|ARSENAL 1 SWINDON TOWN 3
Football League Cup Final: Wembley, Saturday March 15th 1969
Written on April 10th 1969
This contest provided some interesting conclusions as the result would suggest. A top first division side, defensively the best in the country, were well beaten by a third division team. One wonders why. The Arsenal started in fine style. Armstrong and Radford enjoyed an early superiority over nervous full backs; Sammels was lively - and the back four were scarcely troubled at all. Goals should have come but didn't - had they scored two goals in this period, as they should have, Ure's tragic mistake would not have unsettled Arsenal's morale as much as it did.
Once a goal in arrears, panic began to blur the edges of their play. The front runners became over anxious, spoiling the fine probing of McLintock and Court, while the defence became increasingly vulnerable to Swindon's swift counter strikes. After a continual second half siege, the long awaited Arsenal equaliser came, a just reward and Gould took his chance well. Now surely a trophy would land at Highbury, after an interval of nineteen years.
Extra time revealed an Arsenal team dispirited, run off its feet and finally well beaten. After conceding the second goal they had absolutely nothing left in hand. McNab was given a roasting, Storey's somewhat tenuous reputation was in tatters, while poor McLintock strived hard to provide the ammunition his front men dashed against a dominant, rock-like Swindon defence.
As the dejected yellow shirted figures trooped from the pitch one could almost see the ghosts of Herbert Chapman and Tom Whittaker quietly reassuring Bertie Mee that the Arsenal's time will come again before very long. As an afterthought it would be nice to see Frank McLintock on a winning side at Wembley - he deserves it.
And what of the team that won. Understandably nervous and tense in the opening quarter, Smart's goal (he surely deserved it for dogged persistence) was just the tonic they needed. One could see the Wiltshire team grow in confidence and begin to enjoy the awesome experience of their first Wembley final. Theirs was a total team effort, every player performing his role superbly, but individual moments are worthy of praise. How Downsborough saved one shot from Sammels must surely have mystified everybody, most of all Sammels himself; Rod Thomas proved himself an excellent young full back, the lynch pin of Welsh defences to come, although Armstrong gave him a torrid time early on; Burrows and Harland were effective stoppers with a highly developed understanding; Noble and Smart ran hard and well, while Heath made McNab look anything but an England back. But above all was the performance of Don Rogers. He perhaps more than any other Swindon player destroyed Arsenal, his first goal was worthy of Jimmy Greaves at his poaching best, while his second was a classic, receiving the ball in his own half, accelerating away with blistering pace and finally rounding Wilson to shoot into an unguarded net. I certainly hope Sir Alf Ramsey took note, what Rogers did here he could easily do in Mexico. This goal set the seal on a remarkable victory and provided 30,000 ecstatic Wiltshire supporters with a day to remember.
But perhaps the last word should be left with Bertie Mee. When Don Rogers was on offer last season, Mee showed no interest, claiming to the press that Rogers was "too inconsistent". Somehow those words had an ironic flavour to them today.