#FlashbackFriday – Season 1973/74

By Robert Exley

The review of Arsenal’s campaigns continues

The 1973/74 season had kicked off with the bad news that despite finishing as runners up the previous season, Arsenal would not be competing in European competition. Despite UEFA ditching the ‘one city, one club’ rule of the predecessor Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the Football League unilaterally chose to continue with it. Tottenham Hotspur that season also won the Football League Cup and with the league wishing to promote their own show piece trophy, it was they and not Arsenal who were chosen to compete in the UEFA Cup for 1973/74. Over the summer of 1973, two icons of the famous early seventies Arsenal side were bidding farewell to Highbury – one an icon for what could have been achieved and the other for what actually was achieved.

In June, Captain Frank McLintock headed to Loftus Road to join QPR after being frozen out by Bertie Mee at Highbury. That same month, Peter Marinello was shipped out to Portsmouth, having failed to live up to the ‘new George Best’ tag that was placed in him on his arrival at Highbury in 1970. The only incoming transfer into Highbury that summer had been Brian Chambers from the previous season’s shock FA Cup winners Sunderland. Arsenal’s pre-season started with a tour of Norway. The first fixture had been a 2-0 win over Brann with goals for John Radford and Alan Ball, while three days later the Gunners suffered 0-1 defeat to the humorously named Frigg FC.

Arsenal’s first ‘competitive’ fixture of 1973/74 came at Highbury against Wolves in what was the FA Cup third/fourth place play off fixture (yes, really!). This fixture was introduced in 1970 and oddly enough, Arsenal had a hand in its creation. Back in 1953, Arsenal’s title decider against Burnley on the eve of the ‘Matthews’ Cup Final attracted many fans of both Blackpool and Bolton who were in the Capital for the big game the following day. An enterprising Arsenal FC board therefore decided to create a Cup Final eve fixture to attract the crowds to Highbury and therefore dreamt up an England over 30s v Young England (under 23s) game.

The fixture lasted for fifteen years, with the very first in 1954 attracting a crowd of 43,554. By the late sixties however, attendances for this fixture dwindled to as low as 13,018 in 1967. The fixture was replaced in 1970 as the third and fourth place play off for the FA Cup, based on the equally pointless play off fixture for the World Cup finals. The first game was between Watford and Man United at Highbury in April 1970, which United won 2-0 in front of just 15,105 fans. The game failed to capture the public’s imagination and the following year between Stoke City and Everton attracted just 5,000 spectators at Selhurst Park.

In 1972, the fixture was moved to the start of the following season which briefly boosted attendances. The 1973 fixture however failed to improve on this figure. The game would be captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’, with visible empty seats on show. Goals for Jim McCalliog and two for Derek Dougan meant Wolves inflicting a 1-3 defeat on the Gunners, while Brian Hornsby would be on target for Arsenal (this fixture would limp on for another season with the 1974 game between Burnley and Leicester attracting just 6,458 fans at Filbert Street. After this humiliation, the fixture was finally put out of its misery and disappeared from the football calendar for good).

Forty eight hours on, Arsenal headed to Ibrox to face Rangers in a game to mark the Gers’ centenary. Over 70,000 fans crammed into Ibrox for the fixture, with Alan Ball’s every touch booed with the Rangers’ faithful due to his annual battles with the Scots in the England v Scotland fixture. Derek Parlance gave Rangers the lead, which the Glaswegian side held until the final two minutes when a Charlie George shot was dropped over the line by Rangers keeper Peter McCloy. Rangers then pushed forward to regain their lead before a Charlie George pass put John Radford clear, who secured a 2-1 victory for Arsenal.

The Gunners’ League season kicked off with a visit from a Manchester United side in steep decline, having finished in a lowly eighteenth position the previous season. In front of a crowd of 51,501, goals for Ray Kennedy, Alan Ball and John Radford gave Arsenal a thumping 3-0 win. The victory however would give a false impression of Arsenal’s prospects for the season ahead. Next up came the visit of Don Revie’s Leeds United side, three days on. In the first minute, Arsenal took the lead with a goal from Jeff Blockley. The Gunners however missed several chances to increase their lead and early in the second half Leeds United equalised with a Peter Lorimer free kick. A Paul Madeley shot then rebounded off two defenders and into the Arsenal net, inflicting a 1-2 defeat on the Gunners.

