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Against All Odds

Tomorrow night, Arsenal faces one of the biggest nights in their history, and certainly the most significant fixture in the embryonic history of the stadium. We go into the game as bona fide 100% underdogs. Whether or not you believe we will overturn the one goal defecit or not is a matter of personal opinion (you don't want to know what I think), the point is we can do it. Football is a game that can throw you a curve ball just as you are ready to thumb through the form book with resignation, the very reason the game at large has been so entirely addictive for so many generations is due to its volatility, it's unpredictability and, at times, it's downright barminess. Football clubs' entire histories are etched in stone in moments such as these, United's unlikely last minute smashand grab in the 1999 European Cup Final, John Terry's failure of footwear on unctuous terrain, Jimmy Glass' 96th minute saunter towards the Shrewsbury penalty area. The game's legend is crystallised in such hair raising moments when everything seemed to be lost. Below is a short recollection of days and evenings in our history that were forged in chaotic alchemy and caused a few thousand betting slips to be torn up. All praise the underdog.

26th May, 1989. Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2- Almost exactly twenty years ago, Arsenal appeared to have blown a seemingly unassailable lead in the First Division Championship. A damaging home defeat to Derby County followed by a 2-2 draw with Wimbledon at Highbury meant Arsenal had to travel to a grief stricken Anfield and take on English football's behemoths Liverpool at fortress Anfield and win by two clear goals. Throughout the 70s and 80s Anfield was a ground wear you were thankful if you came away with a full compliment of shirts and shorts, points were strictly out of the question. Arsenal were written off from N5 to Nicaragua. This was just the way George Graham liked it. He refused to change any of Arsenal's away match routines, the team travelling North the day of the match as was their custom. Gorgeous George was eerily calm in his pre match interview, wearing the carefree smile of a man walking his dog on Wandsworth Common. He assured ITV that the pressure was off his team and implored them to enjoy the occasion. Graham's reputation as a miser was elucidated in his surprise team selection, opting for a third central defender in Steve Bould with the Gunners needing two goals. Those in the TV studio chortled disapproval, but Graham, an experienced tailor, was cutting his cloth to perfection. He wanted to ensure that the game stay tight and nervy and ensure Liverpool did not score the all important first goal. His thinking that doubt would start to creep in and enervate the home side's play the longer that they did not register. Half time 0-0 and just to plan. Now Graham instructed his team to get an early goal before sitting back and absorbing the pressure again. Unbelievably, they did just that. Merson floated in a free kick which Smith nodded in on 52 minutes. Liverpool players pressured referee Clive Thomas to consult his linesman as they suspected offside. There followed a tense wait as Thomas and the linesman conversed. But the goal was given and the chance of a huge upset was on the horizon. Graham had instructed his team to make sure they did not concede before unleashing a final ten minute blitzkrieg. As Bould denied Barnes and rolled the ball back to Lukic in injury time, in the commentary box David Pleat mused on the poetic irony of Arsenal winning the game but losing the league title. Dixon pumped a long ball to Smith in 'what will surely be the last attack.' Smith beat Gillespie to the header and found the onrushing Michael Thomas, he controlled and the ball took a kind ricochet off of Nicol, leaving Thomas one on one with Grobelaar. Thomas waited an eternity before lifting the ball over the advancing keeper and into the net. Arsenal had achieved their objective and won by two goals at Anfield in the most remarkable, unique and never to be repeated climax to a league season ever. It was also undoubtedly the greatest night in the club's history. In the ensuing twenty years, this night has become a real JFK moment for Arsenal fans, where were you when Mickey Thomas scored? Me? I was celebrating my 5th birthday and knew little or nothing of these events, to my eternal regret.

