7 February 1988

Everton 0 Arsenal 1. Book now for Wembley.

Hindsight is wonderful, or a painful reminder.   The result of Everton 0 Arsenal 1 in the League Cup semi-final first leg on 7 February 1988 really felt good, good, good.

The season was much like the previous seasons as our record in the 1980s for the league was:

 League position Manager

But in 1987 we had won the League Cup (our first trophy since 1979) so there was hope that we might do so again.  On this day in 1988 we beat Everton away in the first leg 1-0 of the semi-final with a goal from Perry Groves.

Progress to the semi-final had hardly been that difficult as we beat Doncaster Robvers 3-0 and 1-0 (it was a two legged second round in those days), Bournemouth 3-0, Stoke 1-0, and Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

Thus we got to the second leg of the semi-final without conceding a goal – and the manager was… George Graham.  We were starting to get the idea of how things went under Graham.

Our team was Lukic,  Winterburn (the left back playing at right back), Sansom;  O’Leary, Adams; Thomas, Rocastle, Hayes, Richardson; Smith, Groves. Names that for the most part ring down through history.

The only trouble was us was that January had not been that wonderful, apart from beating Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round of the league cup.

True we had progressed in the FA Cup beating Millwall (Graham’s old club) and Brighton, but in the league we were in trouble – and the trouble had started in December.  When we lost 2-1 at home to Manchester United on January 24th that meant that the last eight games had resulted in four defeats, four draws.

As a result the wonderful expectation that had built up earlier in the season following a run of 10 straight wins from September 12 to November 14 had dissipated.  We were not going to win the league after all.

But there’s one other thing to pick up from a quick look at 1987/88 – the clubs who were in the 1st Division but who now one would never expect to be there now:

  • Portsmouth
  • Luton Town
  • Nottingham Forest
  • Wimbledon
  • Watford
  • Sheffield Wednesday
  • Coventry City
  • Charlton Athletic
  • Oxford United

All playing in the first division.  How times change.

The only problem with this bit of gloating is that it includes Luton Town,   If you have any knowledge of Arsenal’s history, you’ll know that we got through to the final by beating Everton 3-1 at home and… that meant we played Luton Town in the final.  That was going to be easy.

Wasn’t it?