For the first game of September 1973, Arsenal headed to St. James’s Park to face Newcastle. Terry McDermott gave Newcastle the lead, before a Charlie George equaliser earned Arsenal a 1-1 draw. Three days on, Arsenal headed to Bramall Lane for the first real indication that Bertie Mee’s tenure as Arsenal boss was heading in the wrong direction. The Blades had a worse start to the season than Arsenal, having won one and lost two of their first three games. Sheffield United raced into a four goal lead by seventeen minutes with Tony Currie running amok, even at one point sitting on the ball – emulating Alan Ball who carried out the same act two seasons earlier at Bramall Lane. The Blades added another on the hour to inflict a 0-5 hammering on Arsenal.

The following weekend back at Highbury things didn’t get any better with Arsenal suffering a 0-2 loss to Leicester and consequently tumbling to seventeenth in the table. One day later, Jackie Stewart became Formula One World Driver’s Champion after winning the Italian Grand Prix. Another two days on in Chile would see the original 9/11 disaster, with the other throw of Salvadore Allende’s democratically elected socialist government by General Pinochet. The next day, the Gunners would play host to Sheffield United at Highbury - seven days after the Bramall Lane detritus. A Ray Kennedy goal on eighty minutes would give Arsenal a 1-0 win.

At Highbury, there would be backroom change in that Steve Burtenshaw would exit after losing the confidence of the players, with Bobby Campbell coming in from QPR as coach. Next up would be a trip to Carrow Road to meet a Norwich City side that inflicted two defeats on Arsenal the previous season. An Alan Ball penalty, as well as Charlie George, Ray Kennedy and Bob McNab on target meant a much needed moral boosting 4-0 win. There would be a further victory with a 2-1 win at home over Stoke City, with goals for Alan Ball and John Radford. September 1973 however would end with a 0-1 away defeat to Everton, meaning that Arsenal ended the month in tenth place.

Three days later, Arsenal faced a visit from one of the other Merseyside teams – or the Wirral Peninsula to be exact – in the shape of third tier Tranmere Rovers. The Prenton Park side were Player-Managed by former Liverpool stalwart Ron Yeats and left Highbury inflicting a shock 0-1 defeat on the Gunners. Even worse was an injury to Alan Ball, who twisted his knee after a challenge with future FA Chief Executive Mark Palios. Tranmere Rovers remain the only British club to have a 100% record against Arsenal at Highbury. The Arsenal side that night was practically the Gunners’ first team, with the exception of Brian Chambers making his debut.

Four days on back at Highbury, Arsenal faced Birmingham City in front of a crowd of just 23,915. On the back of that humiliating loss came the introduction of a seventeen year old Liam Brady, brought on as sub for Jeff Blockley. Brian Chambers also made his second and last appearance in an Arsenal shirt. A goal for Ray Kennedy secured a 1-0 victory for Arsenal. Amidst the crisis at Highbury came a crisis in the wider world, as that same day a coalition of Arab Nations led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel during the Jewish holy period of ‘Yom Kippur’. October too would be a crisis month for both Arsenal and English football too.

Firstly however, independent local radio would be launched, ending the BBC’s official legal monopoly over UK radio, with LBC becoming Britain’s first commercial station, followed by Capital Radio one week later. One week on, Arsenal travelled to White Hart Lane for that season’s North London Derby against a Spurs side languishing in eighteenth place. Whether LBC covered the game on the Radio is unknown, but the match would be captured by LWT’s ‘The Big Match’. Goals for Martin Chivers and Alan Gilzean meant Arsenal crashed to a 0-2 defeat. The week that followed would be momentous for English football - starting with Brian Clough and Peter Taylor walking out on Derby County.

