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THE CONVERSATION: EPISODE TWO

And again…the second part of the conversation, and the second part of our Double Celebration!

GHF.com are pleased to release this, especially considering the Arsenal events of these past couple weeks. Lift your spirits by watching the second episode of two video conversations with Bob Wilson and Pat Rice about Arsenal’s 1970-71 Double year, on the 50th Anniversary of our FA Cup win over Liverpool at Wembley.

In this episode we have Peter LeBeau and Paul Brooker from GHF.com discussing with Bob and Pat the 1971 FA Cup campaign and completing the Double.

As this commemoration is in support of the Willow Foundation, if you watch and enjoy the video (or even if you don’t!), donate whatever you can to Willow. Or, check out the GHF.com Auction for Double-related memorabilia, and bid on the lot(s) you’d most like to have! All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.

Click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode Two: Double Glory — The 1971 FA Cup Run”

Or, watch here: Episode Two: Double Glory — The 1971 FA Cup Run (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.

Let us know what you think in the “drinks” section below!


THE AUCTION: NOW ACCEPTING BIDS

We are also pleased to announce our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above.

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.


What Now, Muchacho?

Embed from Getty Images

Well, where do we begin? 

It’s a long story. “Begin at the end,” is a good axiom in such circumstances. We drew the home leg of the Europa League semi-final last night. We are out of that competition. Sitting in 9th place in the league, we now have little prospect of European football next season.

After a season replete with patchy performances and gaffes, with inconsistency being our only consistency; after a series of ‘season defining games’ in both the Premier League and the Europa League, we faced yet another ‘season defining game’. To add spice, or is it irony, this ‘season defining game’ was against our former coach who came to a sticky end just 18 months ago. GSD summed it up neatly in the preview, as a result of Leno, Saka, Pépé, Lady Luck and Emery’s familiar caution (putting Coquelin on for an attacker at HT in the first leg) the tie was still in our hands and at the final whistle we would either be “the mutt’s nuts or a dog’s dinner”.

When the team was announced, it was clear that Tierney wasn’t fit enough to start and Xhaka was likely to continue at left back. However, injury to the latter in the warm-up meant that our first-choice left back started. It looked like a ‘front foot’ team, lining up in a 4-1-4-1: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Marí, Tierney; Partey; Saka, Ødengaard, ESR, Pépé; Aubameyang.

We had hoped for a vigorous start with attackers bringing the game to Villareal and pressurising their defence and especially their dodgy keeper. It was not to be. We started in that all too familiar sluggish mode and handed the initiative to the opposition. Within 5 minutes, Leno had to leap to push away a Chukwueze shot from his left. Early on, it was clear that Partey was having to cover a lot of ground as the solitary holding midfielder because Ødegaard and ESR pushed forward when we had possession. In consequence there were acres of space for Pedraza to run into before setting up Chukwueze who was providing Villareal’s main threat. In this early period our main strategy seemed to be a long diagonal ball to Saka wide on the right who regularly found his progress blocked by three opposition players.

Our first shot on goal was a long looping pass-back from Partey from wide on the left that forced Leno to leap to prevent a spectacular own-goal. For those with long memories think Tommy Gemmell’s spectacular own goal over Bobby Simpson playing for Scotland against the USSR circa 1967-8.

A disappointing aspect of this first half was the lack of a high press from the Arsenal forwards giving Villareal defenders ample time on the ball and opportunities to construct their attacks. On the other hand, Villareal’s high press made it difficult for us to play out from the back and the out-ball options for players stuck in our corners were minimal. As the first half approached its halfway point we had had a short spell of Arsenal pressure driven by ESR from the left but we had achieved no service whatsoever to Aubameyang centrally. 

On 22 minutes, after yet another ineffective attempt to pass our way out led to loss of possession, Parejo bought a dangerous free kick from Partey on the edge of our box. Parejo’s free-kick cleared the wall, looked to have beaten Leno but fortunately cleared the bar as well.

This seemed to wake us up. After a driving run from Bellerin the ball broke to Tierney whose shot from 25 yards flashed well wide. A spell of Arsenal pressure led to a corner on our left from which the ball finally reached Aubameyang on the right side of the box. His volley with the outside of his right foot curled beautifully through the traffic but struck the keeper’s right post rather than nestling in the far side of the goal.

Arsenal then seemed to have a stroke of luck. Chukwueze had hitherto been a significant danger leaving Tierney in his wake on break-outs and pulling Partey and or Marí out of the middle (making me appreciate Xhaka’s covering work behind Tierney from left midfield). Chukwueze suddenly collapsed to the ground with no one near him and after treatment was stretchered off. 

