By Tony Attwood
We left Arsenal 16th in the League at the end of December, 16 points off the leaders, Leeds, and only 7 points above the third relegation spot – newly created for this season, plus knocked out of the League cup by Tranmere. Some serious improvement was needed – and quickly.
Unfortunately this did not come Arsenal’s way as on 1 January, the score was Arsenal 0 Newcastle United 1, 29,258 turning up for the obligatory 2.15pm kick off.
The team wass interesting in that none of the new young hopefuls were used but instead, as far as possible, Mee reverted to the old guard:
Wilson, Rice, Nelson, Storey, Blockley, Simpson, Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, Kelly.
Newcastle scored on 10 minutes and 10 minutes after that Arsenal finally recognised that the game had kicked off. From that point on they had total control of the game, but the luck was against them, the run of the ball was against them, and even the ref seemed to have taken sides.
But for those first 20 minutes it was all Newcastle – Macdonald and Smith passing and passing but it was Hibbitt who scored – drawing out Wilson, passing the ball to himself as a way of rounding the keeper.
Nelson and Rice joined the attack as extra wingers thereafter, Storey and Kelly controlled the middle, Armstrong and Ball ran the show and Radford and Kennedy must have felt it was just like the old days with everything set for them to score. Newcastle retreated so much they virtually ended up in the terracing, Arsenal had shot after shot, but nothing would go for them, and that early goal sealed their fate.
Thus it must have been with very mixed feelings that Arsenal turned to the FA Cup with an away third round tie on 5 January at Norwich City watched by 21,500. Arsenal won 1-0. Norwich were the team that had knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup 0-3 at Highbury the season before, after beating Arsenal for the first time in the League game at Norwich.
The weather was described as drab, and so was the performance put in by most of the players. Norwich looked like a team who couldn’t believe they could beat Arsenal for a third time, not least because they were now facing relegation, and Arsenal looked like they simply didn’t want to do this any more. Maybe both sides were also aware that the following weekend they had to meet each other in the League.
Only Kelley and Wilson shone through, each in his own way deciding to make up for the lack of interest among the colleagues. Kelley did this by playing in defence, midfield and attack, often all at the same time, while Bob Wilson, recognising that goal was the one play Eddie could not do his job, performed to the best of his considerable abilities.
From time to time Kennedy and Simpson remembered where they were, but otherwise it was fairly awful.
Radford looked like he was setting out the role model that Nicholas Anelka would adopt in years to come while Blockley seemed to be an apprentice for a show in which he knows the horse has gone, and has already shut the stable door, and now wonders what other pointless tasks he might perform.
Inevitably it was Kelley who got the goal. As for the rest, it was best to just forget.
On the same day Christopher Buckley – the Arsenal player who became Aston Villa chairman, died. He had played for Villa until 1914 when he joined Arsenal. Because of the war he only played 56 times for Arsenal before retiring from playing in 1921. His passing was not noted by the club.
So on 12 January the match against Norwich was repeated, this time for the benefit of the league table, and Arsenal went one better beating Norwich City 2-0. The attendance went up slightly to 22,084 and a spark of the future appeared in the shape of Brady.
Ball scored at the start of each half, and each goal was enough to knock the stuffing out of Norwich for the next 45 minutes. But from the crowd’s silence it seemed as if there was a general consensus that it had all been seen before, which of course by and large it had.
Liam Brady could have had a goal early on when his shot hit a defender and just went over. Kennedy too had a shot blocked, but his attempt rebounded to Ball who scored.
Brady kept up the good form and it was clear that the visitors had no idea how to deal with this addition to the home side’s ranks. As the second half opened Ball found Kennedy on the wing who passed to Armstrong who crossed to Ball who forced in the header.
Thereafter only Armstrong looked like he really had any relish for the game but most worrying perhaps was the way Kennedy behaved in the last half hour – giving a very good rendition of a man who could not care one iota what was happening.
On 19 January Arsenal had a further chance to improve their league position with a visit to Manchester United who were languishing one place above the bottom, and who like Arsenal had thus far lost four of their home games.
