By Paul Gilmartin
The straight red-card for a professional foul, the more sanitary name for fouling someone through on goal, is a good rule. No better example of such a professional foul can be found than during the 1980 FA Cup Final in which our beloved Arsenal were beaten 0-1 by West Ham. Arsenal’s giant center-back, Willie Young, hacked down West Ham’s Paul Allen as he was through on goal. Young earned a yellow card but saved a certain goal. I was 10 years old watching that match, and although I don’t remember the action without the help of YouTube, clearly a rule change was necessary to stop that type of unsportsmanlike challenge.
Fast forward 33 years to today and our handsome number 8 finds himself headed for an early shower courtesy of the aforesaid rule change. However, if you’ve seen Young’s challenge on Allen, you’ll see that Arteta is very hard done by to be sent off. With tougher opponents (sorry CP, you worked hard but…) this decision may have had a match altering impact. Fortunately, it didn’t, and with our exquisite second goal, we made the 3 points safe (albeit quite a bit later than we would have preferred).
That 2nd goal, sumptuous and exhilarating, is exactly the type of play we have become accustomed to. Notice how Giroud controls the ball and plays Ramsey through. After a few steps of jogging, he then sprints hard and meets Ramsey’s delicate chip with perfect timing. The ball was very close to the palace goalie but there was simply nothing he could do about it and I’m sure the cheers from Skinny Slims and George’s could be heard several blocks away. I know that my ‘cheer’ (what most people would define as a shout), scared the hell out of my two daughters! And look at the passion with which OG celebrated, wonderful stuff indeed.
Its matches like today that make me reminisce about the past. The teams we’ve fielded under AW are a long way from the Arsenal I grew up watching. The old chant of ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’, which we now happily throw back in the faces of our opponents, was well earned. But while the game has changed dramatically over the 40 odd years I’ve been a Gooner, the plight and passion of our fans is just the same. The delight when the referee correctly awarded us a penalty, the nerves as Mikel lined it up (weren’t you mentally coaching him through it?), the exultation when the net rippled and we deservedly took the lead, the nerves again when Palace threatened (a great volley from Jedinak and an even greater save by SZCZ) and the relief and joy when Olivier scored his well-deserved goal.
We are indeed a team re-born; a team that was great, has been pegged back over the last few years and now are on the cusp of regaining our greatness. This course of events is analogous with another FA Cup final from my youth, the 1979 final when we played Man Utd. We took the lead through Brian Talbot, extended it with a Frank Stapleton header before half-time and coasted through most of the 2nd half towards a famous victory. But with less than 5 minutes to go, united hit back with a Gordon McQueen goal. As the nerves bloomed, Sammy McIlroy equalized for the woollybags and I was crushed. We had been so close and now it was gone. But wait a second, is that Liam Brady dribbling the ball forward and passing it to Graham Rix? Is that Rix crossing it over, above the diving united goalie? Is that Alan Sunderland meeting the cross and finishing the move perfectly? Why yes it is! Our 8-year trophy drought ended in rapturous celebration that day, and another day just like it is ahead next May.
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