#ThrowbackThursday – Season 1968/69

By Robert Exley

The review of Arsenal’s campaigns continues

The summer of 1968 was one of great upheaval for the world at large. Following on from the assassination of Martin Luther King the previous April, was also the killing of US presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in June, in a manner similar to his brother while he was in office five years prior. At Highbury, no real sign of a revolution was occurring on the surface, though Arsenal’s fortunes were gradually beginning to change. Over the summer, the only transfer activity had been two outgoing transfers. After losing his first team place at the end of the previous season, goalkeeper Jim Furnell transferred to Rotherham with Bob Wilson now firmly in place as Arsenal’s first choice keeper. Also leaving Highbury was Gordon Nielsen on his way to Brentford.

The only incoming move to Highbury over the summer had been the return of Peter Simpson after a summer on loan at the Boston Beacons of the NASL (a new franchise for 1968, which folded at the close of the season). Arsenal’s season started with the regular behind closed doors friendly with Watford at London Colney, in which Arsenal lost 1-2. The Gunners then went on a pre-season tour of West Germany. The first fixture was against Alemmania Aachen, from the Western Rhineland border near France. The previous season the side had completed their first ever season in the Bundesliga. Two goals for David Jenkins was not enough to prevent Arsenal crashing to a 2-3 defeat.

Three days later, the last fixture on Arsenal’s tour of West Germany came against Borussia Monchengladbach. The Gunners played out a 0-0 draw. Seventy two hours on saw Arsenal head to Ibrox on the final Saturday before the start of the season. In front of a crowd of 40,000, goals for David Jenkins and George Johnston meant a 2-2 draw. One place however where revolution was occurring in late summer 1968 was the ITV network. The number of national franchises had been increased from twelve regions to thirteen. There had also been the abolition of the weekend franchises for the North and Midlands. As a result, ATV was granted a seven day licence for the Midlands, as had Granada for the North West.

As a by-product, this meant change for viewers in London. North and Midlands weekend franchise holder ABC Weekend Television was forced into a merger with London weekday provider Associated Rediffusion, to form Thames Television. Meanwhile, ATV’s new commitments in the Midlands meant a vacancy for the weekend franchise in the capital. Into the vacuum came London Weekend Television (LWT), which had been a consortium headed up by broadcaster David Frost with other former BBC figures such as Frank Muir and former BBC1 controller Michael Peacock. Appointed as head of Sport had been Jimmy Hill, who along with former BBC Radio commentator Brian Moore, launched ‘The Big Match’ as London’s regional football highlights show.

The new station was to come on air on 2nd August 1968 and with Arsenal’s fixtures kicking off eight days later with a trip to White Hart Lane to face Spurs, the North London Derby looked the natural choice to kick off London’s new Football highlights show. The fledgling ITV station however was hit by Industrial action in its opening week. Associated Rediffusion’s merger with ABC meant that LWT were forced to take over their old studios in Wembley and employ the same staff. The transmission staff were now required to work weekends rather than weekdays and wanted extra pay for the unsociable hours they were now required to work.

As a result of this, the North London Derby went uncovered by the Big Match, who instead showed a rerun of the 1968 European Cup Final. In the event, a crowd of 56,280 turned out for the Derby game. Arsenal opened the scoring with a goal from John Radford. Into the second half, the Gunners lead doubled with an own goal by Tottenham’s Phil Beale. Jimmy Greaves pulled one back for Spurs, but couldn’t prevent a 2-1 victory for Arsenal. Three days on, Arsenal’s first home game of the season saw the visit of Leicester City. A crowd of 32,164 turned out for Highbury’s first fixture. After a goalless first half, goals for David Court and two for Bobby Gould meant a 3-0 victory which gave Arsenal back to back wins.

