Category Archives: History


Book review: Geordie Armstrong – on the wings

By Les Crang

The recent release Geordie Armstrong On The Wing by Dave Seager (in collaboration with Geordie Armstrong’s daughter Jill Armstrong) was unveiled at The Tollington Arms prior to the Hull game, I wrote about the event previously here, and now have had a chance to write a review of the book.

I had heard about Dave Seager previously by his personal blog 1 nil down two one up and also his twitter account. Just after February Dave had indicated that he was nearing completion of his book on Arsenal’s 3rd highest appearance maker Geordie Armstrong, who tragically passed away at the Arsenal training ground in October 2000, whilst training the Arsenal reserves. Geordie played between 1962 to 1977 and was an ever present in part of the Arsenal double team of 1970-1, playing as a hard working winger for the team.

As I had started supporting Arsenal since 1980, like many fans, I had little knowledge of Geordie Armstrong. Over the years though, having extensively read about Geordie, one notes the importance of him in the Arsenal team that won the European Fairs Cup in 1970 (having written about his importance here previously) and the League and Cup double in 1971.

I had spoken to Dave briefly at the Piebury Corner Art Event in June. Dave and Jill had also been extensively using twitter to inform fans how the book was coming on and releasing many unseen photo’s from Geordie’s Arsenal days and with the family. Dave also recently discussed why he had got involved with the book in a recent blog here.

First things first. This book is a testament to an Arsenal legend. From 1962 for his debut until his final game in 1977, Geordie Armstrong made a total of 621 game. The appearance record until David O’leary and Tony Adams surpassed it. In those days, Arsenal’s pitch was usually played on a quagmire from October until April, with grass more scarce than trophies. As a winger that often tracked back, Geordie had to be one of the fittest and hardest working players on the pitch.

A striking part about the book is that Geordie was held within very high esteem. I had previously read Seventy-One Guns: The Year of the First Arsenal Double, written just after Geordie’s passing. All the team came for his funeral (including Bob McNab from Los Angeles) and all said of his importance as man and player. This is underlined again by not only his ex team-mates at Arsenal, but also those he coached at Arsenal (and Norway and Kuwait) as well as his family.

A nice story from the book came from two of my personal favourite players at Arsenal in the early and late 1990’s Stephen Hughes and Kevin Campbell. Hughes and Campbell had both been playing for Everton, when news came through that Geordie had passed away. Both were incredibly affected by his passing and seeked solace in each others memories of Geordie. As both had played in the reserves with Geordie in charge, they had a deep affection for the man, who would often ring them to check on how his former charges were. Throughout the book, Geordie comes over as very much a mentor figure to his young charges, with a kind heart in a cut throat world of modern day football.

Video: Geordie Armstrong providing cross for Ray Kennedy winner at Spurs in 1971

One must say some of the photos provided by the family, fans and Arsenal are pretty extensive throughout Geordie’s career. Its also interesting the extensive amount of people who admired Geordie, from his former team mate Alan Skirton to Dennis Bergkamp, you could not think of a more divergent group of people.

A couple items in the book that I enjoyed was a recurring theme, of why Geordie never played for England. Most seem quite saddened by this, but one person (I think it might be Peter Simpson) points out that under Sir Alf Ramsey, England rarely used wingers. He points out that at Liverpool even the excellent Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson rarely played for England, so it was not an anti-Arsenal reason Geordie gained full international recognition.

Another great thing of the book, as a supporter, is that Geordie seems an Arsenal man and fan through and through. Jill and Dave point out that Geordie, was widely recognised at the club by staff, always willing to sign autographs and remember the fans. He is ultimately ‘old school’. Approachable, unlike modern stars who leave the Emirates via an Underground car park, not by walking to there car like Geordie and others would in the day. There is a feeling of loss of a generation, in which the players had time for ‘us’ without the need of a media officer on hand.

To underline the above point, one is struck, as many fans are, that young players in the Arsenal reserves are rarely getting a chance to play full team football. It seems interesting that Jason Crowe, a man remembered for one game and the quickest sending off at Arsenal was a mute point for Geordie. Crowe is thankful to the confidence that Geordie instilled in him and helping him (and others) stay within the game. It seems sad that all the work Geordie puts into coaching the reserves few players make it (although Ashley Cole seems very thankful for Geordie’s assistance in getting into the Arsenal team).

