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Arsenal’s Fairs Cup triumph at 50: Bob Wilson on why he missed the games against Glentoran and Sporting Lisbon

PUBLISHED: 13:19 17 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 17 April 2020

Arsenal first team squad 1969-70: (back row, l-r) Peter Simpson, Frank McLintock, George Graham, Terry Neill, Bob Wilson, John Radford, Ian Ure, John Roberts, Charlie George; (front row, l-r) Jon Sammels, David Court, Bobby Gould, Pat Rice, Jimmy Robertson, George Armstrong, Peter Storey, Bob McNab. Picture: PA

Arsenal first team squad 1969-70: (back row, l-r) Peter Simpson, Frank McLintock, George Graham, Terry Neill, Bob Wilson, John Radford, Ian Ure, John Roberts, Charlie George; (front row, l-r) Jon Sammels, David Court, Bobby Gould, Pat Rice, Jimmy Robertson, George Armstrong, Peter Storey, Bob McNab. 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 one, the goalkeeping legend reveals why he missed the games against Glentoran and Sporting Lisbon in round one and two.

Arsenal’s Inter-Cities Fairs Cup journey started close to home as they faced Northern Irish side Glentoran.

The first-leg at Highbury proved to be a comfortable one as a Bobby Gould strike and a brace from George Graham gave them a 3-0 lead ahead of the tie at The Glens’ Oval ground.

Despite a 1-0 defeat, the Gunners still advanced to set up a tie with Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. A 0-0 draw in the first-leg after Geoff Barnett’s penalty save left things all to play for, and Graham was at the double again to help Bertie Mee’s men to a 3-0 win in north London and a place in the next round.

Wilson was a notable absentee from the second-leg against Glentoran and both games against Sporting.

Explaining why he missed the games, the goalkeeping legend said: “I got injured at Burnley on September 13.

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“I dived at the feet of Steve Kindon when we were winning 1-0 about 20 minutes from the end of the game and immediately knew I had something bad, but I stayed on. We won the game, but I broke my arm.

“Malcolm Webster came in, but we were conceding goals, so Bertie Mee had to get a goalkeeper and he signed Geoff Barnett.

“He only played two games before I got fit again, but very memorably against Sporting Lisbon he made a penalty save. Geoff kept it at 0-0 and without that penalty save we would have lost the game.

“All Arsenal people of my age say I’m the most courageous goalkeeper they ever saw, but that’s just a nice way of saying the daftest goalkeeper they ever saw.

“I had a punctured lung, eight broken ribs, a broken arm, dislocated shoulder. I finally had a very severe knee injury in the 1972 FA Cup semi-final. That was just my trademark and that’s what worked for me.”

With the Gunners safely through to the third round the pressure was starting to build as they looked to win their first European title and end a 17-year trophy drought.

“I don’t think it was the fact that it was going to be the first European trophy, I think it was the fact that Arsenal had suddenly gone 17 seasons without winning a trophy,” remembers Wilson.

“We’d had two League Cup finals in the two years preceding the Fairs Cup and we lost both, but we were sort of getting there.”


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