I watched the highlights of the Fairs cup of 1970 again last night on Arsenal player, was that really 40 years ago? I can remember that spring night as though it was yesterday.
For 11 years, ever since leaving school and starting our apprenticeships, my mates and I had stood in all weathers and shouted ourselves hoarse, as we won nothing. The modern-day supporter sitting in his comfortable seat, complaining of 6 years without a trophy. Would not believe the conditions we endured standing in all weathers. Toilets? Do me a favour a wall, a trough and what was basically an open sewer was good enough for us.
Two managers had departed in that time, George Swindon our ex goalkeeper, had been followed by Billy Wright, ex Captain of Wolves and England, in his first attempt at club management, a universally acknowledged nice guy, he was married to one of the Beverley Sisters a well-known female singing trio, who sat together every Saturday in the front of the East Stand dressed in identical Red And White outfits.
Billy never won anything for all his hard work and with his health suffering under the pressure, he resigned in 1966. But the legacy he left, was a core of young players 6 of whom would be part of the first double winning side.
His replacement Bertie Mee, previously the team physio, was a major disciplinarian and hated by most of the players, he was anything but a track suit manager, cleverly leaving the coaching to the talented Dave Sexton before he left to manage Chelsea, then Done Howe and Steve Burtenshaw. It was Mee who moved Mclintock from right half to centre half and begun to shape the team that was destined to earn a permanent place in Arsenals history.
Two league cup final appearances at Wembley were to be reached and lost in 68 and 69. firstly against our archenemies at that time, Leeds Utd. A team loaded with skilful internationals, but ruthless and cynical under the leadership of Manager Don Revie and his on field lieutenants Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Matches between the two teams over the next ten years were no place for the faint hearted as we refused to be intimidated by them and adopted the same do or die attitude.
The ’69 debacle was even worse, on a Wembley pitch so badly cut up by the show jumping at the horse of the year show staged there a week previously amid torrential rain showers, that it now resembled a bogey ploughed field.
The team most of whom had been laid low by a flu like virus in the week prior to the game, were run ragged in the heavy conditions, by third division Swindon Town and a tricky little winger called Don Rodgers, who deservedly won 3-1 after extra time.
So all that baggage, expense and heartache was in the long-suffering supporters minds as we stood and watched the players run out on that May evening in 1970, to a morass not dissimilar to that Wembley horror. But this time an hour and three quarters later it was all worth it.
Eddie Kelly one of the graduates from the reserves, a sort of Scottish Little Jack, scored to make it 1-0 at half time, John Radford then powered home a typical Raddy header and minutes later Jon Sammels so often the butt of the Arsenal boo boys, settled it, hitting a sweet 20 yarder across the keeper into the back of the net, Highbury went mad and at the final whistle. I and thousands of others sang and danced on the waterlogged pitch, our shoes filled with muddy water and we couldn’t give a monkeys, after 17 trophyless years, we had a pot.
The hoodoo was broken, allowing across the years, doubles and cups to follow. Bertie Mee’s reign lasted until 1976, since when he has been succeeded by 7 managers or caretaker managers, including the enigmatic George stroller Graham and the 1-0 to the Arsenal days. Before the arrival of Arsène and his marvelous Wengerball, immaculate pitches and eventually a proud new modern stadium and training facilities.
But it all started, when Anderlecht were put to the Sword and a 3-1 away defeat was overturned on a rainy floodlit evening of unbelievable joy, at the famous old ground, that not even the first leg of the double on another wonderful night away at the Lane could equal.
Written by dandan