Two days later, England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup Finals after failing to beat Poland, with Clough as part of the ITV panel for the live coverage referring to the Polish keeper Jan Tomaszewski as ‘a clown’. In between the two fixtures came a friendly fixture for Arsenal at the Camp Nou. The game would be noteworthy as Johan Cruyff’s debut for a Barcelona side that hadn’t won the Spanish title for thirteen years (imagine that!). Arsenal performed well, but crashed to a 0-1 defeat. That same day, in retaliation for western support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War, OPEC (the mostly Arab cartel of Oil producing nations) announced a 70% increase in the price of crude oil against western nations such as the USA, UK, Canada, Japan and Holland. This sparked the Oil crisis of 1973, which too led to a stock market crash and the first major international financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Back in League Football meanwhile, the following weekend Arsenal played host to Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town. A goal for Peter Simpson meant a 1-1 draw. One week later, the Gunners headed to Loftus Road to meet QPR and former Captain Frank McLintock. The match was covered by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’. Goals for Don Givens and Stan Bowles pouncing on defensive confusion which followed a Brendan Batson back pass, meant Arsenal crashed to a 0-2 defeat. One week later saw the visit of reigning Champions Liverpool, who were sitting in sixth place having not won an away game all season. The game was once again covered by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ and the match day programme uploaded on the ‘Angry of Islington’ blogsite of long time Gooner contributor Phil Wall.

Second half goals for Emlyn Hughes and John Toshack meant a 0-2 defeat for Arsenal, which sunk the Gunners to sixteenth place. Bertie Mee’s side had managed just one victory in their last seven fixtures in all competitions. Forty eight hours on would see Arsenal head to Portsmouth for a midweek friendly to commemorate Pompey’s seventy fifth year of League football. Only 8,859 fans turned up to view a 1-2 defeat for Arsenal with John Radford on target. Next up would be a trip to Maine Road to face eleventh place Man City, now managed by Ron Saunders. The game would be covered by Granada’s ‘Kick Off Match’. Arsenal finally grabbed their first win for five weeks as goals for Eddie Kelly and Brian Hornsby meant a 2-1 win, while Francis Lee would be on target for City.

Two days on – twenty four hours prior to the Royal Wedding of Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips - a state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister Edward Heath after the National Union of Mineworkers called an overtime ban. The Oil Crisis had made the nation even more reliant on coal stocks and with ever rising inflation throughout the early 1970s, the Union had for a few years been mired in conflict with the Heath government as Miners’ wages had failed to keep up with rising prices. One such response from the government to anticipated energy shortage was the banning of the use of floodlighting for sports fixtures.

This meant that evening kick offs were now off the agenda for the foreseeable future, as too were 3PM kick offs as the shorter mid-winter days meant that 2.15PM kick offs were the latest permissible time to finish a game in daylight. One week later, Chelsea came to Highbury for a London Derby. The Blues had had as poor a season as Arsenal to date and lay one place beneath Bertie Mee’s side in sixteenth. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. Next up would be another London Derby, this time against a West Ham side which stood second bottom and were in greater disarray than Arsenal with just one win in seventeen games.

However, first would be an away friendly with Belgian side Mechelen. Two goals for Brian Hornsby meant a 2-2 draw. Meanwhile, at Upton Park Arsenal brushed aside a poor West Ham team with a 3-1 victory and goals for Charlie George and two for Alan Ball, while Billy Bonds would bag one for the Hammers. Arsenal finished November 1973 languishing in eleventh place and a good twelve points behind run away League leaders Leeds United who were still unbeaten from the start of the season. The opening fixture for December would be a visit from Coventry City who were one place behind Arsenal on equal points, but with an inferior goal average.

The game took place on a frozen barely playable Highbury pitch and the combination of poor weather and Arsenal’s poor form saw the attendance drop to just 22,340. The Gunners fell two behind in the first half with goals from Brian Alderson and David Cross. In the second half, Arsenal came back with goals from Brian Hornsby and Sammy Nelson who came on as sub for Eddie Kelly, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw. Three days later back at Highbury, as a result of the ongoing oil crisis came the oddity of a Tuesday 2.45PM kick off against Wolves due to government restrictions on the use of electricity and football clubs’ use of floodlighting.

Combined with poor weather and an Arsenal side in poor form, few wanted to spend time away from work for the privilege of viewing, meaning a pitiful 13,482 were in attendance. Charlie George put Arsenal ahead, though went off injured in the first half. After the interval Derek Dougan pulled Wolves level. Arsenal restored the lead through Brian Hornsby, though Wolves secured a 2-2 draw with a goal from John Richards. Arsenal then headed to the Baseball ground to face a Derby County side now managed by former Spur Dave Mackay. Roy McFarland scored for Derby, though Arsenal earned a 1-1 draw with an own goal.