38,589 enjoyed the open spaces at Old Trafford, but if any were expecting to see Brady they were disappointed. What they did see however was Kennedy get the goal on a sad cold day upon which most time was spent reflecting on the past glories of both clubs.
Arsenal of course still had their prime players in place, and they should have been better than this – Man U probably knew that their side wass nothing like the teams that they have had in the past – and that the second division was calling.
With the Gunners having no chance of winning the league, and next week’s FA cup match being the only possible hope of a route to a trophy, it was never going to be very good – but it was worse than that. Until, that is, United got a free kick, deep into the second half, Morgan chipped it on and James headed in.
Then Arsenal awoke, McNab crossed for Kennedy who turned and shot in one move, to get the equaliser. It was just like the old days – but sadly that was the only thing that was like the old days.
The following weekend saw the return of the aforementioned FA Cup, the result being Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 1. And it seemed that the Arsenal supporters agreed that the Cup was the only thing worth turning out for with 41,682 getting to the ground by 2.15pm.
Having scored the opener Villa’s Morgan was booked for wrestling two Arsenal players to the ground – the sort of offence that in years to come would have him off the pitch instantly and missing 3 games. But in 1974 all he got was a finger wagging from the ref. And so, lesson learned, he decided to kick Bob Wilson while he was on the ground. Finally the ref did his duty and sent the man off. By way of thanks giving Arsenal immediately scored – Kelly’s free kick going to Blockley, and on the Kennedy who slipped it home.
The replay, as normal was arranged immediately and on 30 January Aston Villa knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup 2-0, the crowd rising even further to an astonishing 47,821; astonishing given that this was a Wednesday afternoon game. It must have been half day closing in the Midlands.
Having been sent off in the match on Saturday for a dreadful foul on Bob Wilson Sammy Morgan was back in the team and taunting Wilson again from the off. The home crowd jeered Wilson and chanted “cheat” every time the ball came within 10 meters of the keeper and it looked for all the world as if the behaviour had its hoped for effect on 12 minutes.
Totally uncharacteristically Wilson mis-kicked the ball as it rolled towards him, it dropped to Evans who passed to Morgan who scored. The crowd became so hysterical that a by-stander might have expected there to be a need for psychiatric support to be called – even more so when Evans scored a second after 68 minutes.
Arsenal had nothing to offer in return, and so in the cups, as in the league, the decline in the club’s fortunes now looked confirmed. The history books would show an exit to Tranmere in the 2nd round of the league cup and Villa in the 4th round of the FA Cup.
|6||Queens Park Rangers||26||9||11||6||40||34||1.18||29|
|19||West Ham United||26||5||8||13||29||43||0.67||18|
Arsenal were now 17 points off the top team, and eight points off a relegation place. Perhaps the only ray of light was that Tottenham were even closer to the drop.
February however showed no immediate relief from the gloom as a mere 20,2789 came to Highbury to watch a 1-1 draw with Burnley.
Arsenal’s public response to the Cup exit was to say their were aiming for a Uefa cup spot, and with Brady now playing his third game there was a thought that maybe this could be possible. Even the dour faces in the press box recognised that the lad certainly had talent and the game looked like delivering a step in the right direction in the 17th minute with a goal from Ball. Arsenal should have had more – and had they managed it, morale as well as points would be been enhanced.
But Burnley unexpectedly decided to take the game to the Gunners for the last 2 minutes. With half the crowd already battling for a place on the Picadilly Line, Waldron ran 10 yards with the ball (something not previously seen in the game), passed to Fletcher whose shot hit Story, bounced between three defenders and entered the net.
Next up was Leeds away, and hopes were not high. Leeds were still unbeaten, and had won eight and drawn five of their home league games scoring 26, conceding nine. Arsenal had won three and drawn four of their away games, scoring 14 conceding 20.
It looked an obvious home banker, and so it was, Leeds winning 3-1 on 5 February in front of a crowd of 26,778 – the smallness of the crowd to see the top-of-the-league side being explained by the fact that again this was a midweek afternoon game.
