The game against Tottenham Arsenal didn’t want to play

By Tony Attwood

At the end of the 1979/80 season Arsenal’s schedule became increasingly crowded as the club sought to play five games in 12 days between March 28 and April 9.

March 28 Everton Away 1-0
April 2 Norwich Away 1-2
April 5 Southampton Home 1-1
April 7 Tottenham H Away
April 9 Juventus Home CWC 1st leg

Taking a look at the above it is quite clear that the best interests of the club, and (to the extent that English football would benefit from Arsenal getting to the Cup Winners Cup final and so boosting the quotient of English football in terms of European competition in future years) for English football, something to give. Arsenal therefore approached Tottenham Hotspur and asked for a postponement of the April 7 game.

Tottenham refused.

So the game went ahead at White Hart Lane in front of 41,369.

Arsenal had no alternative but to rest some players and so made some significant changes from the team that played in the draw with Southampton two days before. Out went Pat Jennings, Alan Sunderland, Frank Stapleton, David Price and Graham Rix.

In came Pat Rice (in midfield!), John Hollins, Paul Barron, Paul Vaessen and Paul Davis for his début. During the game Liam Brady had to go off injured and he was replaced by Alan Sunderland.

But despite the ludicrous number of games played, and the shuffling of the team Arsenal beat the noisy and unco-operative neighbours and won 2-1 with goals from Vaessen and substitute Sunderland.

So the table of games and results read:

March 28 Everton Away 1-0
April 2 Norwich Away 1-2
April 5 Southampton Home 1-1
April 7 Tottenham H Away 2-1
April 9 Juventus Home CWC 1st leg 1-1

It was a result that left Tottenham 14th and Arsenal 4th. Paul Davis only played one more league game that season, as a substitute against Coventry.

Arsenal’s full team against Tottenham was


Devine, O’Leary, Young, Walford

Rice, Talbot, Hollins, Davis

Vaessen, Brady

In fact because of injury and sheer tiredness, only five of the team could be called regulars (Rice, Talbot, O’Leary, Young, Brady), for some shuffling of players had already been undertaken by the time of the Tottenham game.

There is more of the life of Paul Davis on this link from our anniversary file: 7 April 1980:

The books…

Other sites from the same team…

Other anniversaries today:

7 April 1952: Arsenal reached the F.A. Cup Final by beating Chelsea 3-0 in the semi-final replay.

7 April 1967: First game for Pat Rice

7 April 1973: FA Cup semi-final: 2-1 to Sunderland

7 April 1979: Steve Brignall becomes the Arsenal player with the shortest ever career

7 April 1980: Arsenal début for Paul Davis

The full Anniversary file is here.



5 Replies to “The game against Tottenham Arsenal didn’t want to play”

  1. I remember them making all kinds of threatening noises in the press before the game that if we fielded a weakened team they’d complain to the FA.

    For some reason they seemed to forget about doing that – can’t imagine why…

  2. OK, you were in the Reserves, but at least you got to play regularly at Highbury, Stephen. The nearest most of us got was throwing the ball back!

  3. Remember it well, bank holiday Monday. “We beat spurs with six reserves and Alan scored again” was the song. Classless of them not to postpone game

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