We had hitherto done little to deserve such luck with a markedly disjointed performance and Pépé at his most left-footedly frustrating, regularly slowing play down and tentative in movement and decision-making. In truth, our whole build-up play was too ponderous and allowed Villareal to get organised defensively. Our opponent had locked-up the central route, lured us into either flank and then smothered us effectively when we got there. After 30 minutes, in our most important match of the season, we had achieved one attempt on goal, none on target (if you ignore the Partey effort saved by Leno). In contrast, Villareal were pressing high to impede our progress, happily playing the ball round us, breaking quickly and getting numbers forward at speed.

Villareal tested Leno from a tight angle on his left then ESR drove through the middle, found Aubameyang on the left of the box in a position from which he regularly curls the ball inside the far post. However, his right foot shot was blocked by the keeper and although the ball then bounced through his legs, he unfortunately recovered it. Marí deflected a shot just past Leno’s post then on the resulting corner Albiol had a shot blocked at the far post.

The half ended with some nice interplay on the left from ESR, Pépé and Tierney but, as too often, the cross was blocked for a corner which was effectively dealt with by the Villareal defence.

A frustrating first half had seen the opposition comprehensively manage our attack and force us into unproductive activity on the flanks. We had produced precious little goalmouth action. Surely, we would be more effective in the second half?

HT: Arsenal 0-0 Villareal

Martinelli had an extended warm up during the break but there were no changes at the start of the second half. However, we did start with much more urgency and worked the Villareal defence and goalkeeper more in the first five minutes of the second half than we had in the whole first half. An early cross from Bellerin produced a feeble flap from the Villareal keeper and the ball fell to ESR at the edge of the 6-yard box. His inventive dink over the prone keeper and defenders deserved better than to glide just past the far post.

Yet our flaws continued to threaten to sink us. Overplaying in midfield, an already tired looking Partey unnecessarily turned the ball over, leading to a two man break against one centre back and Leno. Fortunately, Moreno produced a weak effort that Leno gathered gratefully. That was a Get Out of Jail card.

Ten minutes into the second half and the game was getting stretched. Frankly, it looked like kids playing ‘next goal the winner’ except of course, Villareal didn’t need to score to win the tie. Partey was looking very tired – he’s never produced 90 minutes of energetic play in an Arsenal shirt but the demands of being a solitary holding midfielder covering all that ground seemed unsurprisingly to have sapped his energy by the early second half. Once again, he gave away possession in a dangerous position, this time on the edge of our own box with a bizarre miskick. Fortunately, it came to nought but shortly afterwards Leno had to touch away a threatening cross-shot.

As the hour approached we were looking generally less energetic and the ‘hand-brake’ was back on. We had lapsed back into sloppy turnovers and no coherent passing moves. Our haplessness seemed almost to be epitomised by a heavy back pass from Holding leading to a heavy touch from Leno who landed on his backside hastily clearing it under pressure from an opposition forward. By now we weren’t even getting crosses in any more (unproductive though they had hitherto been) as the defenders in yellow became even more effective at suffocating our wide men with numbers. Meanwhile the central route remained firmly locked.

Martinelli was brought on for a by now anonymous Ødegaard on 66 minutes in the hope that he would provide the penetration that was hitherto absent. He took the wide left position and Pépé switched to the right with Saka dropping back to left midfield. At 70 minutes, a Saka free kick from wide left was headed over by Holding who shortly thereafter headed wide a curling right-sided Pépé cross from the edge of the box. On either side of the latter Partey had two efforts on goal from the edge of the box. Amazingly neither struck Row Z, the first decent effort being deflected for a corner, the second only a kick on a defender’s foot.

With 15 minutes to go it all felt rather desperate. Martinelli fired a cleared corner well wide from the edge of the box. Then came the moment when, if you like, the fates deserted us. We broke swiftly out of defence and Aubameyang met Bellerin’s cross in front of goal. It wasn’t a perfect header but the ball looped past the keeper and spun onto the far post. Sadly, the ball then spun out rather than in and the ball was cleared.

On 80 minutes, Lacazette and Willian came on for Aubameyang and Tierney with Saka dropping back to left wing back and Willian taking a left midfield position. Nice work on the right led to a deft chip from ESR to Lacazette in the centre of the box but he ended in a crumpled heap with a foul awarded to the opposition. Willian then produced a nice chip from the left into the centre of the box that forced a defender to head for a corner which sadly came to nought.

With three minutes left, hope sprang eternal as I thought of those epic last minute goals that Arsenal have scored in the past to take the fat out of the fire. However, I also thought of my dear old Dad’s wise words to a similarly hopeful teenager in a similar circumstance in the 60’s: “That team has been trying to score for 87 minutes. What makes you think they’re going to score in the last 3 minutes?”

A Willian cross into the box was picked up by Lacazette who immediately bumped into Martinelli with the ball breaking to Bellerin whose firm shot was blocked. Shortly thereafter, Pépé picked out Bellerin with a cut-back from the bye-line but another firm shot was blocked by Coquelin.