However Leeds were at least shocked for a moment when Arsenal took the lead and then looked ready to defend the goal for the rest of the game.
Arsenal’s goal on 26 minutes came from a Rice/Brady interchange, which left Ball free and able to volley home, and it looked for a long time as if they could have had more.
Indeed the ploy of deep defence and sudden counters worked as Leeds huffed and puffed but failed to blow the Arsenal house down… until on 64 minutes Simpson slipped and played the ball into his own net while attempting to intercept a Leeds cross and pass it back to Wilson.
It was a tragedy not just for Arsenal but also for Simpson who had been having a fine game up to that point alongside Blockley,
Arsenal had no chance to re-establish their composure, and the result was a total of three goals in five minutes and the contest was over.
Worse was to follow. Arsenal now how an 11 day break until the North London derby on 16 February. Given the lowly state of both clubs the fact that 38,804 turned up might have seemed a reasonable return, but the result of Arsenal 0 Tottenham 1 most certainly wasn’t.
The team of Wilson, Rice, Nelson, Storey, Simpson, Kelly, Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, Brady should have been strong enough, even though there was still no George, but he played in the reserves and his return from injury was heralded for next week. But this game made it utterly clear that this return could not be at the expense of Brady, who was the best man on the pitch.
Brady was now being compared in some quarters with George Best, although thankfully not in terms of lifestyle, but level heads continued to point out how young the lad was, and how he had a desperate need of support around him.
Tottenham scored through McGrath on 18 minutes, and thereafter Arsenal threw everything they legally could at the home team, but to no avail. Kelly shone throughout, but of the men who Arsenal needed to make the breakthrough (Ball, Radford, Kennedy) there was not a sign save on the team sheet.
Tottenham and Arsenal had been equal points going into the game, although Arsenal had played a game more, and that meant Tottenham were now most certainly above Arsenal in the league.
But Birmingham were in the relegation zone, and Arsenal were most certainly required to beat them away on 23 February even though Arsenal had by now sunk to 15th.
The team was now: Wilson, Rice, Nelson, Storey, Simpson, Kelly, George, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, Brady and the result was Birmingham 3 Arsenal 1 and with this defeat Arsenal signalled that they could be ready to join Man U in a relegation scrap.
Howard Kendall made his home début and at first he looked unable to sort out what was going on as Arsenal took both command of the game and the lead through a Ball, Radford, Kennedy move which saw the latter score from 15 yards out.
But then in front of 29,822 paying customers, Arsenal fell apart – although why is a mystery. Gallagher scored after no one bothered to mark him. Hynd then cleared his penalty area with a hoof upfield. Storey was the only man near the ball when it returned to earth, but he was out-muscled (!) and Hatton got the second.
In the 64th minute Francis got the third, and Arsenal looked lost and worried. The only light at the end of the tunnel was once again the performance of Brady – but it looked like a very long tunnel. Arsenal had sunk to 16th.
Meanwhile after beginning the season with a 29-match unbeaten run, Leeds United finally suffered defeat being beaten 3-2 away by Stoke. They were however still eight points ahead of Liverpool.
Indeed Leeds immediately went on to lose again in a midweek match and the month ended with this sorry state of affairs…
|5||Queens Park Rangers||30||10||13||7||46||40||1.15||33|
|19||West Ham United||31||8||10||13||38||48||0.79||26|
With three teams going down, Arsenal were six points clear of Birmingham but having played two more. There were only two points for a win, but even so…
Finally after five games without a win, including three consecutive defeats Arsenal won a match, beating Southampton 1-0 at Highbury on 2 March. But at what a cost. Not only had they sunk down the league, but also the crowd was reduced to 19,210. The fact that this was the first win in five reflected the decline of Arsenal’s fortune since the start of the decade.
The press headlines suggested that Arsenal had lost any idea they might once have had of how to entertain the crowd, but after a seven match run in league and cup without a victory, only the purists worried about that. Kelly, Ball, George, (the same names as always it seems), shone through, but once again Radford and Kennedy were lost in the mire, and neither man had much idea how to turn a poor show into a better one.
