Category Archives: History

Liam Brady

Rogues Gallery: Liam Brady

By Les Crang

After Brady had gone Arsenal tried out a string of midfielders, some of them were competent, some not, all of them doomed by the fact they weren’t the person they were trying to replace. – Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby

I was once asked by someone either on twitter or 7amkickoff, who was better, Liam Brady or Dennis Bergkamp? Well? It is impossible to say. As Nick Hornby says above, the loss of Brady in the early 1980’s was almost unfathomable to understand. If there is one thing to say about them that they had in common. Well, winning an FA cup in their penultimate season (1979 for Brady and Bergkamp in 2005) and then the club going 8 and 9 years respectively without winning anything. God, how we missed them in the team.

If Bergkamp and Brady shared something similar, it was both were classic number 10 players (although Brady wore the number 7 for Arsenal at Juventus and Ireland he played number 10). In a blog post John Boyle described the no.10 thus:-

In football, 10 in squad number terms, is the number given to the player who embodies creativity, flamboyance, imagination and inspiration through their play.

The number has become synonymous with the position between midfield and attack, whether it be as a forward dropping deep, or a midfielder pushing on.

Both players were unique yet shared similar qualities: Dennis was probably the more skillful of the two but both could pick a pass through the eye of a needle and relied on footballing intelligence to beat teams rather than speed or power. Both were also the kind players we were willing to pay to see because of their poise and elegance, a void they left behind when they left the club.

For a large majority of fans Liam was just our Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy, who left in the summer of 2014, but for many an older fan, Liam Brady, especially during the mid and late 1970’s was a god.

Liam Brady was from Dublin. A lad that knew his own opinion, even from a young age. An example of this can be seen was when he was at school and he was and picked to play and captain the Ireland schoolboys team. Brady informed the school of this, thinking he would be congratulated, only to be told he would be expelled if he played for Ireland as there was a Gaelic Football game on the same day. Brady had to play for the school. Brady captained Ireland and never returned to school except for his exams. That was as a 15 year old. Brady was  always willing to do what he thought was best for him.

Brady was discovered playing by an Arsenal scout. The Welsh scout no less, Malwyn Roberts, along with Irish scout Bill Parby. Parby had told Roberts in 1970, when he saw 13 year old Brady playing for his local team St.Kevins *:-

“This boy Brady, he’s got a lovely touch, and a left foot that practically talks”, he reported back to the club. Arsenal despatched another scout, Malwyn Roberts from North Wales, to take a look, and he recommended that Brady, “a real little Irish gem.”

Brady had joined as an apprentice in 1970 and by october 1973 Brady had made his debut in the first team in a 1-0 win over Birmingham City, coming on as a substitute for the not so great Jeff Blockley. The Islington Gazette wrote of his debut:-

Brady’s arrival came like a breath of fresh air. Just by his presence he seemed to inject a little extra interest.

Brady was disappointing in his second game, against a good Spurs team, Arsenal losing 2-0:-

But manager Bertie Mee was impressed, telling the press:-

I’m very confident that young Liam Brady will emerge as one of the best midfielders in England over the next few years.

Brady made a further 12 appearances in the season of 1973-4, scoring in the final game of the season against QPR in a 1-1 draw in which substitute Brady ‘equalized from 25 yards after 58 minutes’ said The Times (license required). Ironically, the game is best remembered for the leg break that captain Alan Ball suffered. The Times reported of the incident:-

Ball was in collision with Venables, the Rangers captain. The club doctor said at half-time that Ball had a fractured left fibula and that his leg would be in plaster for eight weeks. Ball, whose leg was put in plaster at Highbury, said: ” It’s a choker. There is no way I can be ready for England’s tour. There is no possibility of me being able to play in a month [for England]. I heard a crack and I knew It had to be bad. Really Terry Venables had nothing to do with it. I tried to nick the ball off him, he took it away, and I just sat on my leg. The break is just above the ankle.’”

