Arsenal v Tottenham end their first ever cup semi-final encounter on an anniversary day

By Tony Attwood and  Gerry McLeod

November / December 1968 was the first time ever that Tottenham and Arsenal met in the  semi-finals of not just the League Cup but also the FA Cup.   It was an event which following a match in this round of the League Cup many years later, gave the name to the popular fanzine of the day “1-0 down, 2-1 up”.

Curiously the second of the two games was on the anniversary of the match on 4 December 1909 when Arsenal beat Tottenham 1-0 in first ever league encounter between the two, and by coincidence the result of the first match was the same, for 59 years on, on 20 November 1968 Arsenal beat Tottenham 1-0 at home in the first leg of the league cup semi-final in front of 55,237.   John Radford got the goal.

The team was:
Wilson, Storey, McNab, McLintock, Ure, Simpson, Radford, Court, Sammels, Graham, Armstrong.   George Graham was replaced by Bobby Gould as a sub.

Arsenal had already played Tottenham at the start of the season (on the very first day in fact) and won at Highbury with a goal from Radford and an own goal from Beal, but confidence that a 1-0 lead would be enough for the second leg was not at its highest.

Much of the concern came from Arsenal’s form.  Of the nine league games leading up to the first leg Arsenal had won only two.  True they had also only lost two in that spell, and so the optimistic were hopeful of more of the same – that is to say, another draw, of which there had been five in this run.

Goals were also hard to find at the time.  The nine league games of this draw dominated run had brought just five Arsenal goals – and thus a 1-0 victory in the first leg was something above average and that achieved only with Radford scoring very late on.

Incidentally the entry price for standing at either end of the ground was five shillings (25p), which was considered at the time to be expensive.

But true to Arsenal’s current form the second leg brought a draw, although not 0-0 as the stats suggested might happen.

The match took place on 4 December – and in between the two games Arsenal had lost at home 0-1 to Chelsea and beaten Burnley 1-0 away.

55,923 attended the second leg at White Hart Lane with an Arsenal team consisting of

Wilson, Storey, McNab, McLintock, Ure, Simpson, Radford, Court, Sammels, Gould, Armstrong.   McNab was taken off and Graham replaced him as the sub.

The omens did not look good from the start as Terry Venables seemed to be taking a “shoot  on sight” policy.  But it was Greaves who scored in the first half to put the tie level.

McNab was taken off and Graham replaced him as the sub and with three minutes of normal time remaining, George Armstrong crossed for Radford to head home.

During one of the two games Bob Wilson was knocked unconscious and was out cold for a  minute after trying to take the ball from a corner.  Unlike today such matters were taken lightly (especially with only one sub on the bench) and he played on.

Unfortunately we’ve only see a picture of him with this caption, and even from the background can’t tell which of the two games it was.  Do let me know if you know.

There was wild celebration of course, for Arsenal were back to Wembley for the second year running, having lost in the final of the same competition the year before.  Two finals in two years seemed unbelievable, given that prior to these two finals, the last time Arsenal had featured at Wembley was on 3 May 1952, when we lost 0-1 to Newcastle.  Since then Arsenal had hit the headlines in cup terms only for losing to such lower league luminaries as Norwich City, Northampton Town, Rotherham United and Peterborough United.

Indeed for many of us following the club into these finals, Arsenal was a team that did not win things, nor even become runners up.  But even so, what we didn’t expect was that the final in 1969 against Swindon Town would continue that form.  Arsenal lost 1-3 to make it three defeats in the last three finals.It was 12 years before Tottenham and Arsenal would meet in a major cup match again – on 4 November  1980 Tottenham beat Arsenal 1-0 in the fourth round of the League Cup.

One final oddity from that Swindon Town final.  Not only was it not on TV, it didn’t even have a live commentary on the radio on the recently created Radio 2 (previously the “Light Programme”).  They carried second half commentary of a league match instead.

The books…


3 Replies to “Arsenal v Tottenham end their first ever cup semi-final encounter on an anniversary day”

  1. Re Wilson being knocked out. It was in the second game at WHL. He was was sort of sandwiched between Mike England and Phil Collins at a corner as they stood on the line either side of him. He went down and I got the impression he’d been hit from front and back, but there must have been a clash of heads.
    In another incident Gilzean kicked Wilson as he dived at his feet for the ball when he didn’t pull out. Gilzean caught his leg with his foot. He left the ground on crutches. Read recently that 40 years later Wilson had an xray and they found an old fracture and that he reckons it happened that night!
    It begs belief he played with concussion and a broken leg. It was the dirtiest game I’ve ever seen between two English teams, up there with the 1970 Chelsea v Leeds FA Cup final replay. The odd thing is Spurs were not by the standards of the time a dirty team. I guess it was a big grudge match that got to them.

  2. If the semis were played in the November in 67/68 (as per above piece), then the League Cup programme must have been played much earlier in the season back then.

  3. Yes the route to the semi final started in August with the 1st round, and went on to Nov 20 and Dec 4, with the final in March. But it must be remembered that there were no group stages in European competitions and no mass movement of the Div 1 teams into Europe either, so the aim was to get the League Cup done except the final, before the 3rd round of the FA Cup started. This was how it was for many years

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