If blame is to be shared, it came from the fact that relegation facing Southampton were just as poor, with only Channon looking like a first division professional. But Arsenal could not really use that as an excuse; they needed the win and got it, but the crowd said what north London thought of it all, and on seeing the reports in the Sunday papers, those who stayed away would have congratulated themselves on their decision.
Arsenal once again had no match on 8 March, because of the Cup quarter finals otherwise occupying their scheduled opponents. But any fans following radio reports would have quickly become aware of the match between Nottingham Forest and Newcastle in which there was a pitch invasion, with one Newcastle fan attacking Dave Serella of Forest. There was the usual ringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in the media, and the FA said they would act.
However Arsenal did have a match to look forwards to – a home match against Barcelona on 12 March for the George Armstrong testimonial, as arranged in return for playing a match in Spain earlier in the season to help Cruyff get match fit before his first Barcelona game. This time the score was 1-3.
Barca came to the game seven points clear at the top of their league and unbeaten in the last 15. Arsenal came knowing this was by and large a season to get over and then consider what to do next time round to things better.
Ball put Arsenal in front on the hour, from a penalty. But by and large is was not a good idea, since it woke the visitors up from their immaculate short passing patterns which alternated with sudden shots. As a result they scored three goals in eight minutes (the first two totally orchestrated by Cruyff who turned out to be everything people said about him – this being the era when according to TV stations people in the UK weren’t interested in the namby-pamby way foreigners played the game – and thus overseas games were never shown). The third just showed us all how big the gulf was between the top of the Spanish League and lower sections of Division 1.
Everyone was in awe. There were comparisons with Hungary in the 1950s. And throughout (or at least until he was taken off after the second goal to avoid Arsenal suffering more punishment) there was at Highbury one of the greatest players (my own view is, the greatest player) the world has truly ever seen.
After Barcelona it was… Ipswich Town on 16 March, and a 2-2 draw with a crowd of 22,297 with Brady once more in the team.
Ipswich were preparing for a Uefa Cup quarter final against Leipzig at the time of this game, and so could be excused from not being fully focussed. But even so they could justifiably say that they did enough to beat Arsenal. The Gunners got a goal at either end of the game from Kennedy and Simpson, but in between the defending was fairly awful. Certainly the second Ipswich goal, in which Beatie jumped unchallenged to head in, would never have been seen in days of yore.
The draw made it just one win in seven, but it was a draw, another point to add to the two against Southampton, and with things in the state they were, that was about all Arsenal could hope for.
Although perhaps they did hope for more, because more was what they got on 23 March with a 2-0 win over Manchester City at Highbury the attendance picking up slightly to 25,319.
Gradually things were getting better – at least it was three games without defeat, But the news was emerging that Bob Wilson was going to retire at the age of 32 – a tragic loss to the game – and every keeper under the sun was touted as a replacement.
And life continued to improve in terms of not getting beaten (if nothing else) with the next match – a goalless draw at Stoke on 30 March before a crowd of 18,532.
The relevant phrase above was “if nothing else”, for this was awful. Untidy, disjointed, bereft of all ideas, a small crowd watching what seemed to be small-time football; Arsenal reduced to the level of Stoke.
Indeed Stoke lacked any sense of belief that they could beat Arsenal, and Arsenal just seemed utterly bemused as to how a team full of such proven players could ever be reduced to such a lowly position in the league. The boost that should have come from last weeks game vanished in the sunshine, and without that there seemed to be nothing left.
Arsenal’s problems were in the heart of the defence – but there was no reason why there should be such difficulties. And yet, observing them, the rest of the team acted as if they really couldn’t move forward, just in case those behind them let something awful happen. It was bizarre, it was horrible. It was not Arsenal.