Next up, with the nation experiencing further turmoil, on 13th December 1973 Edward Heath announced emergency measures in dealing with the Oil Crisis and industrial action with the implementation of the ’Three Day Week’ from 1st January 1974. This meant that commercial consumption of energy would be limited to three consecutive days each week. Meanwhile, Arsenal headed to Turf Moor ten days ahead of Christmas to face third placed Burnley. John Radford gave Arsenal the lead, however the Gunners crashed to a 1-2 defeat. The final fixture ahead of Christmas 1973 would be the visit of fourth place Everton to Highbury. A volleyed goal for Alan Ball against his old side meant that the diminished crowd of just 19,886 who were able to get out of last minute Christmas shopping duties witnessed a 1-0 victory.

As the country faced a black Christmas, that year’s pop charts in contrast saw a black country Christmas with Roy Wood’s Wizzard from Birmingham and Wolverhampton’s Slade battling it out for Christmas number one, with the latter’s ‘Merry Xmas Everbody’ winning through. It would however be Don Revie’s Leeds United who topped the football charts, their unbeaten run now standing at an incredible twenty one games and with a seven point cushion over second place Liverpool. On Boxing Day, Arsenal headed to the Dell to face ninth place Southampton. Bobby Stokes gave Southampton a first half lead, with Alan Ball pulling Arsenal level. The Gunners were saved by Bob Wilson stopping a Mick Channon penalty to earn Arsenal a 1-1 draw.

Arsenal’s final fixture for 1973 was an away trip to Leicester’s Filbert Street. Goals for Frank Worthington and Steve Earle meant a 0-2 defeat for Arsenal and the Gunners ending 1973 in eleventh position. Amidst the gloom of the start of the three day week saw the very first New Year Bank Holiday (every New Years’ Day prior, had it not fallen on a weekend, had officially been a workday). Arsenal’s first New Year Bank holiday fixture would be at home to ninth placed Newcastle United. Elsewhere in the old First Division, over at Loftus Road George Best played his last game for relegation threatened Man United before disappearing and later that month announcing his retirement from the game, aged just twenty seven.

Things weren’t much better at Highbury however, as a Terry Hibbitt goal inflicted a 0-1 defeat on Arsenal. The following weekend though, Arsenal had the FA Cup for escapism from a poor League season. The Gunners were drawn away to a Norwich City side anchored to the foot of the old First Division. A goal from Eddie Kelly eliminated the Canaries with a 1-0 victory. Arsenal faced Norwich again the following week at Highbury in the league. Two goals for Alan Ball gave Arsenal 2-0 win. Seven days on, Arsenal headed to Old Trafford to meet second from bottom Man United. The Old Trafford side took the lead with a headed goal from Steve James. Ray Kennedy however equalised, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw.

Meanwhile, in response to the oil crisis and three day week, there came the permitting of football matches to be played on Sundays for the first time ever. Arsenal however stood in opposition to the move, with Gunners’ director Bob Wall quoted as stating that: ‘Playing football and making profits on a Sunday is wrong. We will not disturb the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood of Highbury on that day’. On Sunday 20th January 1974, the first ever round of Sunday fixtures took place, with twelve Football League fixtures from Divisions Two, Three and Four. One week later, the very first top flight Sunday fixture occurred at the Victoria Ground, with Stoke City beating Chelsea 1-0.

Arsenal though were still involved in the FA Cup and were drawn at home against fallen giants Aston Villa, who fell out of the top tier in 1967 and were then sitting eleventh in the old Second Division. 41,682 turned out for the 2.15PM kick off. The second tier side had the better of the game and Villa forward Sammy Morgan gave the Midlanders the lead. Morgan then became involved in an altercation with Bob Wilson, who he kicked while he was lying on the ground – resulting in his sending off, just two minutes after being booked for a similar offence. Morgan and Villa boss Vic Crowe blamed the reaction of Wilson for getting Morgan sent off by referee Clive Thomas. The latter too was reported to the FA for encroaching onto the pitch after the dismissal.

Morgan alleged to the Birmingham Post after the game: ‘neither my booking nor the sending-off were justified. I never touched Wilson the first time and the second time I was going for the ball, not the man. It was a 50-50. I actually connected with the ball not Wilson. I went over to check if he was hurt and in my opinion he was play-acting’. Almost immediately Ray Kennedy equalised for Arsenal, but ten man Villa hung on for a 1-1 draw. The replay took place four days later at Villa Park, with an incredible 47,821 turning out for an afternoon kick off. The Sammy Morgan incident had been fresh in the memory and Bob Wilson was effectively ‘man-marked’ by the Villa Park crowd. Aston Villa actually won the toss, but chose to kick toward the Holte End in the first half in the hope of rattling Bob Wilson.

