Arsenal History 1966 – 1976 – The Bertie Mee Years, First Double and First European Trophy

Arsenal History – 1966-1976: Most successful manager at the time!

After an unsuccessful previous decade, Arsenal fans were surely waiting to see what the next decade would bring. And they were not to be disappointed…

The decade began with the appointing of a new manager after the sacking of Billy Wright.

And the new manager turned out to be club physiotherapist Bertie Mee who was put in place as acting manager in 1966. Mee was clever during his appointment though as he asked for a get-out clause in his contract, and it was for him to return to being a physiotherapist after twelve months if it didn’t work out with the team.

Alongside him Mee recruited Dave Sexton and Don Howe as his assistants, in order to make up for any tactical shortcomings of his own. He also oversaw the incoming of new players such as Bob McNab and George Graham and had a crop of Arsenal’s youth players coming through the system which had the likes of Charlie GeorgeJohn RadfordPat Rice and Ray Kennedy in and they were all beginning to show promise, hence making the team foundations strong for those days.

And of course what promise they had!

As all of these names are those that are spoken even to this day, as are a lot of the old Arsenal players from back in the day. All for the impact they had on the club and the legacy they left at the club..

During his time as manager Mee led Arsenal to two successive League Cup finals, in 1967–68 and 1968–69 although we lost both to Leeds United and Swindon Town respectively.

However the wait for a trophy was not to be very far away as the following season which would be three years after his appointment, the club won its first European trophy and its first trophy of any kind for 17 years.

They did this by beating Anderlecht to claim the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup which they won 4–3 on aggregate. And this was all after they were 3-1 down in the away leg thankfully Arsenal managed to grab a late consolation in the first game although they ended up losing 3-1, but because they beat the Belgian side 3–0 at Highbury they won on aggregate.

So even back then Arsenal were unpredictable, but it showed that they never gave up. Something that if they are struggling with nowadays can look back to the history and know that it wasn’t in our DNA or our veins to give up, no matter how hard things would be!

The Fairs Cup was only the warm-up for what would be the main act though. As the FA Cup and League Double win came in 1971.

And it was then that Arsenal soon brushed away that bitter pill from the 1960-61 season when Spurs had won the double.

To rub even more salt in the wounds though Arsenal gave Spurs a taste of their own medicine and more, as we won the League title at White Hart Lane on Monday 3rd May which was also the last day of the season.

Well winning the league is one thing but doing it at the home of your biggest rivals is another and this is something that would be replicated for Arsenal many years later. More of that to come though…

Five days after winning the league though, Arsenal went on to beat Liverpool 2–1 at Wembley after extra-time and the winning goal was scored by Charlie George. This was the trophy that meant it was our turn to win the double.

Arsenal had become only the fourth team in history to do the Double and only the second in the 20th century.

Unfortunately that sunny May afternoon would be the peak of this side and compared to the decade before, although premature, this marked a high point of the decade and would not be continued or replicated.

Having been unable to retain their title the following season though we opted for more reinforcements and we went on to sign Alan Ball from Everton.

However our league campaign faltered and all hopes of a trophy depended on the FA Cup, where Arsenal had again reached the final, this time facing Leeds. But it wasn’t to be as Arsenal lost by a single goal.

In the 1972–73 season Arsenal managed to mount a serious Championship challenge where at one point they topped the table, but they couldn’t manage to hold on to top spot and eventually finished runners-up. A run in the FA Cup was also brought to an end by a semi-final defeat to what would be eventual winners Sunderland.

Mee then saw that he had no choice but to begin to break up the team which had won the double a few seasons before as the team wasn’t getting anywhere, and so this meant that players such as Ray Kennedy, Charlie George and even then Captain, Frank McLintock all left the club.

Remaining unsuccessful though and not seeing any kind of a change in the team, Mee announced his resignation in 1976 and he would depart as Arsenal’s most successful manager during those days, in terms of victories, with 241 wins under his belt. A number that would not be surpassed until 30 years later in 2006 by Arsène Wenger..

But we were not to know that at the time..

It was in the next decade that at the time, another former player in the shape of Terry Neill would come in to succeed Mee in 1976 and at the age of 34, he became the youngest Arsenal manager to date and all eyes would be on what he would achieve at the helm of one of football’s biggest and continuously growing clubs in the world…

To be continued…

Shenel Osman


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Tags Bertie Mee Charlie George FA Cup Final


  1. Proves the point Mee had high standards and when he couldn’t meet them he stood down.

    Now it’s learn on the job time.

    Arsenal have glorious history for sure but that is all it is. Distant memories of a bye-gone age and ambition.

      1. Yeh, granted;) but he did win Trophies of consequence including a double..when he knew he couldn’t reach the same levels he did the proper thing…

        When MA wins the double next season;)))) I’ll eat my words!

  2. Going to the FACup final with my dad in 71 is in the top 10 best moments of my life so far. Mum and Dad saved the corners from the match day programmes and got 2 tickets for the final. She graciously stayed at home to look after my younger brother and my dream came true that day. Unforgettable for me and I honour her for giving me such a memory as a young teenager

    1. I was at the Lane, standing on the shelf, when we beat spurs to be crowned champions, what a night that was. I couldn’t get a ticket for Wembley but my dad was there and my grandson now has a pristine copy of the program and ticket both wrapped in cellophane. He also has a pristine copy of the Liverpool program when we became champions at Anfield in ‘89, which I expect will be covered in Shanel’s next instalment.

