By Tony Attwood
We have been building up a series of files on Arsenal managers and recently did some work on Bertie Mee.
Bertie Mee reigned until his resignation at the end of the 1975/76 season. The side that had contested five cup finals in five years, had won the club’s first ever European trophy, and had added the Double in 1971, was now just about gone.
Rice, Kelly, Simpson, Armstrong and Storey were still there, but elsewhere there was a new team.
In his final season Bertie Mee took Arsenal to 17th in the league. The position is significant – because it was the worst since the final season of Leslie Knighton’s period in charge – 1924/5 when we came 20th. In both seasons we played 42 games. We got 33 points in 1924/5 and under Mee we got 36.
Terry Neill had to do something dramatic to turn the club around.
As it was Terry stayed eight years at the club as manager, the final year being a joint managerial position with Don Howe.
Here’s the table:
|League||FA Cup||League Cup|
|1976/7||8th||5th round||5th round|
|1978/9||4th||Won (Man U)||3rd (Rotherham)|
|1979/80||4th||Final (WHU)||5th (Swindon)|
|1980/1||3rd||3rd round||4th round|
|1981/2||5th||3rd round||4th round|
|1983/4||6th||3rd round||4th (Walsall)|
In the League we improved but never really looked like winning the trophy – this was the era of Liverpool domination – with just Forest and Villa spoiling their continuous run of championships (not to mention penalties in the second half in front of the Kop).
But we had some FA Cup adventures, including the three consecutive finals, of which sadly only one was won – but that in remarkable style.
The League Cup proved more difficult – two semi-finals only partially removing the ignominy of defeats from Rotherham, Swindon and Walsall.
The team however had its stars. Pat Rice, David O’Leary, Peter Simpson, Alan Ball, George Armstrong, Malcolm McDonald, Frank Stapleton … names that still roll off the tongue, and all there at the start of the new era.
We’ll look at the team that Terry Neil took over and where he took that team, in the coming articles.