Four days later, another box office draw that might well have featured on the Big Match was the visit of Bill Shankly’s Liverpool. Sadly by this point, the whole of the ITV network were now embroiled in industrial action with the ACTT Union, which meant that the whole network were forced into an emergency national ITV service. To add insult to injury, ITV showed a repeat of the 1968 League Cup Final, in which Arsenal lost 0-1 to Leeds United. A crowd of 43,535 turned out for the Liverpool game, paying an admission fee of ten shillings. Arsenal took the lead with a goal from John Radford. Five minutes into the second half, a goal from Roger Hunt equalised for Liverpool. With no further scoring, the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

On the day of Arsenal’s next fixture away at Wolves, the Soviet Union in coalition with fellow Warsaw pact countries Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, had led an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the ‘Prague Spring’ which had been a process of political liberalisation by the Czech regime. At Molineux however, Arsenal and Wolves played out a goalless draw. On the weekend, there followed a trip to East Anglia to face Ipswich Town at Portman Road. Goals for John Radford and David Jenkins earned Arsenal a 2-1 victory, while Ray Crawford was on target for Ipswich. Arsenal’s penultimate fixture of August in midweek was a visit from reigning League champions Man City.

City had won just one of their first four games in defence of their title. A crowd of 40,776 turned out at Highbury for the occasion. Goals for Jon Sammels and John Radford, as well as two for David Jenkins gave Arsenal a 4-1 victory, while Colin Bell was on target for City. The win took Arsenal to the top of the table after six games. On the last day of August 1968, Arsenal faced a visit from QPR. Rangers were newly promoted to the top flight for the first time in their history. QPR’s only previous visit to Highbury had been an FA Cup tie back in January 1922. Rangers were also managed by former Arsenal boss Bill Dodgin and had enjoyed two promotions on the bounce since their 1967 League Cup win.

Nine minutes into the second half, Frank McLintock gave Arsenal the lead. On the hour mark, a Terry Neill penalty doubled Arsenal’s lead. Seven minutes later, Alan Wilks pulled a goal back for Rangers, however could not prevent a 2-1 victory for Arsenal (and the Classic Match report from ‘The Arsenal History’ site informs that the game took place the same day as Garfield Sobers hit six consecutive sixes for Notts against Glamorgan). Arsenal’s first fixture of September 1968 was the beginning of the Gunners second attempt at Wembley glory, with a visit from Sunderland in the League Cup second round. A goal from Terry Neill gave Arsenal a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 28,460.

The first leg fixture would be a trip to the Dell to meet thirteenth place Southampton. Terry Paine would be on target for the Saints, however two goals for John Radford meant that Arsenal’s winning run continued. Next up would be Stoke City at Highbury. A goal for Terry Neill meant a 1-0 win for Arsenal in front of a crowd of 28,275. Arsenal were still riding high at the top of the table unbeaten, however Don Revie’s Leeds United were also unbeaten and one point behind with a game in hand. On the penultimate Saturday of September, Arsenal’s trip to Elland Road to meet the West Yorkshire side would be the Gunners’ first appearance on Match of the Day for 1968/69.

Goals for Jack Charlton and a superb header from Michael O’Grady however inflicted a 0-2 defeat on Arsenal – their first loss of the season. Consequently, pole position was conceded to Leeds United on goal average. Four days later, Arsenal headed to Glanford Park to face Scunthorpe in the third round of the League Cup. The North Lincolnshire side were sitting in fourteenth place in the old Fourth Division and had a young Kevin Keegan within their squad. That very same night, Scunthorpe old boy Ray Clemence would be making his debut for Liverpool in a League cup tie with Swansea Town. Scunthorpe could have done with a keeper of Clem’s calibre as Arsenal ran out 6-1 winners, with goals from David Court, Bobby Gould, Jon Sammels and a hat-trick for David Jenkins.

The following week would bring Arsenal’s very first appearance on LWT’s ‘The Big Match’ with the visit of tenth place Sunderland. In front of a crowd of 35,277, the match ended in a 0-0 draw, however a 1-3 defeat for Leeds United to league champions Man City meant that Arsenal finished September 1968 at the summit of the old First Division. October 1968 begun with a trip to Old Trafford to meet a Man United side that despite being European Champions were languishing in twelve position after ten games, having already lost four matches. Highlights of the game would again feature on the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’.

