1972 Arsenal reach their 5th Cup Final in 5 years
After the crowning glory of the 1970-71 season, 1972 can only be described as a huge disappointment.
Achieving success is only half the battle whereas living with the difficulties that the success created is
another matter altogether.
A month after the "Double" was won, North London was alive with rumours of a split in the
camp which was believed to be rock solid. Influential coach, Don Howe left Arsenal for
West Bromwich Albion on July 8th 1972 . John Sammels was transfered to Leicester City for £100,000.
These moves combined with inconsistent performances from Simpson, George and Storey resulted in Arsenal only finishing fifth in the league.
The F.A. Cup remained Arsenal's only hope of salvaging their battered pride, and their fifth Cup Final in five
years was the only reminder of the previous season. The final against Leeds United was
a drab affair. The goal when it finally came near the end of the game was scored by Allan Clarke with a
diving header that powerfully beat both Wilson and Barnett in the Gunners defence. Arsenal finished
the season in fifth place with 52 points. The "Double" had become history, and in the following
years the team that had showed so much potential to succeed slowly disintegrated as disgruntled players went
their separate ways. Over the next four years Arsenal reached their lowest performance since the days
of Billy Wright's 10 years before culminating with a lowly position of 17th place at the end of season
1978 Ipswich Town spoil Arsenal's revival.
Terry Neill's second season in charge included the additions of Pat Jennings, Willie Young, Alan Hudson and Alan Sunderland
producing a team with huge potential. Neill's second season saw Arsenal climb to fifth position in the league and ended with
another visit to Wembley. Jennings was in fact a major coup when Spurs thought that they were unloading an old player for only a meagre
£40,000. Nevertheless, the Northern Ireland internationall went on and played over 300 games for Arsenal!
Arsenal were instilled as firm favourites for the Cup game, and this should have been an indication of what
was to come. Arsenal have always excelled in conditions of adversity, unfortunately May 6th 1978 was not one of
those occasions. A solitary goal by Roger Osborne was the lowest point of a forgettable game.
Arsenal's official excuse was that they had a number of injuries to key players such as, Alan Sunderland (broken bone in foot), Rice, Nelson and Young (knocks),
Macdonald (surgery on his right knee)! There were only more excuses. The only saving grace was Terry Neill's parting promise that Arsenal would be back next
year. Macdonald unfortunately had a knee operation three days after the Cup final, it was
unsuccessful and a series of operations followed that ended his career at the age of only 29. He had
visited Wembley on three occasions (twice with Newcastle) and had three losers medals to show for
1979 Arsenal CRUSH Manchester Utd in the F.A. Cup Final of the Century!
The 1978-79 season will remain in EVERY Arsenal supporters memory for one
game. It was unforgettable, one of the best goals (by Brady) was scored on this day.
The date was December 23rd 1978, the venue was at White Hart Lane, the opposition was
Tottenham Hotspur and the result was a complete Spurs whitewash, with Alan Sunderland
scoring a hat-trick, Frank Stapleton scoring from an exquisite cross from Brady
and Brady himself added to the tally with a sizzling thunderbolt from the edge of the area! Arsenal were more
than triumphant on this day as they thrashed their North London derby rivals, 5-0!
The season will also be remembered for our epic battle against Sheffield Wednesday in
the 3rd round of the FA Cup, and a Cup Final victory against Manchester United that had people engrossed
in an epic five minute climax.
The Winter of 1978-9 was bitterly cold and Arsenal were one of a few clubs to continue to play
due to their undersoil heating system. In the third round of the FA Cup Arsenal had to
face Sheffield Wednesday, who were in the Third Division. Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough in the
first game. As for the replay, Arsenal came from behind with a Brady goal
salvaging another draw. For the 2nd replay a neutral ground had to be chosen. As half the country was
completely frozen, Filbert Street (Leicester City's ground) was chosen as the venue.
The game produced another amazing 2-2 draw on a bitterly cold Tuesday night. The two
teams had to return two days later for another bitterly cold Thursday night and played out a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Both teams looked exactly like draw specialists at the moment!
Five days later the teams met for a record 5th time to finish the business which could have been done in one match.
This time however, goals by Frank Stapleton and Steve Gatting finally ended the bold resistance of the Third Division side. In all, a total of
143,996 fans plus television audiences had been enthralled by 540 minutes of classic cup action.
Remarkably, Arsenal had also played a single first division game during all the replays and had
enough strength to win it 2-1 (Nottingham Forest). Arsenal made light work of the following round with a 2-0 victory against
Notts County, the 5th round however produced a one sided torrent of action.