In conclusion, it is a great biography. Dave and Jill have provided an insight into what it was like to know Geordie (which is what any biography should do). They have also provided an insight into team building, either as a player or a manager. It is also the professionalism of the man. Although Geordie would have disappointments as a player and manager at Arsenal, if things went wrong, he would redouble his efforts to do better for himself and the team. I would certainly recommend the book Geordie Armstrong On The Wing for this alone.


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Rogues Gallery: Alan Hudson

By Les Crang

Anyone who saw Alan Hudson play when he was young and intact will remember a talent to amaze and will feel sad it was so wilfully squandered. In the final analysis the greatest calamity to befall him is the one suffered only by those greatly gifted people who take their talent for granted. He will never know just how good he could have been. - Sir Michael Parkinson

Alan Hudson was one of the ultimate mavericks of the 1970’s. A player with huge talent and a desire to perform on the pitch (when he wanted to), a womaniser and a heavy drinker. A player with two England caps. Along with Frank Worthington, Peter Osgood, Tony Currie, Charlie George, Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh (or just read Rob Steen’s excellent The Mavericks: English Football When Flair Wore Flares). A player with silky skill who played for an attractive Chelsea side (it did exist), Stoke and Arsenal in the 1970’s.

The 1970’s team of Arsenal started so well and then sunk and reappeared briefly in the late 1970’s. Having won 3 trophies between 1969-1971, Bertie Mee had started dismantling the team that had experience by selling players such as Frank McLintock and George Graham, as well as selling the talented Charlie George who were sold for a combined fee of £240,000. It’s not as if Arsenal didn’t try and rebuild the team with more skilled players (the double team was ‘committed’ but hardly attractive). After the double of ‘71, Arsenal started rebuilding the club with some very exciting players such as Alan Ball, Malcolm MacDonald, Brian Kidd and Alan Hudson. We also signed some dross such as Terry Mancini and Jeff Blockley.

Born in 1951, he made his debut in 1968 as a 16 year old. Alan Hudson had started his career at Chelsea, playing in the lead up to the 1970 FA cup final, but unfortunately he broke his leg prior to the Final. Also in the same year Alan Hudson was part of the 28 team to be selected for the preliminary World cup squad (but not making the final 22 member squad), Hudson did have the opportunity of collecting a winners medal but refused as he did not play. Although he did help Chelsea win the European Cup Winner against Real Madrid 2-1. Hudson was also remembered in the 1970-71 for the goal that never was against Ipswich (see below)

The following year Chelsea reached the league cup final, losing to Stoke City 2-1. Chelsea seemed the team of the 1970’s as their fans started talking as if they had a history and a future. I have heard this before?

It seemed Hudson was a playmaker of the 1970’s. A player who could turn it on and cross a ball when he wanted. As Chelsea tried to rebuild the East stand and debts mounted, Chelsea had to sell him to see off these mounting debts. Hudson (in a soon to be repeated instance) had already fallen from grace with Chelsea manager Dave Sexton. In 1974 Hudson left Chelsea for the safe confines of Stoke City and a manager that Hudson respected in Tony Waddington. The season of 1974-75 almost brought Stoke their first title, when they missed out on the league by a mere 4 points. Later, Hudson said of the season and Waddington:-

No one understood me better than Tony Waddington. You could play for Tony because he loved skill – he brought so many great players to the place, starting with Stanley Matthews, and one of my regrets is we could not deliver him the title in 1975.

During Hudson’s time, he had made his England debut against the world champions West Germany. England’s previous match against the German’s at Wembley had ended in an embarrassing 3-1 defeat in a European championship Quarter-Final:-

Gunter Netzer ripped England apart. Within 18 months Alf Ramsey would be replaced with a new manager. The delightful Don Revie, previously of Leeds United. Hudson said he ‘picked me to fail’ for a friendly against the world champions West Germany. Unfortunately, Hudson played an outstanding game, Leaving Gunter Netzer to say ‘Where have England been hiding this player? He was world class’

In a revealing article prior to joining Arsenal, Hudson gave an interview in The Times (license required) that:-

