The New Wembley Stadium has yet to craft its own legend. For all the improvements in convenience and safety modernity has brought about, one aspect feels lacking: the roar of the crowd. Whatever the cause, the dropping prestige of the FA Cup itself, a generous helping of corporate tickets in the allocation for the final or tepid atmospheres up and down the country in general, the sound emitting from either end of the Old Wembley used to be spine tingling in comparison.
As the teams emerge from the tunnel to kick off the 1979 final, the volume level is already deafening. Referees, players, and coaching staff are visibly giddy with excitement as the noise engulfs them. Before the match, though, protocol awaits. Charles, Prince of Wales, with a host of dignitaries in tow, has to be introduced to the players. As the entourage pass by the two sides, lined up to face each other, the players exchange quips like school boys behind their teacher’s back.
Any joviality is gone with the opening whistle. From the first Arsenal attack, Frank Stapleton and Jimmy Greenhoff collide. Both go down, receive treatment, and carry on shortly after. It’s nothing malicious from either player, but goes to show neither side will hold back. Continue reading →
The third time would surely be the charm for Malcolm Macdonald. His Newcastle side had lost the FA Cup final 1974 to Liverpool and the League Cup final 1976 to Manchester City. Every other year Supermac made the trip to Wembley. In 1978 he had donned Arsenal’s colours and dragged his new club there with him, scoring in every FA Cup match leading up to the final.
To start their Cup campaign, Arsenal had ran roughshod over Sheffield United in the 3rd Round, Macdonald providing four of the five Arsenal goals on the day. Wolverhampton proved more bothersome, but again it was Macdonald to the rescue, scoring the 2:1 winner in the 90th minute. Walsall were disposed of easily enough, 4:1. Their fellow Third Division outfit Wrexham managed to pull level at 1:1, but in the end were sent home all the same, 3:2. A Macdonald brace at Stamford Bridge ensured the semi-final win over Leyton Orient, 3:0.
So familiar was Macdonald with the hallowed surroundings that, standing in the centre circle of the Wembley pitch, he was relaxed enough moments before kick-off to have a little chat and laugh with Referee Derek Nippard. Maybe he was calmed by the knowledge of Ipswich’s recent run of results. Town had only won one of their last seven league matches before the final. Arsenal would finish 13 spots ahead of their opponents in the final table. (One league match was still to be played for either side, coming on the Tuesday after the final.) Needless to say the Gunners were heavy favourites going into the match.
With half the season gone and the FA Cup claiming the weekend it’s the ideal time to take a look at the title race in the Premier League.
Our main focus lies on Manchester, naturally. We ponder Pep’s motives and approach, while rejoicing in United’s good run. (Of course, we always had faith in Mourinho.) The big question, though, is: With a Top 4 finish now looking reasonable for United, what two sides would they overtake by season’s end?
Here are the minutes in case you want to jump around:
02:00 Can Burnley plan for PL football in 2017/18?
06:30 What sort of impact will Joey Barton have at Turf Moor?
08:30 Is this the Man Utd of old?
12:30 Will we see Memphis Depay again for Man Utd?
16:00 Can Man Utd sneek into the top 4? What competition will they prioritize?
20:30 Do Arsenal suddendly have grit?
23:00 Is there defeatism setting in for the blue part of Manchester?
As an irregular feature on our Facebook page, we’ve run throwbacks to earlier meetings of upcoming match-ups. Say Manchester United are facing Juventus on the day, we’ll dig up memorable, odd or interesting matches between the teams. [‘member Keano?]
We’re moving the series over to the website and are extending it to a handful of upcoming match-ups on the day or the weekend. First up it’s Arsenal vs Palace, Liverpool vs Man City and the Old Firm.
Arsenal 1:2 Crystal Palace, Oct. 1st 1994
Palace are without a league win against Arsenal for more than two decades now. In other words, they never tasted triumph over Arsene Wenger. Their last win came on October 1st 1994, Palace’s side captained by Gareth Southgate. George Graham was still at the helm for the Gunners, presiding over the oldest defence in the world. Tony Adams, at least, always looked to me ten years older than he actually was. Here he’s just 28, Andy Linighan next to him is 32, but they’re made to look 40+ by Chris Armstrong.
Once more during the international break it’s time for our Premier League special/recap. The fourth so far. We’ve jinxed Tottenham, now it’s time for Liverpool.
While doing that, we take a relaxed look at the six championship contenders. Yes, United are still in the race we’ll have you know! But that doesn’t mean we pull any punches on Mourinho, Schweinsteiger & Co.
After musing over what the next stretch of the season might hold in store for the teams we pay a visit to the Bundesliga and our unofficial adopted team.
Here are the minutes, if you want to jump around:
0:02:00 Can Burnley stay up despite their away troubles?
0:07:45 How will Liverpool keep up their intensity through christmas?
0:15:30 Can Chelsea distance their London neighbors in the next few matchdays?
0:21:00 Will The Real Man City Please Stand Up?
0:27:00 Can Arsenal avoid their November-drop?
0:34:15 Could a dual-leadership of Southgate & Wenger work for England?
0:38:30 Should Tottenham pick either League or Europe and go all-in?
0:52:00 Where do Man United go from here?
1:04:00 Has Mourinho lost the plot?
1:10:00 Who would you start, bench, sell: Mkhitaryan, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger?
1:17:30 Can Leipzig maintain their momentum in the Bundesliga?
1:22:00 Is the end nigh?
1:29:00 Will we see SV Horn in the Champions League soon?
We didn’t find any postcards from Big Sam in the mail and concluded we were not invited to join the England squad during the international break. Instead we sat down and recapped the last few weeks of matches and overall goingons in the Premier League: Contenders for titles and relegation places assemble!
Topics include, but are not limited to:
0:01:30 Are Sunderland doomed already?
0:09:00 Can Stoke, West Ham avoid the relegation battle?
0:12:30 Too early to count anybody out of the relegation battle?
0:15:45 Have City been found out? Or is everybody overreacting?
0:19:45 Can Arsenal, Tottenham sustain their form? Wenger to ride off into the sunset?
0:22:00 Could this be Liverpool’s year?
0:25:45 Will the CL be Leicester’s competition this season?
0:29:00 How are our pre-season predictions faring so far?
0:34:00 Where are Man United headed? Would Rooney make the club’s All-Time XI?
0:40:00 Are Burnley able to grind out more results?
0:45:00 Should England just shut up shop at this point? Who should take over anyway?
0:55:30 How is Oliver Burke doing in Leipzig?
1:01:30 Has the time come for Hamburg to go down? Who are the alternatives?