19 April 1975: On this day in history – QPR 0 Arsenal 0; Arsenal 17th in the league

By Tony Attwood

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

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At a time when many fans are complaining about Arsenal being mid-table, it might be worth remembering this date in history.   Arsenal were in 17th and Tottenham 20th in the league with four and three games to play respectively.  Relegation for both clubs was a possibility.

Most Arsenal fans, who made up a part of the 24,362 were also listening to transistor radios (mobile phones with constant connections to everything still being some 35 years in the future) to catch the Tottenham score.

Indeed they probably got more entertainment that way for while it ended QPR 0 Arsenal 0 the score at WHL was Tottenham 2 Chelsea 0.

In the final game of the previous season, Arsenal had played away to QPR.  Liam Brady scored his first goal for Arsenal, Alan Ball was seriously injured and Bob Wilson played his final game.  This season it was as if the players remembered that match and felt that having offered so much excitement one year before there was no need to offer any more.

Clearly, most of the crowd got the message, for they had gone long before the end.   Arsenal had enough chances to win, but without Brady operating in midfield, the invention was simply not there.  Ball had an off day, Kidd can’t be expected to score in every match, and sad to say Armstrong was looking a little older every time he appeared.

This was Arsenal’s sixth goalless draw of the season and if the lesson of 1974/5 was needed to be made plain, this game did it.  The current Arsenal was not good enough.  Arsenal were 17th (out of 22, with two going down), Tottenham 19th and Chelsea 21st.

On April 23 Chelsea drew 1-1 at home to Sheffield Utd while Arsenal were busy losing 3-1 away to Newcastle in front of a 21,895.

Carlisle were long since buried.  Now it was still a case of any two of the four above Carlisle to make the drop.  Tottenham looked safest with two to play, and the next game was on April 26 1975 against… Arsenal.  It ended Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0, with 43,752 at Highbury, mostly hoping to send Tottenham down.

The Daily Express voiced the opinion that “Tottenham are simply not equipped in terms of either personnel or tactical development to face another season in the top flight”.  It was music to Arsenal fans’ ears after such an awful Gunners season.

This home victory for Arsenal – only their third since the start of February – gave Tottenham the need to get something out of their last match (against Leeds) in order to guarantee safety.  Their team boasting such notables as Perryman, Knowles, Jones, and Jennings looked lost.  Arsenal were not stunning, but were just about good enough.

The press’ verdict in general was that Brady, Rostron and Hornsby represented the future for Arsenal.  For Tottenham no future in the top division could be seen.

On April 28 1975 the 15th and 16th clubs played out their meaningless game and it ended West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0, 30,195 at the Boleyn Ground.

Tottenham beat Leeds Utd 4-2, and so saved themselves.  But as for Arsenal and the question of what next, these last few games gave no clue.  All that one could say was that they looked relieved that the season was over.

Storey, Radford, Simpson and Armstrong had looked through much of the season to be fading.  Were Rostron, Hornsby, Mathews and Stapleton really up to the standard set by Brady?  History has since told us, but really at the time, all four were grouped together as the possible bright lights.

Arsenal had finished 16th, their lowest position since 1924/5 – which itself was the season that caused Leslie Knighton to be sacked as manager, and Herbert Chapman brought in.  There was interest as to whether the once feted Bertie Mee would actually be in his job at the start of the next campaign.

In the Double season, Arsenal had used 14 players who made more than two starts in the league season.   In 1974/5 there were 20 such players – a 42% increase caused by injuries, lack of form, and transfers in and out.  Arsenal were unlucky with injuries – particularly with Cropley, but it was up to the club to cover for such situations.

Particularly worrying was that the top scorer was Kidd with 19 goals, followed by…

  • Ball 9
  • Radford 7
  • Brady 3
  • Hornsby 3

Kidd played 40 league games in the season – if he got an injury in the year to come, then what?

There was one other item of news: at the end of the season George Male left the club he had joined in 1929 as an amateur, and gone on to play 285 league games for Arsenal, winning a league winners’ medal five times, and one FA Cup winners’ medal.

George became a coach at Arsenal after retiring from playing, and worked with the youth and reserve teams, as well as being a scout, and he in turn discovered Charlie George.  He was also present to watch the double victories in 1971.

Having retired he moved to Canada where he had family, and died in February 1998, aged 87.   He was not however the last of the Chapman players to pass away, because Ray Bowden lived a few months beyond George Male and died aged 89 – that was truly the end of the era.

For anyone who noticed outside the club, the retirement of George was a strong reminder of what Arsenal had been, and where the club was now.

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