Brady, at first was a great admirer of Alan Ball, saying of him:-

‘Bally’ is a phenomenal character. He is a winner by nature and always takes defeat personally. Off the field he is a big-hearted, a great enthusiast about young players and a man who can talk about the game for hours without showing the slightest sign of flagging. on the field he is a born leader and he leads by example…

To say that you learn a lot about football by playing alongside Alan Ball is an understatement. His very presence is an inspiration, especially when you are up against it during a game and looking for leadership.

Brady in later years respected Ball the player more than Ball the man. But more of that later.

Arsenal finished 10th in Brady’s first season and Brady was offered the opportunity to go on an international tour with Eire. Unfortunately, Bertie Mee said no to that and Liam Brady again showed he had  his own mind, when he went and spoke openly to the manager Bertie Mee, informing him he was not happy at being informed on this. Mee apologised. A thing of rarity in many instances for Bertie Mee.

Over the next few years, Brady would come a mainstay in the team and what a team it wasn’t. For those brought up on the glory years of Arsène Wenger, Bertie Mee’s final years in charge (1973-76) were god damn awful. League finishes of 10th, 16th and 17th respectively only mask a malaise at the club that was only saved by the youngsters of Brady, David O’Leary & Frank Stapleton, along with seasoned pros such as goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer and very under rated striker in Brian Kidd amongst others. Even in the cup competitions we were poor, losing to the likes of Tranmere Rovers (at home).

For Brady though Arsenal under Mee had more plotting and intrigue than a bad episode of Eastenders. Mee had said he’d resign at the end of 1975/1976 season. Alan Ball wanted the Arsenal coach, Bobby Campbell to take over. Ball had asked the players to vote on it and send an ultimatum to the board on this. Brady, along with some of the younger players voted against this, saying:-

He [Ball] was trying to maintain the status quo, because a new manager from outside would make drastic changes and cull them [Ball and Terry Mancini]

Ball was later to say of Brady that he had stabbed him in the back. Brady was always his own man.

With the departure of Bertie Mee as manager, he would be replaced by ex-Arsenal captain and previously Spurs manager Terry Neill. Neill saw that the future was no longer Alan Ball, but Liam Brady and was relieved to sell a disruptive player like Ball to Southampton to improve Brady’s development.

With the arrival of Terry Neill, Arsenal were seen as an Irish club, as from Northern Ireland you had Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson and plus Terry. From the Republic of Ireland you had John Devine, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton left much of the press thinking the club was a London Irish club with them either discussing politics or arguing. O’Leary though pointed out in his biography that:-

Frank, Liam and I never really socialised together at all. Frank was teetotal and kept himself to himself, Liam’s best mate at the club was Graham Rix, and I was good pals with Pat Jennings. The ‘London Irish’ thing mattered more I think to outsiders than it did any of us.

Under Terry Neill, Arsenal changed into an improved team. By the end of season Arsenal came a respectable 8th position. By the following season Arsenal had bought in some quality players with experience like Pat Jennings, Alan Hudson and Malcolm MacDonald pushing the team up to 5th in the league. If you wanted to see Brady in full flow watch the video below against Manchester United in April and his goal on 3 minutes 20 seconds:-

The Times wrote of the game:-

There was further Irrefutable proof on Saturday that Terry Neill’s Arsenal side have finally matured. It may be too late for this season, as far as the league championship is concerned, but victory in the FA Cup Final on May 6th barring any miracles in the semi-final round next Saturday [against Orient], should be the first of many riches heaped upon this superbly creative young team over the next few seasons. Although Rice, the captain, gives them discipline and order, the genius is Brady. He was, as he always is, the most influential player on the field on Saturday. In a match bulging with incident which Arsenal won in a canter by 3-1 against Manchester United. Caressing and manipulating the ball with the left foot, Brady displays the same instinctive sureness and control that nature usually reserves only for single limbed people. Coupled with a vision only the great possess, Brady Is the best midfield player in Britain today. It is Arsenal’s strength In this area which makes them so formidable. Hudson, once seen as the player to lead England out of the dark and only a few months ago thought to be a wasted talent, looked, dare one say, a reformed character. He ran-sometimes too far-with unlimited enthusiasm and plotted to devastating effect with Brady. Rix,another beautifully rounded footballer, and Price, with more ability than just an ordinary workhorse, complete the design centre of Arsenal’s game.

