By Tony Attwood
I’ve good reason to remember this game today, as we make one of our rare appearances against Orient – and one of our even rarer appearances at Brisbane Road – simply because I was there.
By 1962 my family had moved away from Devonshire Hill Lane in Tottenham, where I was brought up, and were in Dorset, and we made occasional forays to the Arsenal, my father and I. Trips to away games were usually to matches in the Midlands and Cardiff (Dorset being somewhat short of first division sides at the time).
Quite why we were in London this August I have no idea, but maybe it was just because my father wanted to go back to the Orient – the original stamping ground of his father, who transferred allegiance to Arsenal in 1913 (see “Arsenal Til I Die” published by Legends Publishing for Arsenal in the Community, for the full story, if you are interested).
I don’t recall it being an all-ticket game, despite being the start of the season and the most local of local derbies. Goodness knows what the authorities were thinking about if it wasn’t all ticket. Maybe it was about the fact that Arsenal had finished 10th in the league the previous season and had not actually won anything since 1953. Or maybe the Orient fans didn’t actually believe that they were seriously in the first division.
But there was another twist that should have attracted attention – we had a new manager, a certain Mr W Wright, of England and Beverley Sisters fame.
There was no segregation that I can remember either – we all just queued up and got into the little ground – 26,300 according to the record books (the roundness of the number making me think it was all-ticket after all).
Our team on the day was
Magill Neill McCullough
Armstrong, Strong, Baker, Barnwell, Skirton
We won 2-1 with goals from Geoff Strong and Joe Baker. Geoff Strong had broken into the team from the reserves the previous season, playing 19 games and getting 10 goals. Joe Baker was the new man in the team – this being the era where in order to keep the crowds up Arsenal reckoned to sign a big name player every couple of seasons or so.
Geoff Strong ended the season with 18 goals, and Baker got 29 in the league – which looks a very promising set of stats, especially when you add in another 10 from Alan Skirton on the wing.
And yet, and yet, the trophy drought continued this season, and we ended up seventh in the league, and out of the cup to Liverpool in the 5th round.
The fact was that we could score goals – but we couldn’t stop them going in at the other end. Just look at some of these results from the year…
After the first two games which we won, including of course this match against Orient, we got one draw and five defeats out of the next six. In October we drew 4-4 away to Tottenham, and then a couple of weeks later beat Wolverhampton 5-4, followed by a 5-5 draw at Blackburn. We only kept five clean sheets in the whole season – which is not quite what one might have expected from a team managed by Billy Wright.
As for the game at Orient, I don’t really know. We are talking about something coming up to 50 years ago, and I was just a kid standing on the terraces with my father. We won, I remember that, and I remember Alan Skirton tearing down the right right in front of us. (Mind you I seem to recall him doing that whether he had the ball or not).
But even though the memory lets me down, its a fond memory, and as one gets older, they become more and more precious.