Stoke City and occasionally of England, says, usually a frantic business of “flying about and tackling everyone”. This to any Continental fed on defensive football is the real game; and why should he not be satisfied watching British players take all of the bruises and his teams all of the trophies. Hudson stands for a lot of what the traditional British spectator considers out of character with the staple diet of sweat, kick-it-up-the-middle, get-rid-of-it football excitement. His style of play at Stoke has led him along a narrow Ideological path shared with few other players or plotted with any accuracy by most newspaper reporters. who, he believes, show fundamental ignorance about the game and, particularly, the way he attempts to play it. After many outstanding performances for Stoke and one remarkable game for England against West Germany, Hudson was acclaimed for his cool ability to determine the pattern and pace of an entire match. …his strong views on the way the game is played in Britain, at club and international level, are unlikely to make it easy for him to return to the international scene. In a revealing recorded interview he told O’Sullivan that his first and basic premise was that all football “starts from the back”. He explained: “I think a great example is Beckenbauer ; he starts all the moves off in Germany and he’s a back four player. So it proves, with them being world champions, that this is the right way to do it… We want the players at the back not to panic and use every ball. The more they use the ball, then the more chances we’ve got. If they belt it up the middle and we have to challenge in midfield for it, then we’ve just a 50-50 chance of getting it.” The England team who got knocked out of the European Championship were a hard working side. But you need people who are going to get through with a bit of skill now. Two flashes from that fella Masny for Czechoslovakia won them the game. This is what we haven’t got-apart from Bowles, Osgood and Marsh – anyone that can turn the game on their own. …If people don’t see you rushing around about 100 miles an hour and tackling everyone and kicking everyone they think you’re not trying. The people that go out and try and use a bit of brain and play football have different attitudes on the game.

An intellectual approach by a footballer, with an enlightened view on how the game should be played? This was a rarity in the 1970’s. Footballers were seen at best as oafish fools. Not something that enamoured himself to Don Revie either, who chose him one further time for England.

Although Hudson enjoyed his stay at Stoke, Hudson was transferred to Arsenal after Stoke’s (uninsured) roof got blown off in 1976, causing £200,000 of damage. Hudson also revealed that he needed to leave to pay a £5,000 tax bill he had incurred. The fee Terry Neill paid? The £200,000 for the roof in December 1976.

Neill had signed Hudson as an erstwhile replacement for Alan Ball, a man who had pushed for Bobby Campbell to become Arsenal manager. If Neill thought Ball was headstrong, heaven knows what he thought of Hudson.

The Times (license required) said of his transfer:-

In recent seasons Hudson has been determined to play his own way.He is convinced that the British game is obsessed with speed,and endurance to the detriment of skill. At Arsenal he joins an emerging team and the question is whether he will be allowed to go on pursuing his ideology or be asked to become the main provider for Macdonald… It would seem unlikely that he will be allowed to spend most .of the time building moves from deep inside his own half, as he does at Stoke. I have no doubt that if Arsenal can satisfy Hudson, who is not the easiest: footballer to manage, they will find themselves in possession. of Britain’s most gifted player. Failure to become a regular member of the England team has hurt Hudson far more deeply than he will admit. He won two England caps last year and was outstanding ‘against West Germany.

Neill had already bought in Malcolm MacDonald, an exciting, but greedy striker from Newcastle for £333,333,333 to make for a more exciting spectacle. Supermac said of Terry Neill in particular and Hudson in passing:-

Terry Neill’s revolving door policy as regards players [created problems]. There was a defender called Pat Howard, who arrived from Newcastle. He played around 9 games and then he was gone. In Neill’s opinion, he didn’t fit in. It was like that with the whole team. A hotpotch of idea’s with no one really knowing their place. Several wonderful players couldn’t really get along with his tactics. Alan Ball and Alan Hudson, for instance.

A player of outstanding ability, who had just turned 25, playing in a midfield that included Liam Brady and Graham Rix. Unfortunately, by the second game for Arsenal, against Notts County in the FA cup third round (Trevor Ross scoring the winner). The Times (license required) said of the game:-

Somewhere in the middle of the fast fading impressions is one of Arsenal’s newcomer, Hudson, playing a couple of priceless close passes leading to the winning goal being wonderfully volleyed from 20 yards by Ross… Arsenal’s infuriated supporters were obviously less confident about their team’s new patient outlook than its management and players. They were almost hysterical with rage as the game moved into its 97th minute, but long before that they began begging Arsenal to move more quickly. Hudson was soon told to “get rid of it”. If Terry Neill the manager, had wanted to buy someone to do this, no doubt he would have gone to the nearest public park.