Malcolm Macdonald, a great man in his own mind, was flowing in his tributes to Liam, saying of him:-

Liam was a dream to play alongside, because he could deliver a perfect through-ball to you – which is your dream if you’re a striker. Right foot, left foot, and with that brilliant skill he had of making the ball backspin on impact. Like all true greats, he had fantastic balance. He wasn’t blisteringly quick, but he was amazingly smooth to watch. You could give the ball to Liam, and the rest of us could dawdle forward to the opposition penalty area, have a chat, and we knew that the ball would find us. Then there was that shot of his. The deceptive swerve he was able to put on it was something else. I remember one of his goals at home to Leeds at the start of the 1978–79 season, when he made the ball arc into the net. It was beautiful. Like a lot of Irishmen, he was extremely articulate, who operated with his brains as well as his feet. The thing about Liam was that like any top player, he wanted the biggest prizes. And when success doesn’t come, problems arise.

The team had started to look like a thing of beauty. Having beaten Leyton Orient in the Semi-final, Arsenal faced under rated Ipswich Town side. Prior to the game Bobby Robson had said he had the most injuries prior to the final as a ploy. Terry Neill indicated in his biography that he had fallen for it. Unfortunately, both Arsenal’s star players of Liam and Malcolm were carrying injuries and played ineffectual games.

Brady’s decision was compounded with the injury, when he took the place of his friend Graham Rix in the squad. In his biography said that would never occur again, that he would play with an injury in a major game. He was true to his word and in the following years semi-final against Wolves he withdrew from the game with David Price taking his place.

The season of 1978/9 would be the pinnacle of Brady’s Arsenal career. The defining moment in games in the league probably being the 5-0 win against Spurs and Brady’s goal:-

Brady also got his first experience of European football, playing in the UEFA cup, in which he also earned his first red card against Hajduk Split. The season was predominantly a success with Arsenal making another FA cup final against Manchester United. Prior to the game Brady had become the first ‘foreign’ [he was from the Republic of Ireland] player to win the PFA player of the year.

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The 1979 final would often be called the 3 minute final, as Arsenal had cruised to a 2-0 half time lead with Brady in outstanding form. But with 6 minutes to go, Arsenal withdrew the other outstanding player David Price for Steve Walford. Within 3 minutes United had scored two goals and Arsenal were staring at extra time.

Willie Young said of them equalising and impact on the team:-

There wasn’t an Arsenal player who believed we could still win it in ordinary time – and that includes Liam Brady. He told me that he started the run which ended with Rix getting the ball over for Sundy’s winner, all he was doing was trying to keep the ball in their half. Thank goodness re reacted the way. I’m convinced if we hadn’t scored then, United would have gone on to win the cup.

Brady had won his first medal at Arsenal and been brilliant all season. Unfortunately a few days later, whilst talking to Ken Burgess of the Islington Gazette he said:-

I fancy playing in Europe like Kevin Keegan. Everyone needs a change. If I stay another one or two years, I’d still like to give it a go.

By the following season, with Brady looking to move, the Arsenal fans started to get on Brady’s back. Jon Spurling wrote of the season of 1979/80 and reaction to Brady:-

It began in the seats, actually. Whereas once there had been this adrenaline rush when Liam got the ball, there was a distinct lack of buzz. And if there was a lull in the game, or he started to drift out of it, shouts would go up of “Come on Brady, earn your money”, and, “You haven’t left us yet”. One guy sat near me merely said, “Brady, why don’t you just fuck off now?”

Although the following season Arsenal defeated both Juventus and Liverpool in the European Cup Winners Cup and FA cup respectively, Arsenal were running out of steam, playing almost 70 games that season. In the Semi-final against Juventus, the suspended Marco Tardelli noted:-

Liam Brady and Graham Rix orchestrated everything for Arsenal that night. They knew precisely when to hold on to the ball and when to release it. They seemed almost to have a telepathic understanding of where each other would be. Stapleton had two half-chances after Rix and Brady put him in. My heart was in my mouth, but I thought we were going to survive.

