Highbury – Saturday 31st December 1994 – Arsenal 1 Queen’s Park Rangers 3
Arsenal: Bartram, Dixon, Winterburn, Jensen, Bould, Keown, Campbell, Wright, Smith (Clarke 75 minutes), Schwarz, Parlour
Rangers: Roberts, Bardsley, Wilson, Barker, McDonald, Maddix, Impey, Hodge, Ferdinand (Allen 47 minutes), Gallen, Meaker
Referee: G. Willard – Worthing
Rangers fans of a certain age will recall that Saturday 31st December 2011 is not the first time we have played Arsenal away on New Year’s Eve. In fact, the last time the fixture was played on this date Rangers had a fully deserved 3-1 win in a match that, somewhat ironically, has gone down in history as the game when the Danish international John Jensen scored his only goal for Arsenal.
Until recently the only footage on-line from the game was Arsenal’s goal from Jensen. If you want to also see the three Rangers goals from Kevin Gallen, Bradley Allen and Andy Impey, you can now enjoy them here:
We were there when Jensen scored…….and Impey and Gallen and Allen! Highbury — Sat 31st December 1994 — Arsenal 1 Queen’s Park Rangers 3.
The 1994-5 season was still the era when several of the Rangers side that had finished top placed London club in the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992-3 were plying their trade at Loftus Road. The team versus Arsenal at Highbury 17 years ago included one of the strongest full-back pairings in the history of the club in the form of David Bardsley and Clive Wilson, augmented by up and coming players like 19-year-old Kevin Gallen in his first season in the first team plus the ever green Alan McDonald and Ray Wilkins in a player manager role. Wilkins had been a popular appointment upon his return from Crystal Palace the previous month when he replaced Gerry Francis as manager, after Francis resigned due to Richard Thompson’s alleged approach to appoint Rodney Marsh as Chief Executive behind his back.
John Jensen had been signed by Arsenal after he had won a European Championship medal with Denmark in the finals in Sweden 1992, where he scored the first goal in Denmark’s 2-0 win in the Final v Germany. The match versus Rangers was his 98th league game for Arsenal, but he had yet to score and his 64th minute goal was to prove to be the only goal of his Arsenal career.
This was a difficult period for Jensen’s club. Arsenal had not won at home in over two months and Paul Merson was out of the game in rehab after his drink and drugs addictions had become public knowledge.
Before the game Tony Roberts was recalled in goal for Rangers to replace Sieb Dykstra and David Bardsley returned from injury. Arsenal also had a change of goalkeepers with Vince Bartram in goal instead of the former Rangers keeper David Seaman. After only 3 minutes Kevin Gallen scored his 5th league goal for QPR from a pin-point cross from Les Ferdinand and Rangers controlled much of the play throughout the first half.
However in the second-half, Arsenal started more brightly and John Jensen came into the game. In his match report in ‘The Guardian’, Neil Robinson wrote: “The Danish international, without a goal in 98 games, fired a couple of credible first-half efforts before striking in the 64th minute with a screamer. No one could believe it, least of all the scorer whose legs virtually gave way in the excitement.”
Rangers came back at the home side and Frank McGhee wrote in his report in ‘The Observer’ that Jensen’s goal “had a galvanising effect on Rangers. Furious at the threat to a game they had largely controlled, they forced their way back to score twice more and deservedly ran out winners.” Rangers were sharp in breakaways and McGhee continued: “a ball hit from the right by Meaker caused enough confusion for Allen to be unmarked when he touched it in for a 76th minute goal. A minute later, Bardsley’s long, looping, dropping cross, again caused chaos and Impey got to touch it in off the post. QPR might even have had two more through Gallen before the end.”
At the final whistle the Rangers players came over to salute the R’s at the Clock End and Bradley Allen indicated his pleasure at the result by holding up three fingers on one hand and one on the other.
After the game the Arsenal manager George Graham was quoted in ‘The Times’ as saying: “The best team won. I was delighted to see John score, and it gave us a lift for a while, but all our best efforts came from midfield players and defenders. It wasn’t enough.”
The season continued with George Graham, an ex-Rangers youth team manager in the Terry Venables era, sacked as manager by the Arsenal Board in February 1995. This was as a result of the findings of an FA investigation into a bungs scandal that proved Graham had taken a cut of several transfers, including £425,000 on John Jensen’s fee, from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge. In their final game of the season Arsenal, managed by Stewart Houston, lost the Cup Winners Cup Final in Paris with the famous, “Nayim from the halfway line” goal that looped over the head of keeper David Seaman and into the net just seconds from the end of extra time.
