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Four consecutive defeats launch the search for a new manager

By Tony Attwood

1961/2 was the end of the George Swindin era as manager.  His record in the league had been 3rd, 13th and 7th, and in the FA Cup Arsenal had gone out in the 5th round, 3rd round and 3rd round, including in 1960 going out to Rotherham 0-2 after two drawn games.

Crowds were right down, and although most games attracted 30,000 or so, some slipped below that figure.  True, the top games against Tottenham and Man U would do better, but there was no feeling that this club was going anywhere.

Worse, 1960/1 had ended with three straight defeats, 1-3 to Chelsea, 1-5 to Wolverhampton and 1-4 to Everton.  Indeed in the last 12 games stretching from February 25 1961 through to April 29, Arsenal won just two.

For 1961/2 Arsenal brought in Laurence Brown from Northampton Town, and John MacLeod from Hibs who played 41 and 37 games respectively in the new season.  The other player who got his first games was George Armstrong, but he was at the start of his career and played just four times.

The season started as it had finished, with just two wins in the first ten, and in four of those games Arsenal let in four, against Tottenham, Leicester, West Brom and Everton.

There was however a four match unbeaten run between October 7 and October 28, a month that consisted of two wins and two draws including a welcome 5-1 thrashing of Manchester United in front of 54,099.  Skirton (2), Eastham, Barnwell and Ward were the scorers.

Starting on November 14 Geoff Strong was given a run out , and at once started scoring a goal in four out of five games between that game at December 9, before Mel Charles returned to the side.

Charles scored in the three consecutive wins on December 16, Dec 23 and Dec 26, including in the middle of the three a welcome 2-1 home win over Tottenham in front of a pre-Christmas crowd of 63,400.

By Christmas, although the problems within Arsenal’s team were apparent, the league table did not look too bad.

Pld W D L F A G.D Pts
1 Burnley 22 15 2 5 65 41 1.58 32
2 Everton 24 13 4 7 46 26 1.77 30
3 Tottenham Hotspur 23 13 3 7 45 34 1.32 29
4 Ipswich Town 24 13 3 8 55 44 1.25 29
5 West Ham United 24 12 5 7 54 47 1.15 29
6 Arsenal 24 10 7 7 41 38 1.08 27
7 Sheffield Wednesday 24 11 4 9 43 35 1.23 26
8 Sheffield United 23 11 3 9 31 39 0.80 25
9 Aston Villa 23 9 5 9 34 31 1.10 23
10 Leicester City 24 10 3 11 38 37 1.03 23

The gap to the top was only five points (even if this was the era of just two points for a win).   It was unlikely that all five clubs above Arsenal would slip and Arsenal would keep winning, but a top three finish was not impossible, which could make the following year the time when Arsenal finally reasserted itself.

But January and February were awful, returning four straight league defeats against Bolton (1-2 at home), Man City (2-3 away), WBA (0-1 at home) and Birmingham (0-1 away) before the last game in February brought a solitary win (1-0 away to Blackpool).   In the cup we beat Bradford City in the third but lost away 0-1 to Manchester United in the fourth.

In fact in the league programme from January 1 to May 1 we won just six games, lost eight and drew four.   It was obvious to everyone that Swindin, great Arsenal player that he was, had had his time as manager.

Twice in this run Arsenal let in five, at home to Villa and away to Fulham.  The great ray of light was Geoff Strong who in 20 games had scored 12.  Mel Charles had scored more but his time was over as well as the manager’s.

Arsenal finished tenth, an improvement of one place on the previous season but way behind Tottenham Hotspur, and the smaller clubs like Ipswich and Burnley.  That Manchester Utd had done worse was little compensation.

Pld W D L F A GA Pts
1 Ipswich Town 42 24 8 10 93 67 1.39 56
2 Burnley 42 21 11 10 101 67 1.51 53
3 Tottenham Hotspur 42 21 10 11 88 69 1.27 52
4 Everton 42 20 11 11 88 54 1.63 51
5 Sheffield United 42 19 9 14 61 69 0.88 47
6 Sheffield Wednesday 42 20 6 16 72 58 1.24 46
7 Aston Villa 42 18 8 16 65 56 1.16 44
8 West Ham United 42 17 10 15 76 82 0.93 44
9 West Bromwich Albion 42 15 13 14 83 67 1.24 43
10 Arsenal 42 16 11 15 71 72 0.99 43

The run of poor results in the second half of the year which began on 13 January 1962 and which gave us one win in seven, and included those four consecutive defeats, was too much for the board and they started looking for a new manager to make things better.

They found a new manager, but sadly, he didn’t do anything to turn the club around and the era of darkness continued.

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3 comments to Four consecutive defeats launch the search for a new manager

  • nicky

    Apart from George Graham, Arsenal never seemed to prosper by appointing ex players as managers. Even ex physios have had limited success.
    My memory of George Swindin as a goalkeeper is one of excitement over his displays between the posts. During WW2 he guested for a number of clubs, mainly in the North, and never disappointed in his immaculate handling.

  • Agree with you Nicky – indeed I remember one article we have done somewhere (either here or in the Uncovered series in the club programme – where we compared successful managers with their playing record. From Chapman to Wenger it has been the modest players who have been the great managers.

  • I once did a study of managers/head coaches in North American sports, and, with the exception of when they had themselves as still-active players, great players rarely win league titles as field bosses.

    English football bucks this trend somewhat, as Matt Busby, Bill Nicholson, Alf Ramsey, Joe Mercer, Don Revie, Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Kenny Dalglish, and as mentioned Graham were all very good players. To a lesser extent, so was Alex Ferguson. But Arsene Wenger was ordinary at best, and Jose Mourinho barely played at all.

    The man who did replace Swindin, Billy Wright, was one of the best players of his era, but wasn’t much of a manager. Nor was his contemporary Stanley Matthews. John Barnes, great player, poor manager. Kevin Keegan, great player, marginal success as manager. Glenn Hoddle, good grief. Arsenal icons Liam Brady and Tony Adams have hardly managed, and with no success. Same with Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, and while Roy Keane wasn’t willing to wait for Ferguson to retire at Old Trafford, his managing career has been weak thus far.

    In other countries — Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti come to mind — it works more often. Not so much in England.

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