Unfortunately, they were wrong, with Paul Vaessen scoring a dramatic winner:-

Unfortunately, Arsenal would lose the final to Valencia on penalties with Brady and Rix missing and Brady having to console Rix for the miss at the end of the game:-

In the FA cup Arsenal would come up short against West Ham and lose 1-0:-

By June, Brady would leave for Juventus, who had been impressed with his semi-final game against them. He was 24 years old and went for a snip at £650,000 (this was when players like Steve Daley were going to Manchester City for over a £1,000,000) Brady would win two Italian titles in two years at Juventus. On departing Arsenal, Brady was fairly critical of Terry Neill not pushing out the boat on players to improve the squad and win things. He later said of his departure:-

We had a superb backbone of young talent who would be the core for many years at Highbury. But to win the league we need more depth in the squad. Here was a real chance to push on. The club signed John Hollins but after our cup runs there was enough money in the bank to have signed someone like Bryan Robson and absolutely gone for it. We never did. What I wanted was Terry to sit down with me and discuss his vision of the future, but he never did. I felt like I was being taken for granted.

With the departure of Brady, the early 1980’s were really quite dreadful. We too often became fans laughing at a poor team with only perhaps good full back in Kenny Sansom and centre half in David O’Leary, the rest were just often plain dreadful. I therefore go back to the opening. Losing Brady was losing the irreplaceable, just like Bergkamp. In the pantheon of Arsenal great, personally I would say Bergkamp, Alex James and Brady. They just moved in another dimension. You just can not put a value on it. It was such a pity he left. Worse still, when he did return with West Ham in the late 80’s he scored against us. Just our luck in the 1980’s.

Bertie Mee

Anatomy of Arsenal : Arsenal vs Sunderland 1973 F.A Cup Semi-final. Mee’s Demise*

By Les Crang

If you can accept losing, you can’t win. - Vince Lombardi

After Losing to Ajax in 1972, the season slowly seemed to unravel. Arsenal had proceeded well in the F.A cup and looked in line to win back to back cup finals. Unfortunately, disaster seemed to strike Arsenal in the semi-final against Stoke (a repeat of the previous years) in which Arsenal would draw the first game 1-1 with Geordie Armstrong getting the Arsenal goal. With 30 minutes to go Arsenal’s The Times reported (licence required):-

Fate took a sudden hand. Wilson, misjudging a….free kick from Bloor, fell heavily to crumple his left knee. Struggling painfully on one leg he collapsed twice in dire trouble. Easy to be wise after the event. but he should have been replaced at that point. By the time he eventually limped from the scene, handing over to Radford in goal with Kennedy brought on as substitute, it was too late. By then, with 25 minutes to go, Stoke were level, reprieved, magically refreshed and searching eagerly for a dramatic victory… But with Wilson hobbling off his line and the powerful Smith challenging, there was the wretched Simpson in a dither to slice the ball into his net. It was symptomatic of the panic that suddenly began to spread through the whole Arsenal defence like some prairie fire.

Wilson would be out for the semi-final replay and season. His replacement would be Geoff Barnett. In an Article on the online gooner he was described thus (after Arsenal had lost a cup game to Stoke 3-1 in 2009):-

Cowardly – that was our performance, Almunia should never wear an Arsenal shirt again. He was always our Geoff Barnett to Bob Wilson but yesterday he made Malcolm Webster look like Lev Yashin (Who? Ask your dad)

Arsenal won the Semi-final 2-1 with goals from John Radford and Charlie George. Arsenal were through to a fifth final in 5 years. In many ways a good thing. Unfortunately, Arsenal would be facing Leeds United. For younger supporters, Arsenal’s rivalry with Manchester United and to a lesser extent Chelsea has been a thing that has often unified us [well, occasionally]. But in the 1960s-70s most team wanted to defeat Leeds United. A team genuinely despised for their dirty tactics.

Leeds1.jpg

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(Big thanks to https://twitter.com/cockneygreen65 for the images)

Players such as Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton and John Giles were all excellent players, but they were a dirty team. Hated by fans universally, there losing titles and European cup finals and semi-finals.

An example of Leeds aggression can be seen with Francis Lee and Billy Bremner go toe to toe:-

Arsenal had already lost to Leeds in a cup final in 1968 when Leeds used their usual ploy at corners. Stand on the keepers toes (usually Jack Charlton). Making it impossible to get to a cross.