Old Trafford has always been a difficult place for the Gunners to pick up points, even when United have been in poor form and so it was again in 1968/69, as Arsenal left Old Trafford with a 0-0 draw. A 1-0 win for Leeds United away at Newcastle meant that Arsenal lost the top spot to Don Revie’s side. Four days on, Arsenal travelled to Maine Road to face reigning Champions Man City for the second time in three weeks. With John Radford on target for Arsenal and Colin Bell on target for City, the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Another win for Leeds at Sunderland, as well as a 1-1 draw for Liverpool over Everton, meant that Arsenal now dropped to third place.

The following Saturday, saw the visit of second from bottom Coventry City to Highbury. Highlights of the game would be captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Arsenal got back to winning ways, with a 2-1 victory courtesy of a fantastic volleyed goal by David Court as well as John Radford also on target, while Ernie Hunt would score for Coventry. Three days later, Arsenal faced a stiff test in their quest for a return to Wembley with a visit from Bill Shankly’s Liverpool to Highbury. The Reds were one point above Arsenal in the league table at the time. A crowd of 39,299 turned out for the tie and witnessed Arsenal progressing to the Quarter Finals with a 2-1 victory with goals from John Radford and Peter Simpson, while Chris Lawler would be on target for Liverpool.

On the penultimate Saturday of October 1968, Arsenal journeyed to the Hawthorns to meet ninth place West Brom. A goal for Tony Brown inflicted a 0-1 defeat on Arsenal, which saw the Gunners fall further off the pace, now behind Everton in fourth place. In the meantime, a swap deal occurred with Spurs for Jimmy Robertson that saw David Jenkins heading in the other direction. In a rare piece of business with our rivals from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road, Jenkins made just fourteen appearances for Spurs over four years, before transferring to Brentford. Jimmy Robertson on the other hand made his Arsenal debut on the final Saturday of October, with a visit from West Ham United, highlights of which were captured by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’. The game ended in a 0-0 draw.

October 1968’s final fixture would be the League Cup Quarter Final tie at Highbury against second tier Blackpool. An attendance of 32,321 turned out for the tie and were rewarded with a goal fest. On target for the Gunners would be Bobby Gould, John Radford, Peter Simpson and two for George Armstrong, as Arsenal ran out 5-1 winners and progressed to a Semi Final meeting with Spurs. Arsenal were due to face Sheffield Wednesday for the first fixture of November 1968, the game however was postponed. In the meantime, Richard Nixon would be elected as the president of the USA.

One week later, Newcastle United visited Highbury. The game ended goalless and Arsenal’s league form was now just one win in their last eight games. Next up in the league however would visit the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest. In November 1968, the FA took the decision to ban Navy blue shirts, like the away kit which Arsenal wore, on the grounds that they clashed with the referee’s kit. Arsenal therefore for this fixture reverted to a yellow away kit, for the first time since the early 1950s. From hereafter, the yellow second kit would become as iconic as Arsenal’s first colours of red and white.

In the event, goals for George Armstrong and John Radford earned the Gunners a 2-0 victory. Four days on would be the first leg of Arsenal’s League Cup Semi Final tie with Spurs at Highbury. A crowd of 55,237 turned out for the game, paying five shillings for the privilege (the equivalent of 25p in decimal currency. Adjusted for inflation that would be Ł4.17 in today’s money). A late goal for John Radford meant that Arsenal took a 1-0 lead back to White Hart Lane for the second leg. Arsenal were hoping that back to back victories would build momentum to challenge traditional bogey side – eighth place Chelsea - at Highbury. The game would be covered by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’.

A goal for Peter Houseman however inflicted a 0-1 defeat on the Gunners, which now left them five points behind League leaders Liverpool, but with a game in hand. On the last day of November 1968, Arsenal headed to Turf Moor to play eighth place Burnley. Jimmy Robertson’s first goal for Arsenal earned the Gunners a 1-0 win. Arsenal finished November 1967 in fourth place. The first fixture of December 1967 would be a trip to White Hart Lane to face Spurs in the second leg of the League Cup Semi Final. A crowd of 55,923 headed to White Hart Lane for the tie. Midway through the first half, a Jimmy Greaves goal levelled the scores on aggregate.

