The winter of 75: when it was bleak indeed

By Tony Attwood

I’ve already covered the cup run from this season with its endless games against Leicester.  Here is the league run for the same period, with the FA Cup matches noted in their chronological position.

But beware, it don’t make wonderful reading, at least after the first game.

  • February 1 1975: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 0
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 43,028

At the start of February Arsenal made it a double over Liverpool and recorded four league matches without defeat for only the second time in the season.   It was also eight games in all competitions without defeat, and things looked to be on the up.

But then,

  • February 8 1975: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 0
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 19,807

Perhaps someone told Arsenal that it was actually eight games in all competitions without defeat and they got a little cocky and forgot that attacking was part of the plan.  Maybe it was the knowledge that Wolverhampton themselves were on a run of five consecutive defeats.

Either way, neither side looked bothered, and even when Wolverhampton got their second half penalty, no one was particularly roused.  Indeed even the penalty kick only made it into the goal off the post.

Arsenal did have two attempts at goal – both from Kidd, but one of those was a free kick from just outside the box.  Maybe it was the thought of the next match in the Cup that distracted Arsenal – but really for a team with Kidd, Radford, Brady and Armstrong in the side, it should have been possible to attack somewhat more often.

What Ross, making his first start for Arsenal, thought of it all, is not recorded.

  • February 15 1975: Arsenal 0 Leicester City 0
  • FA Cup 5th round: Attendance: 43,841
  • February 19 1975: Leicester City 1 Arsenal 1
  • FA Cup 5th round replay: Attendance: 35,009
  • February 22 1975: Derby County 1 Arsenal 2
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 24,002

John Yates was the ref, and for most of the players that was enough to tell them that this match would be a disaster.    Having recently booked seven Chelsea players in one match at Everton he responded to open criticism of his approach in the press by deciding to send off Alan Ball and Bob McNab for arguing over a booking.  If this approach were to be seen across the league, most games would end up as five-a-side matches.

Arsenal’s anger was increased by the fact that when Todd deliberately handballed he was not cautioned.  Yates saw it, because he gave a free kick, but nothing more.  Even Dave Mackay was forced to admit that the referee scared him.

Derby’s first goal was Arsenal’s error – Rice let the ball go past him thinking that Rimmer had it covered – when he didn’t.  Ball was sent off on 15 minutes and Radford scored an equaliser on 24. Powell restored Derby’s lead three minutes later, McNab was sent off on 65, but Arsenal never stopped looking for the equaliser.

  • February 24 1975: Leicester City 0 Arsenal 1
  • FA Cup 5th round second replay: Attendance: 39,025
  • March 1 1975: Arsenal 0 Everton 2
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 32,216

Sitting 18th in the league Arsenal had 12 league games scheduled for March and April – plus the FA Cup match next weekend.  Consolidation was the name of the game, but this game didn’t offer it and the crowd went home with the feeling that the players were saving themselves for the Cup – their only hope of fame and fortune in this dismal season.

With Everton contesting the title with Liverpool, Ipswich and Derby, players and management must have known this was going to be a tough match, so there really was no excuse for the feeble display.

After the match Campbell agreed that Arsenal never really got into gear (a euphemism if ever there was one), and agreed that his men could find no way to counteract the smooth passing of Everton.  Ball, perhaps mindful of his origins felt that this Everton team was comparable with the Arsenal double winning side.

For Arsenal only Brady looked capable of finding a way through, but inevitably, he was unable to do it all by himself.

  • March 8 1975: Arsenal 0 West Ham United 2
  • FA Cup Sixth Round: Attendance: 56,742

Mid-table WHU should not have been too strong for Arsenal but perhaps the manner of the defeat last week at Highbury and the desperation of the crowd, players and even management to get something out of the season was just too much.

Bonds and Brooking took control of this game and Alan Taylor emerged as West Ham’s new young star.   Arsenal failed to respond, perhaps because in so many games this season the defence had taken over from adventurousness as the Arsenal model.

Billy Bonds won the game for West Ham, as they became second favourites behind Leeds to win the Cup.  For Arsenal, there was just the plod through March and April picking up enough points to ensure that 1st division safety was assured.

  • March 15 1975: Arsenal 1 Birmingham City 1
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 17,845

After a nearly full Highbury the week before, we moved to a three quarters empty Highbury – and a sign of what football at Arsenal would be like if the club didn’t sort itself out quickly.

That the players felt the absence of atmosphere was beyond doubt, and only Kidd really seemed able to lift himself.  In fact he lifted himself so much that he got the equaliser with a stunning overhead kick, totally out of context with the rest of the match.

Birmingham too were distracted with the news that Trevor Francis was back on the pitch – although in Birmingham, playing in a reserve game.  That seemed to cause more interest (and nearly as big a crowd) as this match.

Arsenal stayed 18th as a result of this draw, with safety by no means assured.   The next match was to be the fourth home game in a row and thus far this run that should have produced the push towards safety and a Cup semi-final had instead resulted in two defeats and this draw.

A win in the next match was deemed essential, both for the nerves and for survival itself.

  • March 18 1975: Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0
  • Football League Division 1: Attendance: 16,540

At last the dire run was over, but at what a cost.  The crowd was just 16540.

2 Replies to “The winter of 75: when it was bleak indeed”

  1. I remember that season as probably our worst since I stared to support the club .We were saved by Rimmer and Kidd ,both ex -Man Utd players.
    Also remember Alan Taylor scoring 2 goals each in the QF, SF an in
    As well as ex -Hammer Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery playing in that losing Fulham side.

  2. As a 10-year-old, I was at the Birmingham match with my Spurs-fan brother & our older, fellow gunner cousin! My first ever game at Highbury or anywhere else except Barnet FC (Underhill) or when Barnet reached Wembley in the FA Trophy (1972/3), losing 3–0 to Stafford Rangers! As a gunners fan, I loved it despite the match being a fairly drab affair. The shout of “Peanuts! Roasted Peanuts!” from the vendor walking about the North Bank and the feeling of being protected by the fans around us, despite the fact that the crush bariers were taller than me! I recall, I think, Tony Want scoring at the Clock End for Brum, and etched into my memory forever was the superb overhead kick from Brian Kidd which levelled the scores quite late on.

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