Bob Wilson had sorted out this problem when he played Leeds, would push the opposition players, especially Charlton, saying ‘I’ll handle him’. If you faced Leeds you needed aggression. Unfortunately, Wilson was someone who would be missed from the team. Wilson, would not be the only player missing from the previous years F.A cup win. Ray Kennedy, the double winning top scorers was dropped to the substitute bench, while World Cup winner Alan Ball played his first (and only) Cup final.

The cup final of 1972 was against Leeds with the weather dreadful as was the game. Alan Clarke scoring the winner. Arsenal’s closest to a goal was when Charlie George hit the post.

Arsenal had come 5th in the league, meaning we were not in Europe either. Worse still Arsenal had won the UEFA cup final against Wolverhampton Wanderers (the first all England final in Europe) 3-2 on Aggregate. The decline had most certainly set in.

The team seemed to need something new. We had a new coach from the previous year in Steve Burtenshaw, who had replaced Don Howe. John Radford said of Burtenshaw as coach between 1971-3 :-

It was a big blow to the players when Don Howe went, the momentum of winning things was there, but Steve hadn’t got a strong personality like Don. Nothing was going to crack up inside a year, but little things started to creep in.

Arsenal, having failed to get into Europe, losing a cup final and making the Quarters of the cup would be seen as success by some. But Bertie made what is regarded by many fans as his biggest fault. He started to break up the double team. Already after the double, Jon Sammels had left. The following close season John Roberts, a utility defender had left and worst, George Graham had departed for Manchester United.

So Bertie had started to change the coaches and the personnel in quick succession. You’d be foolish to change the tactic you would think? Not for Bertie Mee though. After the defeat to Ajax in 1972, Mee thought he would follow suit for season 1972-3 and play in the Ajax style. Prior to the season beginning Mee was heard to say:-

A wind of change is blowing through the game, Ajax and West Germany have proved you can entertain and get results.

Therefore Arsenal went Dutch and went 7 games unbeaten, leading Peter Bratt of the Sun to say :-

I saw enough here to convince me that the new style Gunners really can lead English soccer out of the dark age.

Alan Ball added of the experiment:-

It was like the pressure had been lifted. More was now channelled through me, and we injected some pace in the team…….But I knew that many of the players weren’t comfortable and I realised quickly that if this this was going to be a long-term sea change, then Bertie would have to buy in newer, fresher players who could fit in with the system.

Unfortunately in November, Arsenal were thumped 5-0 by Derby County:-

Arsenal then reverted back to type, with Arsenal returning to a pressing game.

Prior to the Derby game though, Mee had spent £200,000 on a defender called Jeff Blockley. Jeff Blockley had been brought in to replace club captain, Frank McLintock. As most of the team backed Frank, Blockley signing on a playing front meant a change to the team. Also, Frank McLintock is often seen as a colossus within the club, both by players and fans. In his biography, Frank questioned Mee buying Blockley and had a serious fall out in a game before Stoke. Other team members were critical of the new replacement of Frank. Bob Mcnab said of the period when discussing Frank’s reinstatement back into the team:-

[Bob to Bertie] He has fought and died for you and now you expect him to take it lying down. You know Frank better than that.

Frank himself said of a game at Birmingham, where he was unceremoniously dropped by Mee at Birmingham, telling him before departing. Prior to the game, chairman Dennis Hill-Wood why he wasn’t changed with Frank responding ‘You’d better ask that little bas@$%^ over there [pointing to Mee].’

Read any of the biographies of the 1970-1 team, all concur that McLintock bled Arsenal and was a great captain and player.

Also, another thing that irritated Arsenal players on Blockley’s arrival was financial. Bob McNab had already complained in 1970-1 of money he was paid and put in a transfer request. Youngsters Ray Kennedy, Eddie Kelly and Charlie George. With the arrival of Alan Ball the year before and informing the players he was on 10k per year had already upset many in the team. Ball recalled:-

The squad had been together so long that when a newcomer arrived, they weren’t always welcomed with open arms. I found that. When Jeff came, there was speculation about the money he was on, and his signing-on fee, and I did get the feeling that because of the players’ loyalty to Frank, it was never going to be easy for him.

