In the 1971-72 season, for the first time in four years the front cover of the Arsenal programme was markedly different to the previous season. Inside was admittedly much the same, but the cover – still the same one for all matches, bar the date and opponents of course – now featured a new layout and a bright red background. Underneath the club name were the proud words Football League Champions and FA Cup Holders.
The cover also featured pictures of the aforementioned trophies, and action shots of the winning goals in the final matches of each competition. The one of Charlie George striking the ball for his FA Cup goal in the bright Wembley sunshine is a well-known and much-printed shot. The picture of Ray Kennedy scoring at White Hart Lane is a little more peculiar. Film wasn’t so good in low light in those days, so the original shot (easily found on the internet) is rather blurred. For the programme, the foreground figures have all been artificially sharpened, which in the days before digital and the word ‘Photoshop’ would have been by hand. If you look closely they literally appear to be painted on. The ball has also been added, as on the original it was higher in the air and not even in shot! Still, I doubt too many home fans cared about the quality of the image when they were basking in the glory of being Double winners, with our first domestic trophies for 18 years.
The content of the programme had not moved on much. It was still just 16 pages, with no colour other than the red cover. Even the annual handbook, often advertised in the programme at 15p, had 12 pages of pictures with just two in colour.
The programme was still priced at five new pence. By way of price comparison, in the 1930s the programme cost two old pence, so five new pence (one shilling) was six times as much. That was after 40 years. Another 40 years on the programme price had risen to £3, which is exactly 60 times as much as in 1972. At this increasing rate by 2052 it’ll cost £1,800!
Seat prices in 1971-72, as detailed in the programme, started at 60p in the East and West Lower Tiers, rising to “75p, 100p and 125p” in the upper tiers (note the early post-decimalisation habit of continuing to count in pence even above 100, as people had previously done with shillings above £1). The cheapest ticket these days is around £30 if you include booking fees, so coincidentally that’s roughly in line with the price rise of the programme in the same period.
Page two, as in previous seasons, was given over to the editor’s Topics Of The Week. These were anything from injury news to possible arrangements for cup replays, plus in this season lots of news about European competition, as Arsenal competed in the European Cup for the first time. There was an optimistic tone to early editorials, as befitted the reigning League champions, only tempered slightly by being knocked out of the League Cup in early November by Sheffield United at the last 16 stage. There was no shame in this defeat – Sheffield Utd were bigger then than they are now, and had been leading the First Division that autumn.
The season’s European adventure lasted only three rounds, but continued until March as there was a four-month winter break. After Arsenal were knocked out by eventual winners Ajax, there was an air of ‘good experience, we’re learning all the time, with any luck we’ll be back’. Unfortunately by the time Arsenal made it back to UEFA’s premier competition all those involved in 1972 had long since retired!
There were still no regular columns from the Arsenal manager or captain, but three or four pages – up to a quarter of the issue – was given over to talking about the opponents of the day, usually including a feature by a guest writer linked to the visiting club. Such prominence to the opposition was common at the time, as there was far less chance for fans to view opponents in action, with TV football still limited to an hour of highlights once a week on the two main channels.
For the League Cup tie against Newcastle the guest writer was John Gibson of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, who spent much of his column eulogising on the Toon’s new £180,000 striker Malcolm MacDonald, with his “blistering speed off the mark… allied to a shot of equal ferocity and venom”. We got to enjoy those attributes of Supermac (as he didn’t appear to be known in 1971) at Arsenal a few years later of course. Newcastle lost 4-0 in the League Cup, but were back at Highbury just three days later in the First Division fixture. They shipped four more goals, but MacDonald did manage to put two past Bob Wilson at the other end, somewhat justifying his hype.
The programme editor wondered how many would turn up for two matches against the same team in such a short space of time. In fact the crowd was 34,000 in midweek, but went up to 40,000 the following Saturday – both fairly typical figures for the time.
This was still the age when printed letters from fans were an occasional treat rather than a staple, so the rest of the programme content was largely match and appearances stats of various kinds, fixtures and tables for all Arsenal’s teams including the reserves and youth, and pictures of the players, usually in action but sometimes winning awards. The only adverts were for Arsenal products, including the Highbury stadium restaurants (“open to the general public for Luncheons daily”).
The 1971-72 season ended in disappointment for Arsenal, with a losing FA Cup Final against Leeds, who almost repeated Arsenal’s Double as they finished second in the league by a single point for the second year in a row. It was probably too much to expect a fourth Arsenal trophy in three years, and in keeping with that thought one of the regular selections played by the Metropolitan Police Band before kick-off was The Impossible Dream.
Click to read about the previous season’s programme history.
And click here for the following season, 1972-73.