RECOGNISING WHAT MATTERS

by .

Several years ago I did the Emirates stadium tour . Our host was the inimitable Charlie George and he was a delight to chat to, Charlie is almost an exact contemporary of mine and I was telling him a story about pre-season training in the summer of 1971 in a local park. I noticed all the boys around me playing football and on scoring, falling to the ground in an imitation of Charlie’s iconic celebration at Wembley a couple of months earlier . He smiled at this and one of our group asked him how well he knew the current team ( this was around the summer of 2014 ) . Charlie looked back a little forlornly and said ‘ Nobody in that dressing room has a clue who I am ‘. It stunned our group because Charlie George was, we thought, a special figure in Arsenal history and even very much younger players would appreciate his place in the history of the club, particularly as he was an Arsenal ambassador, who appeared at the club regularly . But Charlie was clearly sincere and mentioned that when he did see any of the current team they walked straight past him .

Does that matter ? Many people reading this may not realise who Charlie is and what he and his teammates did for the club but in May 1971 Arsenal will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first of three League and Cup doubles that we have recorded. It was a VERY big deal fifty years ago. Arsenal had emerged from a barren period of 17 years with no silverware by winning the Fairs Cup in 1970. The following season they mounted a challenge for the League and Cup which also encompassed a Fairs Cup defence that saw them attacked in the street after an official banquet by Lazio players and a League Cup campaign. That season they played 64 games on pitches that were mudheaps in winter and barren deserts in spring .

On the website www.Goonerholicsforever.com we are commemorating the Double triumph and at the same time trying to raise money for the Willow Foundation . Willow is the charity that was set up by Bob Wilson the goalkeeper of that Double team and his wife Megs to mark the death of their daughter Anna from a rare form of cancer at the age of 32. It seeks to provide special experiences for terminally ill people or those receiving palliative care aged between 18-40 . Please visit the site in May and try to donate or enter our online auction for memorabilia signed by members of the team. I’ve known Bob for a number of years and he is the go-to person for radio and tv when they want to discuss Arsenal, Arsene Wenger or goalkeeping in general . He was the person the club chose to host Wenger’s leaving presentation in 2018 . If there is a better candidate for ‘ Mr Arsenal ‘ I’ve yet to meet him and had the Arsenal board co-opted an ex-player onto the board there could not have been many better choices. As part of our commemoration on GF we’ve recorded a couple of podcasts with Bob and Pat Rice who was the right-back in the Double side , captain of the Cup winners in 1979 and of course assistant to Arsenal Wenger until 2012 . What story did they have to tell and why does it still matter now ? 

Before beginning to tell you, Let me tell you I’m 70 and have supported Arsenal since 1958. I’ve seen well over 1500 games and my family support spans five generations from a grandfather who watched Arsenal play at Woolwich to a grandson of 11 who loves the club too. I went to around twenty games at Highbury in that double season but played myself on Saturdays so most of the games I saw were in midweek. I did get to some London away games too. Beginning that season Arsenal had a bit of momentum having just won the Fairs Cup although there were no incomings in the close season. There was no transfer window then but the side had several injuries. Jon Sammels missed several early games and Peter Simpson one of the finest defenders never to play for England was seriously injured too. In the first game at Everton Charlie George broke his leg in scoring the first equaliser in a 2-2 draw, a very decent result as Everton were the reigning champions . The side started the season well despite having to make many changes . Peter Storey joined Eddie Kelly and George Graham in midfield. John Roberts a giant Welshman replaced Simpson and Ray Kennedy joined John Radford in a two-pronged attack. Kennedy had scored the away goal that effectively won Arsenal the Fairs Cup but was very inexperienced. He and Radford notched 50 goals between them in the Double season. The season began with a series of very good results and few defeats . Arsenal were unbeaten at home all season ( remember what that feels like ?!) in the League and were a very well-organised defensive side. Talk to any of those players and they attribute this to the coaching of Don Howe although they do recognise the organisational ability of Bertie Mee (my pen name on Le Grove!) who was a foil to Howe who had been a top- class defender. I had expected the team’s form to dip but they were consistent away from home and produced a set of excellent performances coming into Christmas. The one exception was a 5-0 thrashing at Stoke who were a very high-quality outfit then. Think Tony Waddington not Tony Pulis! 