Hudson also had three months of living in a hotel whilst the club looked into getting a permanent residence. This caused Hudson to be diagnosed with severe depression. His football was also taking a dive. Many fans felt he was lazy and worst. In drink. When he got badly injured in a games and went down one disgruntled fan was heard to say:-

A light ale bottle must have fallen out of his shorts and hit him on the ankle.

Rumours of his drinking would certainly come to the forefront in the infamous Australia tour in 1977. Terry Neill, who still had not won over the changing room and not helped by his choice of coach of Wilf Dixon. Arsenal needed a coach that would bring some discipline to the team. On the tour of Australia, senior professionals like Malcolm and Hudson were sent home after Terry Neill had said they had to come back to training earlier to do a money spinning tour of Australia. They were also told they could not drink. On learning this Hudson said ‘The tour was about taking the piss out of Terry Neill’. As Neill had already called the team ‘a bunch of morons’ in the press, in many ways, Neill deserved this backlash.

Whilst on tour in Australia Hudson was given a room at Sydney in which he described as ‘designed for Ronnie Corbett’. They then played poorly on the tour and prior to departing to Adelaide had both Supermac and Hudson went on a drinking spree. As well as getting very drunk the two were asked by some Sydney gangsters whether they would like Neill to ‘disappear’ after hearing their stories of the manager. Both Huddy and Supermac declined the offer. After a heavy session, they proceeded to (just) catch the flight to Adelaide. Drinking on the plane and going to a bar once they landed. An exasperated Neill sent both Hudson and Supermac back to London. The press had a field day. The Times were fairly conservative when they reported (license required):-

Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Hudson, of Arsenal, will be on their way home from Australia today after being in trouble there. A statement from the club said: “As a result of disciplinary action Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Hudson are being sent home today from the Far East tour.” Arsenal are in Adelaide. Macdonald, scored in his club’s 3-2 defeat by Celtic in a four club tournament in Sydney at the weekend. Arsenal had earlier lost. to the Australian national ‘team. They are due to play Red Star Belgrade today. Before moving on to Australia the English club competed unsuccessfully in a tournament in Singapore, which also involved Celtic and Red Star. In Adelaide Terry Neill said that the two English internationals were being sent home as disciplinary action for an incident during the tour. He would not elaborate, saying it was purely a club matter.

On return at Heathrow The Times reported (license required) the pair refused to speak to the press, adding:-

Macdonald stood in the car park, lit a cigarette, sunk his hands in his pockets and refused to speak, although he did quietly break into song: “I’ll do anything for you, anything for you . Earlier, the two Arsenal and England players had insisted on being last to leave the aircraft. They sprinted to the waiting coach clutching yellow duty free plastic bags. As they left the coach at the terminal, Macdonald broke into song, including “I feel so broke up, I wanna go home ” and “You’re so nice to come home to”. Passengers who had traveled on the flight said the players had been drinking orange juice and vodka. Macdonald, looking tired after the flight, was asked by a reporter: “Do you know we’ve been waiting here since six o’clock ?” He replied: “Well I’ve just had a journey lasting 33 hours”. Earlier, he said : “We’ve had nothing but aggro all the way back.”

Both were placed on the transfer list and both were quickly taken off. As Supermac had scored 29 goals in 1976-7 and Hudson had been bought to replace Alan Ball, Terry Neill would have been left losing his two most expensive superstars. Hardly a wise decision to make. A better decision would be just around the corner though for Terry Neill when Don Howe was brought back as coach. Howe brought in better coaching and timekeeping for the team.

The season of 1977-8 was an almost season, with Hudson having some great matches. During this season Arsenal came on leaps and bounds, reaching the semi-final of the League Cup and FA cup final. A memorable game for Hudson was his substitute appearance against Manchester City in the league cup quarter-final. The Times reported (license required):-

Brady, the metronome of this redesigned Arsenal, again provided them with a good flow of passes that should have inspired better things at this stage, but it was only when Hudson replaced Matthews for the second half that some rhythm came into Arsenal’s game. Hudson directed them from deep midfield, and with Price now regularly augmenting the attack, the City goal came under pressure.

