Arsenal Face A Weighty Issue On This Day, 25th October 1963

Dietary issues were never considered an issue pre-Premier League English football. Steak, Steak, Steak with a bit if baked beans on toast before.

Ian McKechnie had joined Arsenal as a winger but George Swindin converted him to goalkeeper. It was not a resounding success but by no means an abject failure. He featured in 25 first team matches, two of which were the club’s first European adventures. Indeed the 2 – 3 home defeat to Staevnet was his final appearance. 

The problem was the lack of clean sheets, only six of them. In the remaining games, you were never sure how many would be conceded; 43 in nineteen games does not earn a goalkeeper the designation of “Safe Hands”. Of course, it is by no means always the fault of the custodian for a goal conceded but they are often the scapegoat. 

McKechnie made way for Bob Wilson in 1963 following the story below, with the future double-winner being the last amateur to play for the club when he made his debut against Nottingham Forest. Not that he fared any better, conceding twelve in his six games before Jim Furnell returned from injury. The problem was more widely in defence and was one that would beset Billy Wright’s reign, something which no doubt vexed the manager given his pre-eminent status as one of England’s finest centre-halves.

Wright released McKechnie at the end of this season, the Scot signing for Southend, staying for two seasons before departing for Hull City and playing there until 1973 before a brief sojourn in the USA with the Boston Minutemen.

According to lore, McKechnie was the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in a shootout at the end of a competitive match, as well as being the first to miss a spot-kick. Whether the Watney or Texaco Cup was ever designated a first class match depends, I suspect, largely on whether or not your team won the competition. Rather like the short-lived FA Cup third / fourth placed play-off.