#ThrowbackThursday – Season 1970/71

By Robert Exley

The review of Arsenal’s campaigns reaches the first Double season

Over the close season of 1970, England reached the Quarter Finals of the Mexico ’70 World Cup, but blew a two goal lead to lose 2-3 to West Germany. The following week, a political shock arguably bigger that the one in recent weeks occurred when Edward Heath’s Conservatives unexpectedly beat Harold Wilson to win the 1970 General Election. Some people even wondered whether England’s defeat effected the election result. For Arsenal, after winning their first trophy for seventeen years and despite their low finish in the League table, Bertie Mee saw fit to add no further new additions to Arsenal’s first team squad.

On their way out of the club however were David Court transferred to Luton Town, Bobby Gould to Wolves, Malcolm Webster to Fulham and former Captain Terry Neill who at the age of just twenty eight joined Hull City to take over as Player-Manager. Arsenal’s historic Double season started with the perennial pre-season home fixture with Watford behind closed doors at their London Colney training ground in July. The format of the game played would be over three thirty minute periods. Goals for Jon Sammels and Charlie George meant a 2-1 victory for Arsenal. There followed a pre-season tour of Scandinavia in late July and early August.

Arsenal took on a Gothenburg alliance side and goals for Bob McNab, George Graham and two for Charlie George meant a 4-2 victory. Three days later, Arsenal took on Kungsbacka BI. Goals for Ray Kennedy and two apiece for George Graham and Jon Sammels meant a 5-0 victory for Arsenal. The tour finished with a fixture against a Copenhagen Alliance side in Denmark. Another goal for Charlie George meant a 1-0 win. Arsenal’s final pre-season fixture would be a Friday night game against Crystal Palace at the National Sports Centre on behalf of the National Sports Development Fund, eight days before the start of the League season. Two goals for John Radford meant a 2-0 win.

As with the previous season, Arsenal kicked off against reigning Champions Everton – though this time it would mean a trip to Goodson Park where the Gunners had failed to bag a win for the previous twelve years. Goals for George Graham and Charlie George meant a 2-2 draw, the latter would spend months on the side lines as a result of suffering a broken ankle in scoring his goal through a collision with Everton keeper Gordon West. An away trip to the Boleyn Ground followed forty eight hours on. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw. Arsenal’s first home game of the season came the following Saturday and would be caught for posterity by the BBC’s when ‘Match of the Day’.

A hat-trick for John Radford within an hour put Arsenal three goals up. After Radford put his third away, United keeper Alex Stepney was taken off through injury with David Sadler covering in the United goal. George Graham added a further goal to give Arsenal a 4-0 win – a score line which we’d fail to repeat against United for the next thirty one years when Sylvain Wiltord bagged a hat-trick against a second string Man United side in 2001. Seventy two hours on, Arsenal met Huddersfield Town for a Tuesday night fixture at Highbury. A goal for Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal a 1-0 win which took the Gunners to the top of the table for twenty four hours, before Leeds United returned to the summit with a 3-0 win over West Ham at Elland Road and with their fourth straight win gained a two point cushion over Arsenal.

The Gunners fell further off the pace the following Saturday. While 600,000 people gathered to watch the Isle of Wight Festival on the final Saturday of August 1970, Leeds United made it five in a row with a 3-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor. Arsenal that same day meanwhile visited seventh place Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – highlights of which were covered by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. The Blues took the lead with a goal from John Hollins. A header from Eddie Kelly gave Arsenal an equaliser, before a Paddy Mulligan inflicted a 1-2 defeat on the Gunners. The fast and furious tempo of this London Derby however did little to impress Brazil’s Mexico ’70 World Cup winning manager Mario Zagalo in attendance, who was quoted as holding the game up as an example as to why English football was unable to produce players of the quality of Pele. Arsenal however had the opportunity to claw back the deficit as Leeds United came to Highbury seventy two hours on.

Arsenal had Eddie Kelly sent off on twenty eight minutes for kicking out at Billy Bremner, but held out for a 0-0 draw to end the away side’s one hundred percent record from the start of the season. Manager Bertie Mee hailed the performance, proclaiming that: ‘if we can live through an occasion like this, we can live through anything’. The following Saturday came an equally important counter with Spurs coming to Highbury for the first North London Derby of the season in early September 1970. Two George Armstrong goals gave Arsenal a 2-0 win, which pushed the Gunners up to fourth in the table, four points behind Leeds United at the top. A further three days on, Arsenal faced a trip to Suffolk to face Ipswich Town in the second round of the League Cup. The matched ended in a goal-less draw.

Back in the league the following Saturday would be an away trip to Turf Moor to face bottom of the table Burnley. The home side had failed to score for their previous six games. Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal the lead, before Burnley’s goal drought ended with a John Roberts own goal. A late winner for John Radford however gave Arsenal both points in a 2-1 victory. More importantly, league leaders Leeds United lost their unbeaten record with a 0-3 away defeat to Stoke, which moved Arsenal to within two points of the West Yorkshire side. Next up for Arsenal would be a trip to Rome to face Lazio in the first round of their defence of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup. Two goals for John Radford put Arsenal two goals up in the Olympic Stadium by eleven minutes into the second half. Arsenal held this cushion until the last five minutes.

Lazio however were saved by a player who was born in South Wales and started his career playing for Swansea Town (later known as Swansea City) but moved to the land of his parentage in 1966, won fourteen caps for Italy in the early to mid-1970s and finished up playing alongside Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto with the New York Cosmos in the NASL, scoring an incredible 193 goals in 213 games between 1976 and 1983. Two goals for Giorgio Chinaglia, the last a penalty, earned Lazio a 2-2 draw. The main drama however occurred off the pitch after the match, with a full blown street brawl between the Arsenal and Lazio players.

Speaking to online blog ‘In Bed with Maradona’, Chinaglia explains that: ‘I remember everything… in those days we would go with the other team to have dinner after the game and then we would exchange gifts… but some of our players didn’t want to give Arsenal any gifts because they’d had a bit of a battle on the field, which I think they should forget about after the game. Anyway, some punches were flying, our players started hitting the Arsenal players and that was it – the dinner came to an end!’ Allegedly, Young Ray Kennedy was set upon by three Lazio players on leaving the restaurant, which led to his Arsenal team mates leaping to his defence.

