Are You Feeling Lucky & Dress rehearsals

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It’s pantomime season, isn’t it? Oh yes it is, oh not it isn’t. We’re talking Arsène’s future which unlike the past is not behind him. Who the dame is, well, Stan looks good in a wig, doesn’t he? The ages of Arsenal were wheeled out in the media yesterday with Tony Woodcock, Ray Parlour and Martin Keown all offering their views on whether the outcome of the FA Cup final has any bearing on the signing of his contract. The general consensus is that it won’t affect that decision but Woodcock raised the prospect of discontent, reflecting on the atmosphere at The Emirates on the opening day and noting that a similar reaction could be expected.

The way to take the sting out of that would be new signings and god knows, with less than a week passed since the end of the Premier League season, there gave been enough stories about that already. This is, you sense, going to be a tough summer for anyone who tries to keep up with the number of players linked with the club. All this following a statement from the manager that told us there would be no early transfer activity because of the World Cup. Does he not read the back pages?

Woodcock reinforced the message put forward by Robert Pires a couple of days ago: winning the Cup would do wonders for the players confidence and remove the stigma attached to nine years without a trophy. Both argued against arrogance. Whilst as Woodcock says, this is a match Arsenal would win “eight or nine times out of ten“, tomorrow might be the one. It might, look at what happened to Manchester City last season.

Oh come on, I hear you say, we beat this lot comfortably a month ago, on their own ground and with their two strikers cup-tied, Steve Bruce’s wife has been signed on a short-term loan deal, specially for the occasion. As Pires said, that was in the Premier League and the two competitions have a different mentality about then, require a different approach. But yes, I take your point. The ease of both Premier League wins this season do lend themselves to the arrogance both former players warned about.

It’s all Pires’ fault anyway. The last genuine cup final rehearsal Arsenal was the 6 – 1 drubbing of Southampton at Highbury a week or so meeting in Cardiff. We know how well that turned out under the metal and plastic roof of the Millenium Stadium, albeit with a closer score line. It did start me thinking about dress rehearsals though. Did history point to a pattern or sound any foreboding about what may lay in store come Saturday? I am aware, at this point, of the glaring hypocrisy of denouncing superstition in a recent post whilst expounding a theory which might be politely described as being based in superstition. But I have started so I will finish.

Genuine dress rehearsals don’t happen very often. I took it to be a month before the final as frankly any closer leads to a very short conclusion. It all began in 1930. Well, 1927 was the first but let’s be honest, it is more famous as a trivia question than anything to do with Arsenal’s history. Cardiff were not in the top flight so there was no opportunity to rehearse that defeat. It was a different story three years later. Huddersfield Town provided the opposition in the final and a week or so earlier, hosted Arsenal in a one-all draw. So the scoreline is a win and a draw, which as wild, unsubstantiated theories go, is as good a start as you could wish to have. It could have been better, it might have been a lot worse.

As an ‘encore’ for the 1930 final, the match immediately before Wembley remains the highest scoring draw in top flight English football, despite the best efforts of Arsenal to egg Newcastle on at St James Park a few years back. The six-all draw at Filbert Street – yes that is 6-6 – contained seven of the side which would go on to win at Wembley, David Halliday scoring four in his last appearance for the club. A tough gig even back in those days.

You might argue that it was the first real experience of resting key players before a final. Whether the experiment worked is debatable as two years later Arsenal beat Newcastle in the league a month before losing the FA Cup meeting. It is stretching the point somewhat to suggest that rehearsal was resting players but no matter it leaves the trio of matches split equally between win, lose and draw. Something has to give and it did in 1952 when history repeated itself at the business end with Newcastle again winning the cup, this time following a draw at Highbury a month earlier.  That’s 1-1-2. There was a sixteen year wait until the next day out at Wembley when a quirk of fate meant that the League Cup final defeat to Leeds was a dress rehearsal itself for the league meeting that match ended 4-3 to Arsenal. Frank McLintock scored in two of the three games between the two clubs that season; a pity he couldn’t have completed a hat-trick of sorts.

Twenty-five years would pass before another rehearsal came and, stretching the point a bit, it was like a London bus; nothing for ages and then two come at once. Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 might have fancied their chances in the FA Cup, clinging on to the hope that the Law of Averages might be average. Having lost the infamous first dress rehearsal in the drunken debauchery of the League Cup final, they faced Arsenal in a league match at Hillsborough nine days before the sides got heartily sick of each other at Wembley. George Graham was a cunning old dog and sent a reserve team out which contained only John Jensen who would start at Wembley. The Law of Averages duly obliged and gave Wednesday their one victory in the five games that season, this time by a single goal. Which brings the score up to 1-1-3. Or 1-1-4 if we count the 1968 League Cup final as a dress rehearsal.

