Reading Preview & From The Vaults: 1987 – Charlie Double Delight


To set the tone for the day, you can find this morning’s playlist, Talk Is Cheap, in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox or here in your browser.

You don’t even have to go back to the days of black and white televisions for the sense of occasion. There were plenty about in the 1980s, in fact my nan had one until about 1986. Before you ask, it did come from Radio Rentals. Every high street had one, a Granada as well. Funnily enough, the jingle for Granada’s television advert sang through my mind as I typed that; never doubt the power of the box in the corner of your room. No, not that one; the television set.

The FA Cup semi-final had an allure, a trip to a regular haunt but with a sense of purpose. Arsenal were playing but this was different, Wembley beckoned with the twin towers due reward for the victors. Transport this tie back three decades or more and we would most likely have traipsed up the Seven Sisters Road or even Stamford Bridge, forcing the Football League to re-arrange the meeting between Chelsea and Manchester United. Sky’s nose wouldn’t have been put out of joint as it would never have been in the picture in the first place.

And no doubt, we would have bemoaned ticket allocations. There is genuinely nothing new in modern football. We’ve been there and done it already, generally in worse conditions.

But this afternoon, Arsenal seek to return to the FA Cup final in a throwback to the early days of Arsène’s reign and even the 1970s. The early years of that decade are often forgotten compared to the latter finals as the 1980s beckoned. Arsenal were a Billy Hughes goal shy of seeking revenge against Leeds for the 1972 FA Cup final defeat. The same two sides competing successive finals? That was a throwback to the days when Wanderers and Royal Engineers dominated the tournament.

The 1972-73 Cup campaign is often forgotten. Arsenal lost the semi to the eventual winners and a risible third/fourth place play-off to Wolves at Highbury. That match was no pre-cursor to the final, not the night before but played on 18th August three months after Sunderland had pulled off one of the FA Cup’s most enduring shocks. Little wonder the play-off concept failed miserably.

Today is different. There are no bouquets, only commiseration for gallant losers or brickbats for the shocked giant. There’s no mistake; Arsenal are even hotter favourites today than we were against Wigan last year, even if they were defending cup holders. Reading are not safe yet but the alignment of planets for them to be relegated would have to be so startling that the existence of God would probably be proved if they lined up in that way.

Steve Clarke believed his side would have to be perfect to beat Arsenal. He stopped shy of saying “whichever Arsenal turns up” but you know it crossed his mind. Arsène has as close to a full squad to choose from as is ever likely, to the extent that there are no excuses today for any failure on Arsenal’s part. Wenger has by now grasped the horns of the dilemma and bar for one – possibly two – knows what XI he is going to field.

Whereas last year, he was haunted by indifferent form, this season is entirely different. Any length of run can be cast around but the truth is that Arsenal are in as scintillating form as could be hoped for. And that causes the questions in the manager’s mind. To change the side too much risks the disjointed performance we witnessed against Wigan and leaves Arsenal exposed to the fates.

It’s for that reason, I can’t see more than four changes this afternoon; keep the momentum going into next weekend and hope the Gods are kind to make an interesting end of the season, one where next year begins with a real sense of belief. There are other factors of course, but confidence from an extended unbeaten run surely bridges a summer?

The main changes will I think, come in defence. Szczesny we know will start and I think both full backs will change as well. It’s hardly seismic, is it? Gibbs played for England more recently than he appeared for his club whilst Mathieu Debuchy is anything but a novice. Certainly, for me, the latter will start; I think he is earmarked for the visit of Chelsea, to bring his experience to bear against Eden Hazard. Hector Bellerin has done nothing to warrant being dropped but we shouldn’t get carried away; Debuchy remains first-choice right back. How long that lasts depends purely on Bellerin’s progress; he will occupy the right berth as long as he wants if his current progress is any indicator of the future.

Three of the four made; where’s the last? Danny Welbeck in for Olivier Giroud. Nothing surprising and no criticism of the Frenchman should be read into it. Wenger had that policy last year and this is no different, beyond the fact that Welbeck is immeasurably better than Yaya Sanogo. Indeed, the England striker will relish playing at Wembley, a stadium where he has scored almost as many goals for his country this season as he has in total for his club. It’s the stage which appeals to him and frankly, why deny him. Certainly the winner at Old Trafford marks him out as my lead striker this afternoon.