The trouble escalated to the point where the majority of the Arsenal and Lazio squad were involved in the scrap with even Bertie Mee swapping blows with his opposite number, something which finally endeared him to many of his players who previously saw him as a stiff upper lip type. Three days later back at Highbury, twenty four hours on from the death of rock star Jimi Hendrix in London’s Notting Hill, Arsenal met fifteenth place West Brom. On the very same day, over in the West Country, the very first Glastonbury Festival (known as the Glastonbury Fayre) took place, with a bill which included Marc Bolan and T. Rex. The Baggies had failed to win a single away game since beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park exactly a year earlier – a run which included a 0-7 loss to Man United at Old Trafford in their penultimate fixture of 1969/70.

Goals for George Armstrong, two apiece for Ray Kennedy and George Graham and a West Brom own goal gave Arsenal a 6-2 victory which moved Arsenal up to third in the table. Another four days on saw the visit of Lazio for the second leg of their Inter Cities Fairs Cup first round tie with Arsenal. In front of a crowd of 53,013, Arsenal added to their two away goal cushion as John Radford put the Gunners ahead on eleven minutes. With seventeen minutes left to play, Armstrong added a second to put Arsenal 4-2 up on aggregate. The front page of Italy’s ‘Corriere Dello Sport’, in reference to handshakes between the managers and players beforehand, went with the headline of ‘In peace Lazio surrenders’ (the Rome side were actually relegated to Serie B at the end of the 1970/71 season after finishing second from bottom).

However the following Saturday, Arsenal faced a further battle in the Potteries. A bus strike in the Stoke area and the fact that the home side had been dumped out of the League Cup by losing to Millwall meant a crowd of just 18,000 turned out at the Victoria Ground. Covered by BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’, goals for Terry Conroy, Jimmy Greenhoff, Alan Bloor and two for John Ritchie saw Arsenal thrashed 0-5 by Stoke City. Conroy’s strike won MOTD’s first ever Goal of the month competition and came third for the goal of the year, however Conroy speaking to the Stoke Sentinal Newspaper years after the event stated that: ‘the day was far more special because of the fact we stuffed Arsenal 5-0 and could have scored 10. That's how good we were that day because we played some unbelievable football and everything went for us’.

Luckily for Arsenal, no further ground was lost in the title race, as Leeds United drew 0-0 away at Nottingham Forest. Forty eight hours after their hammering at Stoke, Arsenal faced Ipswich at Highbury in their replayed League Cup second round tie. Goals for John Radford, John Roberts and two for Ray Kennedy meant a thumping 4-0 win. Five days later, Arsenal’s first league fixture in October 1970 against Nottingham Forest saw a repeat score line, as goals for George Armstrong and a Ray Kennedy hat-trick meant a 4-0 win over a Forest side that had failed to win their last seven games.

Seventy two hours on, in the third round of the League Cup Arsenal travelled to Kenilworth Road to face a Luton Town side who sat third in the Old Second Division at the time. A George Graham goal gave Arsenal a 1-0 win. Back in the league the following Saturday, George Graham was on target again at St James’s Park against Newcastle United. However a Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson goal for the Magpies meant a 1-1 draw and a point dropped with Arsenal failing to capitalise on a 2-2 draw for Leeds United at West Brom, as well as second place Man City drawing 1-1 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. One week on, Arsenal met champions Everton at Highbury in a game captured by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’.

The Toffees had been making an underwhelming attempt at retaining their title, sitting in eleventh place and needing to wait until their seventh game in before bagging their first win of the season. Everton’s misery continued as goals for Eddie Kelly, a Peter Storey penalty and two for Ray Kennedy meant a 4-0 win for Arsenal. A failure for Man City to beat Southampton at home meant Arsenal climbed to second. Also a 2-2 draw for Leeds United at home to Man United meant the Gunners were within two points of Don Revie’s side at the top of the table. Next up for Arsenal though would be a trip to Austria to meet Sturm Graz in the second round of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

Arsenal were originally drawn at home first, though the tie was switched due to the threat of snow in Austria when the second leg was due to be played. The Gunners suffered a 0-1 defeat in Austria. Back in the League three days on, Arsenal’s final away league fixture of October came at Highfield Road against Coventry City. Goals for George Graham, Ray Kennedy and John Radford meant a 3-1 win for Bertie Mee’s side. Arsenal then headed to Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace in the fourth round of the League Cup in midweek, where the two sides played out a 0-0 draw. Arsenal ended October 1970 with a visit from Brian Clough’s Derby County captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’ with an interview by Jimmy Hill with George Armstrong.

Just one year on from games on ITV being first captured in colour, coverage of matches on ITV highlights shows such as ‘The Big Match’ had suddenly reverted back to black and white as a result of the ‘Colour Strike’, due to an industrial dispute between the management of the ITV companies and the Technicians unions. In the event, goals for Eddie Kelly and John Radford meant a 2-0 win for Arsenal. In the week, Arsenal were required to overturn a one nil deficit to Sturm Graz at Highbury. Ray Kennedy levelled the tie, as well as the visitors’ goalkeeper substituted through injury.

Arsenal were deemed wasteful in front of goal with the game heading for extra time before Arsenal were awarded a penalty five minutes into injury time after a George Graham volley was handled on the line. Peter Storey converted to give Arsenal a 2-1 win on aggregate and a passage to the next round. Three days on, Arsenal headed to Blackpool in the league. A goal for John Radford meant a 1-0 victory for the Gunners, which moved Arsenal to within one point of Leeds United after Don Revie’s side drew 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, with a Gary Sprake howler cancelling out Peter Lorimar’s opener. Palace were next to face Arsenal in the League Cup just forty eight hours on at Highbury in their replayed fourth round tie.

In front of a crowd of 45,026, with goals for Gerry Queen and a Bobby Tambling penalty, Palace achieved their first ever win over Arsenal by inflicting a 0-2 defeat (what turned out to be Arsenal’s only home defeat throughout 1970/71) with the Gunners crashing out of their first tournament of the season. Five days later, Crystal Palace would be back at Highbury for the League fixture. John Radford would give Arsenal the lead, though Crystal Palace would pull it back for a 1-1 draw (this match would be the only score draw at Highbury throughout 1970/71). This result meant that Leeds United stretched their lead to two points after a 3-1 home win over Blackpool.

