Arsenal’s Three Captain Fantastics – Part Two!

By Gary Lawrence

Frank McClintock
Frank was born in Glasgow and grew up fast living in the Gorbals, where you soon learnt how to look after yourself. He was a talented young player and Leicester City signed him at 17 in 1956. His mother insisted that before she gave her consent for Frank to go to England he must be allowed to finish his apprenticeship in painting and decorating that he’d started in Glasgow.

Leicester agreed to this and sorted out a decorating firm in Leicester and Frank continued his apprenticeship fitting in his football around the painting and decorating for the next five years.

In fact on the Friday morning on the eve of the 1961 FA Cup Final. Frank had to white-wash a cellar. After that he cycled back to his digs and got changed into his suit, then cycled to Filbert Street and jumped on the coach to London.

Leicester were staying at the Dorchester and Frank was thrilled to see Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the hotel foyer. They wished the team luck and Elizabeth Taylor was looking absolutely stunning. Frank noticed she kept staring at him with an amused look on her face. Frank wondered if the most desirable woman in the World had taken a shine to him!

She walked over to Frank and his heart started racing. Then she whispered seductively into Frank’s ear “You’ve still got your bicycle clips on”.

It all went downhill from there on as Leicester lost the final to Spurs. Frank was also in the Leicester City side that lost the 1963 FA Cup Final against Manchester United.

Arsenal signed Frank McLintock for £80,000 in October 1964 a club record fee at the time. He was then a fine attacking wing half. But it wasn’t until he was moved back into the centre back position that Frank really came into his own.

Frank paints
Frank keeps his hand in with a spot of painting

It was Don Howe’s idea to try Frank at centre half due to an injury crisis and Frank never looked back. He soon adapted to his new position and was a revelation. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Frank a few times and it’s always struck me how small he is for a centre back. He’s only 5 foot 10 inches. But he had a good spring on him and timed his headers well to make up for his lack of height.

Frank jumps
Frank demonstrates his spring!

He read the game well and marshalled the defence brilliantly, forming an excellent partnership with Peter Simpson. Woe betide anyone who got caught out of position, as Frank wouldn’t hesitate to give them a tongue lashing.

He liked to have regular no holds barred team meetings. Where all the team were encouraged to speak their mind. The team bonded to the point where they became a band of brothers and at the heart of it all was Frank McLintock. He would run through brick walls for the team and the team would do the same for him.

One thing the team and Frank in particular hated was forever being reminded of the glory days of Arsenal’s glittering past and all the great players. Frank & the team were desperate to lay the ghosts of the past and came close in 1968 and 1969. Falling at the last hurdle both times, in the League Cup Final at Wembley.

The later was a humiliating defeat against Swindon Town. Frank had now lost 4 Wembley finals. After the Swindon debacle Bob Wilson said that Frank tossed his runners-up trophy into the thick mud uttering the words “Another bloody tankard”.

The following season Arsenal reached the final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and lost the 1st leg away 3-1 to a fine Anderlecht side, who had great players such as Jan Mulder and Paul Van Himst.

Though substitute Ray Kennedy had given Arsenal a glimmer of hope, with a late goal, heading in a great Geordie Armstrong cross. The Arsenal dressing room was subdued and like a morgue. What followed next was a legendary tale of Frank McLintock’s inspirational powers as a captain and leader. This is what happened in Bob Wilson’s own words.

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Initially Frank was the worst affected Arsenal player in the aftermath of defeat. Morose and muttering every swear word in his vocabulary, he stripped off his kit and trudged wearily and despondently into the showers.

Somewhere under the warmth of the water that cascaded onto his body he became a man transfixed. His brain, dulled at the moment of defeat, suddenly became sharp and alive.

The captain who emerged bore no resemblance to the one who had departed the dressing room, except that the swear words doubled in intensity and volume. Mel Gibson’s performance in Braveheart never bettered a McLintock rant.

“We’ll f***ing murder the bastards at Highbury. They’re a load of sh*t. Van Himst’s a f***ing carthorse. Mulder will bottle it, it’ll be a piece of piss”. Was the gist of it. Frank’s enthusiasm was infectious and that Anderlecht away dressing room became full of steam, belief and plenty of bullshit. If we could have played the return immediately, Anderlecht would never had stood a chance!

Of course Bob was right, Anderlecht never stood a chance. As Arsenal blew Anderlecht away 3-0 in the 2nd leg at Highbury. Thus ending a 17 year wait for a trophy. There can be no doubt that the seeds of belief were planted in the away dressing room at Anderlecht following McLintock’s stirring words.

Friars Cup
Frank and the team parading the Fairs Cup

This led to more success as Frank led Arsenal to the elusive Double in 1971. Doing what no other Arsenal captain had ever done before in the clubs history, not even that incredibly successful 1930s side. He also picked up the football writers Footballer of the Year award that season.

Frank at the Double
Frank at the Double!

Many years after I spoke to Frank at a function, where he and Charlie George were the guest speakers. I told him I was at White Hart Lane In 1971 and Frank’s eyes lit up, as he was instantly transformed in his mind back to that wonderful night. He spoke to me warmly and passionately in his Glaswegian accent about winning the title, then going on to Wembley to clinch the Double. Where he finally, at the 5th time of asking, became a Wembley winner.

Frank McLintock was fearless and wouldn’t back down to anyone. A good example of this was the infamous night in Rome, outside a restaurant. There been a joint banquet involving Arsenal and Lazio. After an ill tempered match. Outside the restaurant, a fight had broken out, involving Ray Kennedy and the Lazio centre half. Bob Wilson rushed back into the restaurant and sounded the alarm. Frank led the charge outside, going straight into the fray swinging punches. If you were a soldier in the trenches in WW1. You’d want Frank to be the man leading you over the top!

Sadly Frank was released far too early by Bertie Mee. Who so callously and vindictively sold Frank to QPR for £30,000 after the relationship between captain and manager irretrievably broke down just two years after winning the Double. Frank was in tears the day he put in a transfer request such was his love for the club.

He’s 76 years old now, but still looks remarkably well and as Dave Seager said to me, a while back, when we were talking about the 71 squad. “Frank’s still their leader” There can be no doubt about that, even 45 years after he led them to the Double.

Part One if you missed it here.


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