Hudsons form that year was so good England manager, Ron Greenwood invited Hudson as a late replacement to play for England against Brazil for his 3rd cap. Hudson later said:-

That was probably one of the great regrets of my life. I thought I should have been in the original squad. Then someone dropped out and a call came through from Greenwood while I was in the Wellington pub in Sloane Square. ‘With all due respect, Mr.Greenwood,’ I said, I thought I should have been in the side anyway. I don’t want to get picked just because you’ve got injuries.’

By May, Arsenal had made their way to the 1978 against Ipswich. A day which ended in a 1-0 defeat.

Although Hudson had some nice early touches, Hudson was ineffective with both Brady and MacDonald carrying injuries. Afterwards Neill asked what went wrong. Hudson looked Neill in the eye and said ‘You picked the wrong team.’ Terry Neill, had enough of Hudson and by the following October, Hudson had departed for the Seattle Sounders in the USA aged 27 years old. Neill (correctly perhaps) feeling Brady, Graham Rix and David Price could cover Hudson’s position.

In total, Hudson played just 47 games with no goals. Hudson was a frustrating player, who could flit in and out of games, but he was a quality signing, along with Supermac. It showed a new Arsenal were willing to go for these type of players, not the Terry Mancini’s or Jeff Blockley’s. Unfortunately, it seemed to show that Terry Neill was unable to control them, something Neill would find to his cost at his time as manager at Arsenal.


Anatomy of the Arsenal: Two Semi’s in 1983 but we don’t go all the way

By Les Crang

If Terry Neill had brought back the good times between 1977-1980 in reaching 4 major finals (plus a league cup semi-final), the next few years were barren ones. Worst than that, they were years when Arsenal’s rivals Tottenham Hotspurs were good. Spurs back to back FA Cup Final wins of 1981 and 1982. Worse still than Tottenham winning the FA Cup twice was losing in the third round of the FA Cup to them in 1981, with The Times (license required) saying:-

The Indian sign which Arsenal had over their nearest and fiercest rivals in the late 1970s has been completely broken. Last season wins by Tottenham against Arsenal in the League Cup and League indicated that the tide had turned and Saturday’s deserved victory by the FA Cup holders at a wet White Hart Lane confirmed the fact.

So why the decline? Firstly, we had lost Liam Brady in 1980 to Juventus, while the following year we had lost Frank Stapleton in an acrimonious transfer to Manchester United in 1981. The combined fee for these important players was a mere £1,500,000. Arsenal had also lost the experience of Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson and Willie Young, whilst Stapleton’s replacement Paul Vaessen had suffered a major knee injury, which he would never recover from.

Although, we had qualified for Europe in 1981 and 1982, both had ended in ignominy. In 1981 we lost to a Belgian team of part-timers to Winterslag. In 1982, Arsenal would be humiliated by Spartak Moscow. After having been 2-0 up in Russia, Arsenal lost 3-2 and in the home leg they would lose 5-2. Spartak were a wonderful team, with perhaps one of the finest goalkeepers of the 1980’s in Rinat Dasayev, who Jonathan Wilson described as :-

The Yashin of the eighties and is probably second only to him in the pantheon of Russian goalkeeping.

Arsenal’s utter annihilation by Spartak meant that they could even substitute the great goalkeeper when only one sub was allowed. A fan Mike Marsh said of the game:-

The Russians had been absolutely terrific. In all my years of watching football, I have never seen such a powerful display of technical football, we were just not at the races. In fact it was worse than that, on that night, we joined ‘soccer anonymous’. I’ll never forget the faces of the likes of Sansom, Hollins & Talbot, white as sheets after the mauling they had just endured. I never like to see us beaten, but it was an education for all who witnessed it.

Out of Europe by September, 8-4 on aggregate. Arsenal would not be in Europe for another 8 years. If you looked at the side you could see why. Amy Lawrence in her recent book Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season said that Tony Adams used to say for a great team ‘you needed seven [excellent players]’. Well, for Arsenal I could count three, maybe four. These would be the mercurial and lazy striker Tony Woodcock, the centre half David O’leary and full back Kenny Sansom. Also, there was the improving youngster in the background called Stewart Robson (may be not the most popular man at Arsenal in recent times).

