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.
|5||West Ham United||24||12||5||7||54||47||1.15||29|
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.
|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|
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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