Crucially, it keeps the rump of the side together. The creativity and tenacity in midfield will be intact and that provides the drive and impetus needed for victory. Arsenal need to turn up and play to win, this won’t be a straightforward match for the players if they display any arrogance or condescension to Reading. Gentlemen, leave that to the professionals: us. We’ve got years of experience belittling opponents.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

From The Vaults

1987. George Graham’s first FA Cup tie as Arsenal saw the team make the short trip down the M4. A cold, brisk day as I recall, certainly one where it was necessary to travel early to procure tickets. Which wasn’t too arduous, Guildford was, from memory, half-an-hour on the train. Probably still is.

Elm Park was a proper football stadium, reflecting the history of the club. Reading were nowhere near the top flight and regularly flirted between Division’s Three and Four, with flirtations in the Second Division. This was one of those times, the Thames Valley had rocked to their promotion the previous season.

The stadium, even then, had seen better days. As far as the eye could see, there were rows of terraced houses around the ground and the Oxford Road was never the most alluring of thoroughfares before or then; The Pond House had a different name than the one which adorned the pub’s facade.  Home fans were protected from the elements with their cowshed roof but the uncovered terraces at either end, were beginning to crumble and offered no pretence of comfort; it was sink or swim in the rain.

Trevor Senior’s mop of unruly ginger hair had scared Third Division defences into submission and he was going to do the same with Arsenal in this third round tie. Jerry Williams, Reading’s winger, had in the week been marked out as a danger man and from memory, gave Kenny Sansom pause for thought. And while Kenny thought, Williams went down the wing to offer some wayward distribution. And then there was Terry bloody Hurlock.

Despite impressions, Arsenal dominated the tie. As with any trip to the lower reaches and it’s rarely one-sided but in treacherous conditions, the visitors had Charlie Nicholas and a brace put paid to any dreams of a cup upset. Martin Hayes penalty added the margin of comfort to the victory.

’til Tomorrow.

click on the below to enlarge

Reading 3 - 1 Reading 3 - 1 2 Reading 3 - 1 3 Reading 3 - 1 4

170 thoughts on “Reading Preview & From The Vaults: 1987 – Charlie Double Delight

  1. C says:

    We have NOBODY on the right flank. Ramsey has come centrally, Santi is centrally and Ozil is in his #10 role.

  2. consolsbob says:

    I think that’s it JJ. Someone needs to explain that ‘winning’ a free kick isn’t the same as ‘winning’.

  3. C says:

    Theo is coming on!!!!!!

    Theo for the winner!

  4. C says:

    Theo on for Le Coq.

    Ramsey and Santi as pivots with Ozil as #10.

  5. dukey says:

    Here is the truth regarding Theo, Wenger knows if he plays him him will score and assist , then this will increase his side’s negotiation power and standing. Now Wenger is going to try and get away with whatever he can without Theo banging in the goals and assists

  6. Moe says:

    Taking off Coquelin might cost us.

    I would have hooked Ramsey.

  7. consolsbob says:

    Oh, come on, duke. You are a Wenger man!

  8. C says:

    Gabriel is a very aggressive CB who is no nonsense in both the headers and in tackles.

  9. dukey says:

    No player is at fault today, we have been in balanced. Too many cooks.

  10. C says:

    That is cruel, it really is but well fucking done Sanchez!!!

  11. consolsbob says:

    The brave, Moe?

    That would be Reading.

  12. dukey says:

    Wanting Wenger to stay as I think we can win the league and having a go about a certain situation are two different things Bob.

  13. Moe says:

    Not luck, we deserve that,we have been on the front foot.

    They have been defending deep.

  14. Yogi's Warrior says:

    #2 son is a goalkeeper so I feel for Federici.

    But this is Arsenal and sentiment can’t hold sway until we reach the final.

  15. C says:


    That really was cruel on the lad, but I will also so, thank you Federici.

  16. JonJon says:

    not bothered about federici
    ive seen my fair share of gk fuckups over the years its about time we got one in our favour..

  17. consolsbob says:

    Not under Arsene, duke. Not now.

  18. consolsbob says:

    The bold, Moe?

    That would be Reading as well.

  19. JonJon says:

    does ozil not shoot because he cant or what?
    why would you not shoot from there?

