A memorable effort but in vain.
End of the 1971-72 season - a three way title decider night.
Picture the scene; a Monday night game under the Highbury Floodlights in the days before Sky made Monday night games obligatory. Derby were sitting on top of the league, but their season was over. Leeds only needed a draw at Wolves to take the title and we needed to beat Arsenal on their midden.Some game details, with blanks filled in by 11v11.com
Date: 8th May 1972
Competition: League Division One
Attendance: 39,289Arsenal starting line up
Geoff Barnett / Goalkeeper
Pat Rice / Right Back
Peter Simpson / Defence
Peter Storey / Defence
Sammy Nelson / Left Back
Frank McLintock / Midfield
Alan Ball / Midfield
George Armstrong / Midfield
George Graham / Midfield
Ray Kennedy / Striker
John Radford / Striker
Sub: John Roberts for Pat RiceLiverpool starting line up
Ray Clemence / Goalkeeper
Chris Lawler / Right Back
Tommy Smith/ Defence
Larry Lloyd / Defence
Alec Lindsay / Left Back
Emlyn Hughes/ Midfield
Steve Heighway / Midfield
Brian Hall / Midfield
Ian Callaghan / Midfield
Kevin Keegan / Striker
John Toshack / Striker
We didn't use a Sub, so who it was is lost in the mists of time.
I was working as a young chef in London at the time and rushed from my Liverpool Street Hotel to Highbury, and in my rush I ended up on the Northbank instead of the Clockend. At first I thought sod it, everyone had a red scarf, and there were no replica shirts in those days.
In that brief moment when I took my place on the terrace I was a bit flustered after the massive rush to get to the game. And I was too busy eating my pie and holding my mug of bovril to listen to the conversations around me! But when we came out to warm up a minute or so later, I finally realised we had taken over this section of the Northbank.
To be honest the game was good and the Referee was Roger Kirkpatrick - Mr Pickwick, as we called him. A man so rotund he makes some modern day referees like Mr Dowd look like a combination of Twiggy with the athleticism of an Olympic sprinter.
This Old Match of the Day Introduction clip has a brief cameo from the comedic character that was Mr Pickwick, Roger Kirkpatrick.https://www.youtube.com/v/QCPz9zygKEo
To be honest Football in those days was full of great characters including the Refs. I think the best way to describe the late Roger Kirkpatrick's unique Refereeing style is this:
If play stopped at one end of the field, say a free kick to the defending side, he would delay the kick slightly before turning and running half the length of the field - with his arms and legs pumping like pistons. It was brilliant to see. The crowd would laugh and cheer loudly. He was a comical figure to watch but on this night he wasn't very funny...
The game went OK, we battered them without scoring. I remember at one point Kevin Keegan appeared to be running down the wing and heading the ball as he went. My hero 'Crazy Horse' Emlyn Hughes hit the bar with such force that it was probably still rattling in September. As always, it seemed the team left it all on the pitch that night.
We knew Wolves were beating Leeds through the old transistor radio guys and the terrace grapevine, meaning if we could score, we would be Champions... And with two minutes to go Tosh put the ball in the net. Well we all went ballistic! That was until we saw Mr Pickwick had disallowed it for offside, so as with all the fans around me I went from elation to deflation faster than the speed of sound.
When the final whistle went we cheered for the lads. They could not have given more and, but for a decision that I still disagree with (from a well respected and likeable referee - yes we had some then), we would have left as Champions. We made up for just missing out during the next two decades, but for me it was this near miss that was a night to remember. A proud night to be a red, despite the result.This report from the Guardian can fill in some of the blanks that my old memory has not retained after all these decades
" Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool, Division One, 08/05/1972
… but you might not be aware of this almost equally dramatic title decider, one that has been weirdly airbrushed out of history. When folk talk of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Brian Clough’s first title , they concentrate almost exclusively on Leeds's failure to get the point they needed at Wolves to win the championship ahead of Clough's Derby. Yet on the same Monday night, because of Leeds's 2-1 defeat by Wolves, Liverpool would have pipped Derby had they beaten Arsenal at Highbury.
They came excruciatingly close. Emlyn Hughes hit the bar, John Toshack missed a great chance; then, with two minutes to go, Toshack had a goal disallowed for offside. The Guardian said he was "palpably offside", but the Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, disagreed and suggested that the decision was given by the referee, not the linesman. For some clubs it might have been a lifelong frustration; but when you win 11 of the next 18 titles, as Liverpool did, it's easier to forget about the one that got away."
This reporter only got one or two things wrong: I have never forgotten that night and I was proud to be at the game. And I still maintain it was a good goal. In those days Linesmen generally gave the offside decisions, and he didn't raise his flag.
It was also not every day you could take the Northbank!