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This superb piece is courtesy of Ray Coggin, the brother of our very own Bodrum Gooneress. Thank you Ray, for sharing your personal memories of that epic season for the Arsenal, Helen, the Scouse lass and no doubt also for Mr D that will bring memories flooding back for Gooners of a certain vintage.

I had turned 21 years old in November 1970 and the New Year of 1971 would mark the first eleven years of me following Arsenal Football Club, just over a decade of slavish devotion to a football team that has shaped everything I’ve done over the subsequent sixty-one years. The low point of those years was reached on 6th May 1966 when only 4,554 of the most hardened and dedicated loss conditioned die-hards turned up to see the Gunners who were languishing in fourteenth place, rolled over 3-0 by second placed Leeds United. 

The anger of being bullied out of a 1968 League Cup final against Don Revie’s “Dirty Leeds”, was followed by the embarrassment of defeat in the same competition the following year by third division Swindon. The 1960s had been marked with consistent underachievement, but then the new decade had begun with a wonderfully atmospheric night in April 1970 and the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup triumph over the Belgians of Anderlecht. 

Our manager at the time was Bertie Mee. I met Mr. Mee on a number of occasions, the first of which was as a schoolboy of about 12 years old when I was kicking a ball against the wall outside the old East Stand main entrance. It was a midweek afternoon during half term and I had gone to seek a few autographs. I spied Bertie Mee who was then our physiotherapist approaching the steps and asked him to sign my book which he did willingly. He asked me if I had ever looked inside at the dressing rooms and offered to take me in until the jobsworth inside the main door in his Corps of Commissionaires uniform intervened. “You can’t bring him in here without written permission.” Bertie looked at me and apologised, so that was that! In later years I met him on at least three different occasions on trains coming home from away matches and he would always have a polite conversation. 

Immortalised in a famous chant of the day, legend had it that Bertie Mee had asked Bill Shankly if he’d heard of the North Bank Highbury? Of course, he had! Despite this though it seems that he wasn’t universally loved.  A couple of years before we moved to the Emirates Stadium, I had been given a gift of a Legend’s Tour at Highbury. It was to be conducted by none other than Double-winning hero Charlie George whose biography by Reg Hayter was sitting on a shelf at home, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get Charlie to sign it.  When I asked him, he looked through the book as if he hadn’t seen it for a long time, mentioning what a lovely bloke Reg Hayter had been and then pausing on a picture of Bertie Mee, “Not that **** though!” The bitterness clearly ran deep, he signed the book as he elaborated a bit more about the fact that he thought Mee had treated him pretty poorly and he had never forgiven him. 

There was no doubt though that probably against the odds, Bertie Mee had turned Arsenal from a club in the doldrums to a force to be reckoned with and finals and trophies accompanied his tenure. Sadly, it began to unravel towards the mid-seventies and his era concluded after a decade in 1976.

So, the new season of 1970-71 was one charged more with hope than expectation. Leeds United and Liverpool had lit up the previous decade and threatened once more but our close rivals along the road had already “touchéd” our European success by winning the league cup in February ’71. They too were having a good season, eventually finishing third in the league which made their season look quite successful. Oh, the joy we felt as they were to be overshadowed by their perennial superiors from Highbury. The league campaign for Arsenal had been a tight affair with Leeds United going toe to toe with us throughout the season, but by the end of April it looked like we were in with a serious chance of getting our first league title since 1953.

Of course, if we were going to do it, it would have to be the Arsenal way. At the end of September, we managed to get thrashed 0-5 at Stoke, which came as a real shock at the time, because we were for the most part playing quite convincingly. However, that defeat was to set us on a run without further defeat that lasted until January when we began to nosedive again, losing three away games on the spin conceding an aggregate of six goals while only scoring one. 

In November, our League Cup campaign was going ok until I ruined it by convincing a pretty young blonde called Helen to join me on the terraces. I had proudly told her that she would love an exciting evening’s entertainment watching the league’s top scorers who hadn’t lost at home since the previous January. Having forced a replay by drawing at Selhurst Park, we looked forward to a goal fest at Highbury. It didn’t go well. Helen and I stood on the corner of the North Bank by the Gillespie Road entrance to save her being jostled by most of the 45,000 crowd that expected an Arsenal win, which must have included most of the Palace supporters to be honest. 

