Today of all days

Arsenal’s history one day at a time

This series takes a look at what was happening to Arsenal and in the world around them on this day at one point in Arsenal’s past.

22 February 2003 Arsenal beat Man City 5-1

Arsenal anniversaries 21 to 27 February

21 February 2006: beating Real Madrid away in the Champions League

22 February 1913: Gillespie Road named in the press as Arsenal’s new home, for the first time.

22 February 2003: Arsenal beat Manchester City 5-1 – the video

23 February 1913: Tottenham demand the league prohibit Arsenal from moving to Highbury

23 February: Arsenal swamp Everton, the video

24 February 1964: William Garbutt, the Arsenal player who took football to Italy, and who is still revered in that country as the founder of football, passed away.

25 February 1889: The Arsenal manager who never was

25 February 1998: Beating Palace in the mud – the video

26 February 1977: So bad you couldn’t make it up.

26 February 2012: Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-2 the glorious video

27 February 2010: An eternal stain

27 February 2019: Five players score for Arsenal – the video

Arsenal anniversaries: the club’s first England cap, 17 February

James (Jimmy) Ashcroft is a player of enormous importance in the history of Arsenal as a club – a player who would adorn the outside of the Emirates Stadium if they took into account players from the Woolwich era.

He played for Woolwich Arsenal for eight seasons from 1900 – 1908 in goal, making 303 appearances of which 273 were in the league.   He was the first goalkeeper to play for us in the first division, the first Arsenal player to play for England (he won three caps, his first on 17 February 1906), the first Woolwich Arsenal player to get over 300 games, and the first player to play eight consecutive seasons getting over 30 league games a season.  Having joined the team he played 154 consecutive matches, (something only exceeded once – see below). He was also in the two cup semi-finals that Woolwich Arsenal played.

Jimmy was born in Liverpool, on 12 September 1878 and is listed as playing for Wilbyn’s United, Anfirled Recreation Club, Garston Copperworks, Everton and Gravesend United, before reaching Woolwich Arsenal.   He is recorded as being an amateur for Everton, and so presumably was also for the clubs listed before that.  What took him to Gravesend is not clear, but Gravesend is only 18 miles from Woolwich and so he was probably talent spotted at that club – or noticed when Arsenal played Gravesend (see below).

Gravesend were not as obscure as we might think today, and they did win the Kent Senior Cup in 1898 a competition Arsenal played in, and were in the first division of the Southern League in 1899/1900 (as were Tottenham Hotspur).

Having transferred to Arsenal Jimmy missed the first two games of the season, before playing against  Burton Swifts on 15 September 1900 and then did not miss a single match for four years – something that has only been beaten once – by Tom Parker in the 1930s.

From this first game on he only let in 26 goals in 34 games that season, including 17 clean sheets and had six consecutive games without conceding a goal (a club record, that was not equalled until Alex Manninger did it in 1998).  In 1903/4 he let in 22 goals in 34 game with 20 clean sheets.

In May 1908, Ashcroft signed for Blackburn Rovers for whom he played 114 games, before moving on to Tranmere Rovers at the end of the 1911/12 season.  He continued to play there until the outbreak of the first world war, when he retired from football.  He died in 1943 aged 64.

16 February 2020: the new young stars emerge as AFC score four.

Arsenal anniversaries 14-20 February

14 February 1925: The Arsenal league game played under experimental offside rules

14 February 2017: Arsenal beat Leicester – the video

15 February 1907: Reports of explosions and fires at Arsenal’s ground

15 February 2015: 85 years to the day after Arsenal beat Middlesbrough on the way to their first trophy, Arsenal again beat Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.

