When Arsenal arrived on New Year’s Day in 1966, the Whites would have been pleased to see the back of the previous year. Although three wins in October had raised the spirits, the six games at the end of the year had all ended in defeat and we conceded 20 goals in that time as well.
Goalkeeper Tony Macedo, veteran of almost 350 appearances for the Club, was on his way out as Irish international Jack McClelland displaced him in December and was playing only his third game for the club when the Gunners arrived.
Fulham was rock bottom of the table. From our 23 games, we had only won and drawn four, while we had lost the other 15. Having scored 33 goals (which was more than eighth placed Sheffield United), it was our league-high 59 conceded that saw us struggle against relegation.
Hopes were not high as 10th placed Arsenal, managed by former England captain Billy Wright, arrived at the Cottage. But it was a solid Fulham defence that was on show for the first game of the year. McClelland in the Fulham goal immediately made an impression and was to take the plaudits as he made fine saves from Joe Baker and George Armstrong.
But it was a tale of two goalkeepers as Bob Wilson in the Gunners’ net had been involved in a collision before the opening goal. The stopper’s elbow joint was “bent back on its own” and the team doctor revealed shortly after the match that it had swelled to three times its normal size. Wilson, though, played on and had to pick the ball out of his net when Graham Leggat smashed home an effort after an assist from Johnny Haynes in the 27th minute.
With our backs against the wall, we defended manfully and managed to keep what was only our fourth clean sheet of the campaign. Fulham’s first victims for almost two months had arrived and we were able to stay up at the end of the season with an incredible run of nine wins in our last 13 games.
Four days later, however, Arsenal’s youth players got revenge for the club as they won 8-3 at Highbury in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup with a bit more drama as two players were sent off during the game and six goals scored in just 13 minutes.
From the archives
Daily Mirror - Monday, January 3rd 1966
‘Arsenal lose gallant Bob for a month’ by Ken Jones