History – Bad-boy Charlie George – Lifelong Gooner who won Arsenal the Double in 1971/72

Charlie George

In 1950 Charlie George was born who would later go onto be The Gunners main talisman during the 1970/71 double winning camapign.

The Arsenal fan boy grew up playing football in the streets of Islington and signed for The Gunners in 1966 as a schoolboy.

George would have to wait three years before signing professional terms in 1968 making his first team debut in 1969 versus Everton on the opening day of the 1969/70 campaign, bitterly though Arsenal were beaten by the narrowest of margins 0-1. He would later become an inaugural part of The Gunners first team that season playing in 39 matches. He proved to be a fundamental piece of Arsenals 1969/70 Inter Cities Fair Cup run, versus Dinamo Bacau and Ajax. He featured in both ties of the final which witnessed The Gunners lift their first piece of European silverware triumphing 4-3 on aggregate against RSC Anderlecht.

However by the commencement of the next season the attacker had broken his ankle following a nasty incident with Everton’s goalie Gordon West.  After having been out on the side for nearly half a year he played a crucial role in Arsenal’s final chase for the 1970/71 league title, snatching five goals in 17 games. The crown jewels to his season appeared during the FA Cup campaign where he grabbed goals in the fourth, fifth and six rounds as well as in the final. With the score all level at 1-1 in extra-time, in the 111th minute George received John Radford’s square ball in the palm of his feet scoring a cracking winner from 20 yards to steal the show and ensure Arsenal won their first double against Liverpool.

George popped up with the goods yet again during the 1971/72 FA Cup season, netting the equalising goal during the semi-final versus Stoke City which Arsenal just about won 2-1 to edge into the final where The Gunners were defeated fair and square by Leeds United.

The dying moments of George’s career at Arsenal were plagued with injury and a clash of heads, during the 1971/72 season he was told off twice by the club.  This happened after he head butted Kevin Keegan of Liverpool and then pulling the hand gesture of a V-sign at Derby to their fans after scoring.

With the steady dismantling of the honeymoon Double winning side which was slowly breaking down, Arsenal started to move down the league at a rapid pace.  During the 1971/72 and 1972/73 seasons George grabbed 11 goals, however his scoring prowess started to wear off dramatically when throughout the 1973/74 campaign he only found the back of the net on five occasions. A season later he lost his place as a regular in the starting line-up after having an emotionally turbulent time with Arsenal boss Bertie Mee.

Towards the end of 1974 he was put on the players shipping list at Arsenal and by the summer of 1975 Derby whipped him up for a fee of £100,000. With the Gunners George had scored 49 times in 179 matches. He was chosen as Arsenal’s ninth all-time best player out of 50 Gunners in the early 2000s.

At Derby, George made his debut during the 1975 Charity Shield which they lifted after a 2-0 win against West Ham. He endured three and a half years at The Rams where versus Real Madrid he heroically scored a hat-trick in the European Cup in the first leg of the competition two months after arrival. Despite his heroics Derby ended up losing 6-5 on aggregate. He then netted a hat-trick against Finn Harps in the first leg of a UEFA Cup tie in 1976. George also had a loan spell under the sun at St George’s Budapest in Australia away from rainy England. He was idolised at Derby with the fans often chanting “Charlie, Charlie, the King of Derby”.

In 1978 George joined Minnesota Kicks of the North American Soccer League. Whilst at the Kicks, George netted what was an NASL achievement for the quickest playoff goal in a 9-2 obliteration of the New York Cosmos. In total he scored nine times in 18 matches during the 1978 campaign at the side. In December 1978 just in time for Christmas George flew back to England to play for Southampton before having a short period on loan at Nottingham Forest during 1980 featuring on four occasions. This saw him apart of the final of the 1979 UEFA Cup versus Barcelona, which witnessed him grab the only goal in the home tie watching Forest win 2-1 overall. George failed to negotiate a contract extension at Forest before coming back to Hampshire to turn out for The Saints, playing in his final game for them in March 1981 versus Stoke City. In 1981 he left the Dell for Bulova in Hong Kong, after having grabbed 14 goals in 52 appearances for Southampton.

Fast track a year and George travelled back to England moving to AFC Bournemouth for not too long before rejoining Derby County for a second love affair. George also experienced a later period of time at Scottish club Dundee United. He then signed for Coventry City on a short term basis in the lead up to the 1983/84 campaign, without featuring in a competitive match he retired from the game he couldn’t get enough of up until that point.

During his footballing career he was called up for England on five occasions at under-23 level. When at Derby he also secured his one and only senior cap for England, running round for 60 minutes versus Republic of Ireland in September 1976 on the left wing instead of attacker. George’s emotions got the better of him again where this time on the International stage he fell out with England manager Don Revie and was never chosen for his country again!

Currently aged 73 George is working at Arsenal for a second time round but on this occasion in positions amongst corporate hospitality.

Liam Harding

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  1. Good article Liam.
    I don’t know if someone could answer this, but did Charlie attend the same Holloway school that Bob Wilson was a teacher at?
    He was certainly a character, loved by our fans, and apparently more than “endured” his spell at Derby if their fans also had such affection for him.

      1. Yeah, I thought I had that right, and I think Bob also recommended Charlie to Arsenal, where he was at that time an amature keeper.

  2. As a 14 year old with her dad at Wembley for the cup final, the memory has never left me. Charlie George’s celebration of his goal that day has been repeated many times but never ceases to give me goose bumps

    To Jax and Jon, I had no idea that Bob Wilson ever taught- let alone CG.

    1. I was 14 with my dad at Wembley when we lost 3-1 to Swindon in the league cup final in 1969 and Don Rogers broke my heart, I cried like a baby!

    2. He was sports master at Holloway School, Sue. He was an amateur for a long time before turning pro.

      An unusual and special human being and a true hero of mine, along with George Armstrong too.
      In his early years, mostly in our reserves, he was known as Wobbly Wilson. Hard to believe a few years later.

      IMO and I suggest that of others of my generation, he was DEFINITELY our BRAVEST ever keeper too.

  3. He was a regular North Bank supporter before being promoted to the first team squad. I think only 17 players were used in the first double season.

  4. Charlie George has given me one of the greatest moments (football wise) in my life. All occurred during an amateur game my dad was playing in in 1972 at a ground in North London. Myself and my three younger brothers went on for a kick during the half time break. Whilst doing so a young lad with long hair came to us and said, “I will go in goals for you guys” Being the only Arsenal fan amongst my brothers, one of my brothers and I said to this guy, “Are you Charlie George” Charlie replied with his finger pursed to his lips, “Sshhh, I am not supposed to be here. So the rest of the kick about was with Charlie George in goals. A memory that I will never forget.

    On my first return to England in 2010 (having left at end of 1973) My wife and I did the Emirates tour and had Charlie George as our host (deliberately booked by me), I actually mentioned our meet in 1972 to Charlie at the end of the tour, surprisingly (not really) he did not remember the event in 1972 but after hearing what he said to me, said, “Yeah, that sounds like something I would have said”

    As I said, a fantastic memory that I will never forget.

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