18 February 1978: Arsenal v Walsall

This would hardly be a game to be remembered, for it was a routine win against lower league opposition, in which Stapleton. Macdonald and Sunderland scored.

But two things marked it out.

First it was an FA Cup match en route to Terry Neill’s first cup final.  Stapleton. Macdonald and Sunderland scored and 43,789 turned up to watch.

But second, it was the first meeting of the two clubs since Walsall beat Arsenal in 1933, a result which meant Walsall had won seven games against Arsenal, while Arsenal had only beaten Walsall five times.

The tie in 1978 seemed just about as easy as a fifth found tie could be, but the build-up to this cup match gave many Arsenal fans the jitters.  The recent scores were…

  • 4 February 1978: Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 1 (Football League)
  • 7 February 1978: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1 (Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st leg)
  • 11 February 1978: Leicester City 1 Arsenal 1 (Football League)
  • 14 February 1978: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0 (Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg)

So no win in the four games, and in addition Arsenal were out of the League Cup at the penultimate round.

Thus we come to Walsall.

Stories of Herbert Chapman’s last ever FA cup game (which the defeat to Walsall turned out to be) were dragged out ahead of the match largely because the press and broadcasters were too lazy to think of anything new to fill their time and their column inches.  But three goals in 12 minutes before halftime made it certain that there would be no repeats, not least because throughout, Sunderland showed why Hudson couldn’t get into the side.

For the first goal Price turned the ball to Stapleton who shot at the near post.  For the second Rix chipped a corner to O’Leary who flicked to Macdonald to score.  Sunderland, who ran much of the match, got the third from outside the area and Stapleton the fourth from the near post.  For the visitors, Buckley made it 132 goals in 250 games and Walsall were left counting their financial take and hoping for promotion from the third division.

The team

Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Price, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Macdonald, Stapleton, Rix.

Scorers: Stapleton (2), Sunderland, Macdonald.

Interestingly none of the media made any attempt to get the real story of Arsenal’s 1930s defeat to Walsall – the array of young players that Chapman put out on that day, the fact that he then transferred several of them out of the club immediately, the condition of the ground with the fans spilling onto the pitch throughout the game…   It was all in the papers of the day, and makes interesting historical reading, but of course it would have meant the 1970s journalists doing a bit of research, and that would never do.

If you are interested there is a lot more about the Arsenal defeat to Walsall, and what happened after, on the Arsenal History Society website.

For thoughts on Arsenal today please see Untold Arsenal

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

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.

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