The players he let go and the signings that Bertie made


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By Tony Attwood

So far in this series on Bertie Mee’s years at Arsenal we have looked at the players that Mee found at his command, when he took over the club from Billy Wright in 1966, and those who were still in the team come the double year.

The signings he inherited are

  • Bob Wilson,
  • Peter Simpson,
  • John Radford,
  • Frank McLintock,
  • Peter Storey,
  • George Armstrong.

But there were others who spanned the two managers, although they didn’t make it to the Double season.  These are worth remembering for after years of no top four finish and no cup final Arsenal played five finals in five years starting in 1968 with the league cup final.

  • Terry Neill left for Hull in 1970
  • David Court left for Luton in 1970
  • Jon Sammels did play in the Double season, but only 13 games and then went to Leicester
  • Ian Ure left for Manchester United in 1969/70
  • Jim Furnell left for Rotherham in 1968
  • Don Howe retired from football after one game in the 1966/7 season, and then became a manager

Of those who started during the Mee reign and who we particularly remember

  • George Graham (1966) *
  • Bob McNab (1966) *
  • Pat Rice 1967) *
  • Bobby Gould (1967)
  • Charlie George (1969) *
  • Eddie Kelly (1969) *
  • John Roberts (1969) *
  • Ray Kennedy (1969) *
  • Sammy Nelson (1969) *
  • Peter Mairinello (1969)
  • Alan Ball (1971)
  • Liam Brady (1973) *
  • Frank Stapleton (1974) *
  • David O’Leary 1975 *

* These star signings are the ones that stand out – and they are a real collection of great players.  The mystery therefore is, why, after five cup finals in five seasons, and three major trophies in two years, did we get nothing more than a runner’s up position for the rest of the Mee era?  I’ll try and answer that in a future article.

As we contemplate this, here’s the Mee years in table form (I have published this before but I think it is helpful as we look at the overall pattern)

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 (Swindon)
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

The teams in brackets are those who at the time would have considered a victory over Arsenal to be one of major importance.

At this stage I am not sure where we should take this next – forwards to Terry Neil, or backwards to Billy Wright – or maybe somewhere else.  We’ll see


The Managers – from Royal Arsenal to Mr Wenger

Arsenal History Society


8 Replies to “The players he let go and the signings that Bertie made”

  1. Good idea to show the table. Bertie’s last 3 seasons not good. Maybe a list of the squads for each of Bertie’s seasons could explain more. A short time ago I found just that: a squad listing of dozens of seasons, showing players appearances and goals. I tried to look through it again only two days ago and failed to get the required pages (don’t know why). Take a look if you haven’t already…

    Also, I hope you don’t mind me being a little pernickity regarding the next two comments –
    1. third line: “The signings he inherited are” should read “The PLAYERS he inherited are” I think, as only Frank McLintock was SIGNED.
    2. Why don’t you give a (*) to Alan Ball? Perhaps an ACCIDENTAL omission (?)

    This is an excellent website.

  2. ps…
    I saw Alan Ball (and Joe Royle, Colin Harvey) at Banbury Cross (my hometown), shortly before he signed for Arsenal. They very kindly signed for me… I was 16 at the time (quite a thrill). They were coming back from London after playing an England international, and heading back to Liverpool. A nice little memory. Also saw him make his debut for us away at Forest.
    Go on Tony, give him a *. You know it makes sense.

  3. Cheers Andy, I’ll check it out tomorrow. Gotta hit the bars right now, to get meself a beer and a bird.
    (I’m six hours ahead of you if you’re in England).
    Plus I must get a hurried apology to Mr Attwood as regards above.

  4. Bertie Mee,never given the credit he deserved,I supported the Arsenal from Jack Crayston,George Swindon, Billy Wright,the club couldnt win a raffle until Bertie was appointed.great manager great man.

  5. I think it’s worth remembering that Bertie got rid of a couple of stars, at the onset of his reign. Namely George Eastham and Alan Skirton, both of whom, didn’t share Bertie’s work ethos.

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