Palace featured a Scottish striker called Gerry Queen of whom Helen remarked quite early on “Oooh, he’s nice!” Not when he pounced on a half chance to score in front of the North Bank in the fourteenth minute he wasn’t! I was annoyed and she laughed. Maybe this wasn’t to be a match made in heaven? Arsenal dominated and threatened to score on several occasions with George Graham guilty of missing a hattrick of chances the worst of which was after beating keeper John Jackson he managed to hit Eddie Kelly with his shot. A dubious second half penalty slotted home by Bobby Tambling added to our woes and Helen was banned from further matches. A 0-2 defeat that was widely accepted as a robbery, aided and abetted by referee Mr. Norman Burtenshaw of Great Yarmouth, but disappointingly no one was charged with any offence. It handed Tottenham the gift of silverware that season, an offence in its own right. Oh well, we were left to concentrate on the league. Oh! and the F.A. Cup. In 1966 whilst a Chelsea player, the same Bobby Tambling had come to our school to give a talk about being a footballer, when asked for questions from the floor I piped up with a cheeky “Is the money good?” He looked at me with a smile and said, “All money’s good son.”

Bertie Mee has proved to be the catalyst for Arsenal’s sustained success over the following half century, his policy of bringing through players from the youth team continued to be replicated until the emergence of the super-agent period, which in my view has had a negative impact on the game in this country. I wonder at the philosophy of importing so many foreign players most of whom are journeymen with a few notable exceptions, when all it does it is stifle our own home-grown players. I fear for Emile Smith-Rowe if Ødegaard keeps him out of the current team. Players like George Armstrong and Ray Kennedy were key to the double winning side of ’71. 

Kennedy’s goals including the header that actually won the league at White Hart Lane in the last game and Armstrong’s non-stop drive, goals and tackling back would have made them both hot properties in the modern game. Added to that, if only we had the likes of the original double team captain Frank McLintock in our side today, we would be further forward than we are at present. Transformed from attacking midfielder or inside forward as we used to call them, Frank became one of the game’s best centre halves or central defenders as we call them now, his sense of timing, awareness and heading ability was second to none. 

For me though, the name that resounds the loudest of all from that season was that of Peter Storey. If only we had someone of that calibre now, I say calibre in deference to his football ability, not his leaning towards the illegal activities that saw him jailed in later years. He could tackle ferociously but fairly in most instances, he had a long throw, a great shot and would get important goals. He was our regular penalty taker and hardly ever missed. His goals from the spot would often rescue us or provide the winner. In the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, his penalty at second division Portsmouth earned us a replay and a further penalty in the replay at Highbury was the deciding factor in a narrow 3-2 win. 

I played regularly for two teams at the time and so I played every Saturday and Sunday and trained twice a week, so I missed a few of our Saturday games. I was a left sided midfielder on Saturday and a right sided one on Sunday. I would score probably six to eight goals a season for each team and got the occasional brace with one famous hattrick against the mighty Potters Bar Athletic. I was in truth a mediocre player a bit like our current Mr X, but I reckon I would have kept him out of the side. He might have made into our third team on Saturdays, they were quite good. 

And so, on the 27th March 1971, Arsenal were at Hillsborough in the semi-final of the F.A. Cup and I was playing in an important league game in New Barnet. I was gutted not to be at the semi, so our goalkeeper placed a large transistor radio in the corner of his goal tuned to the BBC and kept me informed as we were playing. My mind wasn’t really on the game I was playing in, but with one ear facing towards our goal and the rest of my face towards the opposition’s goal I did my best. Both games kicked off at 3 o’clock and for the first few minutes I was getting stuck in when Pete our goalkeeper called over and told me Arsenal were a bit under the cosh. My tackling got a little more intense and I was advised to calm it down a little by our ref. He didn’t hear me, it seems, when I muttered something like he should go and polish his glasses. There was no point in chastising him with the mantra “You need glasses ref!” He was already wearing them!

