Bertie Mee, the trophies, ballroom dancing, left hook and the OBE.


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Bertie Mee – taking us back to reality

To begin, a correction to the details of what happened under Bertie Mee.  I had us in a cup final against West Ham which never happened.  Really sorry.

Year League FA Cup exit League Cup exit Europe exit
1966/7 7th 5th 3rd
1967/8 9th 5th Finalists
1968/9 4th 5th Finalists
1969/70 12th 3rd 3rd Won Fairs Cup
1970/71 1st Won 4th 4th round Fairs Cup
1971/72 5th Finalists 4th 3rd round Euro Cup
1972/73 2nd Semi-final 5th (Norwich)
1973/4 10th 4th 2nd (Tranmere)
1974/5 16th 6th 2nd
1975/6 17th 3rd 2nd

The trophy and near miss level is therefore, over a 10 year period

  • League wins: 1
  • League runners up: 1
  • Top four finishes: 3
  • Cup wins: 2
  • Cup beaten finalists: 3

(Unless someone would like to save me the trouble it would be interesting to complete just such a list for the other managers from Chapman onwards, in the light of earlier discussions).

Anyway, back to Bertie Mee.

He was born in Nottinghamshire and had a very modest and short career with Derby County and Mansfield as well as appearing for Southampton in the war time league of 1940/1.

He trained as a physiotherapist in the Royal Army Medical Corps where he became a sergeant and then worked as a remedial gymnast with disabled servicemen for 12 years.

I have read that he then joined another club or clubs before joining the staff of Arsenal in 1960, first as a trainer, then physiotherapist – but I am not sure what clubs.  Perhaps you can help me out.

Anyway what is certain is that Bertie Mee took over from Billy Wright as a caretaker manager initially.   One story is that he asked for a clause in his contract that would allow him to be the physiotherapist once again if things did not go well in the first year.

It is perhaps a further measure of the man that he made no secret of the fact that his hobby was ballroom dancing.  Now I come to think of it I heard Mr Wenger say that he was a very competent dancer – maybe that should be a question when we interview prospective managers.   But Bertie could also swing a left punch – there is a story that when the restaurant fight broke out in Rome after the Lazio game he waded in with the rest of the team.  Or so the story goes.

Bertie Mee brought in George Graham and Bob McNab as early signings, and worked with Don Howe and Dave Sexton as his assistants.  (Don left to manage WBA after the double).

After leaving Arsenal he joined Watford as general manager, working with  Graham Taylor and Elton John, with special responsibility for scouting, and was appointed an OBE in 1983.  He retired in 1991 and died in London in 2001.

We’ll continue the series with a look at some of his top players.


Bertie Mee: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

The Allison Era: 37 Years from Administration to Domination

The First Double: a series of five quizzes to test your knowledge on 1971


5 Replies to “Bertie Mee, the trophies, ballroom dancing, left hook and the OBE.”

  1. Mee was appointed “Acting Manager” on 20th June 1966. As Tony says, the reason for him being appointed acting manager was due to his lack of experience and if things didn’t work out he could revert to physiotherapist and a new manager would be sought. He was given the job permanently on 2nd March 1967. This was surprisng as at that time Arsenal were 14th in the league with 29 points from 30 games – 1 point less than at the same point the previous season.

  2. What we supporters didn’t know but was known within the club was that Bertie Mee was not a football coach/trainer.
    Frank MacLintock is on record as having said that the players respected him for the appointment of DaveSexton and then Don Howe as coaches.

    When Howe left it would seem that Mee was unable to find a successor of the same standard and this is why the team went into fall down.

    Unlike most supproters at the time I was 100% against the appointment of T Neill. His salvation was the reappoint of Don Howe as team coach.
    So sad that Don fell out with a certain memeber of the then board.

  3. I very much enjoy posts. I look for them everyday. So thank you for the time and care you give to you blogs.

  4. Hello
    Bertie Mee came from the Camden Town clinic and took over the
    Physiotherapist from Billy Milne when he retired .
    The Arsenal discovered that he had much more to offer so then appointed him manager.
    Peter Goy

  5. Is that Peter Goy the goalkeeper at Arsenal in the 1950’s? If so great to have you on this site and have you any interesting stories of that time please.

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