On February 21, 1995 George Graham was given his marching orders from the Arsenal Manager’s Office. At the time, Arsenal were struggling a little in the league, had lost a League Cup quarter final to Liverpool, been dumped out of the FA Cup after a third round replay by Millwall, and (as Cup Winners’ Cup holders) had also lost the Super Cup to AC Milan. But of course all that had no bearing on George’s sacking, which was more down to brown envelopes of cash, as the word ‘bung’ embedded itself in the football lexicon.
The Chairman of Arsenal, at the time a certain Peter Hill-Wood, explained the whole thing in the programme for the next home game, which happened to be a Cup Winners’ Cup Quarter Final against Auxerre. Or rather, he didn’t – legal reasons y’see, shtum.
Tony Adams on his regular Captain’s page gives his old mentor a mention, then gets on with the business of telling everyone to focus. He also refers to “staying safe in the league”, which demonstrates how far things had fallen since winning the league only four seasons earlier.
Of course Arsenal played – and won – a home match against Forest on the evening of the day George was sacked (and by the time of the Auxerre game had also beaten Crystal Palace away). As rumours floated around Highbury before the Forest game, George famously poked his head round the door of the dressing room and said to the players, “I’m still here!” shortly before being escorted off the premises.
What was this, ‘Big hair for George’ night? Perhaps it was Steve Stone’s ‘electrifying performance’ for Forest that was the problem, ha ha. Oh, please yerself.
Obviously Arsenal needed a manager of some sort and had no one lined up due to George’s sudden departure waking PH-W from a sound nap, so they had to put Stewart Houston in charge. Auxerre was the cone man’s first chance to write some programme notes of his own, and they were most inspirizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzz.Oh hang on, there’s something interesting! In those days English football was English, dammit! Well, British. Anyway, there were rules – UEFA rules actually – about how many foreigners you could have in a team for a European match; three to be precise. Plus we could get away with playing Eddie McGoldrick as he was apparently ‘assimilated’. Unfortunately he never fully assimilated into the Arsenal team. Still, lucky these foreigner rules had been rescinded by the time Arsene Wenger arrived, or we’d have been playing three a side by 2000.