There had even been an incident where Bob Wilson was knocked out, but in an era without substitute goalkeepers merely got up and carried on with the rest of the game. With the game heading for extra time, with three minutes to go Radford got his head to a George Armstrong cross to equalise on the night and send Arsenal through to their second successive final with a 2-1 win on aggregate. The following weekend saw the visit of second place Everton, who were just two points behind rivals Liverpool in the title race. Highlights of the game would be covered by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’.

A crowd of 40,108 witnessed a 3-1 victory for Arsenal, with goals for David Court, John Radford and George Graham, while future Arsenal star Alan Ball was on target for Everton. Arsenal would be covered by the TV cameras again one week later, their trip to Highfield Road to face Coventry City captured by ATV’s ‘Star Soccer’. A goal for Bobby Gould against his old club earned Arsenal a 1-0 win. Meanwhile, a week before Christmas 1968, third tier Swindon Town defeated Burnley to set up a meeting with Arsenal in the League Cup Final. Four days before Christmas, Arsenal faced a visit from ninth place West Brom.

Another for Bobby Gould and an own goal from Doug Fraser earned Arsenal a 2-0 victory, in front of 30,765 spectators. On Boxing Day, Arsenal faced a visit from Man United, who were now languishing in sixteenth position. Action would be captured by cameras for ITN. Goals for John Radford, George Armstrong and David Court earned Arsenal a 3-0 victory. Unbeknown at the time, this would be Arsenal’s final fixture against Man United during the reign of Matt Busby. After twenty four years at the helm, Busby would retire at the end of the season. Arsenal meanwhile finished the calendar year of 1968 in third place – four points behind League leaders Liverpool, but with two games in hand.

Arsenal’s first fixture of 1969 was the FA Cup third round trip to Ninian Park to play Cardiff City. Highlights of the game were covered by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ and a crowd as big as 55,316 turned out for the tie, which ended in a goalless draw. ITN news however picked up on the fact that railway police were required to board two Football special trains to prevent vandalism. Three days later back at Highbury, in front of a crowd of 52,681 goals for George Armstrong and Bobby Gould earned Arsenal a 2-0 win. Back in the League, seventh place Sheffield Wednesday came to Highbury in early January. Goals for Bobby Gould and John Radford earned Arsenal a 2-0 win which pushed the Gunners up to second in the table.

Tellingly, this was Arsenal’s sixth straight league win – the first time the Gunners had managed this for just under thirteen years. On the penultimate Saturday of January 1969 however, Arsenal’s winning run ended with a trip to St. James’s Park, Newcastle. Goals for Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson and Wyn Davies inflicted a 1-2 defeat on Arsenal, while Bobby Gould would be on target for Arsenal. A 2-1 win for Liverpool over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge meant that Arsenal dropped to third as a result of that defeat. On the final Saturday of January, Arsenal faced a visit from Charlton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The South East London side were at the time languishing in the second tier, though as this Pathe News footage shows were trying to pioneer attracting Family audiences back in the late sixties.

Highlights of the game were covered by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Goals for Jimmy Robertson and Jon Sammels earned Arsenal a 2-0 win to progress to the last sixteen. On the first day of February, back in the League the Gunners faced a visit from a Nottingham Forest side hovering above the relegation zone in twentieth place. Bobby Gould was on target for the Gunners, however former Arsenal striker John Barnwell would also bag one for Forest, as the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw. The result left Arsenal seven points adrift of league leaders Leeds United. Next up for Arsenal would be their attempt to find a dual carriageway to Wembley in the FA Cup, with an away trip to the Hawthorns to face FA Cup holders West Brom.

