History: How Bertie Mee led Arsenal to their worst ever Cup Final ever in 1969

Arsenal’s worse Cup final of all-time

In 1969 Bertie Mees Gunners were destroyed by Third Division underdogs Swindon Town in the League Cup Final at Wembley.

It is perhaps the lowest point in Arsenal’s history to date alongside having lost the previous year’s League Cup final in 1968 to Leeds United 1-0.

Mee’s men got the competition off to a start with a victory versus Sunderland at Highbury with less than 30,000 in attendance. Future Arsenal manager Terry Neill, who would guide the North Londoners to their 1979 FA Cup Final versus Manchester United, scored the one and only goal of the game which The Gunners won 1-0.

Arsenal then came up against Division Four (now League Two) outfit Scunthorpe United away at Glanford Park.  After travelling nearly four hours up North, Arsenal melted The Irons without hesitation with a 6-1 trouncing, witnessing David Jenkins pop up with an impressive hat-trick alongside Jon Sammels, David Court and Bobby Gould all adding to the scoresheet.

Arsenal now faced a tough Bill Shankley’s Liverpool who would end up finishing the season behind eventual First Division winners Leeds United come the end of the 1968/69 season. With strikes from John Radford and Peter Simpson The Gunners just about edged their way past a resilient Liverpool 2-1.

Arsenal hosted Second Division (now known as Championship) Blackpool in the quarter-finals who would put up little effort during the tie. The Gunners shredded The Seasiders to pieces 5-1 by the final 90 minutes played. George Armstrong secured two goals, Gould jumped in with the fun and so did Simpson again.

The semi-final which was split up across two legs witnessed Arsenal battle it out in the North London derby against fierce opponents Tottenham. With nearly 60,000 fans packed into the terraces of Highbury, John Radford single handily scored the pivotal 1-0 winner for Arsenal taking the second leg back to White Hart Lane with the advantage in their hands. In the final 90 minutes of the tie, Radford found the back of the net again to see out Spurs in a 1-1 draw to earn a 2-1 victory on aggregate. The Gunners were now only one game away from potentially securing their first major honour in almost two decades.

At Wembley just past the half an hour mark Swindon town grabbed the opener through Roger Smart who got on the end of a backpass to Bob Wilson before beating him where by halftime they were 1-0 out in the lead. After being stopped multiple times by Swindon goalie Peter Downsborough through the game, In the dying minutes of normal time Gould struck the equaliser with his close ranger header forcing the game to extra-time where it was settled.

Don Rogers was the hero of the match who wrestled off English and Scottish Internationals Ian Ure, Frank McLintok and Bobby McNab scoring twice in the final half an hour of the match. Both came within four minutes of one another before the end of the first half of extra-time. First Rogers stole the show from a corner with a tap-in which made it 2-1 to Swindon Town. He then finished off the match for once and for all with a 50-yard darting run from near the halfway line into The Gunners 25-yard box before getting the better of Wilson with his neat foot skills which saw his side triumph gloriously and unexpectedly 3-1.

The Arsenal players who had failed to live up to their names declared afterwards that they struggled to perform due to horrendous pitch conditions and illness which had affected most of them.

Captain McLintock spoke out about this after the final “I’m not attempting to make any excuses because I thought Swindon were terrific on the day, but six of us had flu and it didn’t help that the pitch was cut up so badly. I certainly don’t think the game should have gone ahead today.”

He also thought his luck had run out completely as a player after having lost in all previous finals with Arsenal and former club Leicester City at Wembley. Once the chance of silverware had disappeared “at that moment I was wondering if I was cursed, destined never to achieve anything in note in the game.”

Within days of the defeat manager Mee gave his lost and disappointed Gunners a ‘get on and deal with it’ speech days later to encourage Arsenal to bounce back stronger.

Even though Arsenal hadn’t won a trophy since the 1953 First Division Championship they wouldn’t have to wait much longer to seal silverware where a season after the harrowing League Cup Final, Mees men clinched the 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against RSC Anderlecht.

Liam Harding

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Tags 1969 League Cup Final Swindon


  1. Are you sure that picture is of Arsenal 1969? it looks more like Liverpool players to me.
    McLintock was correct, the game should never have been played on that pitch, or perhaps the Horse of the Year show shouldn’t have taken place about a week before.
    More than half the team having just recovered from flu didn’t help either, as extra time took its toll on legs, although Don Rogers was the type of forward who could win any game on his own.
    I was at the end where Bobby Gould scored at my one & only old Wembley final.

    1. Showing your age there Jax!😊

      I was going to games with my mum and dad but not properly up to speed then

      Luckily, BM turned it round in ‘71 when my mum gave up her ticket for the final so that I could go with my dad. She clearly thought I was too young/irresponsible to look after my little brother.

  2. My mum wouldn’t let me go to football while still at school, but soon after leaving I started, and on one Saturday a girl I was seeing called and mum told her I was at The Arsenal. End of romance, and a true sliding doors moment in my life. I was married elsewhere by the time of the ’69 final and went with my stepson.

    1. I met Bobby Gould about ten years ago at a cricket fund-raising event in Bristol. I was introduced to him as a Gooner. Terrific fellow, really friendly, good fun, and he even remembered my name when he looked me up to say cherrio when he left.

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