“Neill Out! Neill Out! Neill Out!”

terry neill

Arsenal v Walsall – League Cup 4th round – 1983/84

1983/84 – a season I’ll never forget.
F**k me I’ve tried but I’m still haunted by it!
And it had started so well…….

The summer of 1983 and young Scotsman, who’d just scored 52 goals for Celtic the previous season, announced he was coming to play in England.
Was he going to Liverpool, the European Champions?
Was he going to Utd, still searching for that striker to bring them a league title?
Was he going to Tottenham, who just won the FA Cup twice in a row?
Was he going to Villa, Ipswich or Forest, all teams that were challenging for the league?
No.
Charlie Nicholas was coming to Arsenal!

He made his debut against Luton on the opening day of the season. Thousands were locked out as everybody wanted to see the player who was going to restore the glory days to Arsenal.
We beat Luton 2-1, Nicholas showing a couple of neat touches, and then we won away at Wolves with Charlie scoring twice. Things were looking up!
Then Utd and Liverpool came to Highbury in the same week, both won, and we knew where we stood in terms of challenging for the league. And our goalscoring saviour failed to score a league goal at Highbury until after bloody Christmas!

As always though, we could still stick a Cup run together.
The League Cup saw us sneak past Plymouth 2-1 over 2 legs and then we beat the Spurs 2-1 at their sh*t hole, with Charlie getting a goal.
He didn’t score that many but Charlie ALWAYS scored against Middlesex!
That saw us get drawn at home to 3rd division* Walsall. (*3rd Division is now called League 1)

It was a strange atmosphere at Highbury. We were looking forward to stuffing the no-hopers from the Midlands but our league form was so bad there was talk that the boss, Terry Neill, had to go.
We had a line up that had players of International quality: Jennings, Robson, Nicholas and Woodcock.
Unfortunately, alongside them were players that would struggle to get a game over the park!
But, f**k it, it was only little Walsall……..

Stewart Robson fired us into an early lead and all talk of sackings and bad players was forgotten. We really turned on the style for the rest of the half. Fancy flicks and clever touches had Walsall chasing shadows but it remained 1-0 at the break.
I’ve no idea what Terry Neill said at half time, I don’t think he knew what he was waffling on about half the time, but it was a very different second half.

Walsall came out and really went at us. Robson tried to stem the tide in midfield but with a pair of muppets in David Cork and Paul Madden alongside him, (I feel physically sick typing those names!) and Alan Sunderland looking completely disinterested having been put on the wing, he had no chance.
Walsall equalized on the hour and then camped in our half for the rest of the game.
Our centre-backs, Tommy Caton and Chalky Whyte, were once talked about by people as prospective England players. I’ve no idea which sport these people thought they’d be internationals in but it wasn’t football.
With 5 mins to go, Whyte mis-kicked a long ball straight to their striker and Walsall had won the game 2-1.

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“Neill out! Neill out! Neill out!” chanted the North Bank. There was a huge protest outside the main entrance. I climbed up the scaffold, outside a house opposite, and me and some mates slung anything we could get our hands at the old bill (who were trying to break the demonstration up).

A week later, after another gutless defeat at West Ham, Terry Neill was sacked as Arsenal manager.

Don Howe (his assistant) was put in charge as caretaker-manager and we muddled on.
After Middlesbrough (2nd Division team at the time) dumped us out of the FA Cup, Howe managed to convince England striker Paul Mariner to join us (in exchange for Alan Sunderland) put a couple of youngsters (Paul Davis and Tony Adams) in the team and things improved.

We had a decent end to the season including another win against Spurs, with Charlie Nicholas scoring a wonder goal in front of the North Bank.
Even when we were shit, we could still beat Spurs on a regular basis!
Don Howe got the manager’s job full-time and we all looked forward to the next season with new-found confidence.

Did we never learn…………

 

 

Written by Libertine for  Goonersworld

With thanks to Phil at AngryofIslington.com & Stuart at afchistory.com  for providing images for this piece.

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