16 February 1886: Andy Ducat, one of our greatest ever players, was born.

16 February 2020: New young stars emerge as Arsenal score four (video)

17 February 1906: An Arsenal player wins an England cap for the first time

17 February 1999: Kanu arrives with a bang.

18 February 1978: Arsenal v Walsall

18 February 2021: Saka scores in Europe

19 February 1916: Bob Benson dies while playing for Arsenal

19 February 2005: Arsenal draw with Sheffield United in the cup (the video)

20 February 1933: Arsenal granted permission by the League to wear white sleeves

20 February 2017: Arsenal beat Sutton United – the video

15 February 1907: Reports of explosions and fires at the Arsenal ground

In February 1907 there was a Storage magazine explosion at the Chemical Research Buildings based on Plumstead Marches. The Kentish Independent stated on 15 February 1907:

“…what the explosion did wreak it’s vengeance on without stint, was the refreshment department behind Spion Kop. It is a dreadful wreck. There must have been a dreadful waste of that which you – some of you – turn to for consolation at half time, for I saw bottles, temperance and otherwise neckless and useless lying about, and beer engines put hopelessly out of gear…”

The Daily News reported that the explosion was so powerful that people were woken from their sleep as far afield as Braintree.  It appears that this bar was built 3 years earlier as part of the expansion of the Spion Kop as an article in the Woolwich Gazette on 19 August 1904 noted that the architect, Archibald Leitch, was utilising the back of the Abbey Wood End slope for refreshment bars.

On 30 Sept 1913 the Woolwich Gazette reported that the whole North stand Grandstand was gutted by fire which started at the refreshment bar, at the junction with the western end of the stand. It was apparently witnessed by more people than had seen the team play for much of the previous season!

Refreshment stands were obviously open to problems because the records show that on Good Friday 1898 the Tottenham refreshment stand collapsed in a game against Woolwich Arsenal. This was at their Northumberland Park ground. The reporter goes on to say that the cause was because the bar was:

““…as full as a sardine box, and after the game had been in progress about 20 minutes, a terrific roar… caused all eyes to turn in the direction of where the refreshment bar once stood. This had disappeared and the swaying crowd alone indicated that something serious had happened”.

The worst injury was that one “unfortunate” obtained a broken leg and 2 “fellows” had broken ribs.

This extract first appeared in an article in the Arsenal History Society blog.

Arsenal 2 Hull City 0 – the video. 11 Feb 2017

9 February: Watch Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-6!

Why we celebrate losing to Tottenham on 8 February

At the moment of writing this (8 February 2023) Arsenal and Tottenham first teams have played each other in 207 competitive matches ranging from the United League in the 19th century, through the Southern and District Combination at the start of the 20th century, the London League after that, and finally in the First Division and Premier League.

Of these games Arsenal have won (as of 8 February 2023) 86, Tottenham 67 and 54 have been drawn. Many of them have been highly memorable of course, but as a sequence of such games surely none can replace the three league cup matches in February and March 1987 of which the first took place on 8 February.

To give some contetxt in 1979 Arsenal won the FA Cup against Man U in possibly the most famous ending to a final of all time.  Alan Sunderland attained immortality and Terry Neill’s tenure as manager got a cup to polish.

But then life went a bit downhill.

  • 1980: Losing finalists in the FA Cup
  • 1981: Third in the league
  • 1982: Fifth in the league
  • 1983: 10th in the league and two semi-finals
  • 1984: 6th in the league, and Terry Neill is replaced by Don Howe
  • 1985: 7th in the league
  • 1986: 7th in the league and Don Howe is replaced by Steve Burtenshaw
  • 1987: George Graham’s first season as manager, we rise to 4th in the league and win the League Cup.  It seemed a long time coming.

The league programme did not start well for George Graham in his first season as manager as we only won two of the first eight games.

On the evening of October 27 1986, after a 0-1 defeat to top club Nottm Forest, Arsenal were 15th below such luminaries as Norwich, Coventry, Wimbledon, Luton, QPR and Oxford United.

What was really awful was that the forward line of Niall Quinn and Charlie Nicholas simply couldn’t score, but with the addition to the squad of Steve Williams, Perry Groves and Martin Hayes things picked up.

These changes didn’t happen all at once, but by match ten the new format was getting established as Arsenal went on a 17 match unbeaten run.

On 4 January 1987 Arsenal beat Tottenham away 2-1 with goals from Tony Adams and Paul Davis with just 37,723 in the stadium.  (Crowds were low at the time throughout football.  Only 17,561 turned up for the next match at Highbury against Coventry, while Wimbledon and Luton were getting under 10,000 for their home games in the top division).

What was particularly exciting was that after that poor start, by the time of the Coventry game Arsenal had reached the top of the league.