A 2-0 away win for Spurs over Chelsea meant that Arsenal also dropped to third on goal average. During the week, Leeds United beat Stoke City 4-1 at Elland Road to stretch their lead over Arsenal to four points, though the Gunners would now have a game in hand. Arsenal headed to East Anglia the following Saturday to meet Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town. A goal for George Armstrong gave Arsenal a 1-0 win which took them back up to second after Spurs lost 1-2 to Newcastle at White Hart Lane. November ended with a visit from Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, who sat in sixth place.

That same day, the BBC launched their local radio service for the capital – BBC Radio London. That day’s sport was covered on their ‘Sportscene’ show. Whether this game was covered is unknown, highlights of the game however would be captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’ with Jimmy Hill interviewing Frank McLintock. Goals for George Graham and John Radford meant a 2-0 win. The midweek saw the visit of Belgian side Beveren in the first leg of their Inter Cities third round tie with Arsenal. Goals for George Graham, John Sammels and two for Ray Kennedy meant a 4-0 win to take back to Belgium. For their first fixture of December 1970, Arsenal headed to Maine Road to face a Man City side who had now dropped to fifth in the table. Goals for George Armstrong and John Radford meant a 2-0 away win for Arsenal.

A draw for Leeds United that same day meant that their lead over Arsenal was shortened to three points, with Arsenal having a game in hand over Don Revie’s side. Next up for Arsenal were fifth placed Wolves at Highbury, covered by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’. George Graham gave Arsenal the lead. Into the second half, John Radford doubled Arsenal’s lead. Wolves pulled one back, however Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners. Leeds United meanwhile dropped another point at home to Ipswich Town with a 0-0 draw at Elland Road, meaning that the gap now stood at two points with a game in hand for Arsenal. Nine days before Christmas, the Gunners secured their passage to the last eight of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup with a 0-0 draw in the second leg tie at Beveren.

Arsenal’s last fixture before Christmas was a trip to Old Trafford to meet a Manchester United side managed by an under fire Wilf McGuiness. The game would be covered by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’. United had won just one of their last six games and had slumped to sixteenth place. The Gunners had only managed two wins at Old Trafford since the end of the Second World War, the last coming eight years prior. Despite this, the Gunners pulled off a shock and awe first half performance which put them three goals up at half time with Frank McLintock, George Graham and Ray Kennedy on target for Arsenal. A second half goal for Carlo Sartori pulled one back for United, however Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners.

For the under fire Wilf McGuiness, a 4-4 draw with Derby County on Boxing Day meant his dismissal, with Matt Busby coming out of retirement to take over at Old Trafford until the end of the season. For Arsenal, their Boxing Day fixture meant the visit of eighth place Southampton. 1970 was the last time that London experienced a white Christmas and twenty four hours on, this too meant a snowbound Highbury. Captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’, Arsenal played out a frustrating 0-0 draw and a 3-0 home win for Leeds United against Newcastle meant the restoration of a three point cushion for the West Yorkshire side. Despite this, on ‘The Big Match’ Christmas Special, Tottenham’s Alan Mullery, with his own side having fallen eight points off the pace actually tipped Arsenal for the title.

This was the final fixture of the calendar year for Arsenal. There would be no New Years’ Day fixture in England back then on account of the fact that it wasn’t a public holiday until 1974. North of the border however a fixture between Celtic and Rangers ended with the deaths of sixty six fans as a result of the Ibrox Disaster. Arsenal’s first scheduled fixture of 1971 would be their third round away tie with non-league Yeovil Town. With the country in the grip of snow, the tie would be postponed. The match was replayed four days later with some element of crowd trouble. Goals for Ray Kennedy and two for John Radford meant a 3-0 win to progress to the next round.

Another third round tie that week would be West Ham’s visit to Blackpool, where the Hammers lost 0-4. The evening before the game, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Brian Deer and Clyde Best broke a curfew by staying at a nightclub owned by Boxer Brian London until the early hours, those involved received fines and suspension (though rumour has it that Ron Greenwood wanted to sack all four). All but Clyde Best (apparently on soft drinks that night) were suspended for the Hammers’ visit to Highbury in the League the following week. Goals for George Graham and Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal a 2-0 win.

That same day, a 2-1 win for Spurs against Leeds United at Elland Road meant that Arsenal moved within a point of the top of the table with a game in hand. One week later, Arsenal headed to Leeds Road to play sixteenth place Huddersfield Town away, captured for posterity by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’. Chapman is a name forever linked with both side and ironically, Les Chapman gave Huddersfield the lead. Ray Kennedy equalised for the Gunners with a header from a free kick, however a penalty would be awarded against Frank McLintock that would neither be handball nor within the area. The subsequent penalty would be converted by Frank Worthington to inflict a 1-2 defeat on Arsenal – their first in the league since September.

That same day, despite West Ham coming back from two goals down, Leeds United left Upton Park with a 3-2 win to give Don Revie’s side a three point lead. Next for Arsenal came the fourth round of the FA Cup to face Portsmouth at Fratton Park, captured by the BBC’s Match of the Day. Pompey at the time were sixteenth in the second tier. Arsenal took the lead with a Peter Storey penalty, however Portsmouth equalised with a goal from former Everton FA Cup Final hero of five years prior – Mike Trebilcock – to secure a 1-1 draw and a replay back at Highbury. One bright spot for Arsenal however would be the return of Charlie George who had been injured since the opening day of the season, who came on as substitute for Pat Rice.

Arsenal’s poor end to January continued a week later in the league with a trip to Anfield to face Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in eighth place, which after their trip to Stoke in September would rank as one of their worst afternoons this season (but for Bob Wilson who received a standing ovation from the Kop, Liverpool’s score line could have been as great). An in form Steve Heighway, as well as goals for John Toshack and Tommy Smith inflicted a 0-2 defeat on Arsenal. Matters were compounded further by a 2-0 win for Leeds United over Man City at Maine Road as the West Yorkshire side opened up a five point gap. One newspaper report remarked: ‘Arsenal can now concentrate on the Cup! They must now realise after this battering that their title challenge is over’ adding that: ’Liverpool are on the way back to greatness. Arsenal must hope they don’t meet them again in the Cup’.