After the 5-0 defeat Arsenal played Leeds, winning 2-1, Arsenal then went on a 15 match unbeaten run, taking on Liverpool at the top. Arsenal went to Anfield in February and won 2-0 [check Radfords goal]:-

The F.A cup seemed to be bringing Arsenal some success, with them beating Chelsea in the quarter-final and facing second division Sunderland. Win and Arsenal would be in their third consecutive final. Better still, they would face Leeds United for the third time in three years.

Peter Storey in his biography said of the game:-

Nobody outside wearside could have expected us to lose to Sunderland in the semi-final at Hillsborough. They were nothing more than a middle-to-average sort of second division side.

The semi-final took place at Hillsborough, the scene of Arsenal’s famous comeback against Stoke two years previously.

The team for the game was as follows :-

Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Jeff Blockley, Peter Simpson, Bob McNab, Peter Storey, Eddie Kelly, George Armstrong, Alan Ball, Charlie George, Ray Kennedy. Substitute was John Radford.

This game would be much more different. Firstly, Arsenal had reverted to using the pressing game or as the press termed them ‘bertie’s bores’. Also, Frank McLintock who had previously been in the team as Blockley had been out the team for 6 weeks was injured. Blockley had reported prior to the game that he was fit to play. History would say otherwise.

The game started with a howling wind and a vociferous Sunderland supporters. From the outset, Arsenal looked second best. Sunderland forward Vic Halom said:-

I quickly saw that Blockley wasn’t on his game. As a striker, you have to exploit every weakness you can in your opponent. I could sense his hesitancy. I could tell he was nervous.

Having weathered the storm for the first 25 minutes Blockley took centre stage for a tremendous cock up. Bob Wilson said of Blockley role in Sunderland’s first goal:-

‘It was a ridiculous opening goal and Jeff Blockley totally underhit the pass. Once we felt there were jitters down the middle of our defence we were vulnerable. We felt vulnerable and we were vulnerable.’

The Times wrote of Blockley display [paywall]:-

All of Arsenal’s failings and most of Sunderland’s achievements were channeled into Blockley’s domain in the centre of defence. He was never equal to the responsibility and one must say that had McLintock been available to captain and comfort Arsenal, Sunderland might not have been able to sustain such an inspiring quantity of progressive football.

Arsenal and Blockley responded meekly to the onslaught that Sunderland brought in the first half excluding a Geordie Armstrong deflected and well saved by Jim Montgomery.

Arsenal went in at half-time 1-0 down. On reaching the changing room, one could see what was missing when they got there when Bob Wilson said:-

We were used to Frank cajoling, but he wasn’t there. In the double year, Don Howe would have had his say too, but he’d gone too. We missed the impact of half-time bollocking. The leadership we’d been used to was lacking.

In the second half, Arsenal came out with Blockley still in the team but certainly not improved. In the 56 minute he was replaced by John Radford. A couple minutes later Bill Hughes header lofted over both Bob Wilson and Peter Storey.

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Arsenal did get one back through Charlie George with 5 minutes to go. Arsenal tried to push forward but with no luck. Said a distressed Blockley [after the 2-1 defeat] ‘I wasn’t fully fit and I was probably wrong in offering to play.’ Too little, too late.

Coming off the pitch to a crescendo of Sunderland fans singing, Arsenal learnt that Liverpool had lost at home to Birmingham and could still win the league. We also learnt Leeds had defeated Wolves in the other semi-final. Arsenal missed out on a revenge match with Leeds.

The season petered out as Arsenal drew the next 3 games, virtually handing Liverpool the league. As if to underline how much we dropped by the end of the season, then lost 6-1 at Elland Road in the final game of the season. The Times wrote:-

Perhaps Arsenal made things easier for them as they were without Rice and George, both suspended, and they took the opportunity of blooding two young players, 18-year-old Brian Hornsby and David Price, 17, giving both 45 minutes. Both however, found the going very difficult although so, too did much more experienced players like Ball, Blockley and McNab.

