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An Early Christmas Present 

BY PETE ELDON / @peteeldon

Maybe it’s because I’m older and generally more considered in this era of sanitised football, stewards, and seats, but football ain’t what it used to be back in the 70s and 80s when I was a teenage football fan following the Arse all over the country.

Although I still love the North London derbies more than any other game in the season, my recent visits to White Hart Lane have left me largely underwhelmed compared to the Saturday afternoons and occasional midweek blockbusters we used to have back then.

The league cup tie in 1984 when Charlie Nicholas and Tony Woodcock scored in a 2-1 win on their turf will stay with me forever as a night when the atmosphere crackled with hate filled tension that hung over the stadium like an acrid blanket.

But on the day that I die, the smile on my lips will be borne of the 23 December 1978, a cold Saturday afternoon at the home of the enemy and one of those rare occasions in life that actually delivers your wildest dreams.

They had been relegated two seasons earlier, and believe me, it doesn’t get much sweeter than seeing your enemy humiliated by having to play league games against Mansfield Town. Sadly their season in the old Division Two was their only one and promotion back to the top flight for the season 78/79 followed.

Now we all know that Spurs followers have a much over-rated opinion of their club with its 50-year history of failing to win the league (or come second for that matter). Back then of course there hadn’t been 20 years of total Arsenal dominance and two more Doubles, and so back they came proclaiming that suddenly they were better than Arsenal, that the drop had been for the best…blah blah, blah.

This new wave of Spuds pseudo-arrogance was boosted by the emergence of a young Glenn Hoddle and was supported by the acquisition from Argentina post World Cup ‘78 of the highly dislikeable Osvaldo Ardiles and his compatriot, who no one had ever heard of, Ricardo Villa.

So when the first derby of the season came around just before Christmas the Arsenal had a job to do – to slap these division one ‘new boys’ around the head and remind them who was boss of North London.

And what they had not accounted for was that we had the Messiah, the great, the wonderful, Liam Brady - who for those who don’t remember would have walked into the ‘Invincibles’ midfield and bossed it. We also had a superb front two of Sunderland and Stapleton, the former of whom was to have quite an afternoon.

The game itself went like a dream. After just five minutes we scored after a hapless John Pratt back pass  fell right into the path of the permed and moustachioed Alan Sunderland who promptly obliged by putting us 1-0 up. The away fans in Park Lane - we used to get the whole end back in the day - went mental and you just knew that we were on the way when the half ended much as it had started, Sunderland scoring again for 2-0.

It was easy, it was easy, it was easy at the Lane.

Early in the second half and magic from Brady to set up Stapleton for the third, before the goal that rates as my favourite Arsenal goal of all time. Spurs hero Steve Perryman dispossessed on the edge of his own area, head up, and the curling shot with the outside of the left boot into the top corner from 20-yards. There was an ecstatic reaction behind the goal where Brady ran to celebrate extravagantly, before setting off to stand in front of the Shelf with arms raised, rubbing it in big time.

Time for Sunderland to grab a hattrick near the end after hitting the post a bit earlier, and the 5-0 rout was complete. Spurs had been totally dominated and humiliated on home turf thereby conclusively settling any argument about their supposed superiority.

Talk about bragging rights! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Christmas more than that one, despite losing 2-1 to WBA on Boxing Day. Football eh?

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    The Arsenal Collective - A Home for Memories of The Arsenal - The Memory Bank - An Early Christmas Present
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Reader Comments (1)

I to attended the game sitting with my brother and a Spurs supporting mate in the Paxton Road stand.What a great day ! The stand started to empty after no 3 went in so we sat with our mate towards the front of the stand instead of the back ! That game rates as my favourite on enemy soil followed by 1987 Rocky scoring through Clemences legs .

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMad Gooner 51
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