Arsenal have had many great strikers throughout the club’s long and illustrious history, but one stands out. Not for the number he scored, but the rate he scored them at.
Malcolm MacDonald spent just four years at Arsenal, but in that short time, he scored at a rate of over a goal every other game and left fans with a sense of what could have been.
Having topped the Newcastle United scoring charts for five consecutive seasons, ‘SuperMac’ was Terry Neill’s number one target as he looked to bring about change to a struggling Arsenal side ahead of the 1976/77 season.
The new boss got his man for the rather unusual fee of £333,333.34 but MacDonald was an Arsenal player, and that’s all that mattered.
There was huge excitement surrounding the move as MacDonald was the prolific goal scorer The Gunners needed to partner Frank Stapleton in attack…and they were not disappointed.
The striker continued the superb form in front of goal that he had shown for both Luton Town and Newcastle, scoring 25 league goals in the first season – topping both the First Division and Arsenal scoring charts – and 29 in all competitions from 50 appearances.
It was during this season that MacDonald had the greatest moment of his Arsenal career.
The Englishman’s former team, Newcastle United, travelled to Highbury in December 1976 looking to keep their former frontman quiet. They did not succeed.
‘SuperMac’ scored two towering headers and an easy tap in to secure his hat-trick and give Arsenal a 5-3 win, putting his former side to the sword.
He would also score a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Birmingham, as well as braces in a 3-1 home win against Manchester United and a 2-2 draw in the North London Derby against Tottenham.
Despite MacDonald’s impressive goal tally, Arsenal would finish the league season in 8th, a marked improvement on the previous two seasons but a poor position for a team that also consisted of David O’Leary, Graham Rix, Alan Ball and Liam Brady.
The striker’s second season would he his goal tally worse slightly but Arsenal improve their league position and just miss out on a trophy.
His 26 goals in 52 appearances across all competitions represented an impressive total just 15 league strikes was a marked decrease from the previous campaign, although did achieve a 5th placed finish.
MacDonald did, however, score in every round of the FA Cup – including a brace in the semi final Leyton Orient – as Arsenal reached the final, only to lose 1-0 to Ipswich Town, the closest he came to a trophy while at Highbury.
His 1978/79 season started brightly but, in a League Cup game against a Rotherham and suffered a knee injury he could not shake off.
“I retired before the start of the 1979/80 season – I remember walking out through the East Stand entrance one last time, looking left and right down Avenell Road, and crying. It was a horrible moment – I was only 29 but I was no longer a professional footballer”
Those are the words of MacDonald himself.
After 57 goals in 108 games – a strike rate better than one – Malcolm MacDonald was forced to retire.
This was a real shame as the striker could have gone on to score many more goals in the red and white, but sadly he was not the same player and his time was up.
Hopefully we will see another forward in the near future with a very similar record.
As for MacDonald, he is not talked about much, but regardless, he is a club great and could have gone on to so much more.