The game was rearranged from the previous Saturday due to a heavy snowfall. A goal for Albion’s Tony Brown however inflicted a 0-1 defeat to end Arsenal’s FA Cup hopes for 1969. Three days later it was back to League action for Arsenal, with a visit from tenth place Burnley. Two goals for Bobby Gould earned Arsenal a 2-0 win in front of 27,614 spectators. In the midweek, Arsenal faced a visit from sixteenth place Ipswich Town, now managed by Bobby Robson. In front of a crowd of just 23,891, Arsenal crashed to a 0-2 defeat.

As a result of snow, Arsenal’s next fixture – a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton – would be cancelled. Arsenal’s next game would be a rearranged league fixture with ninth place Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, which occurred because both sides who Arsenal were due to play were otherwise occupied with the FA Cup. Goals for Bobby Gould, Jon Sammels and a hat-trick for John Radford meant an emphatic 5-0 away victory. Arsenal had no fixture on the weekend prior to the League Cup Final and along with the confidence of a 5-0 away win, should have been red hot favourites to defeat third tier Swindon Town and win their first trophy for sixteen years.

There were two things however which diminished Arsenal’s advantage over Swindon. First was a flu bug which swept through the first team squad and afflicted six Arsenal players. The second was that continuous heavy rain throughout the early months, combined with the 1969 Horse of the Year Show and England playing France in the midweek, had made for a quagmire of a Wembley pitch. As ever, the League Cup Final would not be televised and once again, from the BBC Genome website, it doesn’t seem to have been covered at all on BBC Radio who at that time held the monopoly over the airwaves. Highlights of the game were again shown on the ITV network (although YouTube has the game in full, if you’re able to stand it!).

Ten minutes ahead of half time, a mix up between Arsenal centre half Ian Ure and keeper Bob Wilson led to an opening goal for Swindon from Don Smart, which he practically walked into the back of the net. Swindon held the lead until four minutes from time, when substitute George Graham played Bobby Gould through to equalise for the Arsenal (as Brian Moore would helpfully point out in Bobby Gould’s moment of great emption: ‘he’s crying!’ The ITV commentator also states in his match day commentary that Gould’s father was without his sight, but still at the game and had the game described to him as it occurred by members of his family).

The game went into extra time. Fourteen minutes into which Don Rogers put Swindon ahead again. In the final minute of extra time, as Arsenal pushed for an equaliser, Swindon broke away with Rogers sealing it for the Wiltshire side with his second goal – their first, and so far only major trophy. Arsenal crashed to a shameful 1-3 defeat. Many years after the event, former Arsenal players Bob Wilson, Frank McLintock and George Graham describe the shock of that loss. Wilson describes how McLintock threw his loser’s tankard into the Wembley mud in disgust before being hit by a trombone after walking into Wembley’s marching band.

The press were scathing, with Alan Hoby of the Sunday Express describing that Arsenal were: ‘slaves of their own system, methodical but utterly predictable’. The League Cup would not be the only glory for Swindon Town in 1968/69, as they would also finish runners up in the old Third Division and be promoted to the second tier along with Watford, who were champions by virtue of goal average. Swindon Town however were denied their chance in the following year’s Inter Cities Fairs Cup due to not being as top tier side. As a result, the Anglo-Italian League Cup and Anglo-Italian Cup were created to fill the void for the Wiltshire side. Swindon won the former in 1969, after beating Roma 5-2 over two legs. They also won the latter in 1970, after routing Napoli (which led to a post-match riot).

Arsenal returned to League action seven days later, with a meeting with the last third division side to win the League Cup at Wembley - QPR. Rangers were now managed by Les Allen - former Spurs forward and father of Arsenal two week wonder Clive. QPR were anchored to the foot of the table and the match would be Arsenal’s first visit to Loftus Road since back to back First Round FA Cup meetings in 1921 and 1922. A goal for George Armstrong earned Arsenal a 1-0 win. Forty eight hours on saw the visit of Spurs to Highbury. In front of a crowd of 43,972, a John Sammels goal meant a 1-0 victory for Arsenal. For the first time in ten years, Arsenal had beaten Spurs in both league fixtures (the Gunners also had the added bonus of beating Spurs in the League Cup Semi Final too).

