Arsenal League Cup final memories: The glorious 1987 Littlewoods Cup victory over Liverpool when ‘George Knew’
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In the week of the Carabao Cup final read our series detailing previous Arsenal League Cup finals by talking to the people who were there. Read on as we recall the glorious 1987 Littlewoods Cup final victory over Liverpool at Wembley.
The 1987 Littlewoods Cup Final was my first experience of Arsenal at Wembley. For that reason I’ve always seen the League Cup as not being far off the FA Cup in kudos. As my dad said to me that day: “Football and supporting Arsenal is all about these big games. Thousands of other football fans will never experience anything like this. Count yourself lucky that you’re an Arsenal fan.” I always have, and I’ve always remembered what my dad said to me.
I remember Wembley Way, and a sea of noise on the way to the stadium, and Arsenal fans going quiet when Ian Rush scored, because that meant a Liverpool win. I remember Charlie Nicholas’s two goals (and it meant a lot because he was my favourite player) and Perry Groves scampering down the left to set up Charlie’s winner. I remember the noise at the final whistle but most of all the chant: “Arsenal are back, Arsenal are back.” I’ve not heard that in many a year – great memories….
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The League Cup campaign of 1986-87 is one I look back on with great fondness. To this day two games from it remain on my list of the greatest games of my match-going life.
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The League Cup semi-final replay at White Hart Lane remains the greatest moment I have ever experienced following The Arsenal, on a par with Copenhagen ‘94. The atmosphere inside the ground was electric that night and there were so many Arsenal crammed in to the Park Lane end – as well as plenty taking liberties in the Paxton and on the Shelf – and the noise we were making was unreal. That last ten minutes was pandemonium – first when Ian, Ian, Allinson squeezed the ball in at the near post and then when Rocky prodded home the winner – I literally thought my head was going to explode! The release of pure joy as the final whistle blew is something that will live with me forever – I’m getting Goosebumps just thinking about it now.
The final was perfect – a glorious sunny day and a stadium full of flags, colour and noise. Ian Rush scoring but then the hero of our generation, Charlie Nicholas, scoring twice to win us the Cup and in doing so ruining Liverpool’s record of never losing when Rushie scored – “1 nil down, 2-1 up, we f****d Rushie’s record up” will remain one of my favourite football chants.
I remember saying I could die a happy man now because I’d seen my club win a trophy at Wembley. At the time it felt like the greatest achievement of all time because it was my first trophy, the first trophy for my generation, and it was the catalyst for all the success that followed.
I was born in 1975, so I would be lying if I claim to have memories of the 1979 FA Cup Final. Luckily the innocence of youth protected me from the trauma of 1980.
So, as an Arsenal fan, the 1987 league cup came around at the perfect time. Facing Liverpool at Wembley was a very daunting prospect. Younger readers will not realise that the Anfield club of the 1980s were imperious. When Ian Rush scored, it was almost guaranteed that the Littlewoods Cup would be heading to the north west. Yet, Charlie Nicholas and a deflection off Ronnie Whelan secured Arsenal the victory.
For me 1987, was a great year. I never managed to go to Wembley in 1979, so the Spurs semi final that year was brilliant, as I knew if we beat them, I was definitely going to get a Wembley ticket. I always had a feeling after winning the Spurs replay that we would win the final.
When Charlie scored the second, all hell break loose amongst the celebrating Gooners, and the mass of flags and singing that was taking place, created the felling The Arsenal were back.
I remember being next to an older fella, who was at the 1950 Cup final when Arsenal beat Liverpool, when Kenny Sansom went up to lift the cup, he tapped me on the shoulder and said; ‘Young Man, stop and take this trophy lift in, remember it and enjoy it, you never know when it will come around again.’ Wise words, which I always take into account for our Wembley final days out.
The 87 triumph over a dominant Liverpool in 1987 was my first Wembley Final and a favourite memory. It proved a lift of to the Graham era and I would love this Sunday to be Wenger’s first win in the competition and a fitting end to his tenure.
George Graham was appointed as the Arsenal manager in 1986 and immediately set about ending a trophy drought of fifteen years. In his first two seasons in charge he guided his charges to the League Cup Final with vastly different outcomes.
His first saw his young team take on the reigning Football League and European Champions, Liverpool. They never had lost a match in which Ian Rush scored, and he struck midway through the first-half. From despair came hope when Charlie Nicholas finished off a Viv Anderson cross just seven minutes later. Seven minutes from time Charlie got on the end of a Perry Groves cross and saw his deflected effort roll into the net. Our first League Cup, and didn’t it feel amazing.
It was my first trip to the twin towers with the Arsenal and though I was excited I did feel some reluctance at cutting the vouchers out of the match day programme. Cup Final day was a blast, running round the pubs of North London telling anyone who would listen today would be the day Ian Rush’s record of never having last when he scored for Liverpool would come to an end. The game itself and it seemed appropriate we fell behind. To a Rush goal. But, standing on the terraces in the middle of thousands of other Arsenal fans we all had faith. George Knew. It may have it been the league cup but it was a trophy and the team George was building was learning what it meant to be winners. I often think had Arsene Wenger had a similar mentality and sent out a team to beat Chelsea in the 2007 league cup final our recent history may have been somewhat different