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How Arsenal denied Stoke City FA Cup glory in the 70s

by Garry Newey

Arsenal v Stoke City at Hillsborough 1971
Arsenal are awarded a controversial penalty deep into injury time at Hillsborough

Stoke City's game in the fourth round of the 2010 FA Cup against Arsenal is bringing back memories of former great tussles.

In both 1971 and 1972, Arsenal denied Stoke City a shot at FA Cup glory at the semi-final stage.

Stoke won the League Cup in 1972, but for two years on the trot Arsenal proved to be their nemesis as a second Wembley appearance eluded The Potters.

And feelings towards Arsenal still run high today amongst Stoke fans.

Garry Newey looks back at these FA Cup clashes at a time when Stoke City really were one of the best teams in the land...

For those of you old enough to remember, Stoke City Football Club were one of the elite clubs in English football during the early 1970s.

They regularly frustrated the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

And they fielded some of the game's biggest stars - Gordon Banks, Jimmy Greenhoff and Terry Conroy to name but three.

Chasing silverware

Now Arsenal and Stoke City have had their fair share of cup clashes over the years, but in the 1970s, both clubs were at the top of their game, and chasing silverware.

"Boring, boring Arsenal" they used to sing on the terraces during George Graham's reign, but to any self-respecting Potter, there's only one label fitting and that's 'lucky'.

For Stoke fans who lived through that time, it's not easy forgetting that those lucky Londoners twice ended our hopes of winning the FA Cup.

Hillsborough heartbreak

Gordon Banks leads Stoke City team
Gordon Banks leads his team out onto the pitch at Hillsborough

The story begins in 1971 - at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

We were 2-0 up through a brace from John Ritchie when Arsenal's Peter Storey blasted home from the edge of the box to pull one back.

With time ticking away, Arsenal were awarded a corner, when it was clear to most Stokies that Gordon Banks was fouled.

The ball came into the box, Frank McLintock headed it toward goal and Stoke's John Mahoney dived full-length to block it with his hand.

The Arsenal players screamed for a penalty and the ref agreed.

Four minutes of injury time

Now, the clock on the roof of the South Stand - reads 4.44pm. In those days, that meant the FOURTH minute of injury time!

From the resulting spot-kick, Peter Storey levelled the scores, scraping Arsenal into a replay, and sending Stoke home shell-shocked.

Looking at the events of the game, nobody went down injured, there were no crowd disturbances - nothing.

Now if Sir Alex Ferguson was on the receiving end of events like that we'd never hear the end of it.

But we were left to reflect on being robbed as the Gunners beat us in the replay, and went on to lift both the FA Cup and League Championship.

Cup double?

In 1972, we'd already captured the League Cup with a win over Chelsea, another Southern 'glamour club', and we were going great guns in the FA Cup. Would this be our year?

Well, fate paired us with Arsenal again! So not only was a place in the FA Cup final on the cards, but the prospect of sweet revenge lingered in the minds of fans and players alike.

As if the cheeky swines hadn't rubbed it in enough the previous year, they really took the biscuit this time around.

They rode their luck in the first game when first-choice keeper Bob Wilson went off with an injury, and free-scoring striker John Radford went in goal.

But still Stoke could not find the route to goal and the game ended 1-1.

Goodison gaffe

Arsenal's Charlie George
Arsenal striker Charlie George equalised from 12 yards

The venue for this game was Goodison Park, further for them to travel, so the omens were good.

We even took the lead, when Jimmy Greenhoff picked himself up after being fouled by Frank McLintock to smash home from the penalty spot.

Alas, the curse of controversy struck again.

Peter Dobing was penalised for an innocuous challenge on George Armstrong, and Charlie George gratefully fired home the equaliser from the penalty spot.

What truly rankles with us Potters is the manner in which Arsenal scored their winner.

Played onside by a programme seller

The Gunners' striker John Radford appeared to be miles offside when the ball was slipped through to him.

Yet the linesman mistook a programme seller for a Stoke defender, and allowed play to continue!

Radford promptly scored, and Arsenal defended their lead successfully to again rob Stoke of a place in football's showpiece occasion.

They even had the audacity to lose the final. Talk about ungrateful.

Not even the great Tony Waddington could take Stoke to a third cup semi, Manchester City put paid to our hopes the following season in the third round.

Stoke fans never forgot the heartbreak caused, and the injustice that one of the most attractive sides in the country, had just one League Cup win to show for their immense talent.

Garry Newey




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