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Arsenal’s Fairs Cup triumph at 50: Bob Wilson on beating Rouen and the importance of Bertie Mee and Don Howe

PUBLISHED: 16:04 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:04 22 April 2020

Bertie Mee, Arsenal manager. Picture: PA

Bertie Mee, Arsenal manager. 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 part two, he remembers beating Rouen in round three, the growing confidence in the squad and the importance of boss Bertie Mee and coach Don Howe.

Bob Wilson, Arsenal goalkeeper. Picture: PABob Wilson, Arsenal goalkeeper. Picture: PA

After winning ties against Glentoran and Sporting Lisbon, Arsenal faced French side Rouen in round three.

A 0-0 draw in northern France left the tie in the balance, but the Gunners just edged the second leg as a Jon Sammels goal gave them a 1-0 aggregate win to send them to the last-eight.

Goalkeeper Bob Wilson remembers confidence was starting to grow and that it felt like the team was starting to come together.

“What was happened with the side is that when I arrived at Arsenal in 1963, there was a side that could score a lot of goals but had a really dodgy defence – not that I was in that of course,” he said.

“We had experienced players, but it was the fact these kids were coming through like Eddie Kelly, John Radford and Ray Kennedy.

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“Bertie Mee and Don Howe were starting to believe that these youngsters could make a real impact, which they obviously did. We were also beginning to show something defensively.”

Wilson also believes the combination of manager Bertie Mee and coach Don Howe was key to Arsenal’s success, continuing: “Bertie was a terrific man manager. He was an officer and a gentleman. He would sit you down and give these Churchillian speeches.

“As regards his tactics, that was Don Howe who is one of the great coaches in English football.

“He would get right in your face if you were doing something wrong or he would grab you if you’d done something brilliant.

“Because he’d been an Arsenal player you had a huge belief in him. He was the tactician and he was in your face which you need to have.

“Don knew full well that you don’t get anywhere without a competitive spirit and an acceptance you can do better even if you are playing well.

“He would be in your face and then Bertie would calm things down. It was a brilliant duo and they wouldn’t have worked on their own.”


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