Arsenal Humiliated In Europe On This Day, 3rd November 1981

A fortnight earlier, Arsenal had returned from Belgium trailing by a solitary first leg goal. The return should have been a formality but Arsenal’s forward line was less than frightening: Vaessen, McDermott and Meade were not noted strikers and there was no rescue act on the bench, the substitute that day was Paul Davis. Alan Sunderland was out with a groin strain and would not recover in time whilst John Hawley had been on the pitch against Coventry the previous weekend but was so goalshy that he was not in contention for this match.

Even so, it could not get any worse could it? Winterslag were, after all, part-timers and Arsenal the professional club steeped in history. Nevertheless, the Belgians were confident of progressing as evidenced by the post-match comments of their manager below. He had quite quickly seen the limitations of this Arsenal vintage.

The problems of the era were laid bare in the third piece below although to say Arsenal were not disgraced in defeat by Winterslag is pushing the point to its limits. And probably beyond.



Yea Gods. Arsenal On This Day, 20th October 1981

Winterslag. Winterslag. With all due respect to the inhabitants of the Flanders city in the municipality of Genk, it should never have come to this. A single goal defeat, the first stage of Arsenal’s most embarrassing European exit.

Oh, I know every club has those difficult memories, both domestically and on foreign fields; the Walsalls, Wrexhams, Yorks and Tranmeres, Arsenal are not unusual in that sense. But it doesn’t make talking of them any easier.

The Belgians were part-timers, Arsenal the First Division club who fifteen months earlier had lost on penalties in the Heysel Stadium. Winterslag had enjoyed their best ever season in 1980-81, finishing 5th in the top flight and were in Europe for the first time.

Arsenal had beaten Panathinaikos home and away in a 3 – 0 aggregate victory in the first round. Things had been more nailbiting for Winterslag. They had reached the second round by defeating Byrne of Norway 3 – 2 on aggregate, winning the away leg 2 – 0 before losing at home, 1 – 2. If the Scandanavians could win there, surely Arsenal would as well?


Winterslag merged with Watterschei, a more successful neighbour who became embroiled in a bribery scandal. The two clubs merged as a result in 1988, emerging as KRC Genk.

The only goal of this game is at about 14 seconds on this clip with the second leg goal for Winterslag at about 50 seconds.