It was a time when the identity of future champions was hard to work out. Everton were champions but we thrashed them 4-0 at Highbury. Chelsea had just won the Cup and played some stylish football. Liverpool were an emerging force and Manchester City were a side full of attacking flair ( although we beat them twice at Maine Road that season). Spurs won the League Cup and eventually finished third. But the favourites were Leeds. They were the toughest competitors and the best football team in the country but had a tendency to fall at the last hurdle . But they emerged as our biggest rival as we emerged into the New Year, trailing a few points behind them ( and there were only two points for a win ).

When the cup campaign began in January we were given away draws in every round. Yeovil were not a serious problem but we needed a tight replay to dispose of Portsmouth then produced a superb display to beat Manchester City with the restored Charlie George scoring two spectacular goals. At that moment the press began to talk about the possibility of a double. Arsenal had stayed in touch in the League but trailed Leeds by 7 points. Fortunately we began a brilliant league run which saw us claw back that lead until a Saturday in April when Leeds and Arsenal were both at home. We played Newcastle and Leeds played West Brom another side who had tremendous attacking power ( although we had beaten them 6-2 at Highbury in September ). Arsenal clinched victory through a late George thunderbolt. Leeds meanwhile were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat where the referee had allowed a demonstrably offside goal by Jeff Astle to count . We were top of the league heading for the finish !

Stoke reared their head again in the Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. The first half was a disaster. A deflection off their captain gave them a fluke first goal and a George back pass fell short for Ritchie to round the stranded Wilson for their second. In the second half Peter Storey , one of the toughest players in Arsenal history saw a deflected shot cut the arrears and then in the last minute he was tasked with taking a penalty kick to save the match after Stoke’s Mahoney had dived full-length to save a Mclintock header. Storey’s kick was one of the worst I’ve ever seen but Gordon Banks probably the best keeper in the world then had his weight on the wrong foot and it crept in. Stoke were crushed mentally and lost the replay 2-0.

In the league we suffered a desperately late reverse at Leeds which put them back into contention but we went into the last week of the season needing to win our last three games to clinch the Double . We beat Stoke in a nervy game at home 1-0 and then on the Monday travelled to White Hart Lane for our last game . To do justice to the atmosphere of that game and to see how events unfolded do check Goonerholics Forever in early May . I was locked out of the ground in common with 60,000 other people . We needed to win or draw 0-0 to take the title because of goal difference. A Ray Kennedy header with minutes to go gave us victory after a titanic battle on a night when more people were locked out than got into White Hart Lane. The vast majority were Arsenal fans .

We went to Wembley on the Saturday as champions and produced a really solid performance. It was 0-0 at 90 minutes although we had dominated but an early Heighway goal in extra time looked likely to break our hearts. Then a very strange goal which to this day has not been definitively attributed to Kelly or George Graham ( who was outstanding on the day ) brought us level and Charlie George scored with a superb drive in the second half to clinch the Cup and the Double and trigger that iconic celebration. Again the GF account will give you all the drama from the players and some of us lucky enough to be there.

When I was talking to Bob a few weeks ago I told him that as the team were running towards us at Wembley before the start I had a concern that having won the league that would be enough for them. I asked Bob if that had ever occurred to them and the look on his face made it very clear that it never crossed their minds. Frank Mclintock one of the great figures in Arsenal history and a captain still revered by his surviving team mates had lost four times at Wembley. The team were all desperate to win for him and for fans starved of domestic success for so long. But above all they were great competitors and to me they were heroes. And win they did .

As I reflected on the question I asked Bob I realised what a 2021 attitude that is. Arsenal has never had a tougher , more committed team than that one. It has had many better football teams but never one I can remember trusting more to hold a lead . Those players , those that survive, as Armstrong that tireless winger and Roberts have died , and many others are in poor health, deserve to be recognised and as we wade through the squalid detritus of the ESL it is poignant to reflect on a team that achieved great glory but whose players are not recognised by lesser players of the current era. That’s a metaphor for football that doesn’t reflect well on our game .

That week in May was one of the very best of my Arsenal – supporting life. The day after the Final 750.000 people thronged the streets of North London and the club celebrated an achievement only accomplished once before in modern football history at that time . When you are 70 you look back much more than you look forward especially when your club is owned by Stan Kroenke . I look back with pride and satisfaction and a sense that what we had achieved was very special. And it remains special fifty years on .

