Tag Archives: Anfield

Anfield – Left Holding the Baby

1988/89. What a season. For the first time since I’d started my love affair with Arsenal we were genuine title contenders. Liverpool were the pre-eminent team, but George’s mix of lower division buys and youth team graduates were the challengers that wouldn’t fall away.

I went to nearly all the games that season, but when it came to THE match I was sat at home watching it with a baby! When the game was originally scheduled, they made the mistake of playing it the same day as I was due to be best man at a wedding and there was no way I was going to be able to get out of it. At least I had the consolation that although it was a vital game, at least it wasn’t going to decide the championship, was it… Well, we all know why it was re-arranged, and there was I after over a decade of tramping up and down the country watching (often) dire performances, not able to get a ticket for the game that could bring us the title.

Well, thanks to the fact that ITV decided that this game was worthy of being broadcast live (a rare event in those days) at least I wouldn’t have to suffer following the match on the radio. It was over a week since we had walked out of Highbury after the draw against Wimbledon that meant us dropping 5 home points in 4 days, which was plenty of time for my confidence to return (mind you I was confident that we’d win the league at the start of every season Terry Neill was in charge – so maybe you shouldn’t read too much into that). Even when Liverpool spanked West Ham leaving us needing a 2 goal win at Anfield I still knew we could do it.

Although the game was being shown at my local, I wanted to watch the game at home. I don’t really know why, I guess the idea of watching Arsenal on a telly in a pub just seemed too strange for me. Mind you, I’d not watched Arsenal play live on TV at home since the 1972 final either. My partner had no interest in football, but knowing the importance of the match decided she wanted to be no where near me whilst the game was on, so she and our lodger decided to get their ‘glad-rags’ on and go out for the night which is how I was left with our 9 month old.

Being a good little chap he went to bed quietly about an hour before kick off. Excellent. Minutes before kick off he woke up and started crying. Not so excellent. Any parent out there knows the difference between the sobbing that means they’ll be asleep again in a minute, and the bawling that requires action, and this wasn’t the one where he was going back to sleep!

A lot of the first half is a bit of a blur, seeing as I was trying all the things known to parenthood to calm him down. I even considered taking him out for a drive at half time, but the Irish whiskey I was using to ‘calm my nerves’ made that a non-starter. Maybe I was more nervous that I thought and he could feel that, but he just wouldn’t settle.

As the second half started we’d seemingly reached an agreement where he’d be quiet and let me watch the football over his shoulder so long as I bounced him on my knee. Not ideal, and rather tiring, but the best on offer, so I took it. That is, until Smudger scored the first. Maybe the bouncing got a bit hectic whilst the ref and lino were chatting? Maybe I jumped up a bit too quick when they gave the goal? Maybe he just realised how relieved I was? I don’t really know which, but Jr. smiled up at me and suddenly looked ready for bed. Between the goal been given and the re-start he was there.

The remainder of the game involved me leaving the comfort of the sofa and edging closer and closer to the telly, as if my proximity to the pictures would have some bearing, and the players would respond to me imploring them to attack. Oh, and (too) regular topping up of my glass. Then with a few minutes left Mickey Thomas broke through the middle…and fluffed it. Mickey, please accept my apologies for all the names I called you at that moment.

By the time McMahon appeared on screen with a finger raised to show there was only 1 minute left (and we never let him forget that moment, did we!) even my confidence was starting to wane. Then the ball was sent forward again. As Mickey collected the ball and broke forward again I was transfixed. This was it….the last chance. And he slotted it! As Mickey was rolling around on the pitch at Anfield, I was doing the same in my front room. I even managed to knock over and rather kill a large plant the girlfriend was quite proud of, but that didn’t even register at the time (although it was pointed out the next day). Now I’m not the type who looks away when last minute penalties are given, but as Liverpool kicked off I couldn’t watch. I filled my glass and went and sat on the front doorstep. Surely we couldn’t blow it now. Surely. Please! And then I heard the final whistle. I jumped to my feet, screamed, and my glass disappeared into the sky.

Then I just felt so calm and elated. I went back in and watched the trophy being lifted and all the celebration with a strange detached calm. I remember there was a car ad at the time where the guy bet on everything 50/50 and lost, but at least had bought the right car. They’d managed to add a line in minutes saying ‘he bet on Liverpool, and Arsenal scored in the last minute’. That was cool. Then it was all over. We’d done it. For the first time I’d seen us win the title and even from miles away I felt part of it. At that moment it didn’t matter a bit that I wasn’t there. It didn’t matter I was on my own. They’d done it. We’d done it. We WERE the champions.

