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Arsenal v Swindon Town – League Cup Final 1969 / Arsenal v Swindon Town – League Cup Final 1969

Arsenal v Swindon Town – League Cup Final 1969

By on 22 February 2018

Arsenal take on Premier League leaders Manchester City in the League Cup final on Sunday rated very much the underdogs. That’s not to say it would be a huge shock if The Gunners were to prove victorious, just that it would go against the bookies’ odds. Contrast that with the 1969 League Cup Final when the mighty Arsenal took on Third Division Swindon Town at Wembley.

As can be seen from this article previewing the final from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, March 1969, nobody really gave Swindon Town a chance. Pat Collins, who wrote the piece, was quite happy to have his lines rammed back into his teeth as he puts it. He speaks very highly of Swindon but clearly he, like most supporters and commentators, did not expect it would ever happen.

Don Rogers et al had other ideas! What happened on the muddy Wembley pitch on 15th March that year would go down as one of the major cup shocks in English football history. It would be Arsenal’s second successive League Cup final defeat and to this day, for one of the ‘big boys’, their record is not great – only two victories in the competition from six final appearances. Read Collins’ preview here and enjoy Pathe action at the end of the article.

It Will Be Arsenal’s This Time

by Pat Collins

THE time does come when one can in all honesty make out a case for an upset in form; a time when a team of lesser station besting one from way higher is definitely on. It is good that this can be so.

But with all the goodwill in the world, and bending over backwards (dangerously so), I cannot see Third Division Swindon, decked out in their new all-white strip for the occasion, taking the shine out of the golden garb of Arsenal at Wembley on March 15.

I confidently anticipate Arsenal captain Frank McLintock, who has had to stand back and make way for the winners on three other Wembley occasions, leading the way to the Royal Box to receive the Football League Cup. lt would be deserved personal compensation for McLintock being a Leicester runner-up in FA Cup Finals against Spurs and Manchester United, and in Arsenal’s League Cup defeat by Leeds last year.

Swindon Town have heroically arrived at the Stadium for the first time, an appearance magnificently earned. But the dispatching of Burnley in those three, taut, tingling semi-final games will, I feel, still rate as their greatest achievement at the end of the day.

Swindon’s history is homely and ordinary—two seasons in the Second Division being their League high-spots, and two semi-final appearances way back in 1910 and 1912, the heyday of Harold Fleming, their greatest Cup moments. Arsenal’s, by comparison, is profusely pitted with glamorous landmarks which take in League championships and Wembley Cup victories.

An upset of the odds on March 15 would surely set the sculptured figure of Fleming, that once great man, spinning on its pedestal in the forecourt of the County Ground. But you won’t hear a Wiltshire burr from now to Wembley which says other than victory for Danny Williams’ boys.

They can make out a case . . . the defeats of Blackburn, of Coventry and Derby where Swindon first had to go and hold out at Highfield Road and the Baseball Ground; in particular, the defeat of Burnley. They cheekily, but convincingly won at Turf Moor, then fell at home. It was a prelude to the most breathless, most heart-stopping match for seasons. The sort which, if it were possible to guarantee, would need half a dozen Wembley Stadiums to house the customers.

Town tackled then a reviving Burnley team of talented youngsters giving visions of recapturing the high-days at Turf Moor. Danny Williams, and his directors, have their eyes on the big prize for Town . . . promotion. It will mean more than Wembley in the long run. But priorities will be switched for the day when Stan Harland leads out his men against the Gunners.

Swindon’s strength, like Arsenal’s, is in well-ordered, highly disciplined strength at the back. Frank Burrows, bought from Scunthorpe, has proved a canny Williams buy. And he has bought none better than Harland. His full-backs, from among Owen Dawson, Norman Trollope and Welsh international Rod Thomas, having his finest season yet, won’t let Town down. Then there is the deep-lying John Smith, their most experienced performer, directing operations from the middle . . . the free-running of Roger Smart and Peter Noble, the power of the two Dons, Heath and Rogers.

Mention Swindon anywhere and Don Rogers’ name follows as some reflex action. Town have long leaned on his striking power. He has a broad cornmission in attack which lets him free to slip into what he sees as the most advantageous positions. The many goals he has scored prove how effectively he does this. This power is much more in evidence on his own County Ground than when Town travel. His contribution, in fact, in clearing those last few hurdles before this Final was not particularly inspiring. But on the spacious Wembley pitch his speed and venomous shooting could be Arsenal’s biggest worry.

Remember, however, that Rogers, and Swindon, have to crack the finest defence in the League, to come through. They have to shatter the poise and discipline, and the telepathic understanding of Storey, Ure, Simpson and McNab. AFTER they break through, if they can, the earlier barrier which Sammels, Court and McLintock throw up.

If Swindon succeed where most First Division forward lines have fallen back, blunted then broken, theirs would be the giant-killing act of the last decade.

Third Division Queen’s Park Rangers, we know, came from behind two years ago to shock West Bromich Albion in a Final which really gave the League Cup—being decided for the first time at Wembley—a sure grip on a Soccer public still to be wholly won over to it.

But the gap in class is much wider this time. Rangers then were surely a good cut or two above the present Town side—their continuing success proved it, and the West Bromwich of 1967 did not match up to today’s Gunners—so Rangers did not have to find as much extra as Swindon will need to do to ram these lines back in my teeth.

Armstrong, Gould, Radford, Graham, whichever the Arsenal front runners, won’t be given the freedom of Wembley by any means. But with eight of last year’s losing side to try again, the taste of occasion, the spur of going one better this time, above all, their belief in themselves as a proven good team, IT WILL BE ARSENAL’S LEAGUE CUP.



Arsenal v Swindon Town – League Cup Final 15th March 1969

Swindon Town players celebrate winning the League Cup against Arsenal in 1969

Swindon players celebrate a momentous victory

Swindon Town v Arsenal 1969 League Cup Final

How Football Monthly reported on the game

Swindon Town v Arsenal 1969 report from Charles Buchan's Football Monthly

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