Authored by Peter Le Beaum (Bertie Mee in the comments)

Please visit www.goonerholicsforever.com to see our Double commemoration in association with the Willow Foundation from May 3rd – 8th .

 

729 Responses to “RECOGNISING WHAT MATTERS”

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  1. Kroenkephobe

    2inches?
    Stop exaggerating, you can’t even count to 2And there’s no way you can get it up either

    Poor banter nouveau rich even by your Mariano trench-low standards. Raise your game you mug. Put your big boy trousers on and think more deeply.

  2. TheLegendaryDB10

    Xhaka on a yellow at the 20 mins mark.

    That means there is another 70 mins to go.

    I genuinely see Xhaka doing another stupid foul and getting himself yellow carded again and sent off.

  3. Leedsgunner

    Why is Cebellos in Arsenal colours? After his debacle against Villarreal I thought we wouldn’t be seeing him in our shirt again.

    Would it kill Arteta to play our talented youngsters like Azeez and Balogun? Especially if this game doesn’t mean anything?

    Hopeless man management.

  4. prvhc

    Guys remember when Arteta kept playing Kolasinac at centre back, until he completely shat the bed ? That’s how Arteta rolls

    The Xhaka at LB experiment is going to continue until he puts in an unjustifiably disastrous performance. So pray that happens sooner rather than later, at least that’ll limit the damage.

  5. Time up

    DB10,

    We all can see it. The ref is no other than the dick Mike Dean.

    However, our generational don’t do his home work and can’t see it just like Ceballos the other night.

  6. ARgunner

    Well that’s interesting…swarming on goal real forward movement oh wait thats the MU protesters

  7. Dissenter

    The Keoenkes are no where as bad as the Glazers

    What the Glazers did to United represents the worst of capitalism. I wonder if the UK laws were not a bit naive to let them do it sod easily.

    They took high interest loans to buy a very successful and profitable entity, then put those needless loans on the business entity. Then they viciously monetized everything about the club and are making stupid money off it now.

    It may be hard for anyone to ever buy United because of the scale of debt. It will take battalions of forensic accountants to find where the bodies are buried.

  8. MidwestGun

    Martinelli … just makes driving run after driving run… just love the way he plays. Puts pressure on the defense even if he accomplishes nothing else.

  9. azed

    Martinelli beats his man every time he gets the ball while on the other hand William does nothing yet el generational prefers William

  10. Sid

    Rich
    Your wife is one of my clients. Says she enjoys the extra length provided by my 2 inch dick you fucking twat.

    Keep em coming!

  11. Leedsgunner

    A keeper that organises his defence and commands his box.

    Who knew?

    Leno has already made it clear that he was open to going if something better came along… even after Arsenal demonstrated faith in him.

    I wouldn’t shed any tears if he left Arsenal. He’s a mercenary waiting for something better to come along. If we get anything near what we paid for him let him go.

  12. Useroz

    Can ceballos release ball quicker….

    Good FK position who steps up for a curl into the top corner?

  13. Buzzy

    Odegaard doesnt really do much apart from making simple passes…not inspiring at all…esr way ahead

  14. Useroz

    Time upMay 2, 2021 14:40:59
    Willian hasn’t taken on the LB even once

    Proven proxess mate. Wouldn’t be turnovers and builds up excellent passing stats at the same time! !

  15. IQ

    Bringing in Willian, Ceballos and Odegaard instead of decent fullbacks or central midfielders is criminal. None of these guys are better than what we already had.

  16. Elmo

    Controlled the half, which didn’t expect with Ceballos and Elneny. Martinelli direct and the biggest threat on the left.

  17. Tony

    Now would have been a good time to have given Balogun the 2nd half for Auba and see how him and Martinelli work together.

  18. raptora

    Emery shit, Emery crap but Emery would have developed Martinelli, ESR, Balogun, Azeez.

    Incredibly inconsistent loanee Odegaard benching ESR is shocking.

  19. Dissenter

    It;’s not like Auba has complicated Malaria like cerebral malaria, pulmonary edema, acute renal failure, severe anemia, and/or bleeding.
    I just wish people stop blaming his poor form on the female anopheles mosquito.

    He’s been shocking, half arsed and plays with little commitment.

  20. JOEL

    As piss poor Arteta is as a Manager I have to say that Steve Bruce is no better.!..Looking at this Arsenal team its difficult to believe that anyone with any degree of tactical nous could send a team out to play quite so passively…Once again Arteta has struck lucky…which is a common theme…Without enjoying a fair amount of luck (not including VAR decisions…of course) Arsenal might have found themselves in an even lower league position.