Forty eight hours on, on the same day as the abolition of the licence fee for ownership of a Radio, back at Highbury Arsenal were to face Portsmouth in the replay of their FA Cup fourth round tie. The Gunners’ misery seemed to be continuing after Pompey took the lead after six minutes. In only his second start to the season, Charlie George equalised for the Arsenal just ahead of the quarter hour after running with the ball from the half way line and shooting from twenty five yards out. Peter Simpson put Arsenal ahead on the half hour. Pompey pulled it back to two all, before a Peter Storey penalty put Arsenal through to the last sixteen to face Man City at Maine Road. Two days on saw the Premier of the year’s biggest Brit flick – ‘Get Carter’, starring Michael Caine and the bloke that went on to star as Alf Roberts in Coronation Street.

Before Arsenal faced Man City in the FA Cup however, Arsenal would meet City at Highbury in the League. The blue half of Manchester stood in seventh place in the League, though having a much better season than their red neighbours in fourteenth place. The game would be captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Arsenal ran out 1-0 winners after John Radford pounced on a rebound from a Peter Simpson shot. After the game Jimmy Hill would interview Bob McNab discussing Arsenal’s poor run of results and the return to form of Charlie George. The win was all the more important due to the fact that Leeds United suffered a 0-1 home defeat to Liverpool, meaning that Arsenal narrowed their to three points with the Gunners having a game in hand.

Arsenal were due to meet City again in the fifth round of the FA Cup the following Saturday, though the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. The game would finally be played the following Wednesday and in the meantime, Britain introduced decimal currency two days prior on 15th February 1971 which caused great disruption for older people, such as Doris Hare from ‘On the Buses’ in this public information film. target="_blank"> Highlights of Arsenal’s Quarter Final tie were shown on BBC’s ‘Sportsnight’. Ahead of the game, Frank McLintock decided to use the TV persona cultivated by City coach Malcolm Allison - since his time on the panel of ITV’s Mexico ’70 World Cup coverage - to his advantage with Charlie George. According to Frank, Charlie had a very black and white approach to making judgments about individuals. To Charlie you were ‘either a diamond geezer or a c***… Malcolm is exactly the sort of person that Charlie would normally like. He admires talent and brashness but on this occasion I thought it might help us if Charlie thought Allison fell into the other category’.

Frank hence misinformed Charlie that he’d heard through the media that Allison didn’t rate him and thought he was a fancy Dan who couldn’t last the full ninety minutes. The trick however worked as Charlie bagged two goals at Maine Road. City pulled one back, though couldn’t stop Arsenal progressing with a 2-1 win. On leaving the pitch, Charlie George screamed obscenities and gestured to Malcolm in the City dug-out, to which Frank had to bundle George down the player’s tunnel to prevent repercussions that he hadn’t anticipated. Initially thinking Charlie was some sort of head case, Frank decided to fill Malcolm in afterwards who had luckily seen the funny side. As Frank stated Malcolm ‘liked to use psychological stunts to get the best out of players and was gracious enough to have a laugh when the tables had been turned on him’.

League title rivals Leeds United meanwhile exited the FA Cup with a shock 2-3 defeat to fourth tier Colchester United at their Layer Road ground, with a starring role for former Ipswich star Ray Crawford. Next up for Arsenal, three days after Maine Road would be a visit from eighteenth placed Ipswich Town. Goals for Charlie George, Frank McLintock and John Radford put Arsenal three goals up at half time. In the second half, former Arsenal star Jimmy Robertson pulled two back for Ipswich, however Arsenal held on for a 3-2 win. Arsenal ended the month heading to the Baseball Ground to face Brian Clough’s Derby County, who were languishing in the bottom half of the table despite winning their last four games.

The Rams had Colin Todd making his debut in central defence. Goals for Kevin Hector and Roy McFarland inflicted a 0-2 defeat on Arsenal. A 1-0 victory for Leeds United away at Coventry opened up a seven point gap over the Gunners, though Arsenal had two games in hand. Four days on, Arsenal travelled to Wolverhampton to face fourth placed Wolves away. After a disappointing loss at the weekend, Arsenal pulled off a 3-0 victory at Molineux with goals for George Armstrong, Ray Kennedy and John Radford which closed the gap on Leeds to five points. Four days on, Arsenal headed to Filbert Street to face Leicester City in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.

At the time, the Foxes were one point from the top of the old Second Division with a game in hand, making it a kind of tricky tie for the Gunners. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. On 8th March 1971, Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in the ‘Fight of the Century’. One day later, Arsenal then faced a visit from 1FC Koln in the Quarter Final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup three days later at Highbury. Goals for Frank McLintock and Peter Storey meant the Gunners took a 2-1 lead to Germany. By the following weekend, Arsenal headed to Selhurst Park to face a Crystal Palace side in fourteenth place who the Gunners had failed to beat twice at Highbury already that season. The game would be covered by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. ITV’s Colour Strike with the Technicians Unions was now resolved and ‘The Big Match’ was now back in glorious technicolour.

Goals for George Graham and Jon Sammels meant a 2-0 win for Arsenal. The win was vital for the Gunners as Leeds United were held to a 1-1 draw away at Blackpool. Just forty eight hours later back at Highbury came the FA Cup replay with Leicester at Highbury. A Charlie George header just before half time gave Arsenal a 1-0 win and a Semi Final tie with Stoke City. Before then, came the visit of bottom of the table Blackpool who had picked up just two points from the last six games. A Peter Storey head meant a 1-0 victory for the Gunners, which left Blackpool four points adrift at the foot of the table. Three days later, Arsenal headed to 1FC Koln to play the away leg of their Quarter Final Inter Cities Fairs Cup tie with the German side. A dubious penalty was awarded against Arsenal which the home side duly dispatched, meaning that the German side proceeded through to the Semi Finals on the basis of the away goals rule.