“Division 1, Liverpool (0) v Arsenal (2), 26-5-89, Anfield.
Michael Thomas shoots past Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar to score Arsenal’s 2nd goal in the last minute of the match.
This goal clinched the League Championship for Arsenal, despite finishing level on points with Liverpool, because the Londoners had scored more goals during the season than Liverpool.”

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103 – 26th May 1989

As images and clips of this game are amongst the most famous in the history of English football it’s obviously rather difficult to come up with something that may be new or interesting for this particular day but I hope I’ve managed.

Firstly a transcript (originally done for Arseweb.com I believe) of the last minutes commentary in full. Then scans of two pieces of ‘artwork’ that were sent to me by a friend who worked at Maxim after they were published in that magazine. They are Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn’s representations of that goal.


“Brian Moore: The clock shows two minutes to go. Arsenal fans imploring their
team with “come on you yellows”, they want that second important goal and
suddenly the break is on, Beardsley leading the charge. Aldridge in a perfect
position on the far side, but Lukic is there, he’ll want to get the ball
forward quickly. Richardson is down with a leg injury and he’s still down and
Arsenal want to go on. 41,783 is the crowd here at Anfield and not a soul has
left before the final whistle you can be sure. Treatment for Kevin
Richardson. Unless there is an amazing and dramatic twist now it looks like
Liverpool David.

David Pleat: Yes I think they’ve set out, they’ve been very professional
tonight, they’ve made certain of doing their job, they’ve defended very well
in the second half when Arsenal have powered forward in search of the second
goal. Barnes who has probably been as creative and as brilliant player for
them at times this season has been mainly defending this half and quite happy
to do so. And that will all be worthwhile if in a couple of minutes time they’ve won the Championship.

Brian Moore: Well there’s John Barnes saying “come on” as he shouts to his
team mates. John Aldridge over there. Lets just keep it going for a few
seconds more. Richardson is down again, presumably he’ll have to go off and
remember Arsenal have both their substitutes already on. One minute to go.
McMahon has got the word from the Kop obviously. But nobody knows quite how
much time the referee will add on. But there’s a real competitor, a man that
really has earned a Championship medal. <<>> The faces of the
players are something to behold at the moment.

David Pleat: I think in a way if Arsenal are to lose a Championship having
had such a lead at one time its somewhat poetic justice that they have got
the result on the last day even if their not to win it.

Brian Moore: They would see that as small consolation David, but has you can
see we are well into time added on. Just a few seconds away now for Kenny
Dalglish unless Arsenal can mount something absolutely spectacular in the few
seconds that remain. Nichols in there, Barnes is in there, Adams has stopped
him, Barnes has beaten Adams, Aldridge is waiting at the far side, Adams is
after his man but Barnes will not be denied, yes he will by Richardson
moments ago down and injured.

Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack.
A good ball by Dixon finding Smith, for Thomas charging through the midfield,
Thomas, its up for grabs now! Thomas right at the end. An unbelievable climax
to the League season.

We’re well into injury time. The Liverpool players are down, absolutely
abject! Aldridge is down, Barnes is down, Dalglish just stands there, Nichols
on his knees, McMahon is on his knees, suddenly it was Michael Thomas, bursting
through, the bounce fell his way, he flicks it wide of Grobbellar and we have
the most dramatic finish maybe in the history of the Football League. The top
two challenging on the night, and the title possibly decided in the last
minute of the whole season, but wait a moment Whealan turning it in and
Thomas gets it back to Lukic. We’ve played nearly two minutes of injury time.
George Graham would love to get out there and play himself and so would Kenny
Dalglish, its agony for them and for the fans, as Liverpool now for so long
it seemed in command. Except! The final whistle. Arsenal the Champions. A
momentous occasion this for Arsenal, coming here requiring a two goal lead
and snatched it in the most dramatic fashion in the last minute of the game.

A hammer blow for Liverpool, for the likes of John Barnes who over the season
has produced football of the most majestic standard. David O’Leary helps
Aldridge to his feet and Aldridge wasn’t too happy with that. The Kop bravely
and gamely applauding their heroes. But the winners are Arsenal who have gone
over to their fans. And they came it seems without a chance, but the Gunners
have kept their powder dry until it really matters. They’ve denied Liverpool
the League and Cup Double, Arsenal the Champions for the first time since
1971, the ninth time in their history, the first team to win by two goals
here at Anfield since 1986, a super human effort against the odds and
achieved with that goal in the last minute by Michael Thomas.”


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