It was a momentous week in English football. Derby and Brian Clough appeared to have fallen out spectacularly, just as the international team sank to their lowest point since winning the World Cup in 1966. Poland would depart from Wembley with the required result to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany, a tournament in which they would finish third.
England did not know how to cope. Instead of appointing the best man for the job, they appointed the most politically correct man for the job. Even then Don Revie nearly talked himself out of the role with his haggling over money.
Arsenal for their part were shorn of international players but travelled to the Camp Nou for the first meeting between the two clubs. The end result was a creditable 0 – 1 defeat with a relatively makeshift side. Barcelona put out a relatively strong side with Cruyff in his first season at the club having signed in the summer of 1973 for approximately £925k (£18m in 2012). That was the world record fee paid at the time, almost doubling the previous record set in 1968 when Anastasi moved from Varese to Juventus.
One man in the team was Brendan Batson. He would go onto have a successful career with West Bromwich Albion after leaving Arsenal, followed by a notable career at the PFA once his playing days were over. However, as an Arsenal player, he might just be the unluckiest to have ever donned a shirt.
A decent right back, supporters in those days might have been justified in groaning if his name featured on the teamsheet. In his final ten games for the club, Arsenal won none, drew one and lost nine. They were not his fault by any stretch of the imagination, a coincidentally unhappy run. But football folk are nothing if not superstitious…
The two clubs would meet again at Highbury six months later when the Catalans once more triumphed in George Armstrong’s testimonial.