11 April 1977: Arsenal beat Tottenham – Tottenham get relegated.

by Tony Attwood

On 11 April 1977 with 47,432 in the crowd the score was Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0.   The result edged Tottenham closer to the second division and took Macdonald, who scored, a little closer to the Daily Express’ prize of £10,000 to be given to the first player to get 30 goals in the season.  It was also a great relief to Arsenal who had just ended a run of eight consecutive defeats.

Yet despite that run of consecutive defeats, Macdonald had 22, and he needed eight goals from seven more games.

For this game Mac had tooth abscess and claimed he had not slept all night    Otherwise it was “lifeless”, the Tottenham  manager said, as well as trotting out the other chestnut used by losing managers everywhere: “other results went very badly for us today.”  Tottenham were 21st out of 22 in the first division.  Arsenal were ninth.

For the goal Osgood hesitated trying to pass back a long through ball from Brady that he had intercepted.  Macdonald slipped in between defender and keeper and scored.   Tottenham’s substitute keeper Daines kept Tottenham in the game to the end despite further efforts from Macdonald and one from Price.

Meanwhile playing against his old comrades, Willie Young needed stitches in his forehead. The crowd expected nothing else.

But just because Arsenal’s awful run of defeats had ended it didn’t mean all was sweetness and light, nor victory after victory, and so it proved with the visit to Liverpool which ended on April 16, Liverpool 2 Arsenal 0, 48,174 in the ground.

The newspapers were full of Liverpool’s attempt to go one better than the Arsenal of 1971 and win the treble and buoyed by their drive to the championship, Liverpool managed to beat Arsenal at Anfield for the first time in four years.

For Arsenal Rimmer was the hero, keeping the score to a respectable level.  Throughout Arsenal looked nervy, and back passes by Rice and Brady put them into trouble.  In the end, Liverpool relied on rebounds from shots, Neal and Keegan having little to do save boot the ball over the line.

After that it was back to the more mundane fair as Arsenal beat Coventry 2-0 at Highbury, to reassure fans that one defeat did not mean the start of another appalling run.   But the damage of that run had been done, as shown by the fact that just 22,790 showed up.   Rix got another outing when Ross went off, and Macdonald and Stapleton scored.

But the wins were not over and on 25 April there was another: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0.   But still the crowd was on the small side: 24,011.

Armstrong, who had been asking for a transfer but was still at the club and back in the team got one of the goals, Nelson and Macdonald providing the others.

And in case the fans were thinking that all this talk of revival was all right, that it was all just a case of winning home games, while picking up what they could away from home.  And indeed on 30 April Arsenal won away, with the result Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 2, 44,763 in attendance, and the issue of Macdonald still on everyone’s lips.

The result made it six wins out of seven matches with  Macdonald (of course) and Matthews scoring,  Pat Howard, very much a stop-gap player for the season, making his final appearance.

This was Macdonald’s first return to Newcastle after his £333,333.33  transfer and with Newcastle protecting an unbeaten home record and having just gone 11 without defeat, it was anticipated in the press that Arsenal’s recovery period would come to an end.

The Newcastle fans directed chants of the utmost obscenity Macdonald’s way, which was expected of course, and only seemed to spur him on further.  They were only silenced when Macdonald scored on 42 minutes.  Stapleton took the corner, and Supermac headed home from five yards.  Silence reigned.  The second came on 55 minutes as Matthews scored with a shot that hit the keeper and bounced in.  From then on Macdonald spent the game shooting every time he got the ball.

The table at the end of April had a slightly healthier ring at the top end, and an amusing scenario at the foot of the table.  Arsenal had come out of their appalling run of defeats and were seventh.  Tottenham were sinking fast.

As the football season drew to a close, on 28 May 1977, Wimbledon, champions of the Southern League, were elected to the Fourth Division at the expense of Workington.

Then on 31 May England lost to Wales at Wembley, followed by a defeat to Scotland at the same venue on 4 June 1977.   The press made much of the invasion of the pitch by Scottish fans.

Finally, on 4 July 1977, six weeks after winning the FA Cup with Man U., Tommy Docherty admitted his affair with Mary Brown, the wife of the club’s physiotherapist.  The club’s directors decided that he had broken the moral code of the club and he was sacked.

Liverpool won the league, Arsenal finished the season in 8th, and Tottenham came bottom and were relegated, so it wasn’t all bad.


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