The final Saturday of March 1969 saw the visit of Southampton to Highbury. The match ended in a goalless draw. On the last day of March, Arsenal headed to snowbound Anfield to face Liverpool. The match was rearranged from a week before the League Cup Final. The Reds were still in the hunt for the title, but five points behind Leeds United with a game in hand. A goal for Jimmy Robertson was cancelled out by a twice taken penalty from Tommy Smith (which had to be retaken as Bob Paisley was on the field at the time treating the injured Alun Evans). The game ended in a 1-1 draw, which meant Liverpool had just eight games left to claw back a four point deficit over league leaders Leeds.

The point however pushed Arsenal up to third at the close of March 1969. The first fixture of April saw a visit to Sunderland on Easter Saturday. The Rokerites sat in nineteenth place in the table, but with a six point cushion between them and the relegation. On Easter Monday, Arsenal faced a visit from mid-table Wolves. A bank holiday crowd of 31,011 turned out at Highbury. Goals for George Armstrong, George Graham and Jimmy Robertson saw Arsenal run out 3-1 winners, while Les Wilson was on target for Wolves. Twenty Four hours later, Arsenal journeyed to Filbert Street to play second from bottom Leicester City.

Though the Foxes were battling relegation, they had already secured their place at Wembley to play Man City at Wembley at the end of the month. Three games in four days took its toll, as Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw. By the season’s close, Leicester faced the double blow of losing the FA Cup Final to City and relegation from the top flight. Four days later back at Highbury saw a visit from league leaders Leeds United, who were closing in on their first ever league title. Highlights of the game were captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Despite it being a game against the league leaders, a crowd of just 44,715 turned out (by modern day standards, this would be a disappointing figure). The game was notable for an incident just four minutes in, with Gary Sprake knocking out Bobby Gould with a punch.

Sprake alleged on the matter that: ‘As I fell, Gould kicked me in the privates very hard. He then turned around and called me a f***ing Welsh so-and-so and I lost it and I felled him with a sharp left ... I had started to walk towards the touchline and take off my jersey ... but, as the melee of players subsided, referee Burns (who was also Welsh) came up to me and said 'Everything will be okay, Gareth. I heard what he called you’. Mick Jones gave Leeds a first half lead. With eleven minutes left in the first half, George Graham volleyed home to equalise from near the penalty spot after a long free kick by Frank McLintock.

There then followed another mix up between Ian Ure and Bob Wilson which looked reminiscent of the error between the two against Swindon in the League Cup Final at Wembley. Johnny Giles pounced to add a second for Don Revie’s side. With no further scoring, Leeds inflicted a 1-2 defeat on Arsenal. Forty eight hours on, Arsenal headed to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea. It turned out to be two defeats in three days for the Gunners as goals for David Webb and former Arsenal star Tommy Baldwin inflicted a 1-2 defeat on Arsenal, while David Court would be on target for Arsenal. The Gunners record against Chelsea was now just one win from twelve games.

On the final Saturday of the season, Arsenal headed to the Victoria Ground to face Stoke City. Arsenal secured a 3-1 win with goals for David Court, George Armstrong and an own goal from Willie Stevenson, while Harry Burrows would be on target for Stoke. Within forty eight hours, Arsenal headed to the Boleyn Ground to face West Ham United. Goals for George graham and Jon Sammels earned Arsenal a 2-1 win, while John Sissons would be on target for the Hammers. The one remaining league fixture for Arsenal would be a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton. Twenty four hours earlier, a 0-0 draw for Leeds United at Anfield had secured their first ever league title, with a then record low of just two defeats all season.

Meanwhile at Goodison, a goal for Jimmy Husband meant a 0-1 defeat for the Gunners and Arsenal’s failure to win at Goodison Park now stretching to eleven years. Defeat to Everton had meant that the Toffees had leapfrogged Arsenal, with the Gunners dropping to fourth place. Nevertheless, this was Arsenal’s highest league finish for ten years. In May, Arsenal headed to Iceland for a friendly with a Reykjavik XI. Goals for Jimmy Robertson, John Radford and Bobby Gould earned Arsenal a 3-1 win. Four days on, back in England the Gunners headed to Vicarage Road to play a benefit game for Watford boss Ken Furphy against the third tier champions. In front of a crowd of 15,229, an eighteen year old Charlie George made a substitute appearance and scored twice, as Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners.

