Welcome back to my weekly fix of nostalgia which looks at significant goals in Arsenal’s history. You can scour through my column for my previous pieces.
For us younger fans, 1989 is known for Anfield’89. I’m sure most of us have seen the highlights of that game numerous times. Most of us are also aware of the fact that Arsenal almost managed to cock up the title chase by losing to Derby and drawing to Wimbledon before that fateful day.
Most of us younger fans probably wish we were either alive, present, or an Arsenal supporter in 1989. Regardless, we are aware of it. What we may not be aware of, however, was how that season panned out and how one goal – if not scored – could have ended Arsenal’s title hopes. Or at least I wasn’t aware of this!
Before I continue, I’d like to thank Andy (@yorkshiregunner) who inadvertently brought this goal to my attention while we were discussing another topic for what will, hopefully, be my next blog post.
I ended up watching the ‘88/89 Arsenal season review thanks to this as well, good watch! Anyway, moving on…
The ‘88/89 Season in Brief
Liverpool were the dominant team of the 80s; they had won the league in ’80, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’86 and were the title holders for the upcoming ‘88/89 season. They also won it in 1990. So you can imagine they were hot favorites to retain the title.
However, it was George Graham’s Arsenal and Norwich City – would you believe it – who were fighting it out at the top by the end of the 1988. Liverpool were nowhere in sight. In fact, the Gunners finished top of the table at the end of December albeit level on points with Norwich.
After 23 games, Arsenal had 50 points (W 15, D 5, L 3) whilst Liverpool had 36 points!
The next 8 games, though, saw the Gunners go on a poor run and pick up 10 points out of a possible 24. Liverpool picked up 24 out of a possible 24! Which meant…..?
Arsenal and Liverpool were tied on points at the top of the table on 60 points from 31 games.
Luckily the Gunners found winning ways again and won their next 3 games whilst Liverpool won 2 and drew the other. This meant that going into game 35, Graham’s men were 2 points ahead of Dalglish’s men. Arsenal had to win to maintain the advantage. One could not bet on Liverpool slipping up now.
Hayes the Unlikely Hero
If I had never watched the Official History of Arsenal video/documentary, I probably would never have heard of Martin Hayes. On the other hand, thanks to me treating the documentary as THE source of knowledge, I never heard of Groves, Marwood, or Woodcock either!
Anyway, who was Martin Hayes?
Martin joined Arsenal as an apprentice in 1982 and made his debut 3 years later at the age of 19; under manager Don Howe. He was a left winger whilst also capable of playing striker. Graham kept him on board.
Martin Hayes repaid that faith by top scoring for the Gunners in ‘86/87 with 24 goals. (The first Arsenal player since Frank Stapleton to score more than 20 goals for Arsenal in a season, 7 years early!!) The following year saw a dip in form and only 3 goals scored. Brian Marwood’s arrival and Alan Smith’s red-hot form saw Hayes’ chances limited in the ‘88/89 season – the lanky winger/striker made 17 appearances; 14 of which were as a substitute.
Nevertheless, match day 35 saw the Gunners travel to Middlesbrough. I wasn’t there obviously nor have I seen the game but I spoke to Tim Hardwicke (@Arselona) about it as he was there and here are a few of his recollections from the game:
“Yes, Boro goal, very important, scrappy game, long ball at the end and whoops a daisy Martin Hayes got his toe on the ball before the keeper”
When you watch the goal, that’s pretty much how it happened. It’s what some also like to call route one football – direct kick from the ‘keeper bypasses all the players pretty much!
‘Buy the 88/89 Shirts in End of Season Sale.’
“It was a massive game and goal, you could say one of the most important in our history.”
“No I didn’t [expect Hayes to make a difference], he had a great couple of years before albeit with lots of penalties. I seem to recall [he] put the cross in for [Charlie] Nicholas’ goal in League Cup final versus Liverpool. He was sold to Celtic shortly after. “ (No Tim it was Perry!)
The goal had come with 13 minutes to spare; it was deadlock at 0-0 till that point. So how did he and the fans celebrate?
“We all went mad although conscious of having darts thrown at us; there was a big net between the fans. ‘Boro fans threw darts at the net trying to get them through the holes in the net. [I] remember getting bus back to Thornaby Station; kids holding dads’ hands and giving us the finger!”
The only exposure I’ve had to the terrace culture and hooliganism is the film Green Street Hooligans; so hearing a firsthand account of the risks that supporters were constantly under back then had me a bit wow.
What Happened Next?
Arsenal went on to lose their next game versus Derby, then draw versus Wimbledon whilst Liverpool continued winning. This, of course, led to Arsenal needing to win by 2 goals at Anfield on the final day of the season.
It can be argued that Martin Hayes’ goal was important in retrospect because one could not have predicted the outcomes of the games that followed; Arsenal could have wrapped up the title before Anfield. Nevertheless, as fate had it, this goal was quite important!
Special thanks to Tim Hardwicke (@Arselona) for sparing a few minutes to chat with me about this.
Till next time!
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