  20. C says:


    Its not because he can’t, more because he is a creator and scoring, while he can because we have seen it, isn’t always his first thought especially if he can play a player in. Silva, Hazard, and others have learned to do it in the PL, I think he will add more goals but it will come.

  21. consolsbob says:

    So much for the width that Theo would provide.

    He wants to be a CF.

  22. C says:

    Not sure Sanchez ever runs out of energy.

  23. C says:

    Good run by Theo and that shoudl be a penalty!!!!

  24. C says:

    Well done lads, off into the FA Cup Final!!

  25. Moe says:

    Into the final

    Going to Wembley.


  26. JonJon says:

    just outside

    that was difficult thank fuck for sanchez and federici

  27. C says:


    He may not have provided rhe width but he sure as hell should have had a penalty right there.

  28. dukey says:

    Does anyone reckon sczczczesney had the brass neck to laugh at federici.

  29. spy says:

    So according to Shearer Reading outplayed us, out fought us and were very unlucky.

  30. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Szczesny needs to be more worried about his performance than anything else.

    Very ordinary indeed.

  31. C says:


    Not just Sczny, but I think Debuchy, Gibbs, and Welbeck.

  32. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Debuchy has reason. The others didn’t display the determination I expected. Welbeck, to be fair, was rather starved of service.

  33. C says:

    So back to back Finals. Job well done!!

    I have a sneaky feeling that we will be playing Villa in the finals.

  34. C says:

    I think they all lacked a bit, I do get Welbeck was starved of service but I feel comfortable in saying that Nacho, Bellerin, Ospina and Giroud are/should start against Chavs.

  35. dukey says:

    Debauchy and Gibbs were never going to have great games as they were ring rusty as the saying goes. Welbeck spent most of the game going out wide because Ramsey spent most of the game coming inside. All a big mish mash that was totally expected as Wenger went with an in balanced team. Hence we slipped through the back door. The sooner Walcott signs that contract the better.

  36. See says:

    Think I’d rather have Martinez backing up ospina.

  37. Bill says:

    Big dose of good fortune on the last goal but we are thru which is all that matters. Sanchez was the only scorer in our starting line up and he did what we needed

  38. Limestonegunner says:

    Luckily their GK is worse than ours! Two goals unlikely to make the FA Cup classic lists but Arsenal are through.

    Phil and I enjoyed an I credibly lively atmosphere of mostly French and British Gooners, with a few oddball like ourselves thrown in. Songs, chants and even a young junior gunner hoisted aloft above a moshpit of happy gooners at the whistle. Very enthusiastic about Giroud and Coquelin naturally.
    Top man, Phil, a real gent–happy to have met our resident Aussie. a great Gooner rendezvous in Paris. I recommend the Lions to any Gooner coming to this city. Excellent stuff. Made a somewhat poor second half more exciting.

  39. Limestonegunner says:

    Ramsey was out of position the entire match.

  40. Limestonegunner says:

    Debuchy was fine. Very solid defending and aerially strong. It was the right choice. But Monreal stops that shot.

  41. C says:


    That’s because he doesnt want to be playing there. Many of the times he was out of position, he was found standing next to Le Coq in his kore natural role.

  42. spy says:

    Szesz looks nervous and very ordinary,
    I disagree with a few on here, I think a top keeper is priority.

  43. Limestonegunner says:

    I do start Bellerin against Chelsea–pace against hazard.

  44. C says:

    Arsene saying Mert is limping badly and its his ankle. Hoping to have him back this week.

  45. Damon says:

    We are consistently bad in games that we should be comfortable in, regardless of the players available

    You can trace this back, literally, years now. I can only find the answer to be over confidence and a lack of killer edge. Very unprofessional attitude

  46. buckagh says:

    Reading deserve alot of credit for the way they played, overconfidence and a strange team selection could have lost us this tie. Gibbs overall play is piss poor, out of position, frequently, ends up on wrong side of attacker, he has gone backwards in IMO. Debuchy needs minutes not sure if he should be in against Chavs. Szczesny’s decision making is well below par he needs mentoring and some decent coaching and a loan period somewhere else.

  47. jjgsik says:

    I see we had 72% possession and 23 shots.

    I also see that manure had 70% possession. That is away to the champions elect.

    It seems that being champions does not necessarily mean playing like champions but doing everything possible to make sure the opponents do not win, including parking the bus at home.

    No surprise then that premier league football is now so unsuccessful compared to other European leagues in European competitions.