28th April, 1970. Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 0 (Arsenal win 4-3 on aggregate). The all conquering Arsenal side of the pre war era was now a dim and distant memory, much like the baby boomers of the 60s counter culture, Arsenal had lost their identity. Whilst in socio-political terms there was 'a war outside a ragin'', 1960s Arsenal were going through the motions, suffocated by their ancestory, in the late 60s several players even approached Bertie Mee- appointed in 1966- and asked to have pictures of the likes of Bastin, Hapgood and Drake removed from the Marble Halls. Mee replied that if the pictures were such a source of consternation that the players should look to replace them with pictures of their own achievements. Having not won a trophy since 1953, Arsenal got to the 1970 Fairs Cup Final against Belgian side Anderlecht. But the first leg was a shuddering disappointment as Anderlecht moved into a 3-0 lead in Antwerp. A late Ray Kennedy away goal gave the Gunners a glimmer of hope, but it was all to do at Highbury for the second leg. Frank McLintock reputedly rallied his troops in the dressing room with a stirring Churchillian address. It appeared to work when Eddie Kelly grabbed an early goal, the Highbury crowd roared their men on as the onslaught ensued. At the beginning of the second half, with the aggregate score still at 3-2 Anderlecht, McLintock turned to the North Bank and implored them to lend their voices. The Clock End crowd practically sucked John Radford's header into the goal as Arsenal moved into an away goal lead. Mulder struck a post as the Belgians roared back, but the much maligned Jon Sammels (the Eboue of the 1960s) fired in a low shot. Ther final whistle saw the crowd pour onto the pitch, most spectators shedding tears of joy as McLintock lifted the trophy. After 17 long years of mediocrity and soul searching, the Gunners had lifted their burdensome history off their shoulders and in doing so, created one of the greatest nights in the club's history for themselves.

4th May, 1994. Arsenal 1 Parma 0- Arsenal managed to scramble and defend their way to the 1994 Cup Winners Cup Final with a series of miserly displays from the legendary back four. Having seen off the artistry of Ginola and Valdo in the semi final, the Gunners were now faced with Europe's most frightening attack, consisting of Asprilla, Zola and Brolin. Even Arsenal's defence could not shackle that triumvirate of stars who were destined to light up that summer's World Cup. Shorn of their own star striker Ian Wright through suspension, nobody gave Arsenal a prayer. Zola rattled the inside of the Arsenal post after ten minutes and Brolin had a goal disallowed. But Steve Bould and Tony Adams gave an absolute masterclass in defending against the Italians, who, in Benarrivo and Sensini, were supposed to be boasting the guardians of defensive mastery themselves. Alan Smith hooked a 19th minute left foot volley in off the inside of the post to give the Gunners a shock lead. For the reamining 71 minutes, they defended with an air of authority and defiance that left the Italians bemused and brow beaten. 1-0 to the Arsenal it finished and one of the great European Final upsets of our time had been expertly executed by George Graham's Arsenal.

If Arsenal are to pull off the right result tomorrow evening, it will sit comfortably alongside the aforementioned as one of the great shocks that shapeshifts our history.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday May 4 2009

