So where do I start? I was born the day before Arsenal beat Liverpool in the 1950 Cup Final, an omen? Well my love affair started back as a nine year old back in 1958/9 season. I was born in Stepney but most of my mates were Spurs fans. The first game I remember was a 2-1 defeat up at Sunderland in the FA Cup. Over the next couple of seasons leading up to 1960/61 I endured my mates gloating at the all conquering Spurs team beating all before them and the double. Little knowing that they would not do it again,still all these years later! Haha. I read all I could about the Arsenal glory days of the 30s period and was mesmerised by the rich history, the marble halls of Highbury and ended up being a walking Arsenal facts kid! Lets face it, it was better to live in the past as the present team then was awful! Not a bad attack, but a terrible leaky defence, propped up by the amazing Jack Kelsey coming to the end of his career. I first saw Jack playing against Man City and in nets for them? The late great Bert Trautmann.
Early 1960s we had McGill and McCullough in defence, tried their best, but to be honest we were bad! We had a superb natural goalscorer in David Herd who scored goals for fun and probably kept us alive in Division One for many a season. Ironically Herd started a trend of our top goalscorers being sold to Manchester United over the years..unfortunately…Herd, then Stapleton, then RVP a bad trend.
We moved on and had a very cultured player in George Eastham and signed another prolific centre forward in Joe Baker from Torino. Joe was short for a centre forward, scored bags of goals full of heart and my favourite image was him squaring up to big Ron Yeats in the Cup at Highbury who was about a foot taller!
We drifted through the early seasons of the 60s I managed to get to a few away games Blackpool against a young Alan Ball. Both Manchester teams, Liverpool after they were promoted. Arsenal appointed Billy Wright as a manager, may have been a great player but awful as a manager. I remember the demonstrations outside Highbury and the burning effigy of him on the Avnell Road.
I actually was one of the 4,500 approx attendance v Leeds at Highbury mid week to see us lose 3-0 I think. Still I think the lowest ever attendance for a top flight game in England. Wright got the push and we got various managers in Don Howe, Terry Neill. We were still a mid table side. I started to go to more away matches…our cup defeat at Peterborough (a newish team in the league!) I went to places like Bolton, Shrewsbury, Cardiff, Swansea( Town then) at the Veitch Field. Along with fellow fans we hitch hiked to places like Newcastle, drinking in their supporters club, was totally pissed and just propped up on the terraces at St James Park, did not even remember the match!
Chased around Leeds by their fans for burning a Leeds scarf we “borrowed” got away on a train to Bradford by the skin of our teeth! During the 60s our ongoing relationship with Glasgow Rangers usually had us playing each other at the beginning of a season in a friendly alternate years at Highbury and Ibrox. A few of us decided to hitch hike to Glasgow for the game! We split up into twos and set out early Friday evening! We managed to get to Glasgow for 8.00am Saturday morning.
We got to Ibrox outside the ground for 9am and whilst walking around looking at the impressive stadium a guy pulled up in a car. Came up and chatted to us, will never forget it, he was the Rangers manager at the time, was so impressed we had hiked up for a friendly, he gave us a full tour of the stadium, showed us the amazing trophy room and gave us tickets for the main stand!
We drew 2-2 amazing atmosphere and we set back that evening. Took us a lot longer to get back, ended up sleeping in a brick kiln in a wheelbarrow outside Carlisle. Did not get back home till Monday morning and my Dad had reported me missing to the Old Bill !! I got a right hiding! I had already been in trouble the end of the last season for going to Burnley despite recovering from chicken pox!
Things were starting to change at The Arsenal the seeds of a good side were germinating and Bertie Mee was moving on up! Two Cup finals stick in my mind, we lost to Swindon Town 3-1 a 3rd Division team in the League Cup Final at Wembley. We were naturally heavy favourites but to be honest they ran us ragged in the mud with their flying winger Don Rogers causing havoc. I remember being in a daze all the way back from Wembley and sitting in The Gunners staring into my beer in a state of shock! The other side of the coin was our amazing come back against Anderlecht in the two legged Inter Cities Cup Final ( UEFA Cup ) we lost in Belgium 1-3 and turned it around 3-0 at Highbury! The place was rocking! George Armstrong our talented winger ran them ragged, our first trophy since the early 50s! Talking of Highbury rocking, who remembers the mid week derby v Spurs during the mid 60s? Ended 4-4 68,000 inside the ground and an estimated 30 plus thousand locked out!
Bertie Mee was the turning point for The Arsenal along with Don Howe’s zonal system they invoked an amazing spirit and assembled a superb side which flowered in 1971. What a team, Radford, Kennedy, Simpson Storey Mcnab, Graham and Tick Tock McLintock to name a few. You played 42 games a season then, no subs, plenty of hard men about and we mixed it with any one but still had the skills to beat the best. That night when Ray Kennedy soared in the lights at the Lane to win the title was unforgettable, the atmosphere was electric. Somewhere on the net is a clear pic of me celebrating on the pitch! We went on to see Darling Charlie put the Scousers to the sword at Wembley, our first double, think we even won the Youth Cup that week! Was an amazing season!
Over the next few seasons we scrapped with Leeds on and off the pitch haha. By the late 70s I was working at the Daily Express offices in Manchester. We got to the final v Ipswich 1978 and the then editor of the Sunday Express promised me a ticket for the match which he delivered! I was over the moon, got down to the match, red/white scarf on, entered Wembley, looked around and to my horrow was surrounded by a sea of blue and white! I was in the Ipswich end!! To be honest the Tractor Boys were fine, good humoured, found it funny and we shared a drink, maybe them winning helped!
As you know two more final followed Manchester United and West Ham, . Could not get tickets but i had fun winding Man United fan neighbour pre the 79 final. Imagine his surprise when he opened his lounge curtains one morning to find a full size Newspaper Poster “Arsenal for the Cup!” staring in on him! He took his time taking it down, not realising the same poster was facing outwards!
As we drifted through the 80s the appointment of Stroller was perfect, he assembled a disciplined (on the field) side, stuck up for his team and showed he was an Arsenal man through and through. If anyone has not watched Fever Pitch, just watch it! Again we were hard to beat and 1989 Anfield showed the true grit and determination of our side. Who were the best? 1971, 1989, 2004, ??? all different scenarios so I prefer to give them equal status!
Rioch was not an Arsenal man but I would always remember him for one thing signing Dennis Bergkamp a true genius!
Wenger?? When he came a breath of fresh air, very innovative, but now?? Maybe we need a change again! His best side the Invincibles, I have a signed framed away shirt, Bergkamp, Henry,Pires,Ljungberg and Gilberto which I treasure.
Favourite players over the years? Baker, McLintock, Graham,Brady, Radford, Kennedy, Adams, George,Viera, Petit, Bergkamp, Overmars,Wright,Storey, MacDonald to name just a few! So many more.
I could go on and on, hope I have not bored you all …too much. UP THE ARSENAL !!!!
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