Friday May 1st 1953, 2 months short of my 11th birthday and I’m allowed to go unaccompanied to my first night game.
It is the last game of the season…… Burnley. A win makes us League champions. A draw or loss makes for tears. Burnley had feelings for their near neighbours *(Preston and scared the pants off us. Jimmy McIlroy, one of the best)* post war players, pulled back a goal with 15 minutes to go
I have the official entrance fee of 6d in the pocket, but split it 3d of the gate keeper, (and more importantly) 3d left in mine for a thing is to find another youngster and through we go.
Not a full house by any means, it was an early’ish kick off, maybe 5.30 (6.30) so many still many working.
Arsenal’s line up – no subs in 1953.
Goalkeeper; George Swindin
Right back Lionel Smith
Left back Joe Wade
Centre half Ray Daniel
Midfielder Ben Marden
Wing half Alex Forbes
Wing half Joe Mercer and captain
Centre Forward/Wing half Peter Goring
Winger Don Roper
Inside right Doug Lishman
Inside left Jimmy Logie
Tears not far away; the game had hardly started but on 8 minutes Joe Mercer of all people sliced a cross cum shot and it is tapped in by Stephenson for the visitors (0-1) but two minutes later Alex Forbes had a go from some 30 yards. I’m probably biased but am sure that ball was still rising. Doug Lishman edged up ahead on 15 minutes, Jimmy Logie sent us all doolally and half time arrived with us having a 2 goal cushion.
Surely more to come? No, that’s not the Arsenal way. Burnley had feelings for their near neighbours post war players, pulled back a goal with 15 minutes to go and we started clock watching. That bloody clock. If we were needed to equalise, it sped up. I kid you not. But if we were under pressure, as sure as God made that night, it felt like it had stopped. One minute felt like 10. Joe and Alex working like Trojans, George relief and an oh so happy cry of “Champions” at the final whistle.