A day in the club’s history that is rich in its’ pickings. Do we go with the title celebrations in 1998? The FA Cup in 2002? The losing FA Cup of 1952? The FA Youth Cup of 1967? A varied day before we consider other ‘run of the mill’ business.
But this event was perhaps more special. The last time that Arsenal won a European trophy, a competition that came to be derided but when Uefa cast their spell on it and submerged into the confusion of what became the Europa League, something went missing.
The European Cup Winners Cup was always the junior partner to the Champions or Uefa Cups. Back in those days, the two trophies were difficult to win. That only holds true for the Champions League now, Uefa having tinkered with their trophies so much that the Europa League is the equivalent of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
A little bit of history was made though in ceasing this competition. No team ever successfully defended it. Fiorentina set the standards by winning the inaugural tournament in 1960 but losing in 1961s final against Atletico Madrid, who reached the final twelve months later to lose to Tottenham. Fast forward a decade to 1972 when Milan beat Leeds only to lose to the East Germans of Madgeburg in 1973s final. Anderlecht almost made it a treble winning in 1975 and 1977 but losing the final inbetween.
The spell seemed most likely to be broken by Ajax, the 1987 winners who fell at the final hurdle to Mechelen in 1988. The latter years of the competition would see this cycle repeated as Parma, Arsenal and Paris St Germain all failed to break this footballing hoodoo.
Parma were like Arsenal twelve months later, favourites to win. Zola, Asprilla, Brolin, Sensini, Benarrivo; well-known thanks to the TV coverage on Channel 4 of Serie A. They were the artistes with a biting edge at the back. Arsenal were without the suspended Ian Wright and had a bench of Miller, McGoldrick, Linighan, Parlour and Dickov to call upon if the youthful Selley or ordinary Hillier wilted.
But they did not. Parma battered and probed; Brolin hit the post early on before Alan Smith conjured a left-foot strike out of nowhere, via the inside of the post. Parma responded but were stifled and stymied by Paul Davis, Selley and Hillier, before they could even think about testing the redoubtable Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn.
A glorious night in the club’s history.