in London? Not exactly as we finished above Spurs, West Ham and Watford, who all finished above us the previous season so we were the best in London? At least we were Arsenal in the Big Smoke? Er, no, QPR had come up and finished 5th above us. But we did at least manage to put manners on the Spuds beating them in the League cup 4th round 2-1 at White Hart Lane with Charlie Nicholas scoring (becoming a fan favourite) along with Tony Woodcock. Then on Boxing Day, they had their match for revenge at the Lane in the league. Eh, sorry Spuds, go back to room 101, 4-2 to the Arsenal with Charlie rattling in 2 more and Rafe Meade getting the other 2. And at home? Sent them home crying 3-2 with Charlie again scoring. I’m certain I remember him saying that he didn’t understand them, did they not know they were supposed to stop him scoring? I should, in fairness, mention that they won the UEFA cup that season beating Anderlecht on penalties in the final. Charlie loved making the Spuds miserable The cheek of them, though! Better than us the past 2 seasons in a row? We are Arsenal. You are the Spuds. We are your worst nightmare. Room 101 Arteta needs to teach the Spuds their place in life Arteta needs to understand that, I don’t know what he learned at Arsenal but he should have learned that. From next season, Mikel, you need to put them in their rightful place in Room 101, where every waking day, they see that Arsenal are better than them. If they look in a mirror they see a red and white jersey ready to score against them. If they look up the table they see Arsenal staring down at them. If they draw us in a cup, they know they will be sent home crying. It is the natural order of things. It is never good to upset the natural order of things. But QPR, coming up like Watford the previous year and playing a stormer? 71 points only got them 5th, 10 points above us. Spurs on 8th, West Ham on 9th and Watford on 11th. QPR beat us 2-0 both times, West Ham beat us 3-1, and 3-3, Watford beat us 2-1 and we beat them 3-1. Honestly, it was hard to stay upbeat. Charlie loving to score against the Spuds was the only true consistent bright spark. Coming up for Air But we did have good wins, 6-2 against Aston Villa at Villa Park with Tony Woodcock scoring 5 times! I am certain that if Arteta had shown that on repeat all week before the match after every training session, and played Martinelli up front, he would have said I have to do the same. Let them score 2, we score 6 and I’ll score 5. We beat Notts County 4-0, Forest, Ipswich, Wolves and Coventry 4-1 on our way to being the top scorers in the division with 74, one more than Liverpool on top. They had a goal difference of 41 and us? The inverse, 14. We liked leaking goals. It was a pity that Tony Adams was only 17. Don Howe had brought an improvement. He deserved his chance. Arsenal always tried to act with class regarding managers and Peter Hill-Wood, the chairman, having finally backed Terry Neill with cash for our Charlie, was left with little choice but to let him go as we hovered above relegation. He said he couldn’t sleep for a week before doing it. Terry Neill was 41 and never managed again. He is still involved with Arsenal. Don Howe had such as Nicholas, Woodcock, Mariner, Sansom, Jennings and Lukic, O’Leary, Rix and Paul Davis at his disposal, top international players, most of them, and surely it was now time for us to be Arsenal?
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?