  3. Learning on the job brought an FA cup within 6 months and Europe qualification with the youngest team in the league for next season.
    I bet this achievement will be remembered in 30 years

    1. Haha, do Matteo won Chelsea 1st Ever champions league and was sacked few weeks later. Someone started the fa cup run that Arteta won. if we were knocked out early as he had us do this season there will not even be an fa cup to win, get real in football their are odd moments that doesn’t prove you are world class what proves you are world class in consistency in your achievements which your hero Arteta has absolutely non of so far

      1. Someone started the FACup run that Arteta won……
        When was the 3rd round of the cup then? I don’t follow your argument

        1. Yes SueP, Gun down was so quick to get his rant in about Arteta he got the facts wrong. Arteta was made head coach in December 2019 and our winning FA Cup run started in January 2020 😊

          1. Yes. Sorry for that
            I may be wrong in that regard but this is now getting on my nerves (the excuses) don’t forget we also went out of the earopa league to olympiacus on home soil.
            I give him credit for the fa cup win but that’s just about that we have seen enough to know he is not a world class coach that we all thought he was then. Hiding behind excuses will not change that, managers job is defined by what happens on the pitch in terms of results and performance judging him on that criteria he has been below average and Arsenal deserve better that’s all we wanted people to see, you can fool many people so many times but you can not fool everyone at the same time
            My opinion though

    2. Youngest team my foot
      The year arsenal finished second to Leicester, Tottenham Hotspur had the youngest team in the league yet no one talked about it all we talked about was how they bottled everything.
      It’s only in arsenal everything is made a mountain hill
      Tell me a team that have not had a rebuild from time to time yet no one is talking about process, project and progress crap. In arsenal everything is made a song and sang as an anthem.
      Manchester city, Liverpool all went to a process yet we never heard fans singing it, even Barcelona is going through one now yet no Barca fan is buying that crap because it’s a norm in football, here in arsenal everything is justified, where is it scripted that a team in a process or transition is banned to be successful

  4. Great article once again.
    Like Declan, I was at the game, but couldn’t get a fa cup final ticket for love or money!!

    I personally rate this as our best double winning achievement for a couple of reasons and still maintain that Bertie broke that side up too early.

    1. Ken1945, do you remember tha chap that used to walk around the pitch with a football rattle getting the crowd going ?

      1. I do indeed and I think he had a shield that said “we the Arsenal supporters say may the best team win”

        He always got pelted by the away fans and some of the home crowd as well – can’t remember his name – but he was at the away games as well!!!

        A lunatic supporter of the very best there was 🥴😂

        1. That apparently was a chap by the name of Derek Stacey. There was a fella I knew who reckoned he also did it, but without that shield. His name was Tom Newington, and in the early 70’s my local paper ran a story on him. He was due to emigrate to Australia near the end of 1971, but he didn’t go as he said he wanted to see us win the European Cup in ’72.

        2. HD and KEN, It was David Stacey(not Derek) who you meant I think .
          David was, IMO though, another and different chap , who occasionally walked round the pitch and he was much taller, younger and advertised old programmes for sale- which was his business – if I am correct in Southend area. As I remember it , David S had a shield, but a smaller and older man was the one with a rattle.

          Stacey advertised in Charles Buchans Football Monthly magazine, which I used to read and I also collected old programmes for many years when young.
          It MAY be that Stacey WAS the man referred to in your post replying to KEN, but I truly think he was not the SAME and specific man KEN was speaking about.

    2. Ken, I was devastated when Ray Kennedy was sold to Liverpool and excited when Alan Ball arrived.
      People forget how strong clubs like Liverpool and Leeds United were in those days. They had real ballers with skill, toughness and hard men.
      Looking at the team that won that treble, it oozed strength of character and toughness, epitomized by the captain Frank McLintock.

  5. When the result of the League Cup Final against Swindon Town came up on the telly, I looked at my dad and he just shook his head. Saw the highlights the next day on The Big Match, the state of that Wembley pitch 😲. The Horse of The Year Show and then torrential rain had turned the pitch into a bog. Found out a few years ago that in the week leading up to the Final flu had swept through the club. Something people might not know, Swindon Town, as a 3rd Division club, were not allowed to play in European competitions, so as the losing finalist we took their place.

    Older supporters say that night we beat Anderlecht at Highbury was the greatest night ever, and that the official attendance was questionable, as it was packed to the rafters.

    1. Thanks for the information and I believe he had an old air raid rattle that he used to swing around as well!!
      Was at both games.
      The Swindon final was a mockery of football with regards to the pitch.
      It was like a ploughed field and the rain made it even worse.
      To cap it all, my younger brother managed to swap his illegally bought ticket for my proper one.
      I ended up standing with the Swindon fans, with my scarf and rosette on show.
      As they won the game easily, they were a friendly bunch, but the humiliation that followed was unbearable.

      On the other hand, what a night at Highbury!!!
      At the end of the game, I think 50% of the fans managed to get on the pitch and I had my vespa red and white scooter pinched, foxtail and all, only to find it two streets away, covered in red and white tape and scarves!!!

      Such wonderful memories…. even if I sometimes forget some of the details – OH TO BE A GOONER 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁

      Shenel, your articles are really good and I await the GG and AW era’s with interest.

  6. Thanks once again Shenel O, for another brilliant write up of our clubs glorious.
    Thanks also to the commenters for contributing your personal stories. They added life to the articles…

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