With Arsenal’s defence of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup over, their attentions turned to the FA Cup and the following Saturday – in the final weekend of March 1971 - came their Semi Final tie with Stoke City at Hillsborough. Highlights had been captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Stoke City took the lead with a freak goal from Denis Smith. The Potters doubled their lead after John Ritchie pounced on a misplaced Charlie George back pass to Bob Wilson. Into the second half, a hammered shot from Peter Storey found its way into the Stoke City net. The Potters however held their lead into the dying seconds when John Mahoney handled on the goal line from a Frank McLintock header. Up popped Peter Storey again to slot it away to earn Arsenal a 2-2 draw. The highlights footage includes a post-match interview with Peter Storey.

Four days later, the game would be replayed at Villa Park. Goals for George Graham and Ray Kennedy secured Arsenal’s passage to Wembley for the first time in nineteen years with a 2-0 win, meaning that that Arsenal would play Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, who saw off Everton in the other Semi Final at Old Trafford. Back at Highbury the following Saturday came the visit of third place Chelsea. The week earlier, the Blues did Arsenal a massive favour by beating Leeds United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal were now six points behind Don Revie’s side with three games in hand. Arsenal however had only beaten Chelsea once at Highbury in the last thirteen years.

Highlights of the game were covered LWT’s ‘The Big Match’, followed by an appeal for fans to provide lyrics for an Arsenal FA Cup final song (which eventually led to ‘Good Old Arsenal’ penned by Jimmy Hill due to a poor response). Two goals for Ray Kennedy broke the Chelsea hoodoo as Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners. In the midweek, Arsenal met Coventry at home. A goal for Ray Kennedy meant a 1-0 Victory, closing the gap on Leeds United to four points ahead of the Easter Weekend. On Easter Saturday, Arsenal headed to the Dell to face seventh place Southampton. Goals for Frank McLintock and John Radford gave the Gunners a 2-1 win, while Terry Paine would be on target for the Saints.

Leeds United that same day meanwhile would be held to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle at St. James’s Park, meaning that the gap would now be reduced to three points with Arsenal holding two games in hand. On Easter Monday, Don Revie’s side would be held again, this time a goal-less draw away to Huddersfield. Arsenal’s next fixture would be twenty four hours on, which would be a trip to the City Ground to meet seventeenth place Nottingham Forest. Goals for Charlie George, Ray Kennedy and Frank McLintock meant a comfortable 3-0 win and North London’s finest now just two points off of Leeds United with two games in hand.

The following Saturday would bring a crucial – and controversial - turning point in the title race. Leeds hosted an eighteenth place West Brom side whose failure to win away now stretched to nineteenth months. The West Yorkshire side were playing their fourth fixture in seven days, after leaving Anfield with a 1-0 lead in the first leg of their Inter Cities Fairs Cup Semi Final with Liverpool. Albion shocked their hosts by going one up through a goal from Tony Brown after nineteen minutes. Leeds would also have a Mick Jones goal disallowed for offside. The main flashpoint however came in the Second Half when Colin Suggett intercepted a pass by Norman Hunter inside of the West Brom half.

Though Tony Brown was standing in an offside position and though the linesman had flagged and the Leeds defence stopped accordingly, referee Ray Tinkler had deemed Brown not to be interfering with play and waved him on, playing Astle in on goal who duly converted. BBC’s Match of the Day commentator Barry Davies however loudly proclaimed that: ‘Leeds will go mad… and they have every right to go mad’ and within seconds a pitch invasion from angry Leeds mob ended up with the linesman who flagged for an infringement being struck with an object. Once order was re-established Alan Clarke had pulled one back for Leeds, but the game finished in a 2-1 win for West Brom.

As for Arsenal, that same afternoon the Gunners hosted Newcastle United and grinded out a 1-0 win with a goal from Charlie George. Arsenal now topped the table, having overhauled Leeds - who had been at the summit since the previous August – by 0.34 on goal average. Three days on came the visit of Burnley, who sat second from bottom and six points adrift of West Ham in twentieth. Arsenal were without Peter Storey and Bob McNab, who were on international duty with England in Greece. A failure to beat Arsenal at Highbury would have practically meant demotion for Burnley. A Charlie George penalty meant a 1-0 win for Arsenal, giving the Gunners a two point lead at the top, while Burnley needed maximum points to stay within the top flight (their fate sealed the following Saturday with a 1-2 loss to Derby County).

After West Brom dealt a blow to Leeds United in the title race, the following Saturday it was Arsenal’s turn to meet Albion at the Hawthorns. The game was captured by ATV’s weekly highlights show ‘Star Soccer’. West Brom took the lead with a goal from Asa Hartford, though Arsenal pulled level with an equaliser from Frank McLintock. Arsenal took the lead with Hartford putting the ball into his own net, however a blast from Tony Brown meant a 2-2 draw. Also, playing his final game in an Arsenal shirt that day would be Jon Sammels, who came on as sub for Pat Rice. That same day Leeds United closed the gap on Arsenal with a 3-0 away win over Southampton (though Arsenal still had a game in hand over Leeds).

Forty eight hours on came the big head to head between Leeds and Arsenal at Elland Road. As with the West Brom game nine days earlier, another controversial goal at Elland Road settled the matter. Jack Charlton put Leeds a goal up late on, which the Arsenal players adamantly deemed to be offside, meaning that the Gunners crashed to a 0-1 defeat. So angry were Arsenal’s protests that it took the referee Norman Burtenshaw five minutes to restart the game. A few days later, after viewing footage of the goal the players conceded that the ref’s decision was the right one. Don Revie’s side therefore took a one point lead over Arsenal with the final Saturday approaching. Leeds United themselves however were in the running for a Double of their own.

Another forty eight hours on from their game with Arsenal would be their Inter Cities Fairs Cup Semi Final second leg tie with Liverpool at Elland Road, where a goal-less draw was enough to put them into the final. That same night, Arsenal had a final of their own – albeit the FA Youth Cup Final – the first leg of which would be played at Highbury against Cardiff City. Among the Arsenal Youth side would be future first teamers David Price, Brian Hornsby, Brendan Batson and Paul Davies (not he of 1980s Arsenal fame), as well as future Arsenal, Wimbledon and West Brom coach Terry Burton. The first leg ended in a goal-less draw. During that week, the Arsenal side also received the freedom of the Borough of Islington from the local Mayor.

