By Tony Attwood
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On this day the result was Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1. The result left Arsenal in sixth and Tottenham in 19th
|8||West Ham United||21||10||1||10||28||32||-4||31|
So some pleasure for Arsenal supporters who liked to enjoy the dismay of those at the other end of Seven Sisters Road, but we were also feeling perhaps we ought to be doing a bit better ourselves.
But did anyone on this day put a bet on where Arsenal would end up in the League that season? Few would have put a bet on Arsenal winning the double, given that we had already lost four games and were 12 points behind Manchester United?
Yet of course, if you know your history you will know that 1997/8 was indeed the second double season. And not only did we win the league, we ended up five points ahead of Manchester United, meaning that between this day in 1997 and the final league match of the season we gained not just 12 but 17 points on Manchester United.
So the result on this day in 1997 was the result of Game 21 of the 2nd Double Season. Ray Parlour scored.
The winning match of the season, by which I mean the game when we won the league, was a 4-0 home thrashing of Everton. You will probably still know this game, even if you were not there – because Tony Adams scored a wonder goal in front of the north bank, and just stood there, arms aloft. It is one of the iconic pictures of Arsenal and Highbury.
I have so many memories of that day. Being with Roger, my dear pal, sadly no longer with us, and turning to him at halftime and saying “we’ve done it” and him saying, “we could still throw this away.” And also thinking that “we’ve certainly got an interesting forward line in Anelka and Wreh,” and having of course no knowledge of what was to happen to both.
Plus with five minutes to go, leaning forward in my seat in the north bank upper, and looking left and seeing not the normal straggle of early leavers drifting away from the ground trying to beat the crowd, but instead the streets utterly packed solid with fans who had not been able to get tickets to be in the match and who were following it on radios outside.
So why do I write this up as a celebration of today, 28 December, and not leave it for the end of the season?
The answer is that for me, celebrations, as I look back on a lifetime with Arsenal, are not just of the moments of winning but of the whole season. In this season, I not only remember the fine finish, but the collapse from mid-October. We were undefeated and had beaten Barnsley (yes Barnsley, in the Premier League) 5-0. But then the next eight games were awful. We won two of those games, drew two of them 0-0, and lost to Derby, Sheffield W, Newcastle and Blackburn. By 13 December we were slipping, and slipping badly.
Although we started to rally around Christmas the team clearly had the ability to cause us regular supporters some serious heartache. Third round of the FA Cup in January – at home to Port Vale, no problem. We lined up
Grimandi Keown Bould Winterburn
Parlour Vieira Petit OPvermars
Not much wrong with that team. Not taking the FA Cup too lightly eh? We drew 0-0 at Highbury. Still, the replay would be fine – except that we drew that too, 1-1 in extra time. We won on penalties.
In fact, the FA Cup, which of course we won, gave us particular problems that season. We had another 0-0 at home in the fifth round with Crystal Palace, then as now (although not always) of the Premier League, and against West Ham, in the sixth, we once again had to go to penalties.
In the League Cup, we were at it again. Against Birmingham in the third round we won 4-1 but not until extra time. Against Coventry in the 4th round, there was extra time again. We finally went out to Chelsea over two legs in the semis.
As for Europe, we lost to PAOK Salonika in the first round we played in, with a draw at home and a 1-0 defeat away.
My point therefore is that we won the double, and of course, I celebrate this, not least because I was there. But there were some very difficult times and a lot of gnashing of teeth about the team’s performance on occasions. The record book doesn’t lie – a double and five points ahead, but during the season itself it was not all plain sailing.
Never give up hope!
100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever
Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.