The 1968/69 season ended with an end of season tour to Malta. First up were Floriana in front of 9,000 people. Goals for Jimmy Robertson, David Court, Bobby Gould and new signing from Northampton Town – John Roberts – making his debut coming on as sub. The second and final game of the tour would be against a side called Hibernians (not to be confused with their Edinburgh-based near namesake side). In front of a crowd of 14,000, Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw which concluded their fixtures for 1968/69. The season saw great strides made to move back into the elite – crucially qualifying for European competition in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup for the first time in six seasons. And yet 1968/69 arguably saw the club’s most embarrassing result against Swindon at Wembley and the Gunners now sixteen seasons without a trophy. As will be seen tomorrow however, the following term would finally, at long last, see that long trophy drought ended.

Robert Exley can be found on Twitter and is the editor of Upstart Football, whose #ThrowbackThursday edition this week covers a review of the Euro ’76 Championships with all available video links.

22nd June 2017 09:03:14


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

The Knowing One  15:43pm 22nd Jun 2017

Really enjoying these, still a bit before my time, 1975-76 before I started taking notice, and about a year later attended my first game - Post No. 108185

Yes its Ron  17:50pm 22nd Jun 2017

I only have to see the name John Radford and i drool! Loved big Raddy. Very underrated. On the other hand, the name Swindon ..............well, say no more. Awful recollection of that. I went to that 0-0 at OT. Not sure why or how but was on the Stretford End in the seats that used to be towards the back. Denis Law missed a sitter from a yard out! Great article as usual Robert. I class the 68/69 Season as the one where we emerged from darker times of the 60s. We became mean that Season and teams didnt push us about. We started to adopt a bit of 'Leedsishness' but not like that rabble. We always kept our hard edge until we shed it totally in about 2003 and its never been replaced. A top team needs to be mean and nasty in the right way. Its been our biggest downfall i think. Even on a ltd budget post stadium move i really thank that had AW kept us with a mean edge, he d have won another title after 2004. We ll never know. - Post No. 108190

Badarse  7:19am 23rd Jun 2017

Morning fella, remember the Factor 50 Ron, don't damage the boat. Big Raddy, yup, he and the man, Joe Baker, great icons who just live on, and on...in my mind at least. Went to the '69 Final, Yellow floppy collared dress-shirt, blue hipsters, blue neckerchief, and beige, (almost yellow) shoes. Found the letter 'A' in Wembley High Street which had come off a car number plate. Told myself it was a good omen-never believed in mumbo jumbo and that day was no exception. A sad day with the pitch like Margate sands. Now off to my sun-recliner. - Post No. 108192

peter wain  8:29am 23rd Jun 2017

I went to the Leeds cup final. Joke of a decision over the goal. For the next corner Furnell double punched the Leeds player backing into him and the referee took no action. Still beat them in 70-71 when we were great. - Post No. 108194

Redshirtwhitesleeves  10:07am 23rd Jun 2017

Ron- i didn't start going to Highbury until 1979 but still feel a great connection and pride with the 71 team through being raised a staunch Gooner and being bought up on the stories of Arsenals glorious history and watching the old videos. Radford looked the absolute dogs b****** to me in the sadly all too few bits and pieces I've seen of him. Loved the way he seemed to carry himself on the pitch. No sulking, thumb sucking or giving it the big I am when he scored! Frank McClintock is another I would have loved to have watched play for us in the flesh. Love that pic of him at the top of this article and that Arsenal kit he's wearing could never be bettered for me. Thanks again Robert these articles are fantastic and far more entertaining than anything served up by the current regime! - Post No. 108195

