20 June: Bertie Mee takes over

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By Tony Attwood

On this day in 1966 Bertie Mee became Arsenal manager.

Since the passing of Herbert Chapman all the Arsenal managers (Joe Shaw, George Allison, Tom Whittaker, Jack Crayston and George Swindin) had been men closely associated with the club.  But with neither Crayston nor Swindin being able to emulate the triumphs of their predecessors, the club had turned to an outsider, Billy Wright, with disastrous results.

So now they returned to the old ways and sought to repeat the success of Tom Whittaker by promoting the club’s physiotherapist.

And just as with Tom Whittaker, the plan worked for a while.  Bertie Mee brought Arsenal its first European trophy, as well as the first league and cup double, but quickly after that the success faded away and within a few seasons Arsenal were flirting seriously with relegation.

And although Mee is remembered now as the man who brought Arsenal its first European success and its first double, he had followed this up with a vision of football clubs being in decline, and spoke openly of reducing the first team squad to 18 players, and abandoning the two youth teams totally.

Tom Whittaker had delivered two league titles and one FA cup, exactly the same as Herbert Chapman and George Allison.  And Mee’s initial success was greatly encouraging.  But then the rot set in, as his policy of army type discipline as a method of running a football club fell apart.

Even with his early triumphs, his overall win rate only climbed up to 44.71% – even Terry Neill managed to beat that.  And yet despite the decline which saw Arsenal flirting with relegation he lasted ten years in the club and his 539 games in charge was only beaten by Arsene Wenger.

His win rate of 44.71% was the worst of all the long-term managers except George Morrell and Leslie Knighton.

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.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal 

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