By Tony Attwood
You might remember 1991. But just in case not, here’s what happened. We got drawn away to Wrexham in the FA Cup. 4 January 1991.
We had quite a decent team. Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, O’Leary, Rocastle, Adams, Smith, Merson.
You might remember some of those guys. We still chant Rocastle’s name as a sacred memory. There’s a statue up to Tony Adams. You may have noticed it as you come over the bridge.
So a fairly solid side.
And we lost 1-2.
Fortunately no one ordered a mass clear out of the club’s players. Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, O’Leary, Rocastle, Adams, Smith, Merson – it was thought that some of them at least might have something more to give to Arsenal.
And of course that was not the only Cup disaster that Arsenal has suffered. Here are some others, just in case you think that yesterday’s poor performance has never happened before.
4 January 1958. FA Cup. Lost to Northampton Town 1-3 (Northampton is my nearest league club. There are still people around who talk about being there on that day).
3 January 1965. FA Cup. Lost to Peterborough 1-2
18 January 1960. Lost to Rotherham 0-2
October 2 1973. League Cup. Lost to Tranmere. This one is particularly interesting because it included a number of players who had won the Double in 1971. Bob Wilson in goal, plus Rice, McNab, Simpson, Armstrong, Ball, Radford, Kennedy, Storey. Just consider those last three names and the goalkeeper. And we lost to Tranmere.
29 August 1978. League Cup. Lost to Rotherham 1-3
11 December 1980. League Cup. Lost to Swindon 3-4
4 January 1985. FA Cup Lost to York 0-1 (that team include Lukic, Samson, Talbot, O’Leary, Marriner, Woodcock, Charlie Nicholas, Steve Williams.
22 November 1989. League Cup. Lost to Oldham 1-3
My point is that upsets against lower league clubs happen. The difference is that until now it has never happened to Mr Wenger. But it happened under Bertie Mee, George Graham and the rest. It hurt just as much – I can remember the Wrexham and York defeats particularly well – not only how I felt that day but also the next day. And the next.
In a while I am going to put a piece on the Arsenal History Society site about one such match – significant because it was the last Cup match under Herbert Chapman. It was the last not because some proto-AAA group forced Chapman out but because sadly he died. But it shows how everyone can have this type of upset.
But for now I want to consider 3 January 1948. Long before most of today’s supporters at the Emirates were born. We lost 0-1 to….. Bradford. Tom Whittaker, one of the greatest servants the club has ever known, was the manager that day. It is worth recalling because we went on to win the league that season.
My point is not that we will win the league this season, but rather that these upsets happen. They happen not just to Arsenal but to all top clubs. Man U, Liverpool… clubs that have had long runs at the top, have all suffered ignominious defeats.
Judgements should be made over time, not day by day. You can say, Arsenal has not won a trophy for 7 years, and make a case for wholesale regime change. Or you can look at the fact that we have been in the knock out stages of the Champions League for 13 consecutive years and say, that is incredible, and could never have been imagined in previous eras.
I favour the latter interpretation, but I can appreciate the former. But any sort of reaction based on one game, or indeed even one season, is in essence the Tottenhamisation of Arsenal. It’s what clubs that have recently celebrated 50 years since they last won the league do. I don’t think it is what Arsenal should do.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches