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GCR Books

How Arsenal moved from Darkness towards the first Double

15th August  1970:  The balancing point.

The Darkness has been ended.  The Possible had been achieved.  Now for the Impossible

Context is everything.   After the misery of mid-table hopelessness and 3rd round exits from the FA Cup Bertie Mee didn’t give us a Double out of nothing.   He first gave Arsenal league cup finals, our first European trophy and only then our first Double.

Pretty impressive – but doubly so because he did all this after the awful years of Swindin and Wright.  Somehow he turned the lumbering, floundering giant that was Arsenal, around.  Yes there were some false starts but then we were up and running.

In terms of cups and finals, that build up consisted of

  • 2 March 1968: Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 (League Cup final)
  • 15 March 1969: Swindon 3 Arsenal 1 (League Cup final)
  • 22 April 1970: Anderlecht 3 Arsenal 1 (Fairs cup final 1st leg)
  • 28 April 1970: Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 0 (Fairs cup final 2nd leg)

Curiously there was no similar build up in the First Division as this record of Arsenal under Bertie Mee shows:

League position FA Cup exit round League Cup exit round
1966/7 7 5 (Birmingham) 3 (WHU)
1967/8 9 5 (Birmingham) Final
1968/9 4 5 (WBA) Final
1969/70 12 3 (Blackpool) 3 (Everton)

But what this hides is one other small fact.  Nothing that would give us a trophy, but a sign of the changing times.

For what the figures above show us is that Mee could focus.  1969/70 was a terrible season in the league (12th) the FA Cup (exit in first round played) and League Cup (exit in second round played) but we won a European Trophy.  Like Chapman before him, he would give up on certain trophies in order to get the one we could win.  Arsenal’s first ever trophy – the FA Cup in 1930 came at the cost of a league season in which Arsenal escaped relegation by just three points.

But if we want to see a moment in which the movement to the Double began we need to go back to an earlier moment: 11 January 1969 when we had the result Arsenal 2 Sheffield W 0.  That made it six consecutive wins, one goal conceded. First six in a row in the league since March/April 1956.

May I say that again?   The first six consecutive wins in 13 years!The full story is given in The curious story of 1968/9 and there are many other links to the build up to the Double season, which are given at the end.But, for the first time on this site, let’s have a look at the start of the first Double season.   15th August  1970,  Everton v Arsenal, League Division 1.

Starting the season away to last year’s champions is not easy, especially after having come 12th the season before, and ending up below Tottenham to boot.

Of the previous season’s regulars Peter Simpson was missing – Roberts coming in to deputise as normal.  Pat Rice on the other hand returned at full back after missing much of last season.  Eddie Kelly was rewarded with a start following a solid run last year.  Storey moved from his normal full back slot to midfield to try and keep Ball under control.

The press labelled it “trench warfare” as Arsenal conceded 13 free kicks, and Everton still dominated the first half and led 1-0 at half time, looking for all the world as if they would stroll through the rest of the game, as the capacity crowd, still celebrating last season’s results, expected.

But no one had told Arsenal the script.  On 71 minutes a neat Graham, Radford, George counter attack gave Arsenal the equaliser – but also removed Charlie from the match with a nasty injury.  Marinello came on as sub.

Six minutes later Morrisey made it 2-1 for the home team on 84 minutes, until two minutes later George Graham found a gap in the defence, ran through and beat the keeper from the edge of the area, to secure the draw.

Of course no one knew at the time but that injury (in which Charlie broke his ankle)  would keep Charlie out until league match number 27 in February, by which time we would be getting a bit of an idea as to what the season might be all about.

In these days the papers didn’t publish league tables until about the fifth game of the season, considering an interest in statistics and the like to be nerdish, and not what their readers wanted.  (They did however publish their football pools predictions regularly, presumably on the basis that people were more interested in what might happen, rather than what had happened).

But had they published a Day One league table it would have looked like this.  It is of course based on one point for a draw, two for a win.  Positions are then separated by goal average.

Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Huddersfield Town 1 1 0 0 3 0 2
1 Leeds United 1 1 0 0 1 0 2
1 Nottingham Forest 1 1 0 0 2 0 2
4 Chelsea 1 1 0 0 2 1 2
4 Liverpool 1 1 0 0 2 1 2
6 Newcastle United 1 1 0 0 3 2 2
7 Crystal Palace 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
7 Ipswich Town 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
7 Stoke City 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
7 West Bromwich Albion 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
11 Arsenal 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
11 Everton 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
11 Manchester City 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
11 Southampton 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
11 Tottenham Hotspur 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
11 West Ham United 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
17 Wolverhampton Wndrs 1 0 0 1 2 3 0
18 Burnley 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
18 Derby County 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
20 Blackpool 1 0 0 1 0 3 0
20 Coventry City 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
20 Manchester United 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

The Arsenal team was

Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Roberts, Armstrong, Storey, Radford, George (Marinello), Graham.

Here are some of the earlier articles leading up to this moment.

Out of the Darkness in the boardroom.

Bertie: the ballroom dancing and the left hook

Bertie: the players he let go, the signings he made

Taking Arsenal out of the Darkness

The curious story of 1968/9; the first run of six wins in 13 years.
28 April The 1970 Fairs Cup Final; our first Euro trophy and our first trophy in 17 years
The first trophy

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