But it still helped the league table look a little less awful. Arsenal looked safe from relegation and had actually climbed above Tottenham. At the top however Liverpool looked serious contenders as Leeds had contrived to suffer all the defeats they had avoided earlier in the season.
|5||Queens Park Rangers||34||12||15||7||50||41||1.22||39|
|18||West Ham United||36||10||11||15||47||54||0.87||31|
And so to the dying embers of the campaign. Out of both cups early, as noted above, flirting (if only for a moment or two) with relegation, this season was the greatest warning that Arsenal, its manager and its board of directors could have.
On 2 April 1974 Jimmy Rimmer signed from Manchester Utd. It was a signing that came after the transfer deadline day (31 March) and so everyone believed that Rimmer would play his first league game the following August.
In the following three seasons he was Arsenal’s first choice keeper and played 124 league games.
But such a change wasn’t really going to happen this season, as on 6 April we had Arsenal 0 West Ham United 0. The crowd was better at 37,868, but against WHU it is always better. Brady was dropped again and we plodded along with the old guard:
Wilson, Rice, Nelson, Storey, Blockley, Kelly, Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, George.
The highlight of this match was a battle between one young supporter who ran on the pitch, and the six burly officers of the law who gave chase. As expected the law won but it was a close thing.
Meanwhile the crowd pondered yet again: how could the likes of Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy and George be on the pitch together and not fashion chances, let alone a goal? WHU were not much better, but at least they only had Brooking and Robson from their roll of honour who they could blame. Arsenal tried hard in the second half, but it was more Keystone cops than skilful football.
One interesting side note came with the suggestion in the Observer’s report that evening TV was turning humdrum games (such as this) into exciting affairs through skilful editing and hyped commentary in order to keep the TV audiences up. It was quite probably the first time such an accusation was made – and it was undoubtedly true.
Sadly the newspaper failed to go further or to continue its examination of how the media manipulates football – but then, it the Observer was part of the media after all and the Sports Editor probably vetoed any further comment.
A tiny spot of light at the end of the tunnel arose with the next game on 13 April which ended Chelsea 1 Arsenal 3, 29,152 meandering around the empty wastelands of Stamford Bridge’s 80,000 capacity.
The difference between the teams was simple. When Armstrong crossed he found Radford or Kennedy waiting. When Chelsea tried the same trick – looking for all the world like a team who had never seen it done before – they forgot to put anyone in the middle.
Fortunately Arsenal showed the home team how to do it in the sixth minute. Radford back-passed to Kelly who centred for Kennedy who headed in the opener.
To be fair Wilkins did try several times to take a shot, but when he did make contact with the ball he never managed to get within 12 yards of the goal.
Swain did manage to equalise, mostly because as everyone crashed into everyone else he was the only man left standing. With his feet trapped under a litter of bodies he simply chested the ball in.
A minute later Kelly, Ball and Radford played triangles, Radford finishing it off to restore Arsenal’s lead. A minute after that Radford put Kennedy through, and despite falling over in the area the striker stuck out a leg, swung it, connected and scored the third.
But the good run of three wins and three draws in the last six had to end one day, and end it did on 15 April with a 1-3 away defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, 25,881 in the crowd. Brady at least got an appearance coming on for Radford.
Despite the recent run, this defeat left Arsenal only five points above Man U in the relegation zone – although that looked like it would be enough to save the club its first relegation since 1913, but even so was hardly comfortable. Alan Sunderland, having moved into the Wolves forward line took the game to Arsenal, and gave Wolverhampton the lead on five minutes.
Arsenal looked better at the start of the second half, but then on 55 minutes Sunderland scored again – a rocket of a shot that gave Wilson no chance. Four minutes later Kennedy got one back, but even when Sunderland left the pitch with a head injury there was always a feeling that Arsenal had no way back.
But one wonders, was it this match that convinced someone at Arsenal that this man might one day score a goal for the Gunners in a cup final?
The victory on 20 April over Derby County at Highbury by 2-0 gave further belief that Arsenal had done enough to avoid relegation, although the crowd of 26,017 suggested they had done nothing like enough to get the fans back on a regular basis.