The City Ground (Nottingham Forest) at the time was a very difficult place to get a decent result. Under Brian Clough, they had
produced a resurgence and were playing their 52nd game of an incredible 51 match unbeaten home run. Arsenal were lucky to catch them on a night where they faltered in
a match which they dominated. Forest spent almost the entire game in the Arsenal half, they hit the bar,
the post, Pat Jennings, each other...etc Well it was nearly everything other than the back of Arsenal's net. The
Arsenal players would have been more pleased with a draw when a free kick was awarded just
outside the Forest penalty area late in the game. It was one of very few occasions when
Arsenal had crossed the half way line. The free kick was taken, Stapleton did the impossible and scored. Nottingham
Forest were forced to say goodbye to both the F.A. Cup and their record breaking unbeaten home run.
On a hot and stifling day, with Brian Talbot running his heart out in midfield, and Brady and
Stapleton looking like world class players, the Cup looked won with joint effort from
Sunderland and Talbot - they arrived at the same time for a shot though the goal which was later given to
Talbot - and Stapleton's fine header. But with five minutes left the game was transformed by two scrappy goals
by McQueen and McIlroy for Manchester united. When Brady took the ball deep into United's half from
the second kick-off, his only thought was to keep possession and hope for extra time, so were United.
But Graham Rix had summoned up enough energy within him for a marvellous run, took Brady's pass and slung over a perfect cross to
the far post for Alan Sunderland to slide the ball in for the winner ("There's a minute left on the
clock, Brady for Arsenal...right across, Sunderland...It's there, I do not believe it, I swear
I do not believe it!" - sport commentator). There was no time for United to come back again, Arsenal had done the impossible again!
Once again, they had provided themselves a mountain to climb, and achieved glory. The victory meant
that Brian Talbot had become only the second player in FA Cup history to win back to back Cup
winners' medals with different clubs.
1980 Success brings 70 games in a season
|The Road to the Fifth F.A. Cup
|Sheffield Wednesday||(R)||Filbert Street||2-2||Sunderland, Brady
|Sheffield Wednesday||(R)||Filbert Street||3-3||Stapleton(2), Young
|Sheffield Wednesday||(R)||Filbert Street||2-0||Stapleton, Gatting
|Notts County||4TH||Home||2-0||Talbot, Price
|Wolves||SF||Villa Park||2-0||Stapleton, Sunderland
|Manchester United||FINAL||Wembley||3-2||Sunderland, Stapleton, Talbot
Arsenal started the season on a losing note, a comprehensive 3-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Charity
Shield. Little did the Gunners knew at the time, that Arsenal would proceed from that defeat to a record
third successive FA Cup Final, a European Cup Winners Cup Final, the quarter-finals of the
League Cup and a UEFA Cup place for the following season if they won their last game.
Potentially, the 79-80 season were as good as things could get! The strain however of playing 70 games in
less than 9 months took it's huge toll. The team had a solidity about it that produced 16 drawn
games in the league. The striking partnership of Frank Stapleton and Alan Sunderland produced a remarkable 28
goals between them, it was a good partnership, but not earth-shattering. Only once during the whole
League season did Arsenal manage to score more than three goals, and that was on the
opening day of the season away to Brighton & Hove Albion (Sunderland 2, Stapleton, Brady).
The Cups however were another matter altogether. Leeds United were crushed 7-0 in a second round League
Cup replay at Highbury (Sunderland 3, Brady 2, Stapleton, Nelson) and Brighton were once again
dealt a 4-0 drubbing in the 4th round (Stapleton 2, Vaessen 2). In the Cup
Winners Cup, IFK Gothenburg were going to have to climb the Everest if they were to progress to
the Semi-Finals after Arsenal beat them 5-1 in the first leg of the Quarter-Final (Sunderland 2, Brady,
Price, Young). Two games however will be etched in the memories of Arsenal supporters for the
huge disappointment that they caused us. Here's some highlights before we get into those dissapoinments.
The first was the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool (defending League Champions, team of the
70's and was well on their way to another Championship). The Semi-Final was an epic that
took four games, a titanic struggle, and the prophetic blood sweat and tears to win. The third game
produced a goal for Arsenal in just 13 seconds by Alan Sunderland (the fastest ever Semi-Final
goal). The battle of the titans was finally settled with the third replay at Highfield Road when Talbot
scored a lone goal early in the first half. The four games (longest ever FA Cup Semi-Final) had
amassed a total of 169,163 supporters and Arsenal had proven that they were more than a match
for anyone on their day. Reminiscence of the game against Sheffield Wednesday?
The second highlight was in the Semi-Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup. Arsenal were
drawn against the mighty 'Grand Old Lady', Juventus. The first game at Highbury produced a thrilling 1-1 draw.
This meant that we had to visit Delle Alpi Stadium (Turin) knowing that only a win or a higher
scoring draw would see us through to the final. The task for Arsenal was monumental. In 25 years of
European Cup competition, Juventus had never been beaten by a British club on home soil for the
last decade, they hadn't been beaten by any European Club either. With just two minutes of the
game remaining Arsenal were facing an exit from the competition on the away goals rule when Paul
Vaessen popped up at the far post to score the historic, record-breaking winner. Paul had come on as replacement
for Price. It was a goal that silenced a stadium and put Arsenal into the Final against Valencia.
Unfortunately, it was also the only highlight of a relatively short career for Vaessen as he would have his career cut
short by a serious knee injury within two years of that game at the age of 20!
The FA Cup Final against unfancied Second Division West Ham turned out to be another one of
those days when Arsenal really should have stayed in bed. Finals against lower division clubs seem
to be a constant thorn in Arsenal's side. A single goal by Trevor Brooking (a rare header) saw the Cup go to East London rather than
North London. The only high point of the game was when Willie Young with only 3 minutes to go
cut down Paul Allen blatantly as he was looking good to score. It was a cruel, crude tackle which
was clearly meant not to stop the progress of the ball, but to make sure Allan didn't score, in fact, it
showed all the frustration that every Arsenal supporter felt on the day.
The European Cup Winners Cup Final was a completely different story to the FA Cup Final.
Arsenal played well during a goalless 120 minutes. They never looked second best to Valencia,
and frankly should have won the game in normal time. Both defences however held out, as the
minutes ticked their way towards a penalty shoot-out. Both Mario Kempes and Liam Brady failed
to score from their respective spot kicks. from then on, both teams scored. With the penalty score at
4-5 up stepped Arsenal's sixth penalty taken Graham Rix. Goalkeeper Carlos Pereira had been
moving before the penalty taker kicked through all the previous kicks, and did so again. The ground
came to a moment of silence as Rix stepped up and tried to place a weak shot. Pereira guessed
correctly and dived to his left saving the shot. The crowd roared as the television cameras focused in
on a crushed and dishevelled Graham Rix as tears filled his eyes and he realized the enormity of his
error. The season was not over yet for Arsenal though. They still had two league games to go. If
they won them both they would at least qualify for a UEFA Cup place for the next season. Three
days later they travelled to Wolverhampton and somehow came away with a 2-1 victory (Stapleton,
Walford). They had no time to rest though because the following Monday night
saw them play their 17th game from the beginning of April including three which resulted in extra time
needed. Unfortunately the Gunners ran out of steam as Middlesborough ran out 5-0 winners scoring
more in one game than Liverpool, West Ham and Valencia had in six. Arsenal finished up with
nothing when the potential was there for their best ever season.
1981 The Arsenal exodus begins!
After the shattering disappointment of the 1979-80 season a period of apathy seemed to descend
upon Highbury. Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady moved on to Manchester United and Juventus
respectively. Hawley, Chapman and Hankin moved in but they were by far not suitable replacements for those who left.
Kenny Sansom seemed to be the only purchase of any value, and he
came to Arsenal in what seemed like mysterious circumstance. Clive Allen was bought for a record
£1,250,000 during the 80-81 off season, and without playing a single competitive game for the
Gunners eight weeks later a deal seemed to be struck for a swap (with Paul Barron thrown in) for
Crystal Palace's talented left back. Arsenal did manage to end the season in 3rd place, but
attendances dropped off and everything seemed bleak.
1982 Denis Hill-Wood passes away
Arsenal Chairman Denis Hill-Wood, much beloved and respected throughout the game died aged
76. Denis was the backbone of Arsenal for so many years. He had taken over as Arsenal Chairman
from his father 22 years earlier and a long family tradition was continued when the Chairmanship
passed on to his son Peter.
1986 George Graham takes over the hot seat and a new era begins
Howe's problems were much the same as those of Terry Neill's - he couldn't quite crack the
goalscoring problem Arsenal faced. On March 22nd 1986, after Arsenal had beaten Coventry City 3-0 and
despite it being a fourth consecutive League win, Don Howe asked to be released from his contract.
He had heard a rumour that Arsenal were considering signing Terry Venables if he
were to be released from Barcelona.
History of course tells us that Terry Venables did not become Arsenal Manager, that role was actually filled
by none other that the 1970-71 FA Cup Final Man-of-the-Match George Graham.
Graham proved to be just the right man for the job at the right time. Graham did not spend any
money straight away in establishing his own squad of players. He placed priority on defence.
The last line of defence included Anderson, Sansom, Adams and O'Leary, all International regulars.
On September 27th 1986 Arsenal lost to Nottingham Forest 1-0, defeat was not to be an
issue again until January 24th 1987. 22 games unbeaten, a new Arsenal record. During that period
they won 17 and drew 5 games scoring 47 goals and conceding only 11. Graham's defensive team had produced one of
the most remarkable run in the League.
1986 Our Centenary Year brings Arsenal a First League Cup triumph
1986-87 will always be famous for three things, the first was the signing of George Graham, the
second was the Centenary, the third was the saying, "One-nil down, Two-one up, that's how
Arsenal won the Cup, la la la la la la la la la!". Which was to be the best description of Graham's
Arsenal side. The nicest thing about this is that it happened on
three occasions in our Littlewoods Cup (League Cup) winning run.
The Semi-Final against long time rivals Tottenham Hotspur proved to be a demonstration of
resilience and the difference between the Arsenal's of both Neill and Howe and the New Arsenal that
Graham created. They had a "never-say-die" attitude. Graham instilled the somewhat new belief
that the game should be played for the full 90 minutes with equal gusto. The first leg of the
Semi-Final was at home to Tottenham. Tottenham went away 1-0 victors with a goal by Clive
Allen. The second leg at White Hart Lane looked to be going the same way when
after 38 minutes Clive Allen once again popped up to put Arsenal 0-2 behind on aggregate. The
second half of the second leg of the Littlewoods Cup Semi-Final was not only a peek at the
NEW Arsenal, but the birth of a new era of success for the Gunners.
Arsenal came out for the second half and the talk that Graham had with the players produced
its result immediately. Viv Anderson brought a well needed equalizer on the
night. There was a new vibrancy about Arsenal as they continued to push forward. With time running
out, Niall Quinn met a David Rocastle cross near the left hand post quite beautifully to make the
score 2-1 forcing a third game (away goals were not recognised in the Littlewoods Cup). The
referee tossed a coin at the end of the game for home advantage in the third tie, and incredibly it
stuck upright in the mud. Tottenham won the second toss, and Arsenal were once again White
Hart Lane bound. The third game was once again a nerve-wracking affair. For the third consecutive time
Tottenham took the lead with Clive Allen scoring their goal. This time, Spurs held on for 82 minutes
before they were pegged back by an Ian Allinson goal. Then, with only seconds remaining Arsenal
pushed three men forward and reaped the reward as David Rocastle squeezed a shot underneath
Ray Clemence's body silencing the Spurs supporters and sending the Arsenal fans into utter ecstasy and sheer joy.
Liverpool were installed as the overwhelming favourites for the Littlewoods Cup Final played on
April 5th 1987, but once again, they played 'bridesmaid' as Arsenal lifted their first League Cup.
Destiny seemed to lend a hand in the 23rd minute when Ian Rush scored for Liverpool. In his long
career with the Reds, they had never lost when he had scored (almost 150 games). This Arsenal side
however were undaunted by that fact. On the stroke of half-time Charlie Nicholas poked a goalmouth scramble
home and Arsenal were level. Late goals seemed to be the flavour of the day, because 7 minutes
from the end of full-time Perry Groves roared in from the left, leaving defenders behind him and
pushed the ball to Nicholas. The "golden boy" shot rather weakly, but the ball took a peculiar
spinning deflection that left Grobbelaar stranded as it meandered into the net.
George Graham said afterwards: "We have often played better; but the prize at the end
made it one of Arsenal's most memorable performances. It's a dream start for me, but
this is just the start."
|The Road to the First League Cup
|Huddersfield Town||2ND-1||Home||2-0||Quinn, Davis
|Manchester City||3RD||Home||3-1||Rocastle, Davis, Hayes
|Charlton Athletic||4TH||Home||2-0||Quinn, OG
|Nottingham Forest||5TH||Home||2-0||Nicholas, Hayes
|Tottenham Hotspurs||SF-2||Away||2-1||Quinn, Anderson
|Tottenham Hotspurs||(R)||Away||2-1||Rocastle, Allinson
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