On 90 minutes, the master tactician Unai Emery made two defensive substitutions and Arteta replaced Bellerin with Nketiah. In the 5 added minutes, Leno had to sprint out of his box to clear a long pass to a runner in yellow. The game then wound down to a soggy end.

FT: Arsenal 0-0 Villareal

In answer to the question in GSD’s preview. It was a dog’s dinner. Even then there were so few strands of meat that it would have been quite unpalatable to a red-blooded canine. This was our sixth consecutive home game without a win and we had produced only 2 shots on target and just 4, including a penalty, across the two legs! 

Either our ex-coach out-thought our current coach or we have recaptured our pre-Christmas inability to create chances and Villareal simply took advantage or it’s a bit of both. We certainly looked lost at times. Villareal engaged us high up the pitch and we often couldn’t get out. On the occasions we did they directed us into the flanks and with increasing success blocked the cross or took the ball back. They effectively blocked passes to Aubameyang who as a result had only 14 touches in 80 minutes. Whenever they took the ball back, we rarely put the Villareal defenders under pressure giving them ample time to construct attacking moves. When Villareal moved forward it was clear that Partey was isolated and was being asked to cover too much space. I increasingly began to appreciate Xhaka’s contributions as this game progressed. Our midfield simply didn’t have the right balance with Ødegaard and ESR neither offering protection for the back four nor pressing enough further forward. Basically, Villareal dictated the way the game evolved both when they had possession and also when they didn’t.

This is the culmination of a very disappointing season and several years of astonishing decisions at the top. This season we have broken so many unwanted records that I have lost count. We are not in transition. We are heading for the wilderness familiar to fans in the 60’s and early 80’s.

We are left only with questions about the club to which we have individually hitched our hopes and tribal identity because of its values, its style of play or our own family’s traditions.

Do the owners appreciate their responsibilities?

Do they or we have the patience to allow our tyro coach to continue to learn on the job?

If the owners dispense with the coach, do we trust their ability to appoint people who are good at their jobs?

I really don’t know the answers to any but the third.


THE CONVERSATION: EPISODE ONE

If you haven’t yet watched our exclusive video of Bob Wilson and Pat Rice’s conversation about the ’70-71 League Campaign, click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane”

Or, watch here:  Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.


For the fans’ perspective of that historic campaign, click the image below to read our recently published blog. And, as well as sharing your own reminiscences about that famous night at the Lane, do let us know what you think of Episode 1 of The Conversation in the Drinks!


THE AUCTION: NOW ACCEPTING BIDS

We are also pleased to remind you that our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above. 

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.


Embed from Getty Images

Well, dearest Gooners, here we go again.

Once more we face a make-or-break match. If we do not make it through this tie, then the rest of the season will surely fizzle out as we scrap about to finish in the top half of the league. If we get past Villareal then we will have a European final on the horizon and a possible route into the Champion’s League. The stakes could not be higher.

Of course, we have the added intrigue of facing Unai Emery, our erstwhile boss. Last Wednesday, for the first time ever, he pleased us all with his natural caution, getting his Coq out just when it looked as though an attacking second half from the men in yellow might well put this tie beyond us. Fortunately, he let us off the hook, and Pepe’s penalty gave us an away goal, and a mere one goal deficit, that gives us genuine hope of turning them over back at our place.

The problem for us fans is the same as it has been all season – we have no idea whether we will play a blinder like we did in the second leg of the last round against Slavia, a stinker with one more frantic jamming of the self-destruct button thrown in, or just another lacklustre horseshoe passing masterclass that sees us limp out without really giving it a go.

The problems for Arteta are slightly different. He must resist trying to out-think Emery, a man whose tactical vision is impossible to counter simply because it as incomprehensible as a VAR offside call.

(Incidentally, I have heard on the prehistoric grapevine that Emery only accepted the Villareal job after rejecting an offer from the PGMOL to be their Official VAR Spokesman, a link between referees and the outside world with responsibility for explaining all their decisions. When he made himself unavailable, they left the post unfilled as no other candidate had the necessary ability to speak for an entire interview without saying anything anyone could understand. Mike Dean was apparently furious – he had desperately wanted to be a ‘protaganist’.)

Our boss said after the first game that “we’re still alive” but that was no thanks to his choice to play ESR as a false 9. I am a fan of Arteta’s, but he got that badly wrong, and there will be a lot of eyes on the selection and the tactics tomorrow. Quite rightly so. He really did get away with one last week and may well consider himself lucky. This week he would be best not to rely on being lucky again, and instead show everyone something that many of us suspect, but that he has not provided enough consistent evidence for – namely, that he is good. (If he proves to be both then we are going places, folks!)

Make no mistakes, if we play well, then we can expect to win this. We have, on the whole, better players than they do, and when we ‘go full gas’ we are capable of looking like a pretty good side. Not a great one, but well capable of beating this Villareal team. So, the boss must play to get our attacking players not only into the game but dictating it. Statistically, our defence is doing okay this season, but few of us will be anywhere but behind the sofa if we are playing to defend a 1-0 lead with ten minutes to go.

Of course, when the final whistle sounds, a hard-fought 1-0 to The Arsenal that takes us through the tie would have a nice resonance to it after the last time we played them in a European semi-final. Especially if they miss a penalty! But until the whistle we’d all be having kittens.

Villareal

Villareal played Getafe at the weekend, winning 1-0 after a goal from Pino, assisted by Grigio. They will be without Foyth, who sustained a hamstring injury against us, but have everyone else from the last game fit to choose from. I expect Emery will set them up similarly to last week (although he and Arteta give each other a run for their money in the ‘least predictable lineup/tactics’ stakes). He is already bricking it at the thought of facing Auba, who he describes as ‘a killer’, so we will have to see if he makes defensive changes to counter him.

Moreno, Trigueros and Chukwueze will all be looking to inflict more damage on us, knowing how crucial away goals could prove. Alcacer will want to create decisive chances, after his half-time withdrawal last week gave us a way back into the tie. We may expect to see Coquelin from the start after Capoue saw red last time out. Unfortunately for him, and all of us, he won’t be getting an appreciative round of applause from the home fans.

The Arsenal

Quite how Arteta decides to go about coaxing one of our good displays from this team remains to be seen. I am assuming that Auba will start. Certainly, we need to start a striker. (Surely he will do so this time?) If the captain is not deemed fit to start, then Martinelli would be my, and most people’s, choice to replace him.

The possibility of a return for KT3 has been dangled temptingly before us but I expect that he will not be quite up to speed. No matter how good he is, playing him when he is not fully fit will not help us, as his game relies on his capacity to get up and down the flank.

Ceballos is out (not necessarily a problem given how his Europa form has been, but it may trigger that most Arteta of things – a tactical reshuffle) so we could see Mo ‘Goal Machine’ Elneny replace him in midfield, unless Xhaka starts there and Cedric or Tierney play left-back. Before Dani’s red, I would have been surprised if Arteta abandoned Xhaka at LB having given him so much game time there since Tierney’s injury. However, the left side of midfield will be an important tactical call. Ceballos will not be drifting into that space from CM to help Xhaka, so if Elneny is not seen as someone who can play Dani’s hybrid central/left role, then might Cedric slot in at left back? That would free up the Swiss to push into central midfield where, in a sign of our lack of depth, we have missed him.

That decision will directly impact whether it is Gabigol, Pepe or ESR who gets the nod as the left sided player in our front three, where the role required will depend on who is playing left back. Lots of moving parts, lots for the boss to chew on.

If Luiz is fit, he will start. If not, it will probably be Holding, but Chambers got some CB minutes against Newcastle, so it might be him. Unai would not see that coming!

Gabriel will play. Unless Mari does instead.

At RB it will be Chambers. Or Bellerin. Or, ironically out of left-field, it might be Cedric. So, that clears that up.

In attacking midfield positions we have a full compliment of Saka, ESR, Odegaard, Pepe and Martinelli to choose from (on my final re-read of this I noticed I forgot about Willian – I hope the boss has too). Lacazette appears to be fit but I think he will start on the bench with Eddie.

Despite some dodgy form from Leno, and Ryan looking very solid, I think we will see the German in goal. If he does face a penalty, he must channel his Inner Jens.

Finally, Partey will start in central midfield. That is the only player/position combo that I’ll stick my neck on the line with!

So, with no confidence whatsoever…

Leno

Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Cedric

Partey, Xhaka

Saka, Odegaard, ESR

Auba

If that is the starting line up, then all I can say is that I hope my score prediction is as accurate!

The Holics’ Pound

Hahahahaha!

Predict this?

Gulp.

The bookies are not offering great value here, and frankly I’d keep your hand in your pocket, or perhaps spend it in the off-licence to help you get through this one.

However, for those so inclined, William Hill will give you 7/1 for a 1-0 to The Arsenal, and 12/1 for a 3-1 win if you don’t fancy us to keep a clean sheet. I quite like the sound of 2-0, so that is what I am plumping for, but 8/1 seems pretty skinny. As always, you will be able to find similar, but possibly better, odds from other providers.

This is a big match. In a surreal season that has been like no other I am almost comforted that the nerves have well and truly settled in for this one.

Nothing can be taken for granted. Like so much surrounding the club right now, it is all up in the air.

But what is not in question is that we will all be cheering our boys on tonight!

This season we never stood a chance of repeating our heroic Double of fifty years ago. But it would be one hell of a way to celebrate that historic achievement by giving ourselves a chance at making a new piece of history in Poland.

Go win, Arsenal.