  48. consolsbob says:

    No comments from Phil, I notice, LSG.

    I assume, like all good Aussies at this time on a Saturday night, he has passed out.

  49. Moe says:

    Gibbs is done in my opinion.

    Offers nothing anymore.

    He just seems to have fizzed out,no tenacity or tackling succesfully.

  50. TinkerMan says:

    The level of stupidity in some of the comments is staggering sometimes.

    a player can have a bad game..criticize him if that pleases you..but how can one condemn a a young players career as “done” is just beyond me..

  51. Moe says:

    Seems you take the comment section after a game too seriously. It’s called venting,i didn’t realise someone was policing the comment section.

    Relax,no one is calling time on his career,he has just been terrible this season. Monreal is head and shoulders above.

  52. C says:

    Gibbs isn’t young anymore, at 25 years old, this is when he ahould be pushing on and getting into his prime.

  53. Wavey says:

    Great day out yesterday. I know its only the semi final, but Wembley is such a huge occasion.
    The lads ended up doing the job and ensuring that we will be back in May.
    It was a very unbalanced team and yet again we insisted on playing square pegs in round holes. Ramsey onlynworks on the wing when Bellerin in behind him because he doesn’t stay on the wing and Bellerin provides the attacking width. Debuchy is never going to be dashing up and down like Bellerin, especially as he’s just come back from injury.
    Welbeck wasn’t getting any service, so we should have sorted that problem rather than hauling him off. Santo or Ramsey off instead would have allowed Welbeck to play wide right and given us more width straight away. Playing too narrow allows an 8/9 man defence to close you down too easily. And when did we start to think that keep ball should be a job for the back line? I noticed the same thing against Burnley and a slip by one of the defenders when pinging it around at the back can put you in trouble. In fact, this did remind of the Burnley game, why don’t we learn from our experiences?

  54. Wavey says:

    Hate autocorrect always replaces Santi with Santo. Why Santo?

  55. Birdkamp says:

    Wavey, it’s Spanish for “Saint”. Also, El Santo was the most famous luchador of all time. Hard to describe how big that guy was. I’ve even seen a film from the 50s in which he fights against a clique of female vampires. It’s a weird scene I’ve got to say.

    Yesterday was fraught. Inclined to put it down to the unpredictability of the cup, Reading’s fight and that we changed things around a bit. So I suppose another bonus is that our full-backs will be fresh for Chelsea – handy because Invanovic and Hazard are probably their biggest threats.

    Another thing. I haven’t read all the comments on here, but there seemed to be a big call for Theo to come on to give us width, especially Danny Murphy on the TV. I don’t know if DM has watched a lot of Theo, but one thing he does not provide is width; he’ll tend to hover between the FB and CB. AS does give us width on the left though, as he does pull wide to the receive the ball and give a chance for the left-back to overlap.

    It made me think about the summer though. I’m warming to the idea of a left-footed attacker on our right. I don’t think we’ll ever opt for a traditional winger that tries to go around the outside of an FB and cross the ball, but perhaps the mirror image of Sanchez might give us a different dimension.

  56. Birdkamp says:

    As for Ramsey on the right, I thought it made perfect sense against Liverpool because of their ridiculous formation and how deep they sat. Generally, if teams are going to defend against us then that extra control is a good option to have, but if sides are trying to press us, like Reading yesterday, then it doesn’t give us much of an outlet and Ramsey’s game suffers as he takes up weird positions trying to get the ball.

  57. Phil says:

    Morning guys.
    Great to be in a Cup final again, and excellent to watch last night with fellow ACLFer and good man LSG.
    Thanks LSG, your cranberry juice lead me straight to you!
    Not sure whether calling an Aussie a ” gent” is an oxymoron or a tautology, but I will let others decide.
    Bob, after spending many hours with LSG and the football, the rest of Saturday night was my wife’s. The passing out comes when I batch.

  58. Phil says:

    There might be occasions when playing Ramsay on the right might work, but it didn’t yesterday. It’s much easier to defend , when attacks only come down one flank or centrally. The right gave us nothing.

  59. Yogi's Warrior says:

    It’s Sunday! It’s overcast! I can’t be arsed!

    Wait, no, scratch the last one. Not literally obviously although in the privacy of your own homes, do what you want whilst you’re reading this morning’s post:

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