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Arsenal’s Fairs Cup triumph at 50: Bob Wilson on beating Anderlecht to win the trophy

PUBLISHED: 12:10 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:10 28 April 2020

Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson leaps for joy as Arsenal's third goal enters the Anderlecht net to give the Londoners a 4-3 aggregate victory in the European Fairs Cup Final at Highbury. This was Arsenal's first major honour in 17 years and their win ensured that the trophy came to England for the third successive year. Picture: PA

Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson leaps for joy as Arsenal's third goal enters the Anderlecht net to give the Londoners a 4-3 aggregate victory in the European Fairs Cup Final at Highbury. This was Arsenal's first major honour in 17 years and their win ensured that the trophy came to England for the third successive year. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

To celebrate 50 years since Arsenal won the 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the Islington Gazette spoke to Bob Wilson about his memories of winning the trophy. In the fifth and final part, he reflects on losing the first leg of the final against Anderlecht and coming back to win the trophy.

John Radford soars into the Highbury air to head Arsenal's second goal watched by admiring teammate Charlie George (centre) and mesmerised Anderlecht players including goalkeeper Jean Trappeniers in the second leg of the European Fairs Cup Final. This goal leveled the score and later Arsenal notched a third to give them a 4-3 aggregate victory and the Fairs Cup, their first major honour for 17 years. Picture: PAJohn Radford soars into the Highbury air to head Arsenal's second goal watched by admiring teammate Charlie George (centre) and mesmerised Anderlecht players including goalkeeper Jean Trappeniers in the second leg of the European Fairs Cup Final. This goal leveled the score and later Arsenal notched a third to give them a 4-3 aggregate victory and the Fairs Cup, their first major honour for 17 years. Picture: PA

Arsenal had done it. After beating the mighty Ajax in the last-four, they were in the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup where Belgian side Anderlecht would be their opponents.

While the Gunners had managed to beat one of the world’s best side in the semi-finals, and they would be in for another tough test against the Brussels-based team.

Goalkeeper Bob Wilson recalled: “We knew we were up against it because we knew how good they were. We were warned about them.

“With Anderlecht they had Jan Mulder and we knew he was the star of that side alongside Paul van Himst and Johan Devrindt. They were a brilliant side and they lived up to that.”

Arsenal's John Radford (second r) celebrates scoring his team's second goal as teammate Charlie George (third r) runs to congratulate him. Picture: PAArsenal's John Radford (second r) celebrates scoring his team's second goal as teammate Charlie George (third r) runs to congratulate him. Picture: PA

The warning proved to be right. Away in the first leg, goals from Devrindt and a Mulder double put the Belgians 3-0 in front, but a late Ray Kennedy goal gave the Gunners a slither of hope ahead of the second leg.

“We were 3-0 down before we had even blinked,” said Wilson.

“We’d got all that way and we are now in the 17th year without Arsenal winning a major trophy and that looked like it would go on.

“When Ray Kennedy came on and scored, it didn’t initially feel like anything important. We weren’t certain if it counted as an away goal and that wasn’t really clarified until almost the day of the second game.”

Arsenal captain Frank McLintock holds the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup aloft as he is carried from the pitch by jubilant fans. Picture: PAArsenal captain Frank McLintock holds the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup aloft as he is carried from the pitch by jubilant fans. Picture: PA

It was left to Arsenal’s inspirational captain Frank McLintock to spark belief into the squad, with Wilson continuing: “When we went into the dressing room, it was like a morgue. No one said anything.

“Everyone went into the showers and then when we came out Frank McLintock went off on one. He was angry but he was looking ahead.

“He was getting into everyone and then he suddenly reversed it by saying we only need to score two and look at the goals we scored against Dinamo Bacau.

“He had us believing.”

Frantic activity in the Arsenal goalmouth as Anderlecht attack. Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson tries to claim the ball. Picture: PAFrantic activity in the Arsenal goalmouth as Anderlecht attack. Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson tries to claim the ball. Picture: PA

Arsenal knew they needed to win big in the second leg at Highbury, and they got off to the perfect start when Eddie Kelly scored to make it 3-2 on aggregate with 25 minutes played.

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John Radford then made it 3-3 with just 15 minutes left, and John Sammels struck just 60 seconds later to complete the turnaround and secure the Fairs Cup for Arsenal.

It could have been very different though as Wilson remembers: “There was a moment at 2-0 when Mulder hit the post and the ball came straight back into my arms.

“I was so relieved in the moment.”

As fans flooded onto the pitch at full-time to celebrated Arsenal’s first European trophy and the end of their 17-year trophy drought, Wilson recalls the scene.

“After the game I went to Jean-Marie Trappeniers who was their goalkeeper,” he said.

“He was wearing this horrible black jumper and he wanted my shirt, the shirt I’d won the cup in. So, like an idiot I gave it to him, and he gave me this awful jumper.

“We all then started to go round the pitch and the police couldn’t contain the fans, so most of the lads disappeared.

“But the club had waited that long for a trophy I wanted to make it all the way round and I was the only one that did.

“For me personally as well, having been an amateur school teacher that was a massive moment.”

Surprisingly, Wilson remembers there being no celebrations after the game, revealing: “I don’t think we went out. I think we went home.

“We all had our cars at the ground and we all went home. I remember getting in the car and just going home.

“I was never much of a beer drinker anyway.”

As for what winning the Fairs Cup means to Wilson, his emotions are summed up in a photo of him jumping in celebration as Sammels scored.

“That photo was taken as we got our third goal,” he said.

“I was jumping like that because of everything it meant to us and achieving what we wanted to do.

“For a club like Arsenal to go 17 years without a trophy was just wrong and we had to change that.”


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