The Birmingham Mail described that: ‘Wilson was mercilessly barracked by the Holte End and, in the second half, the Witton End took over – and the customers in the stands were not silent either!’ The barracking had its effect, as in the twelfth minute an error from Wilson led to a clearance falling to Alun Evans, who crossed for Sammy Morgan to enact vengeance by putting Wilson one up. In the second half, Evans doubled Villa’s lead. Arsenal were knocked out of the Cup with 0-2 defeat and for the second time that season eliminated by lower division opposition. Also sitting mid-table in the league, for the first time since Mee’s appointment as boss Arsenal’s season was effectively over in January.

Three days later, back at Highbury in the League the Gunners faced a visit from third place Burnley. Alan Ball gave Arsenal the lead; though in the final two minutes Burnley pulled level to earn a 1-1 draw. Next up for Arsenal was a trip to Elland Road to face runaway leaders Leeds United three days later, who were now twenty seven games without loss. Once again it would be an afternoon kick off, with a diminished crowd of 26,778. Surprisingly, Arsenal had a good first half with an Alan Ball volley giving the Gunners the lead. Arsenal had further chances and held the lead for sixty four minutes, before the unfortunate Peter Simpson put the ball through his own net.

Leeds ended up with three goals in five minutes to run out 3-1 winners and stretch their unbeaten run to twenty eight. For Don Revie’s side there would be one further victory against Man United at Old Trafford, before finally losing away to Stoke City 3-2 in game number thirty. Their unbeaten record from the start of the season would not been bettered until Arsenal’s invincibles surpassed it in 2003/04. Back to 1974 and the same day as Arsenal’s loss to Leeds United, the National Union of Mineworkers had stepped up their spat with the Heath Government and officially begin strike action. Within two days, Edward Heath called a snap general election to be carried out on 28th February 1974, under the pretext of posing the question - ‘Who Governs Britain?’

Meanwhile, there would be an eleven day gap between fixtures before Spurs’s visit to Highbury for what turned out to be the last North London Derby of Bill Nicholson’s reign as Tottenham manager. At the start of the day, both sides were on equal points. However, a goal for Chris McGrath gave Spurs a 0-1 win to overhaul Arsenal in the League table. Arsenal’s final fixture for February 1974 was a visit to St Andrews to face Birmingham City. Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal the lead, however the Gunners sunk to a 1-3 defeat and consequently had stood in sixteenth place in the table and six points off of the relegation zone with another eleven games left to play.

The following Thursday, the nation went to the polls to decide the February 1974 General Election. Amidst the BBC’s election night coverage had been this fiery interview between members of the Denaby and Cadeby Miners' Welfare Club and BBC interviewer Tom Mangold. In the event, Edward Heath’s Tories attained the most votes. However a quirk of the ‘first past the post’ system meant despite having nearly a quarter of a million less votes than the Conservatives, Harold Wilson’s Labour party gained four more seats than the Tories. Labour however were fifteen seats short of a working majority, meaning that Britain experienced a ‘hung parliament’. The balance of seats therefore would be held by Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberal Party who increased their share to fourteen seats.

In the midst of the confusion, Edward Heath had yet to tender his resignation to the reigning monarch, as was the norm for an outgoing PM. Over that weekend Heath had entered into discussion with Thorpe to sound out the possibilities of a coalition government. Meanwhile, back in the world of Football, Arsenal were to face Southampton. In front of a crowd of just 19,210, a goal for Alan Ball secured a 1-0 win and gave Arsenal their first victory in eight games. Meanwhile, as Jeremy Thorpe and Edward Heath were negotiating terms of a coalition, Thorpe’s demand for electoral reform were refused by Heath which left him no option but to tender his resignation to the Queen, which meant that Harold Wilson returned as the Prime Minster four years after losing power, but with a minority government.

On transfer deadline day, question marks over the future of an injury plagued Bob Wilson furthered as Arsenal signed Man United reserve keeper Jimmy Rimmer. Arsenal had a fourteen day break between fixtures due to the FA Cup, though on 12th March came the visit of Barcelona and Johan Cruyff to Highbury for George Armstrong’s testimonial. This was a case of Barca reciprocating Arsenal’s fixture earlier in the season, which allowed them to give Cruyff a run out in front of the Camp Nou faithful. Alan Ball had put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot, however Cruyff and Barcelona inflicted a 1-3 defeat on Arsenal. The Gunners returned to League action four days later having dropped to eighteenth in the table and six points off of the drop zone. Next up would be a visit to East Anglia to face Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town, who had risen to fourth in the table.

Highlights of the game would be captured by Anglia Television’s ‘Match of the Week’. Goals for Ray Kennedy and Peter Simpson gave Arsenal a 2-2 draw. One week on saw the visit of fourteenth place Man City to Highbury and just ahead of kick off, history was made by Football enduring its first ever streaker (told in more detail by ‘The Arsenal History’ website). In the event, Arsenal grabbed only their third win since the turn of the year with two goals for John Radford giving Arsenal a 2-0 victory. The month of March ended with a trip to the Victoria Ground and a 0-0 draw with Stoke City, but a sudden leap back up to the mid-table security of twelfth place. This however, no consolation on FA Cup Semi Final day after involvement for the previous three successive years – two of them against that day’s opposition.

The first game of April 1974 had been the visit of a West Ham side just two points off of the relegation zone, which ended in a 0-0 draw. Later that same day, Abba won the Eurovision Song contest held in Brighton, on behalf of Sweden, with ‘Waterloo’ - their song based around the demise of a once great military leader (rather like Arsenal’s own sergeant major Bertie Mee by this point!). One week later, on Easter Saturday Arsenal headed to Stamford Bridge to play a Chelsea side sat in tenth place. Ray Kennedy put Arsenal ahead, before Kenny Swain equalised for the Blues.

Within minutes of Chelsea’s equaliser goals for Radford and another for Kennedy meant that Arsenal grabbed both points with a 3-1 win which put Arsenal on level points with Chelsea, as well as Easter Monday’s opponents Wolves. Another goal for Ray Kennedy couldn’t stop Arsenal crashing to a 1-3 defeat at Molineux, which left Arsenal just five points ahead of Man United in the relegation zone, but just four games left to play. Dave Mackay’s Derby County in fourth place came to Highbury to face Arsenal. In the second half, an Alan Ball penalty and another for Charlie George meant a 2-0 win for the Gunners.

The result pushed Arsenal up to eleventh and on the brink of securing their place in the top tier after a difficult season. The following Wednesday, Arsenal headed to Anfield to face second place Liverpool. Bill Shankly’s side had extremely faint hope of a title, sitting five points of league leaders Leeds United with six points left to play for. A month earlier, Liverpool defeated Don Revie’s side at Anfield 1-0. However, in a game in which Jimmy Rimmer made his Arsenal debut, a goal for Ray Kennedy in front of the Kop gave Arsenal a 1-0 win.

Mathematically, Arsenal were now safe from the drop and Liverpool – having suffered their first home loss of the season - were unable to catch Leeds United, making the West Yorkshire side the newly crowned League Champions. On the final Saturday of the season, eleventh placed Arsenal headed to Highfield Road to face a Coventry City side sitting in seventeenth place with a three point cushion. This therefore was a game of no consequence for either side and yet the pair shared six goals. John Radford, Pat Rice and Ray Kennedy were on target as Arsenal played out a 3-3 draw for Arsenal.

The bigger news that day however was the relegation of Man United, who suffered a 0-1 defeat to neighbours City at Old Trafford courtesy of old boy Denis Law’s back heeled goal. For Arsenal, there was one game left to play on the last day of April and that was the visit of eighth place QPR. Earlier that same day, Alf Ramsey was dismissed as England manager (pulling off England’s greatest achievement didn’t make Ramsey unsackable after England’s World Cup failure in 1973). The final game was noteworthy for two exits – Bob Wilson, whose impending retirement was known and Ray Kennedy, whose coming exit wasn’t.