Brady returned and Derby came into this match with the apparent notion that the rules of the game had been changed to the effect that they were only allowed out of their own half once every 15 minutes. So they spent the time passing the ball to each other, certain that a team in Arsenal’s lowly state of self-belief would never have a chance of getting beyond such past masters in defence.
Indeed it took Arsenal quite a while to believe just how odd Derby’s approach was, and it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that they took the lead through a Ball penalty after McFarland handled a Kelly shot. Surprisingly Derby hardly changed their script (perhaps thinking that the new rules meant that a 1-0 defeat was as good as a draw) and George (perhaps also thinking that regulations had been amended) made quite sure with a wicked shot on 70 minutes after a clever exchange with Ball and Armstrong. Even then Derby stayed in their own half, leaving the philosophers in the crowd to ponder the meaning.
The following Monday, on 22 April 1974 the FA finally responded to the crowd trouble in Nottingham in March. Newcastle were banned by the Football Association from hosting home cup games during the forthcoming season.
With the season petering out no one expected Arsenal to get much at Liverpool especially since on 30 March Leeds United had lost 3–1 at West Ham United, their third league defeat in a row, handing control of the title race to Liverpool, who were then four points behind with three games in hand.
Bertie Mee chose the Liverpool match on 24 April to be the first for Jimmy Rimmer, the man chosen as the replacement for Bob Wilson.
Going into the match the top of the table was
Liverpool therefore needed to win their three remaining games and hope Leeds lost their remaining match, to take the title.
And to everyone’s surprise it ended Liverpool 0 Arsenal 1 with 47,997 in the crowd meaning Leeds were champions. The result was unexpected, for this was Liverpool’s first home defeat of the season that had given them 18 wins and just two draws). And Arsenal had hardly been a threat to anyone all season. And yet…
Arsenal controlled the match and scored in front of the Kop, and the hardy band of Gunners’ supporters in the crowd were left wondering why on earth this self-same team couldn’t have played like this all the way through the campaign.
Liverpool pushed and pushed, their supporters sang their incomprehensible songs and Arsenal stood solid, blocking, trackling and saving. Rimmer – who was allowed to play for reasons that were not made clear, for he was signed after the deadline day – was in particularly fine form.
So the champions were crowned, but not at this game, and as always the season had to be finished off and on 27 April we had Coventry City 3 Arsenal 3 with 19,945 in the crowd.
For the record, Arsenal’s team was much as expected being, Wilson, Rice, Nelson, Storey, Simpson, Kelly, Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, George. Rice, Radford, and Kennedy did the honours.
If you were an Arsenal fan looking for a report on this end of season affair of no consequence you’d have been hard pressed to discover it in the press or on TV, because all attention was on Old Trafford. Manchester United went into the Manchester derby needing to beat Man City to stand any chance of avoiding relegation, six years after winning the European Cup.
In fact former Man U player Denis Law scored Man City’s goal to give them a 0-1 win. But a win for Birmingham City meant Man U were down anyway.
During the game play was abandoned for a period after a fire was lit behind one of the goals. The police moved in, and when the players returned to the pitch there was immediately a pitch invasion in a deliberate attempt to get the match abandoned and so stop Man U going down. I’ve been trying to find it Man U were punished for this, but can’t see anything.
The season came to an end on 30 April with a 1-1 home draw with Queen’s Park Rangers with 40,396 in attendance to say farewell to Bob Wilson.
As a result of the game, QPR ended the season as London’s top team, Bob Wilson said sad farewells, everyone thought he had retired too early, Alan Ball broke his leg fouling Terry Venables (the QPR captain), and the resultant substitute – the find of the season no less – Liam Brady, scored.
Stan Bowles gave QPR the lead on four minutes, from a 25 yards freekick, and shortly after Pat Rice had to clear off the line keeping Arsenal in the game. Arsenal’s only first half reply was a George free kick which hit the bar. In the second half however Arsenal did everything to get back into the game, and it was no surprise when Liam Brady scored his first ever goal in the league.
