I thought I would take a look back at a few of our Arsenal Heroes and I’m starting off with a local player that you will all recognize and admire – Charles Frederick “Charlie” George
Charlie was born 10 October 1950 in Islington, North London.
Brought up deep in Arsenal territory, Charlie was just a nipper when he made his first trip to Highbury to see the Gunners play. His fiery nature showed up early in his life when he was expelled from a local school. As a young boy he played for Islington Schoolboys before he realised his dream when in May 1966 he signed as an apprentice at Arsenal and turned professional eighteen months later. In a short period of three to four years he had progressed from standing on the terraces watching his heroes to actually playing among them.
He made his debut against Everton in the opening game of the 1969/70 season and scored his first goal against West Bromwich Albion two games later. Unfortunately, ill-discipline marred his initial season and as a result he spent three months in the reserves. He was reinstated in the spring and as a19-year-old he helped the Gunners to European Fairs Cup glory. He brought a swagger previously unseen in a Bertie Mee side, and his impact meant he attracted much of the pre-season hype in the summer of 1970. It wasn’t a case of if he would be good but more a case of just how good he would become. Disaster lurked just around the corner when after scoring at Goodison Park on the opening day of the League season; Charlie suffered a broken ankle which kept him out until the New Year. During his absence he was replaced up front by Ray Kennedy. His skills and creativity allowed him to thrive in his new role as an attacking midfielder and from there he gave the team an added dimension that would prove to pay the ultimate dividend on a historic day at Wembley in May 1971.
Arsenal had wrapped up the league title at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane on the Monday when Ray Kennedy headed home a cross from George Armstrong – now just a short few days later they had to face Bill Shankley’s Liverpool in the FA Cup final. After 90 minutes the game was goalless but just two minutes into extra time Liverpool were ahead through Steve Heighway. Nine minutes later Eddie Kelly started what would be a remarkable Arsenal comeback. With eight minutes to go the game looked destined for a draw with both sets of players dead on their feet until George, Arsenal’s long-haired talisman, stepped up. John Radford squared the ball just outside the box and George took a touch to steady himself before lashing a thunderbolt of a shot past Ray Clemence into the Liverpool goal.
The game commentator described the goal as follows –
Radford to George – George –
GEORGE HAS DONE IT!
GEORGE HAS DONE IT!
His celebration is almost as famous as the goal itself as he dropped to the floor in exhaustion and lay flat on his back as his team-mates celebrated. It remains one of the most rousing and lasting images in Arsenal’s history as well as the history of the FA Cup.
With the FA Cup win Arsenal completed their first League and Cup double.
He played four more seasons at Highbury, however the latter stages of his career with Arsenal were hampered with injuries and his rebellious streak which created issues with the club’s management; during the 1971–72 season he was disciplined by the club twice, first after head butting Liverpool’s Kevin Keegan, and then for flicking a V-sign at Derby County’s fans after scoring away at the Baseball Ground. He scored eleven goals in both 1971–72 and 1972–73 but his form declined and he only scored five times in 28 matches in 1973–74 and once again ill discipline caused a problem and he was dropped from the first team in 1974–75 after falling out with manager Bertie Mee. By Christmas 1974 he had been transfer listed, and he moved to Derby County in July 1975 for £100,000.
He spent three and a half years at Derby but, predictably, he fell out with coach Don Revie after being substituted and he was never picked again. He also had a loan spell at St George’s Budapest in Australia. After Derby, he went on to play for the Minnesota Kicks in the North American Soccer League, where he made 18 appearances in the1978 season. He then returned to England with Southampton and then he had a short period on loan to Nottingham Forest in 1980, he could not agree an extension to his loan at Forest and returned to Southampton, playing his last league game for them on 14 March 1981. In the summer of 1981 he left the club to move to Bulova in Hong Kong. A year later he returned to England to have short spells with Bournemouth and Derby County for a second time, and had a short time with Scottish side Dundee United before retiring in 1983.
Always a controversial figure, Charlie had his run-ins with the game’s authorities, but his supporters loved him no less for it. Sadly for him he never got the chance to fulfil his potential on the international stage and the hour he played for England against the Republic of Ireland in 1976 was to be his only cap. A disagreement with then boss Don Revie led to his substitution and a falling out with the England set-up.
After retiring from football he moved to New Milton, Hampshire to run a pub. For some years he had joint ownership in a garage business now he is back at Arsenal where he conducts “Legends” tours, and also acts as a match day host.