Our game went on as we continually pressed the opposition and I had temporarily forgotten about the other game for a few minutes. Pete called out to me and the other Gunners (we hadn’t yet become Gooners) that we were a goal down at Hillsborough, which caused a bigger reaction from the Tottenham fans on the pitch than ours. Peter Storey had intercepted the corner at the near post and attempted to clear, but as he tried to run forward Smith lashed it in off Storey’s foot. Commentator Brian Moore described it as “an absolutely freak goal!” A little later Storey almost equalised before Gordon Banks saved the rebound from Kennedy. 

Then disaster struck. Our golden boy Charlie George half hit a back pass to leave Bob Wilson stranded with no chance as Ritchie ran in to intercept and tapped home from two yards to leave us two down before half time. On hearing this news, I angrily lashed a ball from just outside our opponent’s penalty area that was flying upwards towards the top corner, but it kept flying upwards to unsettle the pigeons in a tree behind the goal! 

Half-time came and our game remained goalless, but Arsenal went in two down. Normally after our usual oranges and a fag we would restart our games after about ten minutes, but the professionals took fifteen minutes while they took tea and cucumber sandwiches, probably. However, after taking the lead early in the second half, goalkeeper Pete shouted as we came back for the kick off that Storey had got one back for the Arsenal and our game went up a gear as Arsenal fans on both sides were buoyed by the news. We pressed for a second which came after about another twenty minutes and another came soon after. We were 3-0 up and cruising now but still no further news came from Hillsborough. The early spring light was fading in Barnet as our game was coming to an end and my midfield duties were somewhat neglected as I was now more of a defensive sweeper in earshot of Pete’s radio. Our captain Eric was waving at me to push further up but Pete shouted that Arsenal had a penalty in the dying seconds. I thought he was winding me up, but he assured me he wasn’t, so I ran back into the goal just in time to hear two goal hero Storey secure a replay. 

The league campaign was coming to a tumultuous close by the end of April with Leeds and Arsenal neck and neck, but Arsenal had a game in hand. It looked like the deciding contest would be at Elland Road on the 26th. Leeds had two games left and Arsenal three before kick-off and Arsenal were top of the league. An exciting, hard-fought match was drawing to a goalless stalemate with only two minutes on the clock when controversy struck. Jack Charlton had abandoned his defensive role while Leeds sought a winner, was put though seven yards out and turned to slot home. “Offside!” cried Arsenal, as players surrounded referee Norman Burtenshaw. Remember him? The one that ruined my love life! Originally the match should have been under the charge of Jim Finney but he had been injured in a car crash and Burtenshaw was a last-minute substitute, proving conclusively to me that the CIA or Buckingham Palace were somehow involved. I would love to prove that Burtenshaw lived at 782 Tottenham High Road, but so far, my enquiries have drawn a blank. The controversy raged on for days. Conspiracy was the name of the game! Jack Charlton had done us again, just the same as the ’68 League Cup final. However, having watched it now, Bob McNab played him onside and the goal was good. In the end it mattered less.

Leeds were now top and their last game was at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday May 1st, which they won 2-0, so Arsenal’s task was now far from easy as we faced a final home game on that Saturday against none other than the Stoke City that had annihilated us back in September. Followed only two days later by our last game against the dreaded rivals from White Hart Lane, at their place. These days, one can imagine the furore that would accompany the decision to play such an important match with only 50 hours separating the two games. 

We eased past Stoke with a solitary goal from Eddie Kelly, but Leeds were still top of the league on 64 points. If Arsenal drew against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Leeds and Arsenal would have equal points separated only by goal average. Both teams had almost identical goal averages, but Leeds had a miniscule edge. Leeds had completed the season with a goal average of 2.400 and going into the game against Tottenham, Arsenal who were one point behind had an average of 2.414. A draw by any score other than 0-0 left Leeds with the superior goal average so only a win or a 0-0 draw would do.

