Monday, 30 January 2023

1988/89: Everton v Arsenal

Maybe the Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey knew their ball, as the kids may or may not say now, in respect to Arsenal's 2022/23 season. "The word is about, there's something evolving. But to me it seems quite clear, that it's all just a little bit of history repeating."

You may be wondering if the introduction above is one of those legendary unfathomable clues on 321, yet it really is just my ham-fisted way of drawing comparisons with Arsenal's forthcoming match at Goodison Park and their Division One fixture at the same ground in January 1989. Because, in certain regards, what is evolving at Arsenal in 2023 does have elements of history repeating itself.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

1984 FA Cup Fourth Round: Brighton v Liverpool

Could lightning strike twice? In February 1983, Brighton under the management of Jimmy Melia visited Anfield and pulled off the shock of the FA Cup by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the fifth round. A little under a year later the teams were paired together again in the competition that Liverpool had not won since 1974.

There were noticeable differences for the sequel. This time Brighton would play the part of hosts, but many of the component parts behind their 1983 FA Cup run were no longer at the club. The biggest change had seen Melia resign in October 1983.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

1979/80: Tottenham v Arsenal

Squad rotation is now sadly a pivotal part of the FA Cup third round experience. Each year most Premier League clubs and those in the Championship striving for a slice of the cash cow make sweeping changes to their starting XIs, with the famous old competition suffering as a consequence.

Of course it wasn't always this way. There are a number of tales from the distant past of marathon seasons, cup replay sagas, and players out on their feet as managers without the luxury of vast squads attempted to drain every drop of energy from their reserves.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

1986 FA Cup Third Round: Birmingham v Altrincham

It was a fitting chapter in the shambolic story of Birmingham City's 1985/86 season. When Gola League Altrincham visited St Andrew's in the 1986 FA Cup Third Round and left victorious, it says a lot about the state of the First Division side that it was not a huge shock. On and off the pitch, Birmingham City were spiralling out of control.

Manager Ron Saunders had predicted the trouble ahead. After leading the club to promotion in the previous campaign, the former Aston Villa boss urged chairman Keith Coombs to spend some money, otherwise the club faced an instant return to the Second Division. 

Thursday, 10 November 2022

1983/84: Wolves v Arsenal

This is an edited version of my original article that appeared in issue 286 of The Gooner. 

The 1980s may not have been kind to Arsenal fans, but there was a reason to be cheerful as the summer of 1983 progressed. Optimism and anticipation; hopes and expectations; and all because a certain 21-year-old Scottish centre forward had chosen Highbury as his new home.

It was clear to comprehend why Charlie Nicholas was seen as the hottest property in British football. Scoring 48 goals for Celtic in the previous campaign, it was inevitable that the English vultures would circle. Yet his final destination was far less predictable.

Monday, 17 October 2022

1986/87: Manchester United v Tottenham

Manchester United and Tottenham had a history of entertaining BBC audiences. In December 1983, the first live league match shown on the BBC saw the home team come out on top, winning 4-2 in a thrilling if sometimes calamitous Friday evening. A lot had changed in the intervening three years as the teams prepared to face each other at the same ground.

Keith Burkinshaw eight year spell in charge at White Hart Lane had ended, and although his successor Peter Shreeves threatened to win the league at Tottenham in his first year of the club, a new man was in charge come the start of the 1986/87 campaign. David Pleat was the latest man to try and win Tottenham's first championship since 1961. 

Monday, 10 October 2022

1980/81: Leeds United v Arsenal

This is an edited version of my original article that appeared in issue 291 of The Gooner.

As election news was dominating the front pages in November 1980 – Reagan defeating Carter in the US, with Foot and Healy battling to become Labour leader – another 'e' word was constantly being referenced in relation to football on the back pages. With attendances dropping, many journalists and pundits were questioning whether the sport was providing the remaining fans with enough entertainment.

Stoke manager Alan Durban certainly made his opinion clear on the matter, after his team attempted unsuccessfully to park the bus in a 2-0 defeat at Highbury in September 1980: "If you want entertainment go and watch a bunch of clowns," Durban retorted. However, Arsenal were not exempt from these critical opinions.