At this point, you are agreeing with me that these old sayings and superstitions mean nothing until the third dress rehearsal with Newcastle found a truism in ‘third time lucky’ when a brace from Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira goal sank Newcastle hearts at Highbury a month before the final, Overmars and Anelka stomping them into the ground as Arsenal completed their second double. 2-1-3. The win at the KC & The Sunshine band stadium brought a certain symmetry to the totting up, making it 3-1-3 which neither proves the theory or otherwise.

Anything else you want to hang your hat on? What about results over the season? Few occasions are that clear-cut. Arsenal lost twice to Liverpool in the League in 1949/50 but won the cup. Nearly half-a-century later, we beat Newcastle twice in the League and won the cup. Birmingham? Twice beaten in the league but when it mattered…you’ve got where this going, this doesn’t prove anything either way. So none of these theories work. Dress rehearsals offer no clues, league results are no better. But we did learn two things from this exercise:

1. Robert Pires knows what he’s talking about, and,

2. I can write 1200 words on just about anything Arsenal-related.

’til Tomorrow.

153 thoughts on “Are You Feeling Lucky & Dress rehearsals

  1. Mind I’m back to omens and all that bollix
    Leicester are winning 16-5 to northants
    Nick name? THE TIGERS!!!

  2. No bad omens, no hex, no curse, no bad moon, no bad star alignment, no lucky knickers, no lucky dressing room….. we’ll win it. I think!

  3. North- sleep in your lucky knickers just to be sure and I’m gonna take c’ s post to bed instead of counting sheep…
    Fuck it we’re going to win…..
    Can’t say tomorrow coz……….
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. I can see nine years of pain and hysteria developing here at the moment…. and I’m the same.

  5. @C in America
    @Clocky in Egypt
    @NB in France

    There’s a triangle there…. linking the powers of the ancients to make sure we win.

  6. Yes 9 years but when we win the FA Cup, the pure ecstasy of the occasion as a Gooner will be absolutely priceless.

  7. Don’t we know it @C

    A great relief will be lifted and the red sea will be parted and AW will walk amongst the chosen.

  8. NB

    Before it became an urban legand, I was told by the uncle of a very close friend it was true, (taps nose).

    Suffice to say, I have contained several of his songs in the blog’s history and every time it’s happened, I recall with fondness the acknowledgement that I had captured in my Best Mans speech, the essence of his nephew.

  9. North- gonna go with your triangle stuff – even if America is a newbie!!!
    ‘coz south America is ok.
    Yes yes yes
    We’re gonna win!!

  10. @North

    I completely agree! It would have been even more romantic if Arsene was to run walk off into the sunset i.e. Humphrey Bogart.

  11. @clock

    I do prefer South America and am a massive massive Brasilian futbol fan, almost as much as a Gooner.

  12. Since mentioning my meeting with Marvin Gaye and Stevie W, I’ve been making a list in my head of all the famous people I’ve met in my life. Very very interesting,

    I went to school with Frankie Warren and knew him for several years after, and met his cousin Lenny McLean (boxer)

    I worked for a Saville Row tailor, Tommy Nutter, and met Peter Noone (Herman Hermets) George Harrison and Ringo Starr. We did their suits for the Abbey Road album cover.

    I knew Frank McLintock, Peter Storey and Eddie Kelly personally when they all had pubs in Islington.

    I regularly spoke with Liam Brady when I used to tout tickets at Highbury Stadium

    I met Jimmy Boyle and John Mcvicker during a TV programme by Kilroy Silk…. I’ll leave that one to your imagination, but we all went for a drink afterwards.

    I once worked in a pub in Market Road and there was a recording studio opposite and Kim Wilde used to come into the pub after studio sessions…….. I tried to chat her up but had no chance.

    I met Marvin Gaye when I’d designed some posters for a record company in London, Marvin was looking for a new record company (trying to get out of his contract with Tamla) and came to London and was at a concert with people from the record company I did the poster for, we then went on to Ronnie Scotts and Stevie Wonder had just finished a concert at Wembley. Marvin and Stevie did a jam on stage at Ronnie Scotts. My most magical musical moment. Nothing has come close.

    I met Jeane

  13. So City have accepted their sanctions via FFP. It is interesting that even in doing so, they pleaded that it comes down to the interpretation of the information, they disagreed with UEFA’s but thought their own was bang on. I can only assume that the fine, squad reduction and so forth was less than they anticipated by fighting the case… I would imagine that a lot of internal pressure was applied so as to not challenge FFP.

    “At the heart of discussions is a fundamental disagreement between the club’s and Uefa’s respective interpretations of the FFP regulations on players purchased before 2010”.

    “MCFC will lose 10m Euros of its share of income from UEFA for competing in the Champions League completion in season 2013-14.”

    “MCFC will lose 10m Euros of its share of income from UEFA for competing in the Champions League for season 2014-15”

    “Rather than having an accumulative allowance of 30m Euros of losses over the next two reporting years (like all other clubs), MCFC will have specific stipulated allowances for 2013-14 and 2014-15 of 20m Euros and 10m Euros respectively. Significantly, MCFC plans to be profitable in 2014-15 and in the years that follow.”

    “The MCFC Champions League squad for the 2014-15 competition will be limited to 21 players. In 2013-14 the club registered 23 players for the competition and used 21.”

    “The Club’s expenditure on new players for the upcoming summer transfer window, on top of income from players it might sell, will be limited to 60m euros. This will have no material impact on the Club’s planned transfer activity.”

    “The wage bill of the whole club (playing and non-playing staff) for 2014-15 will need to remain at the same level as that of 2013-14 season. It is important to note that additional bonuses for performances can be paid outside this number. Importantly, in reality, the existing MCFC business plan sees a natural decline in that wage bill.”

    “Given the unique nature of the new City Football Group structure – which incorporates MCFC, New York City, Melbourne Heart and a number of other companies, the Club has agreed to certain non-material terms in order to make FFP reporting as easy as possible for UEFA to discern.”

    This last paragraph perhaps a nod to the attempt by the club to bolster their infrastructure related costs due to the acquisition of footballing entities outside Europe.

  14. posted too soon….

    I met Jeanne Moreau a couple of years ago during the Avignon Theatre festival and she visited my exhibition.

    and finally, I met Ridley Scott when I was doing some decorative work on a house in Provence.

    I, unfortunately, will probably not be famous as an artist until I am long dead. c’est la vie.

  15. Well, its quitting time, off to hit a bar and then drink some more. Talk with you all tomorrow….make sure to put your champagne on ice tonight!

  16. North – against all odds the saints beat the tigers 21-20 and are through to the final!!!! Yay!! The hex is fcking broken!!!
    Bring it on – pink boots and all!
    Blessed Jesus,Mary and the little white donkey 🙂
    Night night….

  17. Oh yeah north – I can contest your famous people!!
    I made breakfast for black sabbath
    I went to church with Alvin stardust
    And I got run over by man from uncle david mccallum!

  18. Breakfast for Black Pudding… for Black Sabbath?

    How can you be run over by the man from uncle? You’re ‘avin a giraffe!!!!! 🙂

  19. I was walking home from school crossed the road not looking as usual and DM caught my foot and knocked me over in his little red mg!! He got out,checked I wasn’t hurt and road off into the sunset!!
    I lived in stanmore,so did Alvin and he wore his black gloves in church!!
    And black Sabbath were recording down the road from Monmouth and called into my tearooms for brekkie – no black pudding!

  20. And……
    I had a drink with rod Stewart at Cheltenham races, and poured drinks for Billy Connolly at the wickets hotel in Glasgow, and I sold a house to both Lou macarie & Kevin Keegan when they managed swindon and had dinner with Paulo di canio & the boys!!!
    So there:-)

  21. na na na na naaa! Would make a great thread…. the famous people we have met / bumped into! 🙂

  22. Bonjour,

    Firstlly, First, but I am really after go forthly fourth!

    So don’t bug me, clocker and NorthlyBankster!! 🙂

    Come On You Gunners!!!!!!!!!

  23. Well, clocky, he will probably have someone’s lucky knickers on — not an image to linger on! 🙂

  24. I’m lurking here in the background, like a stalker from the dark side.

    Morning you’s two

    Stop talking behind my back. I’m gonna where me lucky knickers on me head today. 🙂

  25. On such a big day as today, I expect Yogi to be taking some extra time to pen his Preview of the game.

  26. Morning North!
    You reckon yogi has his pink and blue slippers on?
    Course we’re talking about you!!! Bet half of France is too!!

  27. Clocky, I would think that Yogi is quite conservative with his slippers, I’d suggest he probably wears red and white tartan bought at Marks and Sparks.

  28. Nah! He’s married to a Latina lovely – reckon he just paints his big toe nails gold!!

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