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GCR Books

The Arsenal summer of 1977. Heavy drinking after Tottenham are relegated

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The Arsenal Summer of 1977     By Tony Attwood

1976/7 was the season when the old “goal average” calculations were abolished and goal difference was introduced, along with the red and yellow cards for the refs to wave about a bit.

This was the period when Liverpool started winning the European Cup and the League, although there was some slight relief at the end of the 1976/7 season with Tottenham being relegated.

It was also the summer in which Tommy Docherty managed Man U to an FA Cup win over Liverpool and then admitted having an affair with the wife of the club’s physio and was sacked for moral turpitude.  Brian Clough took Nottingham Forest to the 1st division at the start of his extraordinary development of the club.

As for Arsenal, 1977 saw the most unwelcome of records as on 12 February 1977 the result Man C 1 Arsenal 0 was not just the fourth consecutive game without a win, but also the first of seven consecutive defeats in the league – the worst ever run of defeats, beating the six “achieved” under both Chapman and Knighton, and worse than anything in the relegation year of 1912/13.

The run also included four games without a goal, and this with a team including Brady, Macdonald and Stapleton.

Clearly work needed to be done and the transfers started early, with Peter Storey leaving on 2 March and Willie Young joining on the same day.

12 March 1977 saw the last of the run of defeats with  QPR 2 Arsenal 1.  It was followed on 23 March 1977 by Stoke 1 Arsenal 1; Arsenal’s first point in eight games, but it still left the club was still without a win in 11 league matches.

On 2 April 1977 Graham Rix played his first game – a 3-0 victory over Leicester in which Rix scored one of the goals.  As unlikely as it seems O’Leary got the other two.   

Wilf Rostrom bowed out after 17 games on 25 April, but by then Arsenal were counting victories, for in an amazing turn around on 30 April, Newcastle 0 Arsenal 2 made it six wins out of seven matches.  Macdonald and Matthews scored, but the excitement was short lived as Arsenal failed to win any of their remaining 3 games.

Although the table with Arsenal in eighth position looked poor it was a significant improvement on the 16th and 17th of the two previous seasons.   And the position of Tottenham gave rise to a few smiles.

Pos Club P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 42 23 11 8 62 33 +29 57
2 Manchester City 42 21 14 7 60 34 +26 56
3 Ipswich Town 42 22 8 12 66 39 +27 52
4 Aston Villa 42 22 7 13 76 50 +26 51
5 Newcastle United 42 18 13 11 64 49 +15 49
6 Manchester United 42 18 11 13 71 62 +9 47
7 West Bromwich Albion 42 16 13 13 62 56 +6 45
8 Arsenal 42 16 11 15 64 59 +5 43
9 Everton 42 14 14 14 62 64 −2 42
10 Leeds United 42 15 12 15 48 51 −3 42
11 Leicester City 42 12 18 12 47 60 −13 42
12 Middlesbrough 42 14 13 15 40 45 −5 41
13 Birmingham City 42 13 12 17 63 61 +2 38
14 Queens Park Rangers 42 13 12 17 47 52 −5 38
15 Derby County 42 9 19 14 50 55 −5 37
16 Norwich City 42 14 9 19 47 64 −17 37
17 West Ham United 42 11 14 17 46 65 −19 36
18 Bristol City 42 11 13 18 38 48 −10 35
19 Coventry City 42 10 15 17 48 59 −11 35
20 Sunderland 42 11 12 19 46 54 −8 34
21 Stoke City 42 10 14 18 28 51 −23 34
22 Tottenham Hotspur 42 12 9 21 48 72 −24 33

Despite Arsenal’s lack of progress in the league the club did have the equal top scorer in the 1st division: Malcolm Macdonald with 25 goals.

Curiously, even before the season was over Arsenal played their first end of season friendly:

  • 10 May 1977: Arsenal 4 Hajduk Split 0.  (George, Stapleton 3, Ross) (14,152; John Radford Testimonial)
  • 14 May 1977: Man U 2 Arsenal 0 (final league match)
  • 17 May 1977: Rotenborg  0 Arsenal 4 (Macdonald 3 Stapleton) (7500)
  • 18 May 1977: Nessegoten  0 Arsenal 3 (Macdonald 2 Armstrong).  Eight of the players from the day before also played the day before; 2500)
  • 20 May 1977: Roros 0 Arsenal 6 (Rix, Macdonald 3, Price, Stapleton; 2135)

Quite what the point of the tour of Norway was, is hard to say.  The crowds were tiny!

The other summer football event that caused particular interest in the press came on 4 June 1977 Scotland beat England at Wembley, a match remembered for the pitch invasion at the end.

On 2 July 1977 Bob Wilson, the goalkeeping hero of the first Double season, re-signed for Arsenal as emergency cover, but didn’t give up his TV work.  Moving out of the club on 8 July was Wilf Rostrom who went to Sunderland.

Away from Arsenal on 11 July Don Revie resigned as manager of the England national football team after three years in charge.  The following day he accepted a four-year contract worth £340,000 to take charge of the United Arab Emirates national team, making him the highest-paid football manager in the world.  He was considered utterly disloyal.  One does not resign from the England manager’s position – one waits to be sacked.  The suits were not amused.

Meanwhile also on 12 July Arsenal were back with a very demanding tour that took them across the world.

  • 12 July 1977: Red Star Belgrade 3 Arsenal 1 (in Singapore) (Macdonald)
  • 16 July 1977: Singapore 1 Arsenal 5 (Macdonald 3, Stapleton, Brady)
  • 20 July 1977: Australia 3 Arsenal 1 (Armstrong)
  • 24 July 1977: Celtic 3 Arsenal 2 (Sydney, Australia) (Rice, Macdonald)

A players’ drinking spree in Sydney after this match, Terry Neill diminished his power base somewhat by sending just two of the culprits home including Alan Hudson who did not play for the club again.  The rest stayed on for the final game of the tour.

  • 26 July 1977: Red Star 1 Arsenal 0 (Adelaide Australia).  This was the last game for George Armstrong.  He had become Arsenal’s top player for appearances – 621 – at least for a while.

Meanwhile on 17 July 1977 Fulham were banned from the transfer market due to a reported £700,000 debt.

On 1 August 1977 Steve Walford signed from Tottenham.  He signed with Tottenham in 1974 but he only played twice for them before Terry Neill, who of course himself at been at Tottenham, signed him for £25,000.

On 5 August 1977 the ever backwards looking Football League backed the Football Association’s ban on sponsors advertising themselves on player’s shirts. However, non-league clubs were permitted to show sponsor’s names on their players’ shirts.

Then on 6 August 1977 continuing the Tottenham theme Pat Jennings signed for £45,000 after 13 years at White Hart Lane.  He had played 591 games for Tottenham but his club seemed to think at at 32 he was too old to continue.

  • 8 August 1977: Aldershot o Arsenal 1.   Jimmy Rimmer played his last game  having played 124 leagues, before moving on to Aston Villa with whom he won the European Cup, for the second time (having won it previously with Man U)

On 10 August 1977  Don Howe returned as coach under Terry Neill as manager, six years after leaving Arsenal as reserve team coach.  He had been at WBA, Leeds and Galatasaray in the intervening years.

  • 12 August 1977: Luton 1 Arsenal 1.  First appearance of Pat Jennings 

That was it for the friendlies and so the new season then got under way in an inauspicious style with a 0-1 defeat to Ipswich.  Arsenal won only four out of the first ten games, but Jennings kept his place and played all 55 league, league cup and FA Cup matches that season.

During this run on 3 September 1977 Ritchie Powling played his last game: Arsenal 3 Nottingham Forest 0.  He had played 55 league games in all and scored three goals before moving on to QPR.

On 13 September 1977 the changes continued as George Armstrong was sold to Leicester.  He played in both the League Cup finals under Bertie Mee that led up to the three triumphs, and was one of the three all-match players in the Double season.  He set up the winner in the final game of the league season against Tottenham.

After ten games Arsenal had won four, lost four and drawn two, indicating that once again it was not going to be a great season, although it did ultimately pick up with a 5th place finish and a cup final, there was still a feeling that Arsenal were nowhere near challenging for the top spot.

Arsenal in the summer – the series so far.

 

 

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