On Sunday the 2nd May, the day before the Tottenham game, I had arranged to meet a young Scouser girl who was heading for a season’s work in Newquay. A few weeks beforehand, I had promised that I would meet her there over what had become the crucial weekend and I had arranged to get the train down to Cornwall the morning after the Stoke game. I had two days off as my shifts changed over at work. Now with the Tottenham game rearranged for the following day when I was committed to go to Cornwall, I was in a dilemma. Try and get in at White Hart Lane with no ticket, or keep a romantic liaison in Cornwall? I was twenty-one, two hours of torture or a night of pleasure with a Scouser? In the end it turned out that White Hart Lane’s bumpy pitch had more shape that she did, so yes, a lifetime of regret about that. 

The Cup Final itself came at the wrong time in my life as I was booked to work when the game was being played. I was working on the railway and had only been in the job for two months so had no holiday entitlement and I was too afraid to go sick, so I resigned myself to missing the game. Not only was I not to be at Wembley, but it would also be the first F.A. Cup final that I would miss on TV since 1957. A small transistor radio about my person was the only solution and I listened intently as the captains, Frank McLintock and Tommy Smith proudly led their teams out onto the pitch accompanied by the match officials led by referee Norman Burtenshaw! What? I always knew the powers that be had it in for us! 

My driver on our locomotive, looked at me as I if I was possessed by demons. I offered a garbled explanation, but he didn’t follow football and probably preferred flower arranging, I had decided. Although he was probably married with seven kids, to my mind any bloke that didn’t follow football was devoid of a normal persona. As the game progressed Peter Jones, one of the BBC radio commentators described to me and Mr. Disinterested the events as they unfolded. All along I was bemoaning the fact that I had to listen on this tinny, little yellow transistor radio. Mr Disinterested assured me he would have gone sick if it was that important. I told him he wasn’t helping.  The game lingered on goalless, but with many exciting moments as both teams had come close on several occasions.

Even Mr D was taking notice now as we shunted from one side of the station to another. We moved trains out of the arrivals platforms to make way for trains coming in as we heard of close shots and great saves. Then, just to make things that little bit worse my nemesis, Norman from Great Yarmouth had clearly and deliberately contrived an extra thirty minutes of suffering only to compound the misery further with a goal for Liverpool. I could envisage him smirking at me as Steve Heighway, who had arrived to sensational effect at the start of the season, but seemed to have remained hidden until the moment he threaded the ball between Bob Wilson and his near post to put us a goal down. However, when George Graham miskicked the ball from Eddie Kelly’s foot to equalise, my jumping and shouting on the shunting engine was only heard by Mr D who didn’t seem to appreciate it at all. In between train movements we would be sent into the headshunt at the north end of the station to await our next call. Most people remember where they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot or when they heard that Princess Diana had been killed or the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Charlie George’s famous pile driver for me was celebrated in the headshunt at Kings Cross Station only half a mile from Charlie’s home down the Caledonian Road. It was the following day before I actually saw it on TV but who could ever forget the moment that sealed the double?  

If you haven’t yet read ‘Fan Memories of the ’71 Double’ Part 1 or Part 2, or Clive’s ‘Personal Memories of the Road to the ’71 Cup Final‘ click on the links to catch up with these wonderful reminiscences. Be sure to watch both Episode 1 and Episode 2 of the video conversations with Bob Wilson and Pat Rice; Episode 2 is also linked below. Our auction of signed memorabilia is still open and about to enter its final week – check out the items below.


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 few 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. Remember to donate to Willow, or bid on the GHF.com Auction!

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!


We are also pleased to remind you that our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is open for bids through 23 May! 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.

24 Drinks to “A Personal Overview of the 1970-71 Season”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    We are of very similar vintage and I know from exchanging memories with you we lived very close to each other in South London at one stage . I was at that Palace game (minus girlfriend ) although I did occasionally take young ladies to football but I found my two favourite hobbies at the time didn’t mix !
    Loved your memories and observations . That really was a fun season although the Stoke semi final was deeply stressful as Clive’s recent account illustrated as well. I was playing that afternoon as well but I didn’t have regular updates and am rather glad I didn’t .
    Thanks for a brilliant account

  2. 2
    bathgooner says:

    An extremely enjoyable read, Ray. Thanks for the memories.