Time: 5:47PM

Your Comments

Yes we can
Tom14
Yes we can
Tom14
You're underdogs but I don't think it's quite the 'mission immpossible' you're making it out to be. About 60-40 in my book
Phartman87
You're underdogs but I don't think it's quite the 'mission immpossible' you're making it out to be. About 60-40 in my book
Phartman87
we can & we will..
luckys_10
we can & we will..
luckys_10
i just want the team to give me one thing, win or lose, once the final whistle blows, i want to feel yet again that this is the best team in the world, and how proud i am to be a gooner, to love this club, & that there will be nothing in this world that would give me more joy and happiness than Arsenal. cuz win or lose tomm, i'll still be a gooner on wednesday, still believe that my team will win everything next season, still be excited like a 5 year old kid all summer. yu are my true girl Arsenal, whether yu give me happiness, or break my heart and make me cry, i'll always love yu & i'll always be by ur side. ur one person who will remain with me till my last breath. i may lose everything, my family, my friends, money, my hair & a lot more, but yu will always be there, always giving me hope & making me believe in yu no matter what. every single day of my life, i wake up and i spend a large part of my day thinking about yu and tat makes me so happy, i love yu ARSENAL, i so love yu cuz ur my ARSENAL, your my gunners, ur my love, my team, my everything. lets go for it tomm & do it for Arsenal, for Arsene & for all of us, come on guys, it doesen't get any bigger than this, our time is now, we're there with yu all along & we'll be there forever. but right now, lets show the world why we are so special, and why we are simply the greatest ever team in this world. COME ON YU GUNNERS, ARSENAL all the way baby..
luckys_10
i just want the team to give me one thing, win or lose, once the final whistle blows, i want to feel yet again that this is the best team in the world, and how proud i am to be a gooner, to love this club, & that there will be nothing in this world that would give me more joy and happiness than Arsenal. cuz win or lose tomm, i'll still be a gooner on wednesday, still believe that my team will win everything next season, still be excited like a 5 year old kid all summer. yu are my true girl Arsenal, whether yu give me happiness, or break my heart and make me cry, i'll always love yu & i'll always be by ur side. ur one person who will remain with me till my last breath. i may lose everything, my family, my friends, money, my hair & a lot more, but yu will always be there, always giving me hope & making me believe in yu no matter what. every single day of my life, i wake up and i spend a large part of my day thinking about yu and tat makes me so happy, i love yu ARSENAL, i so love yu cuz ur my ARSENAL, your my gunners, ur my love, my team, my everything. lets go for it tomm & do it for Arsenal, for Arsene & for all of us, come on guys, it doesen't get any bigger than this, our time is now, we're there with yu all along & we'll be there forever. but right now, lets show the world why we are so special, and why we are simply the greatest ever team in this world. COME ON YU GUNNERS, ARSENAL all the way baby..
luckys_10
And the romance goes on; Luckys 10 you've said all that i could ever say and will always say. How refreshing to hear those words, go you gunners.
alwaysgunner
And the romance goes on; Luckys 10 you've said all that i could ever say and will always say. How refreshing to hear those words, go you gunners.
alwaysgunner
good luck lads, it'd be great to have an all-London final!
merlin
good luck lads, it'd be great to have an all-London final!
merlin
Great build up LD. The way Mclintock rallied his forces after the 1st leg has got to be one of the most inspiring leadership stories. He literally pulled up the team and gave the team that belief. We've got to have that belief for tomorrow. Its absolutely crucial. And I do believe that this team can pull it off. Forget the 1st leg where we were outplayed. If the team of 1970 can comeback from a 2 goal deficit against the odds, this team can do the same, and more! There are several inspiring stories in the history of the club. The current team should look to add to them tomorrow.
prits
Great build up LD. The way Mclintock rallied his forces after the 1st leg has got to be one of the most inspiring leadership stories. He literally pulled up the team and gave the team that belief. We've got to have that belief for tomorrow. Its absolutely crucial. And I do believe that this team can pull it off. Forget the 1st leg where we were outplayed. If the team of 1970 can comeback from a 2 goal deficit against the odds, this team can do the same, and more! There are several inspiring stories in the history of the club. The current team should look to add to them tomorrow.
prits
Thank you luckys for that inspiring post! Whatever happens, WE ARE ARSENAL AND WE WILL ALWAYS BE PROUD!!!
jaelle
Thank you luckys for that inspiring post! Whatever happens, WE ARE ARSENAL AND WE WILL ALWAYS BE PROUD!!!
jaelle
We're gunna do it brother truckers .... I can feel it.
Rocky7
We're gunna do it brother truckers .... I can feel it.
Rocky7
We're the underdogs but probably not the huge ones that we were before those classic games. Great piece though. And Luckys you can literally use that post to propose and get any girl to marry you. Let's show all this love at the Grove tonight and there's nothing we can't do!!
GoonerLou
We're the underdogs but probably not the huge ones that we were before those classic games. Great piece though. And Luckys you can literally use that post to propose and get any girl to marry you. Let's show all this love at the Grove tonight and there's nothing we can't do!!
GoonerLou
Great one Luckys, is it ok if I set it to a love song? Boy, you're some love struck puppy!
deledudu
Great one Luckys, is it ok if I set it to a love song? Boy, you're some love struck puppy!
deledudu
Nearly forgot my ticket for tonight, had to go back home from the tube station to get it!!! The nerves are jangling now, times getting closer!
LondonGooner
Nearly forgot my ticket for tonight, had to go back home from the tube station to get it!!! The nerves are jangling now, times getting closer!
LondonGooner
nah Lou, nobody else in this world is worth so much of my love. and deledudu, im singing "you're simply the best"
luckys_10
nah Lou, nobody else in this world is worth so much of my love. and deledudu, im singing "you're simply the best"
luckys_10
No you can't...
Squiddy
No you can't...
Squiddy
NOW we're the huge underdogs, against even worse odds than the situations above.
GoonerLou
NOW we're the huge underdogs, against even worse odds than the situations above.
GoonerLou
Luckys,that was great,you made my eyes moist. Brilliant,just brilliant. Hope the players feel the same.
D'arsassin
Luckys,that was great,you made my eyes moist. Brilliant,just brilliant. Hope the players feel the same.
D'arsassin
 

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