As for the other players. Well, Pat Jennings was a good goalkeeper but not at his best, Graham Rix had a great World Cup in Spain but  never really reached that form on a regular basis. Paul Davis was improving and Brian Talbot was becoming like Mikel Arteta ( slow, but always trying). The others? Paul Vaessen was in his last season, carrying an injury he incurred in 1980. Lee Chapman, a replacement for Frank Stapleton was commonly regarded as one of Terry Neill’s worst signings. Sharing striking duties with him was John Hawley, perhaps his second worst signing. Other team members? A Scottish keeper George Wood, a player who could not displace Alan Rough as international goalkeeper. Chris Whyte as cover at the back was ok, but never a great defender. Peter Nicholas had come into replace Liam Brady was really a poor bruiser minus Brady’s range of passing. John Hollins and Alan Sunderland, like Talbot were getting slower with age.

Other teams though had spent, especially Manchester United. Their new manager Ron Atkinson had bought Remi Moses and Bryan Robson from West Brom. He had also brought in the elegant midfielder Arnold Muhren from Ipswich Town. More importantly though, Ron Atkinson had signed Frank Stapleton for a derisory sum of £900,000 from Arsenal. All these players would have an impact on Arsenal semi-finals against United.

Having started the season in relegation form, Arsenal did not win their first game until fifth game away to Coventry. In a season in which we would end up 10th in the league, it was often a season best forgotten. Except in the Domestic Cup competitions.

Our run to the Milk Cup had included some impressive results. The stand out result being the 3-0 defeat of an improving Howard Kendall  Everton team, in which Alan Sunderland scored a hat-trick. By the time Arsenal played the quarter-final, in which we had acquired Vladimir Petrovic from Red Star Belgrade. Tony Woodcock said of him after his debut against Swansea:-

[That] he did enough to suggest that he will give us  to suggest that he will give us the quality we have been lacking in midfield [he joined in January 1983].

In the Quarter-final, Arsenal played Sheffield Wednesday, winning 1-0, via a Petrovic cross for Woodcock to hook it in. In the Semi-final Arsenal would face either Burnley, Liverpool or Manchester United. Burnley would have been preferable (even though they had beaten Spurs in the previous round). Unfortunately, over two legs, Arsenal would face Manchester United.

A first leg game at Highbury was unfortunately a dreadful night for Arsenal, ending in a 4-2 defeat:-

Tony Woodcock said ‘The pitch was all against us. It was frozen hard – impossible to play on really.’

Arsenal were done over by quite a few things. The main one being that from the scouts watching United had failed badly in checking for any weaknesses. In the 1979 Arsenal manager Terry Neill had sent George Male to watch Manchester United prior to the Cup Final. Male noticed that if you attacked Arthur Albiston as a full back and crossed deep, Gary Bailey was prone to be caught out at the back post and looked how that went:-

In 1983 Arsenal used Wilf Dixon to check United out. In the first game Woodcock said:-

Before the United game, though, he told Kenny, ‘You don’t have to worry about Steve Coppell – he’s gone. His legs have gone, he can’t run any more.’ Coppell was possibly their best player in the first game.

On  a cold night in February, Arsenal went down 4-0 down at home, with Peter Nicholas and Tony Woodcock getting consolations. Worst still, Frank Stapleton, on his return to Highbury and being barracked continually, scored twice, flicking two fingers to the Highbury crowd on the second goal, as way of celebration.

The game also carried an aggressive undertone with The Times (license required) saying :-

United had marred their display by allowing their natural exuberance to spill over. It was soon checked by the referee who booked Bryan Robson for baulking Petrovic and added the names of Duxbury and Moses both for felling Nicholas.

Moses actions would have repercussions, but more of that later.

In the second leg Arsenal went to Old Trafford. Tony Woodcock made a relevant point in saying:-

We didn’t get the early chance, but it finally came in the second half. Chris Whyte got up for his header. He should perhaps have done better, because he was close in, but thumped it and it bounced away off the post. Five minutes later they broke away [and scored].

It got a bit nasty…Noddy Talbot was butted in the face by Moses.

Arsenal lost 2-1 (6-3 on aggregate defeat). Raphael Meade scored our last minute consolation.

Arsenal were still in the FA cup though. We had a fairly easy run, up to the Quarters, when we would meet Aston Villa at Highbury. Arsenal won 2-0 with Vladimir Petrovic getting a cracking second and having a fantastic game.

In the draw, Arsenal could face Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday or Manchester United. Unfortunately, it was United again and not relegation bound Brighton.

Prior to the game, Arsenal had a Derby at Spurs. if anything could be worst than this result then I doubt I can remember it. The score was Spurs 5 Arsenal 0. The Guardian reported on the hapless display:-

Often as not Brazil, Falco and Archibald merely had to queue up in predatory fashion to await the next mistake.

Terry Neill would be under extreme pressure to win the Semi-final which took place on the 16/04/83 at Villa Park :-

Having taken to the pitch Arsenal had a great first half taken a 1-0 lead via Tony Woodcock (although it was more a counter-attack). The Times (licence required) wrote:-

The tenacity of Stewart Robson triumphed over the combined challenge of Bailey and Albiston, Petrovic eventually cleared up the middle and Woodcock finished it at the near post.

Unfortunately, by the second half the game changed. In an era when only one substitute per team was allowed, Arsenal had to withdraw their star player Stewart Robson. His replacement? Lee Chapman. A man so one footed, he struggled to stand on the other leg. The reason for Chapman coming on? You guessed it. Remi Moses. In the second half United took over the game, scoring twice via Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside. Arsenal had missed out on a second final.

Why? Well we were pretty poor to be honest. We often lacked… wait for it… a centre half and defensive midfielder. Sound familiar? We had a world class centre-half in David O’Leary, but his partners? Chris Whyte and Stewart Robson? Whyte was ok, but never Arsenal class, whilst Robson was more a midfielder who could cover in defence (a Nacho Monreal in modern parlance then?) Arsenal would go out and buy Tommy Caton in December 1983, the cover was poor.

Our Defensive midfielder?  Peter Nicholas. I have never been a Nicholas fan. Nicholas was supposed to be our midfield general. But in comparison to Peter Reid at Everton? Graeme Souness at Liverpool? Or Remi Moses at Manchester United. Nicholas was none of these.

In attack we had Lee Chapman as our other option to cover Alan Sunderland or Tony Woodcock. Lee Chapman was a god awful player. He cost us £600,000 from Stoke. A better option would have been Cyrille Regis perhaps from West Bromwich Albion. Tall target man, with International pedigree, good control and great work ethic. All things Chapman did not have. He would have been in the £1,000,000 plus mark, but certainly worth it in the long run. Again, Arsenal trying to get a bargain rather than pay a little bit extra.

The two semi-final defeats underlined a poor team. All season, Arsenal seemed to get worse. After one game against Nottingham Forest a 0-0 draw, The Times (licence required) wrote:-

The final whistle came as a merciful release in a match which numbed the senses. It was difficult to believe that two first division teams were on view at Highbury on Saturday. The most elementary skills were missing and the lack of effort must have disturbed the respective managers. At least Arsenal’s Terry Neill had the courtesy to apologize for his side’s part in a pathetic 90 minutes.

How True. Terry Neill was under pressure now. Heavy pressure. Prior to the FA Cup semi-final, rumours had circulated that Terry Venables had been approached for the Arsenal job.

So was their anything to come out of the season to make you smile? Well, in a league fixture against Manchester United prior to the Cup final, Arsenal won 3-0. But the best part? And for this, I will be kind to Peter Nicholas, the following happened:-

Just to illustrate the growing dislike  between the two sides, Peter Nicholas made a desperate bid for cult hero status. With Remi Moses about five yards away from him, Nicholas hurled himself to the ground, clutching his face, as a posse of Arsenal players pointed accusingly at Moses. The stunned Manc was sent off, which meant he would miss the FA Cup Final.

At least we could smile at that (Moses had this coming all season to be frank). The rest of the season was best forgotten along with the dreadful green away kit that brought us a mere two wins when we wore it. Could things get worse under Terry Neill? Oh yes. They certainly could.