Meanwhile, Rangers ended up a very respectable 8th in the Premier Division on 60 points – only 2 behind the top London placed team, Spurs, managed by Gerry Francis, and helped by the 24 goals scored by Les Ferdinand that left him third in the rankings of top goal scorers behind Alan Shearer and Robbie Fowler. Spurs have not finished higher in the league table than Arsenal since.
Just a year later, Rangers were to enter what were to become their wilderness years by being relegated in a season that had started with the sale of Les Ferdinand to Newcastle and that went on to include a 0-3 defeat in what was to be their last league match at Highbury on Boxing Day during Arsene Wenger’s first season in charge of Arsenal.
In the ensuing years the two clubs have had very different fortunes, with Rangers dropping as far as the third tier in 2001, a season that also included a humiliating 0-6 home defeat versus Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th Round – the last time Rangers progressed that far. At the end of that year, if you’d told most Rangers fans that they would be playing Arsenal again in a league game ten years later, it would have seemed very hard to believe as insolvency and oblivion seemed a far more likely outcome for the club. Whilst Rangers were regaining Championship status in 2003-04, remarkably Arsenal were going the whole of that season unbeaten in league games – the first club to do since Preston in 1889. To close, here are a few Rangers fans recollections of that New Years Eve 1994 game:
I remember a George Graham interview being shown on the big screen at Highbury before the game and QPR fans waving money at him as it was in the middle of the bungs scandal. It was also a rare treat to see goals played on a big screen at a game in the era before it became the norm and we went mental every time they were shown again.
I went on my own to the match, a little sad, but very few of my mates fancied an away game on New Year’s Eve – I made the right choice.
Rangers played so well that day. Ferdinand went off quite early with an injury at 1-0 and when they got level, I think most of us feared we’d get beaten. I was right behind the Jensen goal, it was in from the moment it left his foot. He must have tried the same shot about five times before he scored and those five efforts are still in orbit now.
What stood out was the patience that Rangers showed in their build-up that day and we picked them apart for the other two goals.
I think I went to the Bell in Ealing that night and was singing, “Only One Kevin Gallen” on a table and drinking like a maniac before waking up on a bench in Ealing Green on New Year’s Day and being carried home to the Bush by two mates !
I was there in the wheelchair section, with a very good mate Bob, who is an Arsenal season ticket holder and a female friend of ours, Lynn who was also a big Arsenal fan. Even they couldn’t believe it when Jensen scored and I feared the worst, but a great team performance by Rangers, one of very few under Super Ray, secured the 3 points for Rangers and left me with about the only smiling face in the mixed wheelchair section which was virtually all Arsenal fans. It also made for a great trip home with my two Arsenal friends. As a footnote to this, Lynn the Arsenal fan, is now my long-term girlfriend (14 years and counting), so Saturday will be the first time our teams have met in the Premier League since we’ve been a couple. I’m looking forward to it – should be an interesting day !
My friend Peter Selloe, a Swedish Hoop from my home town of Linkoping and a supporter since the 1960’s, told me that he, “sat on his hands” that day because he was sitting with Arsenal fans. When Impey scored he forgot and jumped up and started to cheer. The people behind him got really pissed off and started to shout at him so he had to sit down again very quickly !
I was there….. in the Arsenal family enclosure ! I used to try and take my two Gooner supporting boys to an Arse game between going to HQ. This one covered off for all of us.
The family enclosure was along the front of the West Stand at Highbury. Quite by coincidence (the boys didn’t believe me !) we were not sat as usual near the half-way line, but instead right up against the Rangers support in the Clock End.
When Jensen scored, like others, I feared they would go and muller us, even though we weren’t playing that badly. When we equalised, I managed a muted clenched fist. For the third goal I jumped up and punched the air – and then quickly sat down. To be fair, I didn’t get any stick from the Arse fans (I’m sure it would have been different outside of the family enclosure !) It was so sweet to add the rejoinder to Arsenal’s, “I was there” with, “…..and Gallen and Allen and Impey.”
My own personal memories of the game are mostly of the sheer joy of the first Rangers win at Highbury v Arsenal since the 2-0 win ten years previously, where goals from Terry Fenwick and an absolute sublime effort from Ian Stewart at the Clock End, sent the visiting Rangers fans wild with delight.
So, at the end of a very exciting 2011 for the R’s, the club are now back at the highest level after 15 years absence, hopefully to stay this time – it’s good to be back !