It would also be the play off for top London club, as Arsenal stood a point behind in tenth. As many as 40,396 turned out for the game. Rangers took the lead with a Stan Bowles free kick. Things got worse for the Gunners, as Alan Ball would break his leg in a challenge with QPR’s Terry Venables. Ball’s exit saw the introduction of Liam Brady, who bagged his first goal for Arsenal to secure a 1-1 draw and a tenth place finish. One week later, Arsenal concluded their fixtures for the 1973/74 season with a friendly away fixture with Kettering Town. Goals for John Radford, Brian Hornsby and Charlie George meant a 3-0 win.

Spurs meanwhile, who finished beneath Arsenal, had a UEFA Cup Final date with Feyenoord of Holland that same month. A 2-4 aggregate defeat for Spurs, coupled with the ‘Rotterdam Riot’ of the second leg away in Holland played a bit part in Bill Nicholson’s decision to retire as Spurs boss. Wider public anger at the socio-economic situation of 1974 undoubtedly found a release in the form of mindless violence on the football terraces, what with events at Old Trafford and another noteworthy riot at St James’s Park in an FA Cup Quarter Final within the preceding months.

Indeed, 1974 was a year of power shift, not only in Football but the wider world also with a change of leader in Britain, the USA, Germany and France. Along with the exits of Nicholson and Ramsey, there too would be the retirement of Liverpool’s Bill Shankly and Ron Greenwood ‘moving upstairs’ at West Ham. In all four examples there were stated disgruntlement at aspects of the modern game such as inflated wages for journeymen players as well as growing crowd disorder. One place however where the old order would still cling on to power would be at Highbury, as there was yet to be a significant growth of discontent to unseat Bertie Mee. As shall be seen when this series resumes however, things would grow from bad to worse for Bertie Mee and Arsenal over the next couple of years, before there would be any change at the helm at Highbury.

Robert Exley can be found on Twitter and is the editor of Upstart Football, whose #FlashbackFriday edition this week covers a review of the Euro ’96 Championships with all available video links.

7th July 2017 08:08:07


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  11:52am 7th Jul 2017

Anyone who thinks times are rough now and bring back the good old days of the 70's should investigate the background to that season! The home win vs Derby was my first trip to see The Arsenal. - Post No. 108348

TonyEvans  14:00pm 7th Jul 2017

TMFU - I started supporting Arsenal in 1970, but owing to my tender years hadn't managed to get to Highbury until 1973. My first game was the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, though I was so in awe of everything that day that I hardly noticed we had lost! It got worse before it got better too - the next few years were dreadful, as I am sure Robert is going to tell us! - Post No. 108349

Yes its Ron  14:09pm 7th Jul 2017

Never mind the results, everybody having sideburns back then was awesome. It used to be a contest of who could grow the best pair and most expansive. Oh for a quality CB like Jeff Blockley now!! - Post No. 108350

John F  7:57am 8th Jul 2017

Great read again Robert.It must of been a very unremarkable season as I remember very little about the Arsenal games 73/74 but I do about the incidents that you have mentioned away from Arsenal .The England /Poland game is forever etched in my mind along with the power cuts.I lived on the top floor of a block of flats and I remember standing on the balcony and seeing people's a flats lit up by candles and a man trying to climb a through our next door neighbours window.It was the first year that I began to notice the rise of football holiganisim sadly it began to dominate all discussions on football at school.Great to read about the emergence of Jimmy Rimmer one of my favourite Arsenal Goalkeepers and who was Brian Chambers I had never even heard of him. - Post No. 108351

mbg  20:16pm 8th Jul 2017

Has Messi and Ronaldo signed yet ? - Post No. 108352

mbg  17:18pm 10th Jul 2017

Have you see the latest photo of the posers posing on the steps of their plane as they head off to oz to rollover and tippy tap a few second rate kangaroos to death ? TOF looks like a fuel tanker driver who has just filled the plane with fuel. wenger out. - Post No. 108353

Moscowgooner  19:40pm 12th Jul 2017

The Blockley goal right in front of a packed North Bank against Leeds stands out. Having thrashed Man U - it could have been ten - we were confident that the league was ours.... The second half changed all that, particularly a stunning Lorimer free kick; Leeds overran us. But Robert, you are wrong about the Villa replay - it was under the lights: they had a temporary generator and I think Villa were out of pocket - they had expected a 55 K gate. - Post No. 108368

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

15th January 2018

Being muscled off the ball by Bournemouth is like being mugged by your grandma

Online Ed: Another poor Arsenal display on the road just another signpost as we near the end of the Wenger era