19 August 1989: What happened after winning the league at Anfield?

1989 gave Arsenal its most famous end of season triumph of the modern era – replicating the achievements of 1 May 1953 by winning the league in the last match of the season.  It was the club’s first league trophy in 18 years.  Indeed the only game I can think of to compare with this was Arsenal v Leicester in the final match of the unbeaten season.   The fear that we would lose the very last match of that campaign now seems odd, but the nervousness was overwhelming.

But let’s go back to 1989.  Having won the league with almost the last kick of the season, then what?

There were only two transfers in the ensuing weeks…

20 June 1989: Goalkeeper Andrew Marriott sold to Nottingham Forest.  He never played a league match for Arsenal, but between 1989 and 2011 he played for 17 clubs, with Wrexham (255 games) being his one long-term playing engagement.  He later became part of the McLaren Formula 1 team and worked with WBA.

14 July 1989: Rhys Wilmot transferred to Plymouth after eight league games for Arsenal and three loan spells.  He played 133 times for Plymouth and retired from playing in 1997, after which he became a goalkeeper coach.

The Sweden Tour

22 July 1989: Skelleftea 2 Arsenal 3 (Smith, Merson, Campbell) [Alan Miller’s first appearance for Arsenal]

24 July 1989: FK Mjolner (Norway) 0 Arsenal 4 (Merson, Adams, Quinn, Campbell)

26 July 1989: Lulea 2 Arsenal 2 (Adams, Campbell)

On 28 July 1989 Sigurður Jónsson (known as Siggi) was signed from Sheffield Wednesday for £475,000 but his time with Arsenal was plagued with injury and he only made 8 appearances. He was however voted one of the 10 top Icelandic players of all time.

The Makita Tournament

  • 29 July 1989: Arsenal 1 Porto 0 (own goal)
  • 30 July 1989: Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0 (Bould)

What was interesting here was the lowness of the crowd at Wembley – 20,000 for the first game and 23,000 for the second.  Although I should add Arsenal’s largest home crowd in the 1988/9 season was just 41,008.  Indeed on 1 May only 28,449 turned up for Arsenal 5 Norwich 0

Zenith Data Systems Challenge Trophy in Miami

6 August 1989: Arsenal beat Independiente 2-1 but had Gus Caesar and Gary Lewin sent off.  Rocastle got both goals.

The Charity Shield

63,149 turned up for this match – still by no means a full house, but at least a little better than the Makita.   The news that Gus Caesar was replacing Steve Bould for Arsenal was not exactly what was hoped for.   But it was the first time Arsenal had been in the Charity Shield for ten years, and the previous record was won seven (the same as Liverpool) and lost three so there was hope for a victory.

The press had been practising the art of football cynicism for a number of years, and showed no signs of changing their tune.  The Times as always, having a profound downer on anything Arsenal were involved in, calling it “little more than another public training exercise for sides who are increasingly being invited to practise for the season in more lucrative and prestigious events on foreign fields,” which was undoubtedly a knock at the USA trip, rather than Sweden and Norway.

On the half hour, Liverpool scored through Beardsley.  Richardson missed a chance to equalise and Arsenal looked quite unlike the club that had so emphatically seen off Liverpool at Anfield.  Even the taking off of Caesar and bringing on Marwood didn’t really help that much, and it was not a great advert for adventurous football.  Or indeed football.

The teams…

Lukic, Dixon, Thomas, O’Leary, Winterburn, Adams, Rocastle, Richardson, Smith, Caesar, Merson, (subs Marwood, Quinn)

What happened next…

19 August 1989: In the first league match after winning the title in the last seconds at Anfield, Arsenal lost 4-1 away to Man U.  However the club were then undefeated in the next seven and so went into the Tottenham match having won five, drawn two, lost one which was at least a bit more hopeful.

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