by Martin Daley
Published by DB Publishing, an imprint of JMD Media Ltd
David and Goliath is how the tie would be described now with Carlisle United assuming the role of the minnows in the third round of the FA Cup. When the two sides met at Highbury, Arsenal were sitting were in a dismal run of form and had registered their first win in seven games with two unanswered goals at Hillsborough. Top at the start of December, they had slipped to third. Carlisle United meanwhile were second in the old Third Division (North). Promotion beckoned for Bill Shankly’s men and at the end of the season, they would finish in third.
Martin Daley’s tale weaves the FA Cup third round meeting into the social fabric of the city at that time. A journey that follows the team as they seek to bring Shankly’s vision to life and offers a telling contrast between football now and then. If there was a chasm between the two clubs then, football now is on a different planet. The simple things highlight this, a new kit for the players for the match at Highbury and the agreement of Arsenal to allowing a change to pre-match routine to accommodate Carlisle’s desire to show off its heritage with mascots. Stunningly, Shankly used to address the crowd before each game and talk through recent events; an audio commentary of the programme notes from the manager. It just would not happen now; it didn’t happen much then either to be fair. Shankly’s apprenticeship for Liverpool is evident as the story unfurls.
Having beaten Barrow and Southport in previous rounds, the Carlisle players travelled south with those injured not left out either, included in the squad’s biggest day out. The build-up to the match includes the tale of how Shankly took his players to a local cinema and introducing them all, worked the audience into such a joyous frenzy that the second half of the showing was lost to cheering. If nothing else, you take the sense of occasion from that.
Arsenal by contrast were defending the FA Cup they had won at Wembley the previous May and were expected to win. The first weekend in January saw the 58,000 at Highbury to witness a goalless draw. Carlisle, part-timers and all, had given themselves a fighting chance of one of the great cup upsets of the time. I am sure that the name of Walsall passed many a lip between the two games.
Matches that took place in the same week; we used to do that in football, be capable of organising games which took place in a short space of time. Contingency planning, I would guess the buzz-phrase is. The replay was set for Thursday, half-day closing in the Cumbrian city and played in the afternoon. This was after all, a time before the ubiquitous presence of floodlights. There was to be no shock this time though. Two late goals saw Arsenal run out 4 – 1 winners. This, though, is not about that, it is about times long ago when football could impact on a community, the essential ingredient missing in the modern game with its global outlook.
The author has captured the essence of the day, of the occasion beautifully in this book which you can buy here.