4Nottingham Forest2411674632+1439
5Luton Town2411672623+339
6Norwich City2410953333039
7Tottenham Hotspur2411583829+938
8Coventry City2310672624+236
10West Ham United249783741-434

But it couldn’t last, for the Coventry 0-0 draw was the start of 10 games within a win.  There was however a recovery of sorts at the end of the season as Arsenal won five and lost three of the last eight to finish the league in fourth place and perhaps most tragically of all, one place behind Tottenham.

3Tottenham Hotspur42218136843+2571
5Norwich City42171785351+268
7Luton Town421812124745+266
8Nottingham Forest421811136451+1365
10Coventry City421712135045+563

At least we did not have the humiliation of ending up lower than Wimbledon and Luton.  Forest, the early leaders slumped to 8th, and Leicester, Man City and Villa were relegated.

Meanwhile in the FA Cup we went out to Watford with a 1-3 home defeat in the sixth round on 14 March 1987.

Which left just one competition: the League Cup.

2 1st legSept 23Huddersfield (h)2-015194
2 2nd legOct 7Huddersfield (a)1-18713
3Oct 28Manchester C (h)3-121604
4Nov 18Charlton A (h)2-028301
5Jan 21Nottingham F (h)2-038617
SF 1st legFeb 8Tottenham H (h)0-141306
SF 2nd legMar 1Tottenham H (a)2-137099
SF replayMar 4Tottenham H (a)2-141055
FApr 5Liverpool2-196000

This was the era of 1-0 down, 2-1 up, which led to the creation of a long-running fanzine of that name.

Arsenal were drawn against Tottenham in the semis as shown above.  For the first game at home on February 8, Arsenal were without David Rocastle and Viv Anderson and Tottenham won with a goal from Clive Allen goal.    When the same player scored after 16 minutes in the return leg it made Tottenham 2-0 up, and the story is that at half time the announcer on the PA relayed details of how Tottenham fans could order cup final tickets.   I can’t vouch for that, as I didn’t make it to the away game, and it could be just a story, but the fact is that then, amazingly, Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn both scored.  There was extra time, and then a replay, convened on the toss of the coin, at Tottenham (there being no “away goals” rule in the league cup at the time.)

It was a replay in every sense of the word.  Allen scored, and there was just eight minutes to go when Ian Allinson equalised.  David Rocastle got the winner thereafter.  George Graham said, “I hope it’s just the start of a new era for this club.”  And he was right.

The Arsenal team was, John Lukic, Viv Anderson, Kenny Sansom, Michael Thomas (Ian Allinson), David O’Leary, Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Paul Davis, Niall Quinn, Charlie Nicholas, Martin Hayes.

The final couldn’t really live up to that excitement, and it looked like Arsenal would be out when Ian Rush scored, because “Liverpool never lose when Rush scores”.  I don’t know if that was actually true – or whether it was one of those things that everyone believed just because it was said over and over again by the press, but it certainly wasn’t true on this occasion.

Charlie Nicholas scored both our goals in reply.  Neither were magnificent but the sight of Bob Wilson going bonkers as the goals went in remains a memory and a half.

Because of the behaviour of Liverpool fans two years before, English clubs were banned from Europe, and so Arsenal did not get to test themselves against the continent’s top sides.   Had we done so I don’t think we would have got too far, for this was just the beginning.   But there was so much more to come.

Arsenal anniversaries 7-13 February

7 February 1988: Everton 0 Arsenal 1; now book for Wembley

7 February 2016: A brilliant goal from Ozil

8 February 1988: Arsenal beat Chelsea – the video

8 February 1987: Arsenal lose to Tottenham in the league cup semi-final first leg, but come back to start the “1-0 down 2-1 up” era.

9 February 1957: Jack Crayston – the manager who took over after Chapman Allison and Whittaker

9 February: Watch Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-6 away!

10 February 1979: On the day after the country’s first £1m player is announced, only 28,371 turn up at Arsenal.

10 February 2015: Arsenal beat Leicester – the video

11 February 1888: the Arsenal game that never was

11 February 2017: Arsenal v Hull – the video

12 February 1907: Reports of explosions and fires at Arsenal’s ground

12 February 1966: After 93 goals in 144 games Joe Baker leaves the club

13 February 1892: The first known Arsenal song sung on the terraces

13 February 2001: Arsenal win away in Lyon