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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Double hero Mee
Highbury legend Bertie Mee
Bertie Mee began his football career at Derby
Bertie Mee's feat in taking Arsenal to the League and FA Cup Double in 1971 made him one of the most famous names in the club's history.

But his reign began in unusually modest fashion.

He even asked for a "get-out" clause in his contract if he did not succeed.

On the steps at Highbury with his two trophies in 1971
On the steps at Highbury with his two trophies in 1971

Mee was born at Bulwell in Nottinghamshire, in December, 1918, and realised his ambition to become a professional footballer with Derby County.

But the winger's career was cut short by injury.

After six years service as a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he qualified as a physiotherapist.

He joined Arsenal in August 1960 as a trainer and then assumed the duties of physio.

His appointment as manager in 1966 was a surprise.

The sacking of Billy Wright was the signal for the media speculation to begin over which high-profile figure would be drawn to the marble halls of Highbury.


There was no way we were going to be beaten
Bertie Mee ahead of championship-winning game against Spurs

But the board of directors decided to appoint "in house".

Although the appointment of Bertie Mee was acclaimed retrospectively, the man himself requested that if his first 12 months should turn out to be a failure, he would be allowed to go back to his post as physio.

Though Arsenal reached the League Cup Final in 1968 and 1969, they had spent 17 years without a trophy when they won the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1970.

They overcame a 3-1 first leg deficit to beat Anderlecht.

And in 1971, they emulated the feat of their great north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, becoming only the second club of the century to do the Double.

Charlie George and Frank McClintock parade the FA Cup in 1971
Charlie George and Frank McClintock parade the FA Cup in 1971

At one stage, Arsenal had trailed Leeds United by seven points and with Leeds finishing on 64 points, Arsenal were still one point behind when they played their last League match, against Spurs at White Hart Lane.

The gates were locked more than an hour before kick-off with 51,192 spectators inside and many thousands outside. Bertie Mee always remembered the atmosphere of the day.

"We gave ourselves an hour for a drive which normally takes 20 minutes.

"But even then it was a very difficult journey. I have never seen scenes like it. Seeing those crowds increased the sense of occasion for us.

"There was no way we were going to be beaten". Arsenal won 1-0.

Five days later, the FA Cup Final proved another nerve-wracking affair for the Highbury faithful, with Arsenal coming from behind to beat Liverpool in extra-time.

Leading out his club at Wembley against Don Revie's Leeds in 1972
Leading out his club at Wembley against Don Revie's Leeds in 1972

After 10 years in charge, Bertie Mee retired as the Arsenal manager at the end of the 1975-76 season.

He later joined Watford as general manager, working with Graham Taylor, and retired in 1986, although he remained a director of the Hornets until 1991.

At Highbury, Bertie Mee, OBE, the man who graduated from the treatment table to guiding Arsenal to glory at the twin towers of Wembley, will occupy a unique place in the club's affections.

Bertie Mee, 1918-2001

Highbury in mourning

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See also:

22 Oct 01 |  Arsenal
Arsenal legend dies
22 Oct 01 |  Sports Talk
Your Bertie Mee tributes
22 Oct 01 |  Arsenal
Motson's Mee memories
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