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Bravo! Thanks for the memories Ray.

  4. 4
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Ray, a great read. My Dad was at the Stoke semi-final and always reckoned Peter Storey was the only still playing at 2-0 down. Though he was a big fan of Storey and so highly biased😁

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    Bob gave us a picture which we reproduced in the previous coverage of him and Gordon Banks coming off the pitch after the replay . Both men look immensely stressed despite the fact that they weren’t running up and down like the other players. It is a great indication of the impact of pressure on elite sportsmen. Watching that game again as I did for this Banks had a shocker and was Uber jittery . And he had played in a World Cup Final. The lads were amazed how such a soft penalty was allowed to creep in because he hardly moved . Thank goodness it did
    Meanwhile Clive had turned off his transistor at Woolworths and was deeply miserable thinking we had lost !

  6. 6
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks Ray. Brilliant memories, so well expressed.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Uplympian says:

    Cheers Ray – another wonderful trip down memory lane.
    The years before the Anderlecht triumph were indeed ones of much hope but very rarely delivered. I was a clock ender and we would endure the agony and the ecstasy whatever the elements would throw at us – wind, rain, snow, fog and occasionally sunshine. The English winter without a roof.
    You brought back the memory of how dangerous it could be when the stadium was full (which meant over capacity ). When the crowd tumbled down the terraces after a goal / near miss, you learnt to stick your shoulders out to avoid being crushed – looking back it’s amazing there weren’t more serious casualties. Nowadays we do enjoy both comfort & safety in the modern stadia but the atmosphere in those full houses of yesteryear was something else.

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    Come on Brentford!

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    All on the second leg!

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Anybody but Barnsley please.

    Which probably means it’s going to be Barnsley. How many Yorkshire puddings does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  12. 12
    Cynic says:

    None. They only discovered fire 18 months ago.

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    An excellent read, Ray, much enjoyed and it brought a ton of memories flooding back.

    I liked the picture with Charlie George on the bus wearing a kipper tie so wide even Geordie Armstrong would have struggled to get a cross over it. Thankfully, I can no longer find mine…

  14. 14
  15. 15
    OsakaMatt says:

    @5 I will go and find the game TTG. On YouTube I hope

  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cynic@14: Makes him look like Richard III, but look at the studs on those boots.

  17. 17
    Osakamatt says:

    I’ll go with Bournemouth in the
    play offs just because Jack is
    playing for them – sporadically it
    seems but anyway

  18. 18
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Pictures of Charlie – I like this one. Thierry George.

  19. 19
    Trev says:

    Thanks, Ray for an excellent read – I’ve only just had time to catch up with it !

  20. 20
    scruzgooner says:

    ray, this was great. i’ve read it now a couple three times and each time i get the sense of excitement and tension that must be just a taste of what you all were going through at the time. many thanks.

    and now it’s offcial, on pravda, that luiz is gone this summer. or has that been the case and i missed it? i think ned’s right, i’ll have a word in ma8’s ear about rob, encouraging him to pair rob with marí rather than gabriel, unless we’re going 3 at the back…

    cynic, great pic. noosa, that’s freaky.

  21. 21
    Bathgooner says:


  22. 22

    […] A Personal Overview of the 1970-71 Season Late flurry gives Arsenal a tantalising glimpse of Europe […]

  23. 23

    […] ‘Personal Memories of the Road to the ’71 Cup Final‘, or Ray’s ‘Personal Overview of the 1970-71 Season‘, click on the links to catch up with these wonderful reminiscences. And be sure to watch […]

  24. 24

    […] ‘Personal Memories of the Road to the ’71 Cup Final‘, or Ray’s ‘Personal Overview of the 1970-71 Season‘, click on the links to catch up with these wonderful reminiscences. And be sure to watch […]