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“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.


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!


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.

20 Drinks to “Fan Memories of the ’71 Double – Part One

  1. 1
    scruzgooner says:

    i am going to do something i usually don’t do when i post the new post (unfair advantage, what?), but comment on this i will. reading through the reminiscences, i was struck by this from 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.”

    substitute Fairs Cup for (perhaps) Europa Leauge, and Don Howe for Mikel Arteta, and do we have a repetition developing? i still don’t see us, currently, having a team of top five players…top ten yes, but not top five.

    brilliant piece, all, thanks for sharing your memories!

  2. 2
    ClockEndRider says:

    6.21 am. Woke up. Daily ritual starts: Grab the iPad , catch up on news, quick look at the bank account, open up GHF.
    Reading through the reminiscences of that day of so many on here was a wonderful way to start the day. Really brought it to life and reminded me why it is I support our great club. Thanks so much for putting this together. You know, having moaned all season about football and the club, this has helped push me towards doing something I thought I might not – renew my season ticket this month. The thought of not being able to go to games again and relive that 2.59 ( well increasingly not) butterflies feeling as we prepare to kick off, along with the roar of “Come on you Gunners” is one I’m not ready to miss out on just yet.
    Can’t wait for the next instalment.
    Thanks again.

  3. 3
    TTG says:

    Interesting post Scruz but look at the character of that side and this current team. They’ve lost eight home games, the Double team never lost in the league but went down in a League cup replay ( of which more in a very amusing piece in a few days time by the brother of BG) Compare Leno to Wilson , Mclintock to any of our defenders ( except Tierney ) , Radford and Kennedy got fifty goals spaced through the season . Saka and ESR have a great role model in Geordie Armstrong to emulate and will serve us well but tte one thing that side was, was consistent. Our team is Jekyll and Hyde . Maybe having a core of fifteen or sixteen players helps that consistency emerge but Arsenal could use almost as many players tomorrow in one game as they used in the entire 64 games of the Double .season .
    And I hear TW is facing detention at school for bunking off fifty years ago to White Hart Lane. Shocking behaviour 😃

  4. 4
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for sharing everyone👍
    Great to read, I was 6 at the time and just about to
    watch the first football match I remember – the 71
    Cup Final but my Dad was there and told me he never
    thought we’d let in a goal so he was never worried!

  5. 5
    Esso says:

    Absolute pleasure to contribute and be associated with some absolutely fuckin’ excellent fellow Arsenal supporters.

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    What Esso said !

    Hope you’re well, mate !

  7. 7
    Countryman100 says:

    Cheers Esso!

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    Keep the donations coming everyone!

  9. 9
    Trev says:

    Just wanted to take a moment to remember that this blog only exists due to the continuing love and admiration for it’s founder, and our dear friend, Dave Faber.

    None of us would ever have even gotten to know each other if it wasn’t for his tireless work for so long on the original Goonerholic blog.

    Cheers, Dave !

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    Hear hear Trev!

  11. 11
    Bathgooner says:

    A multifaceted account that takes me right back to 1970-71, its football, its terrible fashions and its great music. Thanks for the memories!

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    Fantastic memories. Not just of the season itself and the ultimate game, but of the mix of fear and excitement that marked going to games in the 1970s.

    A fantastic testimony, too, to what it means to be a supporter of our great club, a much-needed reminder these days.

    Having listened to the first Bob and Pat interview, I have to retract my assertion that Leeds’ goal in the 1-0 defeat at Elland Road was indisputably offside. Even if it wasn’t, it should have been.

    Something else that caught my eye was the Ceefax screenshot showing Wolves lost 12 games and still came third.

    On the Scruz/TTG discussion @1 and 3, I will say no more than we weren’t that consistent in the three seasons before the double.

    And a heartfelt hear! hear! to Trev’s tribute to the Guv’nor @9.

  13. 13
    bt8 says:

    Bravo to each and every one!

    What Esso’s mum said.

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  16. 16
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, yours at 14 points to your reasoning at 3, consistency. i understand the pairings angle, but that really makes it difficult to assemble a full team mentality on the pitch. maybe it’s easier in defense, but where we have really struggled to be consistent is up front, and perhaps mixing it up so much isn’t the wisest choice to support a consistent performance.

    who’d want to be a coach, eh?

    and trev@9, you are so right. i’ve been posting the campaign on facebook (arsenal america and my local supporter’s group), and wrote this, in part, when i sent it to my family and friends:

    “A number of us who enjoyed the community in the comments section of [Dave’s] blog managed to get in touch, and we started Goonerholicsforever.com, in hopes we could continue the high standard of Dave’s writing, his sane commentary, and his compassionate love of his friends and his club. I think we’ve done pretty well.”

    here’s to dave. pints of the black stuff are lined up on the bar for one and all. anyone needing something else, shout out.

  17. 17
    Bathgooner says:

    Half way point in our anniversary celebrations and at halfway point in 1970-71 season this classy c had spent the last two months of 1970 at number one:

  18. 18
  19. 19
    scruzgooner says:

    and tying many things together, including moustache wax…

  20. 20
    scruzgooner says: