1971 At Whitehart Lane

By Peter N @gooner1947

Been a fan covering 7 decades and been to many NLD’s. I can just about recall my first as a young boy. Not too sure but think we won. They had Ted Ditchburn in goal and Tommy Harmer as inside forward. Probably 1955/56 but not sure.

The 5-0 win at WHL on Boxing Day springs to mind as one of the best but, for me, THE BEST has to be winning the League last game of season at WHL in 1971. I was home on leave from the Army at the time. I actually had a seat for the game in the stand above the Shelf. It was a coincidence that it was last game of season with so much riding on the game.

The game should’ve been played in January i think and was called off due to the weather. Nowadays all these games are live on TV all around the World but the game wasn’t live on TV. Don’t even think highlights were shown that Monday evening either. Only the second half was on the radio!

I can recall waking up that morning at home in Hollingsworth Street N.7 feeling so nervous and excited in equal measure. Our first opportunity to win the League after 17 years supporting them for me. Sustainable failure helps build foundations! We could’ve actually won it the previous week had we managed to hang on to the 0-0 draw at Elland Road but Jack Charlton, i think, scored a last minute winner. Was actually shown to be offside but who cares now!

That then meant, due to goal average being used, was that we had to beat Spurs or draw 0-0 to win the League. Very complicated in those days with goal average.

I wont talk about the game as most of you know what happened.

Back home I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember buying all the papers, even The Times, to read about the game that was to take place. No Talksport radio or Radio 5 live either. About mid-day I strolled to the local pub, The Adam and Eve on Liverpool Road. All the talk was about the game. “You going Pete?” the landlord asked me. I then carefully took out my ticket (for a seat!) and showed him. “A seat!” You lucky bast**d! he said. Had a couple of beers, nervously chatted about game till pub closed at 3pm.

Made my way to Holloway Road to get the bus but the 679’s were all full! Then got a bus going only to Manor House. Always many start from there going to WHL. Arrived there and masses of fans around waiting for buses.
There was no chance of getting a bus so as with many other Arsenal fans started to walk along Seven Sisters Road. Great atmosphere as you would imagine but you could also sense nervousness! We got as far as Ward’s Corner where Seven Sisters meets Tottenham High Road (i think).

It was here that hundreds of police has gathered including horses. They were not allowing Arsenal fans to go any further unless they had a ticket. apparently the gates had already been locked.This was about 4pm-ish in think. I pushed my way through to the police and took my ticket out of my inside pocket carefully to show the police officer. He then let me through the police barrier. But I was so apprehensive about taking the ticket out of my pocket!

Eventually I got to the ground and what a site to behold! Literally Arsenal fans everywhere. Trying to find a turnstyle that may be open. With my jacket buttoned up to protect my ticket I made my way to the turnstyle I had to use. I eventually got into the ground about 6pm. KO was 7.30pm.

So lucky to have that seat! the ground/terraces were packed solid and all you could see was red and white. I could see outside the ground from my seat and it was jam packed solid out there as well!

I am feeling the tension all again just writing this!! Of course you all know how we got on and won the League at WHL -for the first time!

I also walked all the way home as well! Luckily my local pub had a lock-in that night!!

The following day I had to get back to Catterick Camp and missed the FA Cup Final 5 days later. But who cares we won anyway and I managed to see it on TV in the NAAFI!

Lets hope we win this coming Sunday!

Peter N

Follow me on Twitter : @gooner1947

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