And so on to the final Saturday of the season, where Arsenal met Stoke City at Highbury. That same day, a bomb planted by Left Wing revolutionary group ‘the Angry Brigade’ exploded in a Kensington store. Meanwhile at Highbury, early in the second half Peter Storey limped off of the pitch with a groin strain to be replaced by Eddie Kelly. A goal from the substitute late on gave Arsenal a 1-0 win, though North London’s finest faced a tough battle to hold their lead with John Radford having to clear off the line in the dying minutes. Up at Elland Road, Leeds defeated Nottingham Forest 1-0 to stay on top of the table. Highlights of both games are covered in this ITN bulletin presented by future white suited Independent MP for Tatton – Martin Bell.

Leeds had completed their fixtures, so Arsenal therefore went into their final fixture knowing exactly what they needed to do to win the League title – either a win or a goal-less draw. As the season started with the same opposition as the season prior, so too would be the final fixture (though this time, it would be a far from meaningless fixture). Originally due to be played on the day Arsenal faced Stoke City in the FA Cup Semi Final; the Gunners were to play Spurs at White Hart Lane forty eight hours later. Spurs, having already won the League Cup stood in fifth place and were vying for a top four finish, which would bag their players a £400 a man bonus.

That same night, two sides in the bottom half of the old Fourth Division – Southend and Lincoln City – met for a fixture at Roots Hall. This therefore in the days of restrictive TV coverage was enough to ensure that highlights of the game could not be captured by the Television companies. Events however were captured for posterity by the ITN cameras. As with the Inter Cities Fairs Cup Final of a year prior, this game would also not feature live on BBC Radio. Unsurprisingly for a game of this magnitude therefore, White Hart Lane would be sold out to 51,000 capacity, with the gates locked more than an hour prior to kick off and - in the days before all ticket matches - more than double the attendance figure were locked out.

Such were the size of the crowds seeking to attend the game that the referee and Spurs’s Alan Mullery both nearly missed the kick off through being stuck in traffic. As a goal-less draw ensured the title, it seemed that a 0-0 beckoned. With three minutes left to play however, Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal the lead. A Spurs equaliser though would have stolen the title from Bertie Mee’s side. A tense final few minutes therefore followed for Arsenal, before the final whistle meant a 1-0 win and confirmation of Arsenal’s first title win for eighteen years. This was followed by a manic pitch invasion, which led to anxiety on Coach Don Howe’s part in that members of an ecstatic crowd might inadvertently injure one of his players ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup Final.

Not downhearted, Leeds United now had a twenty eight day break before meeting Juventus in a two legged Inter Cities Fairs Cup Final which they went on to win on away goals after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate. Despite this, there was a sufficient amount of sour grapes from Billy Bremner and Don Revie to both publicly back Liverpool for the FA Cup in the week leading up to the Final. Bremner stating that: ‘the key to the outcome will be which team is big enough to hold the ball instead of treating it like a red-hot brick’ and on the prospect of Frank McLintock’s fifth Wembley defeat: ‘if he gets another loser’s medal I bet he’ll either throw it over the stand or take a spade and bury it’.

Revie in contrast claimed that Liverpool would win in extra time and that the Liverpool Kop would be the deciding factor as: ‘to be honest, the Arsenal crowd away from Highbury have yet to prove worthy of their team. Compared with the Kop choir with its roaring, rhythmic chants of sheer team love, North London fans are pale, bleating copycats’. Also, featured in the Daily Mirror on Cup Final day would be Professional Scouser Jimmy Tarbuck claiming: ‘Good old Arsenal? No, it’s going to be poor old Arsenal’. The Mirror’s Ken Jones also proclaimed – ‘Sorry, no Double for the Arsenal’.

In the meantime Liverpool – who had only lost two of their previous sixteen games - set about strengthening their squad in the week leading up to the Final, signing a young Kevin Keegan from Scunthorpe to follow his old team mate Ray Clemence – though Kev obviously would be ineligible to turn out for the big game. Also in the week leading up to the Final, the Cup Final edition of Shoot Magazine contained ‘Cross Talk’ interviews between Ray Kennedy and Steve Heighway, as well as goalkeepers Ray Clemence and Bob Wilson, and interviews with Arsenal’s George Armstrong and Bob McNab, as well as Liverpool’s Chris Lawler and Emlyn Hughes.

In the week leading up to the FA Cup Final, Arsenal secured another trophy at Cardiff’s Ninian Park as the Young Guns ran out 2-0 winners three days before the FA Cup Final. Ahead of the FA Cup Final, John Radford and Steve Heighway adorned the cover of the Radio Times Cup Final edition. The night ahead of the final, the ITV network aired the preview show ‘Who'll Win the Cup?’ at 10.30 after ‘News at Ten’. At the same time on BBC1 was a ‘Sportsnight’ Special with the BBC’s Cup Final preview shown along with the ABA Championship Boxing Finals from the Wembley Empire Pool.

Despite Arsenal featuring in the very first Televised game back in 1937 and several televised games back in the early fifties, the match would be the first time that many TV owning Arsenal fans would get to see their side live on the box, and – as was the norm back then - would be covered by both BBC and ITV with their respective Saturday afternoon sports magazine shows ‘Grandstand’ and ‘World of Sport’ incorporating light entertainment into the big day. ITV’s coverage started at 11.30AM (at that point their earliest start), with a Cup Final Wrestling triple bill involving Kendo Nagasaki, Mick McManus and Johnny Kincaid.

The BBC’s started at 11.50AM with an ‘It’s a Knockout’ Cup Final special hosted by David Vine with Arsenal fan and former Disc Jockey and presenter of pop shows such as ‘Top of the Pops’ and the ‘Six-Five Special’ Pete Murray and Liverpool fan and ‘Scouse Git’ star of ‘Til Death Us Do Part’ Anthony Booth captaining sides containing members of Arsenal and Liverpool’s 1950 FA Cup Final sides - Joe Mercer, Reg Lewis and Match of the Day summarizer Walley Barnes of Arsenal while Phil Taylor, Billy Liddell and Sergeant Pepper cover star Albert Stubbins turned out for the pool. Mercer was also part of the Cup Final summarising team for the BBC along with Bobby Charlton and Don Revie.