Victoria Concordia Crescit


THE CONVERSATION: EPISODE ONE

If you haven’t yet watched our exclusive video of Bob Wilson and Pat Rice’s conversation about the ’70-71 League Campaign, click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane”

Or, watch here:  Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.


For the fans’ perspective of that historic campaign, click the image below to read our recently published blog. And, as well as sharing your own reminiscences about that famous night at the Lane, do let us know what you think of Episode 1 of The Conversation in the Drinks!


THE AUCTION: NOW ACCEPTING BIDS

We are also pleased to remind you that our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above. 

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.


“We Won the League at White Hart Lane”

From arsenal.com

In this two-part look at our first Double season in 1970-71 we have asked regular frequenters of this blog for their memories of those great events. We start with our title success with particular emphasis on a climactic night in North London on 3rd May 1971. Arsenal, fresh from their Fairs Cup success the season before, had battled with Leeds all season, hauling their lead back as the season unfolded and nosing ahead with a few games to go only to see Leeds edge back into the lead after a controversial victory at Elland Road. With only the North London Derby to go Arsenal needed to win or draw 0-0 to take the title. Anything else would see the league title chase end in failure. 

These are the memories of that incredible season and particularly of that remarkable May evening. 

Thinking back to May 1971 can you remember where you were and what you were doing? (e.g., school, university, working, etc.) 

Bodrum Gooneress: I was in my first year at secondary school in Wood Green.

Esso: I was 10 years old in year 6 at Primary School – Flax Hill County Primary, Tamworth, Staffs. I was the only Arsenal supporter in a playground split between West Brom and Villa, with a few Wolves in the mix.  Plus, the usual glory hunting United fans who of course existed even then. I came from a solid middle-class family and although born in the South grew up very much in the Midlands.  My Dad was a rugby man through and through, referring to Football as ‘Soccer’, always.  His opinion of football players was fairly low as well – “Get your hair cut!” I can remember him yelling at newspaper photos, as we didn’t have a TV until I was 12.  Mum was of course totally loyal to her husband and I never had any idea she had any real interest in football.

North Bank Ned: I was up at university and probably playing more football than studying for exams that started at the end of the month.

TTG:  I was working in the City in Fenchurch Street. Early days in my career. I was the only Arsenal fan in my department.

Had you been able to see many games that season?

TTG:  I made it to something like twenty games that season. I played myself on Saturday afternoons, (at a marginally lower level) but went to Arsenal whenever I could. I don’t think I missed a midweek game at Highbury all season and I saw a lot of the London away games.

North Bank Ned: Very few, both because I was away from London and because I played regularly on Saturday afternoons. I probably have a higher career ratio of midweek to weekend games attended than most Gooners.

Esso: Absolutely none at all.  I did not attend an Arsenal game in person until 1978.  I started following Arsenal in 1969, on my Mum’s advice.

Clock End Rider: I was a little boy growing up on Upper Street in a family of avid Arsenal fans, as were all my mates and their families.

Bodrum GooneressI don’t recall actually going to any games that season.  It was my first year at the local ‘posh’ Convent Grammar School and I suspect that going to the Arsenal was banned as being beneath and unsuitable for a boater wearing, convent school girl at a school with lofty aspirations – banished to the same dustbin as reading Enid Blyton!  I was already hooked since my first season of attending Arsenal matches in 1967/8 and being at Highbury for our 1970 Fairs Cup triumph so followed the scores avidly.  I discovered on my first day at my new school a new ally at a desk adjacent to mine.  She was a most unlikely ally, being seemingly the cleverest girl in the class and she declared herself as being an ‘ardent Arsenal fan’.  I had to look up ‘ardent’ in the dictionary!

Clock End Rider:  I was too young to attend. My dad started taking me during the 72/73 season from memory.

When the season began were you optimistic about our prospects? Did you think a League title shot was remotely possible? 

North Bank Ned: When every season starts, winning the league is always possible, a state of optimism that lasts at least until the first kick-off. I thought the Fairs Cup win over Anderlecht the previous season would be a springboard for moving up from mid-table, though perhaps not all the way to the top. However, the team had gelled, and while we didn’t have the best player in the league in any position, we had one of the top five in every position. We started with a couple of away draws and then thrashed the Mancs 4-0 at home with Raddy getting a hat-trick. That was the start of Highbury being a fortress all season, though we weren’t to know it then.

From gettyimages.ie

Bodrum GooneressI don’t think I dared to dream.  Unfortunately, my new secondary school was closer to Tottenham than my previous primary school.  How I hated and resented the fact that our sports field was in White Hart Lane, albeit it right down the other end of it.

TTG:  I didn’t expect that we could be as successful as we did turn out to be. There was a positive vibe after the Fairs Cup triumph in April but we finished below halfway in the League that season and we didn’t sign anyone in the close season although there was no transfer window then. We had not challenged for the title for years but the team had been getting stronger over the previous few seasons and Don Howe was clearly a very good coach.

