1980: Arsenal pre-season after trying to win nearly everything

By Tony Attwood

1979/80 ended with one of the most overloaded match schedules in the history of the club.  Perhaps the most overloaded.  

Arsenal got to the club’s third successive FA cup final (the only time this had ever been achieved by the club) but a combination of drawn games in the semi-final against Liverpool, and success in the Cup Winners Cup in reaching the final for the second season running meant Arsenal played game after game.

April contained 10 games (five in the league, three – all against Liverpool – in the FA Cup and two Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final matches).  Indeed the game on  5 April 1980:  (Arsenal 1 Southampton 1) was one of five games in 12 days.  Alan Sunderland got the goal.

Two days later Arsenal played Tottenham, the game marking the debut for Paul Davis.  Arsenal had asked Tottenham to rearrange the derby at WHL as Arsenal had not only to play five games in 12 days, but the Cup Winners Cup match against Juventus was scheduled two days after this.  Tottenham, always ready to recognise the needs of their neighbours, declined, and despite resting numerous players Arsenal won 2-1.  Vaessen and Sunderland scored.

Better still on 9 April 1980 Arsenal drew 1-1 with Juventus in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final 1st leg.  Even better than that on 23 April 198Arsenal became the first British club to win at Juventus in a competitive match. The score was 1-0 and the scorer was again Paul Vaessen who gained immediate fame but was unable to develop his career due to injury.  He later died in the most tragic of circumstances.

May was just as chaotic:

  • May 1: Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0 (FA Cup semi-final 3rd replay)
  • May 3: Coventry 0 Arsenal 1 (League, Paul Vaessen goal)
  • May 5: Arsenal 0 Nottm F 0 (League)
  • May 10: Arsenal 0 WHU 1 (FA Cup final)
  • May 14: Arsenal 0 Valencia 0 (CWC Final, Valencia won on penalties)
  • May 16: Wolverhampton 1 Arsenal 2 (League, Walford and Stapleton scoring)
  • May 19: Middlesbrough 5 Arsenal 0 (League)

The final result was significant as a win would have given Arsenal a place in Europe for the following season.  As it was Arsenal finished fourth, and Ipswich took third spot.  Even more of a blow was the fact that 19 May 1980 was Liam Brady’s last match for Arsenal, a 0-5 defeat in Game 70 of the season.  The sadness of Brady’s time as an Arsenal player is that he was there during Mee’s declining years, and the era of the only moderately successful but nearly-man, Terry Neill.

He had played 235 league games before going to Juventus for £514,000.  He later played for Sampdoria, Inter, and Ascoli before returning to London to play for West Ham.

So we were into the summer.   On 2 June 1980  Raphael Meade was given professional status.  He had been at Arsenal since 1977 but although staying until 1985 only managed 41 league games.

But then we had the strangest transfer of all.  On 12 June 1980 Clive Allen was signed by Arsenal from QPR.  However he never played for Arsenal in the league (although he played in three pre-season friendlies) and moved to Crystal Palace in a swap deal for Kenny Sampson before the season began.

The pre-season games were hardly a great success…

  • 1 August 1980: Arsenal revived the old tradition of playing Rangers, but lost 0-2 in a friendly. It was the 18th game in the series and the first for seven years.
  • 3 August 1980: Aberdeen 2 Arsenal 1 (Stapleton)
  • 9 August 1980: Vasco da Gama 2 Arsenal 1 (Talbot) (Belgrade tournament)
  • 10 August 1980: Partizan Belgrade 0 Arsenal 0.

This last game was also the last game for Paul Barron.  He moved  on to Crystal Palace and played under the management of Terry Venables but the club were relegated in 1980/1.  He then joined West Bromwich Albion in December 1982.

But this move on 13 August was utterly overshadowed by the other part of the deal –  Clive Allen’s inclusion in the deal with Kenny Sansom joining Arsenal.  

There was one more pre-season signing…

14 August 1980: George Wood signed from Everton as understudy to Jennings. He was reported to have scored for playing in goal for East Stirlingshire v Queen of the South on 9 January 1971 kicking the ball out of his area.

So on 16 August 1980 the season started, with Kenny Sampson played for the first time for Arsenal v WBA and went on to play every game that season.  Arsenal won 1-0 with Stapleton scoring.

Although a 1-3 away defeat to Coventry on 23 August in the third match looked to spell difficulty, Arsenal won three and drew the other two games in the first six, including a 2-0 win over Tottenham.  Not scintillating form, but a decent enough start

On 10 September 1980 Graham Rix made his full international debut.  He had played seven times for England’s under 21s and went on to play 17 times for the first team but without scoring.   On 20 September 1980 George Wood made his first team debut on his birthday.  The plan was that he would eventually replace Pat Jennings, but Jennings played on until he was 40, and Wood moved on to Crystal Palace in 1983.

And one other farewell to mark, early in the season.  25 October 1980 Pat Rice played his last game for Arsenal.  

Arsenal ended 1980/81 in third place behind Aston Villa and Ipswich, with WBA fourth.  We went out of the league cup in the fourth round to Tottenham, and the FA Cup in the third round to Everton.  The long, long cup run, was over.

From the Pre-season files

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