On this day in 1970 Arsenal lifted the Fairs Cup after beating Anderlecht on an emotional night at Highbury.
Arsenal legend Bob Wilson started both legs of the two-legged final against the crack Belgium outfit, with the Gunners showing exceptional character to triumph 3-0 in north London half a century ago today, after falling to a 3-1 defeat in Brussels.
Bertie Mee's side refused to be daunted by the deficit as they produced a stunning comeback at Highbury to lift the trophy, winning 3-0 thanks to two goals in as many minutes from John Radford and Jon Sammels just 15 minutes from the end that saw legendary captain Frank McLintock lift the club’s first continental silverware.
Speaking to Layth Yousif in 2018 the much-loved Bob shared his memories of that clash as he recalled his Arsenal career.
“Anderlecht at Highbuy was one of the best games I've ever played in," he said.
"We went 2-0 up and then got a third, but they did hit the post which would have made it interesting if that had gone.
"It was Arsenal's first European trophy then the following year we went on to win the double."
Yet it could all have been so different for Bob had it not been for an error by a previous Arsenal keeper two years previously.
Bob recalled it was in the aftermath of Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat by Leeds United in the 1968 League Cup final that the then number one keeper Jim Furnell made a mistake in a league game a week later, which helped launch Wilson’s career.
“Jim, bless him, used to make some brilliant saves then he’d drop one in," Bob recalled.
“He let in a really silly goal in the last minute of an FA Cup tie at Highbury against Birmingham [in March 1968] when he caught it then dropped it and we drew the game. I came in for the replay which we lost but that was me in from that moment, apart from injury. In the 68-69 season that led up to the Swindon game in the League Cup final, all the chat was ‘Arsenal to buy new goalkeeper’.
“I found out from Frank McLintock, Bertie Mee bless him was trying to sign Gordon Banks from Leicester, but this was years later when Frank revealed it.
“I would never have had a career if they had. What happened then was that I played in the opening game of the season at of all places White Hart Lane. I had an absolute blinder. Again, that shows you the difference with goalkeepers.”
Bob reflects on his Arsenal career
The popular 78-year-old played for Arsenal between 1963 and 1974, and won two caps for Scotland, before taking up a coaching role with the north Londoners reflected on his time at the club, citing the shock 1969 League Cup final defeat by Swindon Town as a turning point for Mee’s side in their pursuit of silverware.
Wilson firmly believes that the defeat by the unfancied Wiltshire outfit paved the way for the club’s first European trophy a season later.
“There are two positions on the pitch where you can be a nobody or a second hand piece of furniture - because I’d been there since 1963. The first six weeks of that season it was ‘Where has this guy come from? ‘He’s been here for three years why has he not played before?’
“It’s because I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know the game. It kicked off that season which ultimately led to Wembley and the League Cup final. That defeat, well, Swindon were better than us but we played on a pitch you would never be allowed to play on now.
“It was Horse of the Year show two days before and when we arrived they were trying to suck the water off the pitch.That is one excuse and the other is that we had a flu epidemic. Five players were flu ridden but having said that, on the day it was nightmare.
“I still say, having lost to Leeds the year before in the League Cup final and then that taking it up to 17 years without a trophy at this great club, we made a couple of personnel changes and as a group we said ‘We’ll prove you wrong. We aren’t far away. We will show you we can do it.’
“I still say that Swindon defeat, albeit traumatic, especially in the newspapers afterwards allowed us to prove them wrong.”
Arsenal's renewed determination to win silverware
Wilson believes Arsenal’s renewed determination after suffering two defeats in two successive League Cup finals gave them added steel when it came to the following season – and the showpiece final against Anderlecht.
Despite a 3-1 defeat in the first leg, the Gunners showed true grit – albeit after a rocket from captain fantastic McLintock, which rallied his dispirited troops.
Wilson recalled the aftermath of the first leg against Anderlecht saying McLintock was badly affected by the defeat in the dressing room moments after the 3-1 loss – before storming out of the showers swearing and saying: ‘We only need to win 2-0, we’ll stuff em’.
Wilson added: “We won the Fairs Cup, the first European trophy – and the year after we won the double and were either first or second in every major competition, around that time.”
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