Highbury Hero

The 1985-86 season saw Arsenal Football Club celebrate their centenary. In terms of the great sides of their long and illustrious past this vintage wasn’t a patch on the great 1971 double side. But what it did have was Anthony Stewart “Tony” Woodcock.

Born in the town of Eastwood in the staunchly working class Nottinghamshire mining belt, Tony Woodcock’s birthplace was the place DH Lawrence based his fictional town of ‘Bestwood’ upon in his writing. A place where he felt a ‘devouring nostalgia’.

Looking at this superb shirt from the 1985/86 season I too felt a sense of a remembrance of things past. That term was the first year as I kid I started to go to every home game. The year was nothing to write home about on the pitch, finishing nowhere in the league (as ever back then) and being unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup in a fourth round second replay 3-0 at Luton – the fact that Billy Ocean was number one that week in February 1986 with: ‘When the going gets tough (The tough get going)’ only added to the irony.

Tony himself only hit 11 league goals in 31(+2) appearances that year, and an injury in March 1986 was the beginning on the end for his Arsenal career.  But it was that kit that brought back so many memories to a child of the 80s. It represented that hope you have as a kid where anything and everything is possible, where your idols never grow old or weary (and are always brilliant). For me, Tony was still the player who had hit five goals away to Villa in October 1983 as well as 16 in 42 appearances for the England side.

The next wave of brilliant Arsenal youngsters such as Tony Adams and the late, great David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle were already on the books with copious amounts of silverware waiting just over the horizon under George Graham. But that 1985/86 season, with a childhood favourite, Tony Woodcock, represented a more innocent time, one in which Arsenal Football Club stood at a watershed.

For the very month Tony got injured, Don Howe resigned – only for George Graham to start the Highbury revolution that led to Arsene Wenger being appointed and laying the foundations for the global superclub that The Gunners have become.

With 68 goals in 169 games for The Arsenal, this 1985/86 shirt as worn by one of my childhood idol’s, Tony Woodcock, brings back a flood of memories for those old enough to remember – yet also keeps the memory alive of a Gunners great who scored far more goals than he should have done in a struggling side.

‘Devouring Nostalgia’ indeed for the man voted the 48th best player in Arsenal history.

Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29

SHOP the official Arsenal retro collection at 3Retro.com

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