The day we won the League at White Hart Lane!
The year was 1971. The Beatles had recently officially split up, decimalisation had arrived, Ali was getting it on with Frazier, Charlie George was the darling of the North Bank and I was a 14-year-old living in South Woodford having moved two years previously from Hackney. Both my brother Tony, who is 2 years younger, and myself protested about moving but didn’t mind once we found we could still go to The Arsenal, swapping the 236 bus for the Central Line then onto the Piccadilly Line to Arsenal Station.
At our new school in Woodford Green, it was a similar story to my previous schools in Hackney, the support split 3 ways between Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham. The Spurs fans were always taking the piss out of Arsenal as their glory days of the 60s were not that long ago! There was also a very well known Gunners fan in my brothers class none other than Keith Dover, celebrity fan and star of comedian and Gooner Alan Davies’s Tuesday Club.
My most memorable day as an Arsenal fan started spectacularly as I walked through the school gate on Monday 3rd May 1971. I noticed a crowd over by the gym and a broad grin came on my face as I went over to investigate to see that someone had painted a 30 foot long p***s along the outside wall of the gym! This was the days when the only Banksy we knew was the one who played for Stoke City and England. The Deputy Head soon arrived his face going from red to Purple with rage, veins bulging he screamed “Everyone will stay in the hall after school and won’t leave until I have the culprit.” That was never going to happen as I, along with my brother Tony and a couple of mates were going to White Hart Lane to see The Arsenal try and become Champions.
My Dad’s hero in the last great Arsenal side. Were my ’71 heroes to be next?
Our mum and our dad, who incidentally was born within walking distance of Highbury and as a kid watched the likes of Bastin, Hulme, Hapgood, Drake and his favourite Alex James, told us to stick together as the four of us set off to catch the bus to White Hart Lane. We sat on the bus excitedly talking about the match and it was filled up rapidly with fans en route to the match. Halfway to our destination and the roads were absolutely grid-locked as everyone converged on Tottenham. We jumped off the bus and walked the rest of the way.
When we got to White Hart Lane the scenes outside were amazing, the streets around the ground heaving with people. The queues for the turnstiles were massive. We got on the end of one and as we got nearer to the turnstiles, people were desperate to get in to see the match and started to jump the queue. It got out of hand and as we turned the corner, our mate Glen got trapped against the wall. As he pushed himself round, his jumper got caught and had a big chunk ripped out of it. The pressure built as we were pushed up against the turnstiles. We paid our money, the turnstile clicked in – we were in. There were 51,192 in there that night with probably another 50,000 locked out so we were fortunate to be amongst the lucky ones.
I will never forget the sight that greeted us as we walked out onto the Park Lane terrace. Even the Spurs end was a sea of red and white with a big union jack in the middle with Arsenal painted on it. As I looked around the rest of the ground, everywhere you looked it was Arsenal. There must have been about 35 to 40 thousand Arsenal fans there that night.
The noise which was incredible then went up another notch as Frank McLintock and a few of the other players walked onto the pitch to see what it was like. Frank led them over to where we were and encouraged the Arsenal fans to sing even louder. We duly obliged. The players went back in to get changed into the famous red and white kit and the atmosphere continued to build.
It reached a crescendo as the teams took to the field for the match. You couldn’t hear yourself think as a deafening roar went up and 40,000 fans chanted ‘Arsenal, Arsenal’ over and over again.
It was electric as the match kicked off. We needed to win or get a 0-0 draw to win the title, any other result meant that Leeds United would be Champions. The tension was unbearable as both sides went for it. Spurs were understandably well up for it as well. They certainly didn’t want Arsenal winning the title on their patch and wanted to stop us in our tracks from potentially equaling their feat from 10 years earlier, becoming only the second team of the century to win the elusive Double.
Spurs came close to scoring a couple of times with Bob Wilson bravely diving in at Joe Kinnear’s feet and Ray Kennedy almost scored for us. Then with 3 minutes to go, Charlie George crossed to John Radford but Pat Jennings clawed his shot away. The ball found its way to Geordie Armstrong who clipped it across to the head of Ray Kennedy who buried it high in the back of the net above Cyril Knowles and off the underside of the bar. I thought the roof was going to come off. The roar was so load as we celebrated the goal. The Arsenal fans were swaying and came cascading down the terrace. We were getting crushed at the front so the police let us sit on the track going round the pitch. But it wasn’t over yet Spurs came pouring forward and got a corner. Alan Gilzean went up with Bob Wilson our hearts were in our mouths as Bob Grabbed the ball and held on as players from both sides bundled in.
I thought my ears were going to start bleeding, such was the noise as the Arsenal fans were all whistling for the referee to put us out of our misery and blow the final whistle. After what seemed like an eternity, it was over. We’d finally done it, we were the champions! Pandemonium as thousands of Arsenal fans swarmed onto the pitch. ‘We are the Champions’ roared out over and over from the massive Arsenal army of fans. The players ran for the sanctuary of the changing rooms as I stuck my heel in the pitch, then picked up a clump of the pitch. My brother Tony went to do the same but a copper prevented him from doing it by threatening a clip round the ear hole! It took us hours to get home but we didn’t care. We were walking on air after an incredible magical night.
The moment Ray Kennedy secured his place in Arsenal legend!
The headers loops over a dispairing Jennings and 1 half of the double secured
The week wasn’t over as my brother Tony and myself had earlier collected and cut out all our programme vouchers and stood in line at Highbury to exchange them along with a pound note to get our hands on a Cup Final Ticket. So we were also there to see Charlie George score the winner and complete the Double. Those cocky Spurs fans weren’t taking the piss anymore at school! I’ve also, 41 years later, still got that bit of Spurs pitch in a plastic bag!