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GCR Books

1984 pre-season: real hope but Arsenal fade away.

By Tony Attwood

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding football in relation to falling attendances and press hysteria over hooliganism (which certainly existed as next season showed, but which was not as rampant throughout the game as the press made out) there was optimism at Arsenal that the club might at last have a team to challenge for honours once again.

The transfer activity was not great however.   In the early months of the year Tony Adams and Martin Keown signed as professionals, and on 9 February 1984 Paul Mariner was signed by Don Howe (acting as temporary manager) for Arsenal from Ipswich for whom he had played 260 league games, for £150,000.   He made his debut later that month.

On 24 March Arsenal beat Wolverhampton 4-1.  It was the start of a nine match unbeaten run which ran until the end of the season which was all the more surprising since it started immediately after a 4-0 defeat to Man U.  The on 31 March 1984 the result was Coventry 1 Arsenal 4; Arsenal were not going to win the league but the feeling was that this could be a turning point.

It was no surprise then that on 28 April 1984 Don Howe became the permanent manager of the club.  Sadly he only lasted until March 1985.  

When, on 7 May 1984 Tony Woodcock scored his 21st and final league goal of the season in the 3-3 draw with WHU at Highbury there was the feeling that we had a team good enough to finish next season above the sixth position on 1983/4.

On 20 July John Kay sold to Wimbledon for £25,000, after 14 games for Arsenal and three days later Viv Anderson signed from Nottingham Forest.  He had played 328 games for Forest, but he felt the need to move on as the club appeared to be in terminal decline. He played 120 times for Arsenal.

Among the youngsters July saw Paul Merson signed apprenticeship forms.

So, onto the pre-season games… 

  • 4 August 1984.  Celtic 3 Arsenal 2.  Debut for Viv Anderson.  Charlie Nicholas was endlessly jeered by Celtic fans, and ended up scoring for Arsenal.  Ian Allinson got the other.
  • 10 August 1984: Iraklis Salonika 1 Arsenal 3 (Anderson, Davis, Allinson)
  • 12 August 1984: Armenia Bielefeld (West Germany) 0 Arsenal 1 (Anderson)
  • 15 August FC Twente 1 Arsenal 0
  • 17 August 1984: Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Arsenal 1 (Allinson)

What happened next…

On 25 August 1984 Arsenal’s first fixture of the season kicked off at 11.30 following demands from the police.  It was Arsenal v Chelsea, and passed off without incident but the decision to change kick off times just because the police said so, showed the nervousness that the press hysteria had caused.

On 4 September Newcastle who had had a perfect start to the season lost 2-0 defeat at Arsenal, and then finally, on 8 September 1984 Arsenal found themselves at the head of Division One for the first time since February 1973 following their 3-1 win over Liverpool.

Despite some slippage by 6 October 1984 Arsenal were back on top of the table with a Nicholas penalty bringing victory against Everton.  There was a lot of jostling for position but on 13 October Arsenal were once more on top with a 4-1 win at Leicester.

But such things, in those days at least, always came to an end.  A defeat on 27 October at West Ham by 1-3 followed by a defeat in the League Cup away to Oxford on 31 October (I was there, and still remember it well) gave a feeling that the bubble had burst.  And so it turned out.

From the Pre-season files

 

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