And so, Arsenal bade farewell to the wonder that was Bob Wilson, wonderful goalkeeper, wonderful gentleman, wonderful inspiration, part of the wonderful Double while at the same moment Arsenal bade hello to one of the most inspirational and naturally talented footballers the club had seen since the days of Tom Whittaker.
Bob moved on to TV work with the BBC, later presenting Match of the Day, and was for many years the goalkeeper coach and mentor at Arsenal, and his love for Arsenal never once faded.
What we didn’t know at the time was that this was also the last game for Ray Kennedy. What we did find out was that on the same day Sir Alf Ramsey was sacked as England manager. Don Revie, having given Leeds the title, moved on to become England manager despite the suspicions about match fixing that had surrounded him and his Leeds team. Revie also subsequently left England ignominiously.
Meanwhile Jack Charlton marked himself down as a manager for the future having taken Middlesbrough to the second division title, 15 points above Luton in second place. Carlisle, who in 1963/4 were a fourth division team, were also promoted to the first.
Tottenham got to the Uefa Cup Final but lost to Feyenoord, while their supporters rioted. No one did anything about it. Indeed the seeming lack of action against Tottenham and Man U can legitimately be seen as the start of a problem that culminated at Heysel. Firmer action this season could have taken English football in a different direction.
And Arsenal were left with one solitary achievement from the season – 0-4 against Norwich on 15 September was the biggest away win of the season.
On 6 May 1974 Arsenal played their one post-season friendly – away to Kettering to mark the opening of new stand, and to celebrate the long standing links between the clubs. Indeed between 1896 and 1899 Woolwich Arsenal and Kettering had both played in the United League together.
Subsequently Tommy Lawton had considerable success with Kettering as a manager after retiring from playing, Tim Coleman was an ex-Kettering player, as was Eddie McGoldrick, George Swindin managed Kettering towards the very end of his career, but the most famous link was that of an Kettering man going to Arsenal: Eddie Hapgood. Indeed the previous time Arsenal played Kettering before this game was in 1927 following Eddie Hapgood’s transfer – it was part of the deal. Eddie won five league championships with Arsenal – it all now seemed so very far away.
The Kettering game was also John Matthews first game. Arsenal won 3-0 with 6270 present in the Rockingham Road ground. Radford, George and Hornsby scored.
After the sort of decline that Arsenal had seen it might have been expected that several players would join, but during the time the players were on their holiday, only Trevor Ross signed – on 15 June 1974. He played 58 times for Arsenal before moving on to Everton.
Meanwhile with Revie leaving Leeds, and Brian Clough’s stay at Brighton always likely to be short term, on 30 July 1974 Clough became the new manager of Leeds United, but his assistant Peter Taylor remained at Brighton as manager. Brighton had finished two places off relegation from the 3rd division under Clough, which is exactly where they ended the following season under Taylor. In 1976 they just missed out on promotion but finally rose to the second division in 1977. Clough, as is rather well recorded, did not flourish at Leeds.
As for Arsenal it was patently clear that the notion of cutting the playing staff right down, while reducing the activities of the youth squad, was exactly the wrong approach – as was the militaristic vision of Mee.
Their record had been
|Season||Lge pos||FA Cup||Lge Cup||
It wasn’t the decline that suggested something was wrong but the speed of the decline. The current policies were not working and something new was needed.
The series thus far
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 1: the re-birth of the club. 1969/70
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 2: preparing for the impossible. (July to December 1970)
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 3: The Golden Treble
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 4: What went so right in 1971, and why did it then go wrong?
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 5: After the double, double doubts.
- Arsenal in the 70s part 6: The winter of blossoming hope. Nov 71 to Jan 72.
- Arsenal in the 70s part 7: Revival and defeat. Feb 72 to June 72
- Arsenal in the 70s part 8: The lessons learned and the lessons ignored. 1967/73
- Arsenal in the 70s part 9: July to Dec 1972. Indiscipline and invasions.
- Arsenal in the 70s part 10: Being screwed by the league and the prelude to decline
- Arsenal in the 70s part 11: July to Dec 73, the world falls apart and Arsenal sinks.