Esso: Never really crossed my mind to be honest.  My Arsenal supporting started as a purely defensive move against playground bullying.  My Dad was a rugby man through and through and I was constantly being belittled for not supporting a football team.  On (almost tearfully) discussing this with my Mum one day, she disappeared from the room.  She came back with an old Scrapbook she had kept from her teenage years in the 30’s and announced to me – ‘only one Football Club worth supporting, and that’s The Arsenal’.  I distinctly remember her using the ‘The’ prefix.

Do you remember when you felt for the first time that it might be a special season? Or were you sceptical right to the end? 

TTG: I’m a bit of a pessimist and I didn’t think we had a shot until we played Newcastle at home about six games from the end of the season. I was playing that day and Leeds were at home to West Brom who were a decent side. My game kicked off at around 4pm and at half time someone said to me “You must be ecstatic!” I had no clue what he meant as I had been playing appallingly! He said Arsenal had gone top (Charlie George got a ‘worldie’) and Leeds lost to a hugely controversial goal that was yards offside. We went top and had been so consistent I felt we could win it then.

Pangloss: I remember the 5-0 default at the Victoria Ground in between a 6-2 win over West Brom and a 4-0 win against Forest. In particular I recall Frank Bough’s broad grin when announcing the result on Grandstand. I also remember David Coleman’s introduction to the away game at Huddersfield on MoTD, which went along the lines of “Very little is certain in football. One thing is that Arsenal always beat Huddersfield.” The team went on to lose that game 2-1. I was reminded recently that we went down to a penalty awarded against Frank McLintock for a foul outside the area. As far as I remember, the family was fairly upbeat about Arsenal’s chances that spring due, curiously enough, to a good Scotland performance in the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham. Thanks to the glories of Wikipedia, I find that England won 16-15. Go figure!

North Bank Ned: We’d had a solid first half of the season, wobbled in January, then recovered. But it was nip and tuck with Leeds all the way until we got our noses in front late on. Then with four games to go, with a draw at West Brom, followed by a controversial loss at the death to Revie’s thugs at Elland Road and with the knowledge that we had to go up the Seven Sisters Road for the last game of the season, it all started to look as if it was going a bit pear-shaped right at the end. I had a good friend who was a die-hard Leeds fan. He had been losing heart as we whittled down their lead in March and early April with some narrow wins through late goals. But the 1-0 win at Elland Road convinced him that was the turning point that would take them to the title. To lose that game to a goal in injury time that was indisputably offside did make it feel like the footballing gods were setting us up for heartbreak.

From mightyleeds.co.uk

Esso: I followed results in the newspapers, as a family we didn’t have a TV, so was not really that close to it.  I really started to take interest after the semi-final replay result, but more in a Cup win, then any thought of a double.  My enjoyment in Cup wins started with the Anderlecht result in 1970.

Bodrum GooneressI suspect I had been sceptical.  My scepticism had already been shaped by the 3-1 defeat at Wembley by Third Division Swindon Town in 1969, the result of which were persistent nightmares of a certain Don Rogers who had scored two goals in extra time.

Clock End Rider: Every season back in these days started with the wonder of what was going to happen.  Anything was possible. Although the family always tempered that with a large pinch of realism, especially my grandad who had seen some of the great sides of the 30s.

Did you make it to White Hart Lane that evening? If so how did you get in? How did you spend the evening if you weren’t there? 

Uplympian: Quite understandably it was a match that every Arsenal supporter wanted to go to – the chance to see and cheer our team on and winning the title at our neighbours – the first half of winning our own double – how sweet! Apart from buying tickets for seats in the stands, it was standard practice to turn up on the day and pay at the turnstiles – this match was no different. The big matches meant arriving earlier than normal to ensure you got in. The excitement and anticipation guaranteed that this was going to be a full house (and some) so most of us realized that an early arrival was required. 

I was by now living and working in West Middlesex so I arranged to meet my pal Mike at Seven Sisters underground station at 5.45 (just under 2 hours from kick off). We decided that a long walk up Tottenham High Road was probably not the safest thing to do, so we transferred to the overhead line and somehow squeezed onto the first train for the short run up the line to White Hart Lane. The train was absolutely rammed with supporters of both teams but far too crammed for any trouble to start. We were all sucked out of the train when it got to WHL station to encounter a huge sea of football supporters – many, many more decked in red & white than lillywhite. Everyone “walked” the short distance to Tottenham High Road to find it rammed full of even more supporters – there were so many it was difficult to make any progress at all. The word was being spread that the ground was already full and the gates closed. Most people optimistically thought this was an exaggeration and a rumour went around that people were still being allowed in at the southern end of the ground. Extremely slowly the crowd worked their way towards this part of the ground but indeed this was false optimism, the gates were locked with no possibility of entrance. So huge numbers (there were estimates of at least 50,000, quite possibly tens of thousands more) remained outside totally disappointed. 