The only good news on Arsenal losing to Sunderland? Sunderland defeating Leeds in the final 1-0:-

Could things get worse? Coming second and making a cup semi-final would be good in most seasons. Unfortunately, Spurs had won the league cup and therefore two trophies in two seasons. Robert Exley pointed out the effect this had on Arsenal:-

Despite coming second in the league, they were denied a place in Europe to League Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Cup as only one club per English City was permitted entry. This rule had previously been enforced by UEFA with regard to the days when the competition was referred to as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. UEFA ditched the rule when rebranding the trophy as the UEFA Cup in 1971; however, the Football League still retained the criteria of one club per city for qualification for the 1973/74 season.

So where did it all go wrong? Well, let us start with the players. The younger one’s such as Eddie Kelly and Ray Kennedy were already annoyed at their poor pay and disgruntled. With their growing hunger for money, grew a growing waistline as they turned to chips and beer. The older players were also disgruntled, especially with the new players like Jeff Blockley and Alan Ball coming in on improved contracts.  Another problem with this team was Bertie Mee breaking the double team up too quickly. His treatment of Frank McLintock has often been pointed out as the turning point of Mee’s decline. Frank was slower, but he was still way better than the universally derided Jeff Blockley. More than a few fans have said that losing Frank was a stupid decision by Mee. These are people like Gary Lawrence, Dave Seager, Andy Kelly, Mark Andrews, Harry Lemon and especially Peter Nelson (heaven forbid anyone saying anything against Frank when Pete’s around).

Another reason for the decline was the coaching. The loss of Don Howe meant Arsenal lost a coach who would inform players of how crap they were and how to change it. Burtenshaw was a nice guy, but with ‘personalities’ like Peter Storey and Bob McNab, niceties were hardly going to improve them.

Jon Spurling also points out another important reason for Bertie Mee’s and Arsenal’s decline. One that would be copied by George Graham twenty years later in his transfer business. Mee had bought well before winning anything (Bob McNab and George Graham for example). After winning things though Mee had bought Peter Marinello, Alan Ball and Jeff Blockley at a cost of nearly £1,000,000. Mee was quite open when he later described Blockley ‘as my worst signing’. None of them actually fitted Arsenal’s pressing game. They could have, but the whole team would have needed overhauling at considerable expense. This expense would need Arsenal in Europe to improve their revenue stream. By 1972 Arsenal had stopped making it to Europe and the next three seasons would end 10th, 16th and 17th. Arsenal were about to enter a period of serious decline.

Brian Kidd - Rogue

Rogues Gallery: Brian Kidd

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Arsenal have recently signed Danny Welbeck from Manchester United and to many fans, Arsenal always seem to get screwed by United whenever we sign their players or they buy from us. This is often a myth. Many fans will say, look who we sold to United: in the 1960’s we sold David Herd, in the 1980’s we sold Frank Stapleton and Viv Anderson, and recently Robin Van Persie forced a transfer so that he could be the Dutch icing on Sirr Alex Ferguson’s retirement cake. Whereas Arsenal fans will point out, what have we got out of them? Mikaël Samy Silvestre.

But looking back through the history tells a different story: Arsenal have also sold United a defender for £30,000 even though he was injured, and the Gunners have also signed some great players from Manchester United. For example, we signed Jimmy Rimmer in the 70’s and we also signed another player in the 1970’s in a striker called Brian Kidd.

Brian Kidd, like Welbeck, had come from United to Arsenal a winner. But Kidd had won and scored in the 1968 European cup on his 19th birthday:-

Kidd went on to make appearances the following season for England, getting two caps and scoring a goal. Kidd remained at United until the summer of 1974 when Tommy Docherty took over a relegated Manchester United (you did read that correctly). Tommy Docherty was bringing in some new players for his team up front. These included Lou Macari, Gordon Hill and Stuart Pearson took over in his place.

On the 12 June 1974 The Times (licence required) reported:-

Football Brian Kidd, Manchester United’s former England striker, has asked for a few more days to think over the possibility of a transfer to Arsenal. Kidd is understood to be staying with friends in London over the weekend and Arsenal are expecting a definite decision next Monday. Kidd said “It is a fantastic opportunity to join a club like Arsenal, and at 25 I don’t think I could have a better move at this stage of my career”.

