5th January 1991
A new year, a new Arsenal? We didn’t need anything new, just a continuation of the form which had seen the XI unbeaten in the First Division. Sunderland visited Highbury for the first time in an FA Cup tie, eighteen years on since they had beaten Arsenal 2 – 1 at Hillsborough on their way to winning the trophy in 1973.
That’s largely forgotten now, sunk beneath memories of Montgomery and Porterfield at Wembley as Revie’s Leeds were cast as victims in what remains one of the competitions biggest giant-killings. They were quite capable of that; Colchester had turfed them out of the cup a couple of seasons previous to Bob Stokoe’s dance across the hallowed turf.
I, for one, am not disappointed Arsenal aren’t instantly recalled outside of Wearside.
The two sides had already met at Highbury in the First Division, with Arsenal winning by a Lee Dixon penalty. Whilst that league meeting had been under the cloud of the Old Trafford brawl, this one had Tony Adams shadow cast over it. The Arsenal captain had been jailed a week before Christmas but his release date was already being planned, romanticised with Valentine’s Day the target assuming he was awarded parole.
Arsenal were coping his absence. Although unconvincing, Andy Linighan retained his place in the starting XI ahead of David O’Leary although the Irishman would become the third centre-back alongside Steve Bould as Sunderland exerted pressure in search of a foothold in the game.
O’Leary duly provided it, lobbing David Seaman with a quarter of an hour to do although Alan Smith and Anders Limpar had already put Arsenal two-up.
It wasn’t going to spoil his day. A season which had seen constant speculation about his future was put into perspective: David loved Arsenal, Arsenal loved David and George had been polite to him. What more could he want from life?
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