It was still more than an hour to go before kick off! Mike & I decided not to stay on longer and probably it would not be wise to seek liquid refreshment in any of the local pubs. He now lived in South Herts so we bid our farewells at the station as he travelled the relatively short journey northwards and I had the longer journey to return to my place of work at Perivale and then drive another 25 mins home.

From arsenal.com

TTG: My boss returned from lunch about 3.30 (this was the City in the seventies!) and said he had been at Liverpool Street earlier and had seen people queuing around the block to get into the station. I didn’t believe him at first but he was insistent so I left work early. The game had been postponed from earlier in the season and was not all-ticket. Liverpool Street Station was rammed but I forced myself onto a train and arrived at White Hart Lane about 5.30 pm. 

There was a weird atmosphere, not the heady excitement you get at a big game, there were just too many people. I walked around the ground as best I could but every side was packed with no proper queuing and the police were not in control. The turnstiles were not open. I think they opened at 6pm! I think the turnstile operators couldn’t get there from work. I decided to try to get in the Park Lane End but it was getting very dangerous. A couple of cars were turned over and I heard women screaming. Meanwhile people were pouring in from the station and around Tottenham High Road. 

A policeman in the melee shouted to us to stop pushing. He said to me, “Go home son. People are going to be killed here tonight!” I had never wanted to see a game more but something told me this situation was ultra-dangerous. I squeezed out of the area and caught a train back to London. I remember for a split-second being able to see into the ground as the train pulled away and my heart sank.

Pangloss: I made it to WHL that night in May, but the gates were closed when my big brother and I were within a couple of dozen people of getting in. My principal memory of the night is the trip home on the top of a bus with some others who had also been locked out.

Trev: The Arsenal needed a win or a goalless draw to take the First Division title. A score draw was no use and would have had Leeds United crowned champions on goal average. Leeds United of all teams – the detested “dirty Leeds” of Don Revie, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles et al. For that reason alone, we had to win – but mostly because it would possibly be a magnificent double for us – one that would also eclipse Spurs’ own double of ten years before.

We left in mid-afternoon to get to the ground in what should have been loads of time. We did make it fairly comfortably into the ground, unlike the thousands who found themselves locked out, having arrived at a more usual time.

I realise now that I didn’t even know which end of the ground we were in – Park Lane, Paxton Road ..? At the time I neither knew nor cared. We were very young, excited, scared and, with my friend’s dad, we were in.

I don’t remember much about the game except that it was tight, tense, with few real chances on goal and we were shaking with nerves throughout, just wishing it could all be over while we were still going to be Champions.

One of my very few clear recollections of that night is watching Geordie Armstrong, so close to the end of the game, clip that cross towards Ray Kennedy who jumped right in front of us and headed home the best goal I had ever, ever seen!

From arsenal.com

Here’s a video clip that perfectly recalls the scene: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BdALY2fLvq4

I was bang in the middle of that mayhem on the video clip – right behind the goal. Manic jumping, singing, shouting, bonkers madness, and a tingly relief and disbelief. We’d done it – we really had actually done it!

From arsenal.com

But then came the other, darker side of football supporting in the 1970s. Right behind us a gang of Spurs fans charged in looking for revenge. The celebration turned into something quite different as a vicious fight broke out. I didn’t see much of the detail as I, and those around me, were sent flying down the rows of terracing in front of us. Then a weird semi-calm descended as the fight died down, but the damage was done. I remember watching some men who were carrying a stabbed Arsenal fan through the crowd towards the front of the terracing, looking for medical help. Fear took over the rest of our victory celebration until we were eventually safely back in the car. 

That sadly was to become the way of supporting your team in the Seventies. The highs and lows of following the team you loved, tempered by the almost ever-present threat of violence.

Those occasions and those base instincts get into your soul though. They are the reasons why there’s nothing you can do about it – your club is for life.

TW: Great memories. One of the best in my life. I was at both games. My mum wrote me a note saying I had an urgent dental appointment to get me off school – good parenting or what?! My mate Barry Lovell and I queued up at Spurs from midday. What a night! At times I was on my knees with the crowd sway.

North Bank Ned: I did not. I really can’t remember, but I must have listened to the game on the radio, probably by myself in my rooms as it was mid-exams. I remember that a 0-0 draw would have done, so we had a hand on the title throughout, which was both reassuring and nervous-making. But Ray Kennedy’s header at the end meant we won the league with a clean win, and by a clear point, not goal average, as it was then. Much more satisfying! Did I mention that we won the league at White Hart Lane?