At the time Arsenal had been playing Ray Kennedy as our main striker alongside John Radford. Kennedy in the previous season had scored 12 league goals and had not really reached the heights of 1970-1 double season. Ray said when he had found out about Kidd coming he felt he would be joining him upfront, with Arsenal selling Raddy instead. Unfortunately, Bill Shankly made Ray Kennedy his last signing for an English record of £200,000 to Liverpool.

Brian Kidd would make his debut for Bertie Mee’s side away to Leicester. It was an Arsenal side that had won the double 3 years previous yet only Peter Storey, Peter Simpson, Eddie Kelly, George Armstrong, John Radford and Charlie George remained. Liam Brady had come into the side as well. But Jeff Blockley remained. This was the beginning of the end for the double team. Bertie Mee later said to the author of Arsenal in the blood said:-

The side broke up too soon…..There were offers to players to further their careers.

Arsenal won the game 1-0 and Kidd scored on his debut. The season showed that we had signed a good fox in the fox. A poacher of goals.

A defeat to Ipswich in the next game at home, was turned around when Arsenal played Manchester City at home 4-0 with Radford and Kidd scoring two goals apiece. Unfortunately, the season of 1974-5 was one to forget. By the time they played Leeds in October 1974, Arsenal dropped to bottom after a 2-0 defeat. The Times reported:-

Arsenal seem to have more problems than Leeds United. They look up at all the rest now that they have been pushed to the bottom of the First Division by their 2-0 defeat at Elland Road on Saturday. Though they are of sterner stuff than some who have struggled there in recent seasons, they will need more ideas and adventure than they showed in Yorkshire to extricate themselves. Old hands were feeling for old flair and the newer ones, despite their obvious promise, have still to learn to assert themselves. Rimmer, authoritatively alert on his line, preserved Arsenal from a sharper, setback and Kelly, too, had a significant role in restricting Leeds opportunities as they claimed the major share of the match.

For Kidd though the season was a success. Throughout the season, him and Jimmy Rimmer kept us from sinking into being relegated, scoring 19 goals. Arsenal’s last home game would Spurs. A win would make Arsenal safe from relegation. A defeat for Spurs would mean they had to beat Leeds United. Fortunately, Arsenal won the game 1-0 with Kidd scoring the winner:-

Unfortunately Spurs won their last game, coming in at 19th. We were a mere 16th. Moribund was the best way to describe the team. As said previously though, Jimmy Rimmer and Brian Kidd were often the stand out players.

The following season Arsenal were again terrible, signing such poor players as Terry Mancini, a centre half from London, who on his international debut for the Republic of Ireland sang the oppositions national anthem. Again, Kidd’s goals were important, but in 37 games he only scored 11 goals (still top scorer though). Of his  11, 3 goals came in one game against West Ham:-

Off this game, Liam Brady recalls before the match that Mee gave a great speech as they seemed to be nearing relegation, saying:-

By the time he finished countering our accusations of neglect [as a manager], he had earned genuine applause from the players, who, for the first time in many month, felt they had support and someone on their side.

3 games later Kidd played his final game for Arsenal against QPR, with Arsenal losing 2-1. Arsenal came a dismal 17th and Bertie Mee had handed in his resignation.

Brian Kidd though had got homesick for the north. Peter Storey wrote of Brian in his biography:–

I got the impression that Kiddo never wanted to be at Arsenal; in his mind he was still a United player…I wasn’t surprised in the least when Kiddo jumped at the chance to return to Manchester, albeit with City rather than United.

Bertie Mee and the players also felt Kidd never settled, often coming off the pitch playing for Arsenal asking the Manchester United scores. Hardly the best way to endear yourself to a team.

The thing with Kidd, is like Welbeck, he came through the United youth team. Whilst at United they both won things at a young age. They were also both England internationals overlooked for a new manager at United and sold for a reasonable price. Kidd, although only at Highbury for two season, is often a man overlooked. His goals in his two seasons kept us in the top division. Therefore, if you think Arsenal always get short changed in transfers with Manchester United, remember Brian Kidd.