Deep into extra-time at the 1971 FA Cup Final, with the scores locked at 1-1, Charlie George sent a thunderous 20-yard drive beyond the reach of Ray Clemence in the Liverpool goal. It sealed a first ‘Double’ for Arsenal. The celebration that followed - George fell to the ground with his arms outstretched above his head - is one of the most rousing images in the history of the Club.
Charlie hailed from deep in the Highbury heartland and had watched Arsenal from the stands as a boy. Like all terrace dwellers who made it at their local club, George was adored by his fellow supporters. His ability helped, of course — George was slightly built and nonchalant, but could carve through defences almost at will.
He made his debut against Everton in the opening rubber of the 1969/70 season and notched his first goal against West Bromwich Albion two games later. However, ill-discipline marred George’s first campaign and as a result he spent three months in the reserves. He was reinstated in the Spring and, hitting something near his prodigious best, the 19-year-old helped the Gunners to European Fairs Cup glory.
George had brought a swagger previously unseen in Bertie Mee’s silverware-searching side, and his impact at the end of his first campaign meant he attracted much of the pre-season hype in the summer of 1970. It wasn’t a case of if he would come good, more a case of just how good he would become.
There was a problem, though, and disaster was just around the corner. In scoring at Goodison Park on the opening day of the League season, Charlie suffered injury heartache; his broken ankle kept him out until the New Year.
Upon resuming first-team duties, George found himself displaced by Ray Kennedy up front. But his enchanting skills and awesome creativity ensured that the Londoner thrived in his new role as an attacking midfielder. From there he gave Mee’s men an added dimension that paid the ultimate dividend on that historic day at Wembley in May 1971.
George’s FA Cup heroics should have provided the platform for greatness. Unfortunately inconsistency, likely caused by a series of niggling injuries, blighted George and his brilliance came only in flashes. As the Double-winning side disbanded, Arsenal slipped down the table and George joined the list of departing players, opting for Derby County in the summer of 1975.
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