Looking back: Leyton Orient v Arsenal, 1952
PUBLISHED: 11:34 23 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:34 23 May 2020
Alan Martin contacted the sports desk with memories of when Leyton Orient met Arsenal in 1952.
With the Gunners currently waiting to see if they will resume the 2019/20 Premier League season due to the coronavirus pandemic, after Orient and their League Two rivals voted to end their campaign, here is part two of Alan’s tale from yesteryear.
The boys tickets were for the North Terrace toward the front just behind the goal. It was a dry, chill, sunny day so they were well rapped up in their macks. Both wore blue and white Orient scarves.
It was a bit of a push and shove to get down to the front but to be fair adults made way for them. It was invariably acknowledged that youngsters needed to be toward the front if they were to see anything of a big match.
It was strange to be among so many so early at Brisbane Road. The O’s were having a very indifferent season in League Division Three but had surpassed themselves in the Cup, having disposed of Second Division Birmingham City and Everton on their way to the fifth round.
But, of course, the main attraction was the almighty Arsenal, the team of red shirts, white sleeves and collars, white shorts; the team that had won the League six times, the Cup three times. Orient could only dream but they did have a wily manager in Alex Stock. And giant-killing did happen.
Peter could not help thinking, enjoy it while you can, before gut-wrenching reality bites in. George was excited, nervous, believing, willing the improbable.
There seemed to be an awful lot of Arsenal fans around. Their mascots were prominent, parading around the perimeter. They possessed a confidence that was unsettling for both Peter and George.
As the players kicked in before the match George’s eyes were glued to tall, dark-haired Dennis Pacey who had just recently come into the side scoring a wondrful hat-trick in the cup replay against Gorleston at Highbury. Before his arrival George’s hero was tricky winger Don Woan, a player he tried to emulate.
Peter’s attentions were more toward strong, sturdy left-back Arthur Banner. Both boys were only too well aware of the talent of the opposition. Here attention was focused on immaculate full-back Walley Barnes and mercurial Scottish wizard Jimmy Logie.
Time passed quickly enough as the boys drank in the majesty of the occasion. Even the colours seemed sharper, enhanced. Blue v Red is always an intense, visceral, basic contest. Almost like Goodies v Baddies if you are of the blue persuasion.
Peter crunched his favourite dark chocolate Nestle bar; wrong colour though with its scarlet wrapper. George had been given some boiled sweets by Dot. They were to be shared but Peter did not care for them.
His gaze was taken with a knot of Arsenal fans just to their left. They comprised two girls and three fellers. All had draped Arsenal scarves, spoke well, laughed shrilly. Came across as school teachers, University types, the posher sort. Maybe they were medical students, certainly not the sort who lived in Shoreditch. Arsenal clearly attracted a different class.
Nearing kick-off they were jammed as sardines. At least it kept your body warm even if the terrace steps froze your static feet. Strange how you wouldn’t notice any of it once play started.
Leyton Orient lined up in their smart new blue shirts, white shorts: Welton; Evans, Banner; Blizzard, Aldous, Deverall; Woan, Pacey, Harris, Brown, Blatchford.
Arsenal, wearing their iconic red shirts, white collars, white sleeves, white shorts, lined up: Swindin; Barnes, Smith; Forbes, Daniel, Mercer; Cox, Logie, Lewis, Lishman, Roper.
The names rolled off the tongue. The whistle blew.
Orient made an encouraging start attacking the Arsenal goal at the far end. But all too soon the pressure was reversed, the game swinging back toward the goal Peter and George were
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Jimmy Logie looked so threatening. Reg Lewis was dangerous. Peter’s heart was in his stomach. Roper smashed a thirty yarder into the Orient net. Oh no. So early. But it was given offside. What a relief.
Not for long. Reg Lewis struck a sharp left-footer from close range, 0-1. The inevitable was happening. Only to be confirmed by Lishman adding a second for the Gunners before half-time.
Orient were nettled. They fought. Blatchford fouled Swindin. Mercer and Brown broke up the ensuing melee.
Arsenal were well on top in the second half. Lishman added a third before the final whistle.
Apart from odd fleeting moments Arsenal were dominant throughout – so sharp, so quick, so accurate, their white sleeves flapping at full sail as they ran, stopped, changed direction, hit the ball across the goalmouth.
Orient were dogged, worthy, but in the final instance half a foot behind, a split second too late.
Peter and George felt empty, somewhat crushed but they knew they had seen Arsenal at their best – that at least was something they could reluctantly acknowledge.
As the two boys trudged disconsolately back up the terracing, out of the stadium into the teeming streets thay absorbed the intensity of the satiated crowd now threading their innumerable ways to bus, tube, pub, cafe, shop, high street before opening a door that marked home.
Defeats to Peter denoted retreats – Napoleon’s trek from Moscow.
George was more cheery: “There’s always another day, another game, the next game.“
Too true but sometimes hard to feel it when national fame was so close.
So Peter and George made their sad trek home by means of the tube – Leyton, Stratford, Mile End, Bethnal Green, Liverpool Street, Bank. Finally the bus to Old Street.
It had been a bright, often sunny day but it was dusk by the time they slipped down Fanshaw Street to the familiarity of home. They had set off with hope, they came back with defeat. Always another day. Always another game. These words rang in Peter’s head.
George’s Mum had insisted the boys should come back to her for supper – win or lose. After all it was George’s Dad who had helped with the tickets. He was the football man. He wanted to hear all about it even if he had, of course, gone to White Hart Lane instead.
On the way home the boys had heard on the grapevine of comments and snatched glances at Classified pink-uns that Spurs had beaten Derby County by five goals to nil in their league fixture. So at least one person would be happy!
The boys had also taken in that in the other fifth round ties Portsmouth had beaten Doncaster Rovers while Blackburn Rovers had been surprise victors over West Bromwich Albion by the single goal. Peter could not help thinking of June and her Mum.
There was some ribbing in store for the boys. Of that you could be sure. Might be worth a free jam tart or lemon curd from Mrs Clayton’s bakery!
George’s Mum did her best: “Never mind lads, you can’t win them all. It’s just a game of football. Not that he’ll agree with you.”
A beaming father at least forebore to regale them with extravagant details of the Spurs goals: “Tuck in lads. You need it after the day you’ve had.”
Sausages, eggs, beans. Cups of thick brown sweet tea. Lemonade if you preferred. And would you believe it a plate of jam tarts and lemon curds courtesy of Mrs Clayton. Now that was kind!
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