Yes its Ron  10:43am 23rd Jun 2017

redshirts - yes, Raddy is always unassuming and a very humble man. A real Yorkie!Never any histrionics on the pitch and always a tough but very fair competitor. Ive met him a few times when we were still at Highbury im pleased to say. agree re the kit. Should never be changed from that! Loved Highbury in the late 60s esp early Season in the Sun. Nowhere ever bettered it for me. The Club had a certain 'feel', uniqueness and gravitas about it then to my young mind and perception back then anyway, long since gone sadly. - Post No. 108196

Yes its Ron  11:17am 23rd Jun 2017

redshirts - that was a good period when you started. Neills teams had some great players and we underachieved didnt we. Enjoyed those times from 77 to about 81 very much myself. Really liked Stapleton and Super Mac togther and Chippy of course, Jennings, Talbot - loved him.. Great pro s werent they. - Post No. 108197

Redshirtwhitesleeves  11:39am 23rd Jun 2017

Ron- fell in love with Highbury that very first visit, the impression it left on me will never be forgotten. Yes recall all to easily the heartbreak of the 79-80 season losing to West Ham and Valencia had me sobbing as a kid! Brady, Sunderland, Jennings and big willie were my favourites back then! - Post No. 108199

A Cornish Gooner  11:56am 23rd Jun 2017

Redshirts Ron. Agree about the kit. Classic. Long sleeve and short sleeve in my Arsenal 'museum', as well as 71 Cup Final shirt. Not too keen on the white hooped socks though. - Post No. 108200

Yes its Ron  13:11pm 23rd Jun 2017

cg - yes, i d use the 71 kit permanently. Looks like theyve gone back to the white socks again and a band at the top like they used 10 yrs back. Not very good!Its all about the 'sexy' image these days isnt it. Having said that some clubs just seem always succeed in having totally awful strips, poor collar designs etc etc. Liverpool and Everton lead the way in those depts i always think. Lovely hue of blue is Everton but the kit designs are poor. Liv s kits have been shabby for yrs. Man U have some dodgy ones too. Chelsea always have a nice kit though. Spurs kit when it was a basic white shirt, navy shorts and white socks was good, but theyve had atrocious kits for yrs. Man City too, whats that dark grey/light blue all about? Their kit yrs back was a lovely kit. Makes you wonder what nerds design them doesnt it? - Post No. 108202

A Cornish Gooner  14:13pm 23rd Jun 2017

Ron. I suppose we're just showing our age re. the kit. Fans these days do want something 'sexy'. In our day all shirts were cotton. These days the only people who make cotton shirts are companies like TOFF. Nowadays we have dodgy sponsor's logos as well as fancy patterns. Having said that the old tractor tyre shirt, originally ridiculed, became a big hit, didn't it? Going back to the old plain red shirt white sleeves won't ever happen. It's a bit like ne suggesting to my kids that they watch this classic black and white film that I watched when I was a kid. They're not interested. Agree with you re. the old Spurs and Man City kits. I also liked Ron Flowers era Wolves kit. In those days stripes were proper stripes too. When you watched MOTD you could immediately tell who was playing. It's sometimes difficult to know who is playing these days. Another part of the clubs' identity disappearing. - Post No. 108203

A Cornish Gooner  14:41pm 23rd Jun 2017

Ron. As mentioned in Albin's article on the kit launch it's all down to money isn't it. Also in my Arsenal 'museum' is 'The Arsenal Shirt' a collection of photographs and write-ups of match worn shirts, from 1927-2014. Such as Frank McLintock's no. 4 shirt (69 League Cup Final) Jon Sammels' no.8 (ICFCF 70) Charlie George's no. 11 shirt (71 FA Cup Final) Brought back some good, some bad memories. Just like Robert's articles - Post No. 108204

Redshirtwhitesleeves  15:23pm 23rd Jun 2017

Ron/Cornish- your right fellas the old kits were the best, as you say put match of the day on back then and you could tell who the teams were instantly, do you remember Coventry had some bizarre kits back then with a big 'T' design on one and another horrific brown away one! And dirty Leeds with the tags on their socks! - Post No. 108206

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds