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George Armstrong: signed by Swindin but came good under Mee

By Tony Attwood

As I have started looking at the players who played in the Bertie Mee sides that won our first Euro trophy and our first Double, it has become apparent just how many of those stars of 1970 and 1971 were actually signed during the Billy Wright era, which ended in the summer of 1966.

Although we might automatically think that George Armstrong was perhaps the most famous of these, the fact is that he was signed by George Swindin, and then had quite a career with Wright before the managerial change over.  Indeed he is such a long serving player he must be one of the few, since the Chapman/Shaw season to have played under four managers.

The following table excludes substitute appearances and cup games.

Season Manager League games Goals
1961/2 Swindin 4 1
1962/3 Wright 16 2
1963/4 Wright 28 3
1964/5 Wright 40 4
1965/6 Wright 39 6
1966/7 Mee 40 7
1967/8 Mee 42 5
1968/9 Mee 26 5
1969/70 Mee 17 3
1970/1 Mee 42 7
1971/2 Mee 41 2
1972/3 Mee 29 2
1973/4 Mee 40 0
1974/5 Mee 21 0
1975/6 Mee 28 4
1976/7 Neil 37 2
    490 53

To say that we all loved George would be to state the obvious.  To be an Arsenal fan at the time, and to be at the ground watching games, was to support GeordieHe was in many ways unique.

George was born on 9 August 1944 in Hebburn, and trained as an electrician, being rejected as a footballer both by Newcastle and Grimsby.  (Shades of Ray Kennedy there – for he was kicked out of Port Vale by Sir Stanley Matthews).

Armstrong joined Arsenal as a youth player in 1961 as an inside forward then as a winger, and made his first start aged 17.

What we all remember about him was his crosses and his running – he never seemed to stop running his crosses always seemed to find the right player.

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 – which is enough to make anyone famous for life.

It is said that he fell out with Terry Neill when he became manager, and so moved to Leicester, but the fact that George only managed 14 games with them suggests that in reality after a magnificent career his time as a player was over.  Without his tireless running, he was never going to get into position to cross the ball – and that was what he always delivered.

He retired from football in 1979 having become Arsenal’s top player for appearances – 621 – before O’Leary and Adams came along.

After retirement as a player he worked for a number of clubs as a coach, including Fulham, Villa, Middlesbrough, QPR, Enderby, FK Mjølner, and amazingly the Kuwaiti national team, returning to England just before the Iraq invasion of Kuwait.

That brought him back to Arsenal as reserve team coach, and he stayed there through the coming years until 2000.  Perhaps his most famous apprentice was Ray Parlour – one often wonders how the two men ever understood each other!

On 31 October 2000, George suffered a brain haemorrhage while running a training session at the club and died the following day aged just 56.

He is, of course fondly remembered by Arsenal fans as a player but he is one of those people who must also be remembered as Arsenal through and through.  A true and total servant of the club we love.

——————————————-

The Bertie Mee Decade

The players who made it for Mee but were signed by Wright: – Bob Wilson

The Prelude: When 4,554 turned up to watch Arsenal and a reign ended

Swindin, Wright, Mee: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

Bertie – the life and times: The trophies, ballroom dancing, left hook and OBE

The First Double: a series of five quizzes to test your knowledge on 1971

Arsenal History Society

 

 

4 comments to George Armstrong: signed by Swindin but came good under Mee

  • colario

    George Armstrong was the Walcot of his time. The team was strong on self belief and often played a above itself, especailly when the chips were down.

  • nicky

    I can still hear the thump of his left boot as yet another perfect cross came booming in. A sad loss to the Club’s teaching staff at so young an age.

  • I look at the films and videotapes of the Mee era and I’m amazed at Armstrong’s dribbling, crossing, passing and corner-kicking. What a difference a player like him could make with the current team.

    I notice that one of the clubs hew worked with was called FK Mjølner. A variation on that name, Mjolnir, was the name of Thor’s hammer. And Armstrong sure helped Arsenal put the hammer down on a lot of teams. Including, ironically, a Norwegian team, Stromgodset, in Arsenal’s first ever European Cup tie.

  • Jack Andersen

    I`m pleeased to read all the nice words about the most loving person I`w ever met-George A.
    I was brougt up in FK Mjölner and was the person who got George to Norway,and its nice to read Uncle Mikes encyclopedian report of the club Mjölner and the names origin.He was löved by the people in Narvik(hometown of Mjölner)also and are sadly missed after his to early deth.RIP my friend.
    Jack.

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