Meanwhile over on ITV their Cup Final panel included Mercer’s number two at City – the flamboyant Malcolm Allison – as well as Man United’s Paddy Crerand and Wolves’s Derek Dougan. In the commentary box, the BBC had Kenneth ‘they think it’s all over’ Wolstenholme covering his last final for the BBC having had the top job for every final since 1949, while ITV had Brian ‘head like London Planetarium’ Moore teaming up with the one man footballing think tank that was Jimmy Hill. The showpiece game (unlike now) kicked off at 3.00PM (shown in its entirety here from the traditional introductions to the Duke of Kent to the trophy presentation).

The opening minute of the final would see three fouls committed by the Arsenal side in quick succession, with Liverpool captain Tommy Smith seen wagging his finger furiously at Peter Storey for a foul on Steve Heighway. Arsenal had numerous chances to settle the match in ninety minutes, though the match went into extra time. It was Liverpool who broke the deadlock two minutes into extra time as Steve Heighway slotted the ball past Bob Wilson who left right hand post uncovered. After going one up, Liverpool seemed to be on top until just ahead of the end of the first period of extra time. As Arsenal pulled level after a penalty area scrap with George Graham running off with his arms held aloft and his ecstatic team mates congratulating him.

The Cup hero that year ironically was a player who had there been more than one substitute permitted back then, might not have been on the field at all. Eddie Kelly came on for Peter Storey who had been carrying an injury since the Stoke game seven days earlier and had even missed the Spurs game the previous Monday. Charlie George, who by his own admission hated playing in blazing hot heat, had been moved by Mee and Howe to a position that they believed would be out of harm’s way to see out the rest of the game. With nine minutes of extra time left to play, a Ray Clemence goal kick was headed forward by George Graham, with Charlie George playing a one-two with John Radford.

On receiving the ball back from Radford, George – who ITV commentator Brian Moore advised: ‘could hit ‘em’ - took a punt from the edge of the eighteen yard box which flew into the net. An exhausted Charlie could do little more than to lay on the turf and luckily eat up a few minutes more to prevent a Liverpool equaliser. Arsenal hung on to secure a 2-1 win and became only the second side to perform the ‘elusive’ League and FA Cup Double since the turn of the century. As this newspaper report claims, Charlie George was considered by some at the time as ‘Conceited, peevish and arrogant’ but had now written himself into Football history.

Highlights of the final were shown on BBC1’s ‘Match of the Day’ at 10PM that evening, however it was ITV’s highlights of the game the following day which revealed that Arsenal’s equaliser was bagged by Eddie Kelly and not George Graham as initially thought (maybe Graham, who was officially crowned Man of the Match, felt for his efforts he was entitled to it). Kelly therefore became the first ever substitute to score in a Wembley final. In this piece in the Daily Mirror, Kelly lays claim to the equaliser alongside a piece from Ken Jones posing the question ‘But can Arsenal help pull back fans’ – pointing to the fact that Football League average attendances had fallen from 22,318 in 1949 to 13,884 in 1970/71 and would continue to fall for the following decade and a half. Incidentally, that season Arsenal’s average attendance with a 60,000 capacity stadium was 43,776, a figure down from a high of 54,982 in 1947/48.

Twenty four hours on for Arsenal would see a victory parade on an open top bus through the streets of Islington. By the following Thursday, the Arsenal squad would have an appearance on Top of the Pops, as their Cup Final Single ‘Good Old Arsenal’ reached number twenty four in the UK Pop charts. Arsenal became only the second Football side to appear on Top of the Pops, after the England 1970 World Cup Squad’s ‘Back Home’ from the previous year. Arsenal however bagged the honour of being the very first club side to appear on the show. This episode was hosted by Everton fan Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart and also included performances by the Hollies, Cat Stevens, Free, The Byrds, The Elgins performing the Northern Soul classic ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’, Tony Orlando and Dawn at Number one with ‘Knock Three Times’ and three songs by Labi Siffre on the show’s short lived ‘Album Slot’.

Sadly, like many television shows from the period (especially Pop Music shows like TOTP), the episode was wiped for the BBC to save costs on video tape and archive storage, so footage of Frank McLintock, Charlie George et al on TOTP exists only in the memories of those who saw it at the time – though a photograph of the players pictured with Pans People has been found on Pinterest. The following week, the song rose to number sixteen and bagged the Arsenal First Team Squad a top twenty hit. The song however peaked at this chart position and fell down the charts thereafter.

For the Gunners now, after a sixty four competitive game season, there would be no usual end of season tour and a well-earned two month break from fixtures to attempt to repeat their glories of 1970/71. The players picked up a bonus of £15,000 each and considering that many were on around £100 a week it actually meant a fortune to most, if not all of them. Peter Storey advised in his autobiography ‘True Storey’ that £3000 went on income tax, £4000 on a surtax imposed by Ted Heath’s government and the remaining £8000 went half way to buying a £14,500 house (£200,000 in today’s money) in Parkgate Crescent in Hadley Wood, Barnet next to a Golf Course (where houses now sell for as much as £1.8 million!).

The Arsenal players were to enjoy a fortnight team holiday with seven days in Torremolinos in Spain with the wives and girlfriends and another seven days in Portugal’s Algarve on their own. The girlfriends of Peter Marinello and Charlie George however kicked up a fuss and the latter half never came to fruition (the seven days in Torremolinos was also effected by unseasonal rain). Peter Storey, Bob McNab, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson however were on international duty for the first week and instead got to enjoy a trip to Portugal instead. As will be seen tomorrow however, reigning Champions Arsenal would find the going more difficult in 1971/72.

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 ’84 Championships with all available video links.