From arsenal.com

Bodrum Gooneress: No, I had nobody to take me to White Hart Lane and I was one year from disappearing to matches on my own without my parents noticing my absence, so I listened to it on a tiny transistor radio in the back yard, kicking a ball against the wall.  My poor mother!  With two older brothers, she had so wanted a girl and ended up with an Arsenal crazy daughter who shunned dolls and raced her dolls’ pram around the garden as though in pursuit of a Formula One win.  I swear I could hear the crowd that night from the garden of our new abode, particularly the roar of the Arsenal fans when Ray Kennedy’s winner went in though it’s likely that at a distance of about 2½ miles from the ground my memory might be playing tricks.

From arsenal.com

Uplympian: I eventually arrived home after 9pm and awaited updates on the radio (no live tv matches in those days or even ceefax) to learn it was 0-0 at half time. Then the news came through that Ray Kennedy had scored with just a few minutes left. Shortly after came news of the final score and that we were the champions – never in doubt! My non-football supporting wife looked on in bemusement at my celebratory behaviour but she did join in with me to raise a glass or two.

The following day was our wedding anniversary so I deemed it a practice run!

Next day at work my mood was euphoric. Later on, my pal Mike rang – not to join in but to advise that his father had collapsed and passed away earlier that morning (he had had serious heart disease for some years). My euphoria dissipated and I hoped it would return for the second part of our double at Wembley on Saturday.

 TTG: I got a bus home to my house in Norbury. My parents were very surprised to see me but Mum had heard on the news about the danger building up there and was very relieved to see me back home.  She never liked me going to White Hart Lane just because the first time I went they arrested an Arsenal fan with an air rifle in the Park Lane End! Mothers, eh! 

The game wasn’t live on the radio but they kept returning to it every few minutes. It was unbearable! My Dad worked at night at the Times and left just after kick-off.  I got increasingly nervous as the game wore on. With five minutes to go they paid their final visit and Peter Jones said, “When we return we will know the identity of this year’s league champions.” A record was put on and then the announcer cut in and said that they were returning to White Hart Lane where there had been a goal. Heart in mouth, I listened as Jones described Ray Kennedy’s header and then pointed out it meant nothing if Tottenham scored! 

Two minutes later they returned to proclaim the joyful news just as Dad phoned from the Times to tell me we were champions. Boy, it felt good! 

From https://twitter.com/touchofpowder/status/1386205766466609153/photo/1

Esso: No chance!  I’d still never even been to Highbury.  I listened on a tiny transistor in bed, till Mum swept into my bedroom shortly after half-time and announced – “School tomorrow – that’s enough for now!”  The next morning, I turned transistor on as soon as I’d woken up but could tell by the look on Mum’s face it just had to be good news – and it was!  I don’t think I will ever forget the raucous noise of Arsenal fans celebrating on Tottenham’s home turf, which was the accompaniment to the report on the radio.  

From arsenal.com

Any final thoughts? 

TTG: I look back on that night and my biggest emotion is pride and delight mixed with a realisation that it could have been another Hillsborough twenty years earlier. The police were totally unprepared for the size of the crowd and to think that it was not an all-ticket game was scandalous and negligent.  There were reckoned to be 100,000 people trying to get in and if anyone remembers the old White Hart Lane, it was a cramped and dangerous ground even at normal capacity. The seventies were a very dangerous time to watch football. Or on that evening not watch football! I still remember that night, feeling euphoric but realising I might not have made it home.

Esso: I didn’t really celebrate overtly at school on the Tuesday morning, but felt a special sort of glow inside, which I can’t really put into words.  The following Monday in the school playground was a different matter, but that’s another story all together.

From arsenal.com

Please share your own experiences of this historic season and that epic night at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road in the Drinks.


THE CONVERSATION: EPISODE ONE

If you haven’t yet watched our exclusive video of Bob Wilson and Pat Rice’s conversation about the ’70-71 League Campaign, click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane”

Or, watch here: Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.

And, as well as sharing any reminiscences about that famous night at the Lane, let us know what you think of Episode 1 in the Drinks below!


THE AUCTION: NOW ACCEPTING BIDS

We are also pleased to announce our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above.

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.


THE CONVERSATION: EPISODE ONE

Finally……

after more than six weeks of preparation, a fourteen day count down, nearly three hours of interviews, and endless Transatlantic coordination GHF.com are pleased to release the first episode of two video conversations with Bob Wilson and Pat Rice about Arsenal’s 1970-71 Double year.

In this episode we have Peter LeBeau and Paul Brooker from GHF.com discussing with Bob and Pat the 1970-71 League campaign, and Arsenal winning the League for the first time since 1952-53.

As this commemoration is in support of the Willow Foundation, if you watch and enjoy the video (or even if you don’t!), donate whatever you can to Willow. Or, check out the GHF.com Auction for Double-related memorabilia, and bid on the lot(s) you’d most like to have! All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.

Click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane”

Or, watch here: Episode One: We Won the League at White Hart Lane (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.

Let us know what you think in the “drinks” section below!


THE AUCTION: NOW ACCEPTING BIDS

We are also pleased to announce our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above.

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.


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