Match number 1 of the season, 3 in the 49.
When I was a youngster, Dixie Dean’s sixty goal season for Everton was the stuff of legends. How could a player manage that? It was a big deal when players got to the late-twenties in their goal tally for a season in the mid-70s. My mind may be playing tricks but I seem to recall a national newspaper offering a reward if a First Division player managed that feat, Bob Latchford duly doing so.
Dean went into this match with fifty-seven goals to his name, needing two to equal George Camsell’s record of fifty-nine set the previous season. He surpassed that as the game entered it’s dying stages, heading in number sixty with eight minutes to go.
All of which meant that Charles Buchan’s last game would be overshadowed but never forgotten. Having left Woolwich Arsenal to move to Sunderland following a disagreement with George Morrell over expenses, he returned to the club in July 1925. Buchan scored 56 times in his 120 Arsenal appearances over his three seasons in the first team. During that time, the club’s fortunes began to transform although he was denied silverware when Arsenal lost the 1927 FA Cup Final.
Everton always found Alan Sunderland in mint form. His last goal for Arsenal came against The Toffees and so did this, his last hat-trick. He scored three trebles in his time at the club, his first overshadowed by Liam Brady’s outstanding goal in the 5 – 0 drubbing at White Hart Lane whilst Leeds United were his second victims in 1979’s 7 – 0 League Cup win.
Alan Sunderland’s late winner at Wembley in 1979 ensured he would never be forgotten in Arsenal’s history. Leading 2 – 0 in ‘The Five Minute Cup Final’, control was inexplicably wrested away with two quick-fire Manchester United goals. The contorted face of the winning goal scorer as he wheels away across the turf betrays the emotion and the pain of a twisted ankle.
On this day, he scored the last of 92 goals for the club. Injury would restrict him to just two more appearances for the club before moving on, Sunderland signed for Ipswich Town in February 1984.
With Liverpool losing at home to Wimbledon, Arsenal needed a win to keep their faint title challenge alive. Wayne Clarke capitalised on a defensive slip to score from long range. The result was not entirely unexpected as the previous fixture had seen one of the worst performances in the early years of George Graham’s reign in a 0-2 defeat at Vicarage Road. Lacklustre would have made that performance sound energetic.
A week later all of that was forgotten as Ian Rush’s record disappeared in the Spring sunshine at Wembley.