29th June 2017 08:08:47


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 Man From UNCLE  9:54am 29th Jun 2017

Too young to see that side in the flesh, but watching Youtube clips of the 70/71 season shows a team that was a lot more stylish than it was given credit for. - Post No. 108272

TonyEvans  13:28pm 29th Jun 2017

My first season. Thanks so much Robert for bringing back such great memories. Top side, broken up much too quickly - could have been us that went on to dominate the 70s and 80s and not the Scousers. Never mind it made '89 so much sweeter! - Post No. 108274

Yes its Ron  15:14pm 29th Jun 2017

The Man from - the footie was often stylish in the 70s matey. All Clubs had some great players and there were no expected 'routine' wins as there are now. Its PL hype and TV propoganda that makes people beleiecve that football was all prehistoric hacking and kicking back then. It wasnt. Far from it. Id put that 1971 side and our 89 and 91 sides against any team we ve had since in any number of matches and expect wins more often than losses. PS I recall being at that disastrous 5-0 loss at the old Victoria Ground at Stoke. As an eg of a so called lower ranking side Stoke had Conroy Greenhoff Ritchie Banks Pejic et al and a raft of excellent players to call upon. Really good side who in all fairness ought to have put us out of the Cup up at Hillsboro in the SF. Dont believe what youre told about footie back then. It was pretty damned good. Derbies were hothouse matches and stadia were not like today's mortuaries with fans sitting in silence. Great article as usual Robert. - Post No. 108275

The Man From UNCLE  15:48pm 29th Jun 2017

Ron; you're right of course. Liverpool had Dalglish, Ray Kennedy, Alan Kennedy, et al; Man Utd would always give you a game and of course Derby, Leeds and later Forest were all around. (I don't fall for any of the Sky schtick; they of course have a product to sell) I was fortunate enough to see the '89 and '91 seasons in person - (that 1991 side was as good as any I'd seen at that time and edged the '89 side as for me they were more consistent in the whole season). I guess I was brought up in the mid-1970's on a credo of "boring Arsenal" - to which my reply was always "they were never boring to me". - Post No. 108276

mbg  15:58pm 29th Jun 2017

Great accompanying photo Robert, (it's a refreshing change from having to look at one of wengers ugly mug wearing the same ten year old tie and jumper) i have a copy of it signed by the man himself all framed up, real history of our club, I doubt JCL's and a lot of wengerites would even know who he is. - Post No. 108277

Yes its Ron  16:18pm 29th Jun 2017

The Man from - good stuff. The 1991 side was excellent wasnt it. Im sorry if you perhaps felt i was being condescending to you in my lst post, i didn't mean to do so. The 71 side has always been lambasted by fans of other Clubs for being boring etc etc and its that plus the false portrayal of football back then that really gets my goat (youve probably noticed!! ha ha). Always respect and enjoy yr posts though. - Post No. 108278

Moscowgooner  18:26pm 29th Jun 2017

Interesting to see Revie´s comments about the Kop: my memory of the Final, and it´s supported by watching the recordings, is that the Kop were outshouted from start to finish by the travelling North Bank. I don´t think Arsenal fans have ever been louder than that at a cup final - although the ´87 league cup final came close (with the Kop again comprehensively outshouted). - Post No. 108279

Seven Kings Gooner1  19:31pm 29th Jun 2017

Wonderful piece Robert - loved the footage of the Southampton game on Boxing Day, you will never see a PL game played in those conditions. I was in the North Bank that day with Dad and his mates, after a half an hour you knew it was going to be one of those days. Towards the end of the season when Charlie George hit that winner against Newcastle, we stood right behind the exact spot where the ball hit the net. I don't think I have ever seen a ball struck harder by any Arsenal player, Charlie had a gift when it came to hitting a ball with real venom and pace. A guy near us, after all the celebrations had died down said "it's a good job Charlie did n't miss because if it had hit someone in the crowd it would have killed them". Charlie then repeated that type of goal at Wembley against Liverpool. A pub in Epping called "The Retreat" promise free drinks if Arsenal won the double - took my girlfriend (now my dear wife of 44 years) there that night and got our free drinks and every half hour the landlord played "good old Arsenal" did n't go down very well though because anyone who knows the area knows it is West Ham land. Great read Robert - thank you. - Post No. 108281

The Man From UNCLE  8:52am 30th Jun 2017

Ron - no offence taken mate. Enjoy reading your articles too. - Post No. 108285

Yes its Ron  9:51am 30th Jun 2017

MG - The so called wonderful Kop has always been well over rated mate. Ive been many times down the years to see the Arsenal there inc May 89 and our support betters theres more often than not. Theyre ok when they score or when their winning. Theres not much atmosphere there these days, same as most grounds. It doesn't intimidate.The TV bulls it up something rotten as a result of their perennial Liverpool love in. It ll be even worse this yr now their in the CL! - Post No. 108286

Moscowgooner  12:31pm 30th Jun 2017

Yes it´s Ron - not been to Anfield in recent years, but I recall the league cup semi final there in about 1978. There must have been 8000 or so Gooners there and again we put the Kop in the shade - even though Liverpool won 2-1. I recall Super Mac scoring in the opening minute as I came through the turnstiles. Plenty of blood on the streets though after: a particularly vicious night of football violence even by the standards of the time. - Post No. 108288

Yes its Ron  12:59pm 30th Jun 2017

MG - Yes, that was another myth wasnt it, the one thats always said that Liverpool fans never once engaged in any of the bad stuff. Another total lie the papers and media always spun and still do. I go with a freind to Villa Park every so often and its been Liverpool visiting. They still have a section among them that are pretty bad. Ive a lot of time for Liverpool as a City and the scousers are an ok lot i find, but some how theres a certain type that attach themselves to LFC. Its the same for all Clubs, but their fans differ so much from those on the blue side of the divide up there ive always found. LFC fans are more arrogant and carry a sense of entitlement far more than do Utd in my view. Their dislike of Man Utd is borderline abnormal. The freaking Club hasnt won a title for 27 yrs. Cant see why they still think Man U are 'rivals' and ive always found it even more bizarre that a match v a Club 33 miles away is supposed to be a 'derby'. - Post No. 108290

Roy  19:44pm 30th Jun 2017

I'm sorry, but I've got to say it......." Oh gawd, I 'ate you Butler, eeeeerrr " - Post No. 108303

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

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