  21. MidwestGun

    Think Newcastle will scrap the 3-5-2… looks pretty shit. Anyhow.. good goal by Mo.. Martinelli … looks lively as always… and I’m not mad at Ryan. Not much else going on.

  22. Kroenkephobe

    Leeds. Agreed. Ryan has done well and clearly gives confidence to his defence. Luiz also having a good game – he’s hit about 8 crossfield balls right on the money to Martinelli and Xhaka to good effect. One of the more enjoyable dead rubber games so far.

  23. Dissenter

    These United fans are yobs, absolute anti-football criminals

    Stealing corner flags, destroying goal posts and preventing the team busses from leaving.

    They’ve brought shame to their cause.

  24. Elmo

    Useroz

    That’s exactly what I was thinking watching Willian. Does his contract incentivise pass completions? Never takes on the full back, never looking for risky passes through the defence, constant sideways and backwards pinball.

    In a way I understand it because the movement in behind is poor, apart from on the left where Martinelli is, and that’s why Odegaard also looks like he has little to offer. Still would hope Willian tried to create something himself, though.

  25. Sid

    Have been thinking maybe the doctors misdiagonised Auba, mistaking Elephantiasis for malaria,
    now his genitalia are swollen and heavy and its affecting his football

  26. Raulishuss

    Willian has been decent. It’s like Y’all already made up your mind about something and refuse to accept reality

  27. Sid

    Normal malaria doesnt take a few weeks to incubate the symptoms would have shown earlier after travelling to Africa

  28. Danny

    The Newcastle players are already on the beach, some of our players e.g. Willian, Ceballos never got off it last summer…..

  29. Buzzy

    Cant understand why a player like Maximin still plays for a shit club like Newcastle..the guy is world class…imagine having him over Willian and Gabi the other flank

  30. China1

    Surely someone at United needs to be sacked for this breach. They’ve actually breached again. A second time in 30 mins. How has this been possible

  31. vickingz

    See how chambers got exposed? If this is all ordegard has in his locker, he’s nowhere near ESR then

  32. vickingz

    We can’t play with martielli, can we? A terrror in the first half hardly gets played on in the second half

  33. Mics_

    I’m in the states so nbc is splitting my screen between the arsenal game and the scenes at old trafford. Fuck the Glazers and fuck the Kroenkes. Interesting how long it took eight policeman to make it to the stadium? Bizarre. Very interesting.

  34. Kroenkephobe

    Rich

    You ready…..
    Goal number 2. Scored by an immigrant thus bringing benefits to UK based gooners. Your prejudice starting to look even more stupid eh mate?

  35. Leedsgunner

    Willian, is he actually a professional footballer or is he a member of the public who won a competition to play with the Arsenal squad for the year?

  36. China1

    Arteta already told us that Martinelli was benched all that time just to test his character or some nonsense 😂😂

  37. Zfree

    Martinelli been great, yet again showing what he’s about. But because he’s played today, arteta won’t start him Thursday.

  38. Dissenter

    I hope Arteta doesn’t try to play Ode and ESR together on Thursday
    Players either of the two and start with Martinelli, Pepe and Auba.
    Play Saka as LB and move Xhaka to the middle with Partey.

  39. Zfree

    London

    He definitely said it. Think he thought he was giving some great explanation. Didn’t even realize how idiotic it makes him sound, if it was indeed true.

    I maintain it was just a line he came up with. The real reason being he doesn’t know how to pick a team or recognize attacking talent, that he doesn’t like young players, and that he holds grudges.

  40. London gunner

    ZFREE

    Arteta wasn’t an exciting player he was a low risk high passing percentage player i dont think he can stand flair players like martinelle he prefers low risk low reward willans

  41. S Asoa

    Arteta was average. Still not got over being a non entity at Barca and not cutting it at PSG.
    Now suffers from an inferiority complex which he tries to offset being a petty bully. Classic Freudian case

  42. Samir

    Bellerin isn’t very good but he’s still our best RB.
    Ryan may be more reliable than Leno.
    Odegaard is inconsistent.

    Arteta is still useless.

  43. Spanishdave

    Like Ryan he’s very confident put him on Thursday date you.
    Martinelli taken out but he should be ok