1978 Arsenal pre-season: recovering from the cup final defeat, but then losing to Rotherham

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal ended the 1977/8 season with some very up and down form.  For example on 4 March 1978 we had the result Arsenal 3 Manchester City 0.  This was the first win in six league games but also a part of a run of nine undefeated.

Some of that nine unbeaten run showed promise.  For example on 25 March Arsenal 4 WBA included a hat trick for Macdonald  with the other goal from Young.

But there was much greater interest on 8 April with Arsenal 3 Orient 0 played at Stamford Bridge.  It was Arsenal’s 13th FA Cup semi final, Macdonald scored two, continuing his run of scoring in each round.  Rix got the other.

The end of season also saw the normal outings for one or two young players.  22 April 1978 was John Devine’s first league game and the result  Leeds 1 Arsenal 3.  It was the first Arsenal win at Leeds for 40 years and Pat Jennings captain for the first time.  Stapleton and Macdonald scored – the third was an og.

It all looked good until 6 May 1978: Arsenal lost the FA Cup final to Ipswich which they had been widely tipped to win.  Ipswich approached the game claiming they had to play injured players to make up the numbers, but it was Arsenal who performed poorly to lose 1-0.

The league ended on 9 May 1978 with Derby 3 Arsenal 0, as Arsenal ended the in fifth position.  The game marked the last appearance for Alan Hudson and for John Matthews

The Pre-season

25 June 1975: Steve Gatting signed as apprentice professional.  He became a professional two years later and played his first game with the first teamas a sub versus Lokomotiv Leipzig on September 13, 1978 which Arsenal won 3-0.

27 June 1978: Paul Davis joined Arsenal as a professional.  He had signed for Arsenal in 1977, and played for the first team for the first time against Tottenham on April 7 1980 at Tottenham.  We won 2-1.

5 July 1978: Paul Barron joined from Plymouth as cover for Pat Jennings and went on to play eight games before moving on to Crystal Palace.  In all he played over 400 games before retiring and becoming a coach in the USA.

The Pre-season friendlies

26 July 1978: Kaiserslautern 3 Arsenal 0

  • 28 July 1978: Borussia Dortmund 0 Arsenal 1 (Rix)

This was the first game for goalkeeper Paul Barron as he came on as a sub for  Pat Jennings.  

  • 5 August 1978: PSV Eindhoven 2 Arsenal 0
  • 8 August 1978: Celtic 0 Arsenal 3 (Stapleton, 2OG)
  • 12 August 1978: Arsenal 1 Crystal Palace 1 (Stapleton)

On 16 August 1978 John Matthews was sold to Sheffield United.  He had played 43 league games for Arsenal but went on to over 100 games for Sheffield Utd before moving on to Mansfield.

The season begins

On 19 August 1978: John Kosmina played his first and last game for Arsenal as a substitute in the match against Leeds.  He had transferred from Adelaide City earlier in the year and the following season left to play for West Adelaide Hellas.

On 22 August 1978 Paul Barron made his debut in a 1-1 draw away to Manchester City.  Macdonald scored for Arsenal.

28 August 1973: John Matthews moved from being an apprentice to being a professional.  He made his debut one year later, and went on to play in 45 league games before leaving in 1978.

I think it is fair to say that none of this prepared us for what happened on 29 August 1978 on which day Arsenal lost 1-3 to Rotherham in the Football League cup, despite putting out the regular first team.  The defeat came on top of two draws and a defeat in the opening matches in the league season.

Searching around for a way to give the team a boost, on 13 September 1978 Steve Gatting was given his first appearance for Arsenal versus Lokomotiv Leipzig; Arsenal won 3-0.  He then retained his place throughout much of 1978-79 but did not appear in the cup final against Manchester United.  

Meanwhile on 22 September 1978: Chris Whyte given new contract.  He played 90 league games between 1978 and 1986 plus 13 on loan to Crystal Palace.  

And seeming to have recovered from the league cup defeat on 27 September 1978 Arsenal got their biggest Uefa Cup winning margin beating Lokomotiv Leipzig 4-1 away.  Brady, two from Stapleton and then Sunderland, were the goalscorers.   It was also the first game for Paul Vaessen

Thus the season got going – the disappointment of the cup final being edged out of the memory, and another season of promises but no reason threat to winning the league.  There was however one moment (other than the cup final of 1979) which those of us who were there will never ever cease to remember…

23 December 1978.  Tottenham H 0 Arsenal 5.  The Brady goal from this game has regularly been used as part of the pre-match entertainment at the Emirates.  John Motson’s commentary has also become famous as he said, “Look at that, oh look at that.  What a goal by Brady!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *