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.

Arsenal anniversaries 7-13 March

7 March 1927: being hammered by the Hammers

7 March 2022: Arsenal beat West Ham – the video

8 March 2003 and 8 March 2013: the strange tale of Francis Jeffers

9 March 2008: St Totteringham’s Day

9 March 2015: Arsenal and Wenger approach the FA Cup record

10 March 1905: Chelsea founded, and why that really helped Arsenal.

10 March 2019: Xhaka scores wonder goal against Manchester United – the video

11 March 1972: The impact of Newcastle

11 March 2017: Arsenal v Lincoln – the video

12 March 1900: Arsenal’s biggest ever win

12 March 2006: The Supreme Player – the video

13 March 1957: The death of George Allison, one of the absolutely most important men in the club’s history

13 March 2013: Beating Bayern Munich away

9 March: securing Arsenal’s eternal place in Cup history

On 9 March 2015 the score was Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2 in the sixth round of the cup.  It was the second time Arsenal had won in Manchester in the season, and revenge for the defeat by Manchester United in the league at the Arsenal Stadium. 

Manchester United received a shocking seven yellow cards, with Di Maria getting two and so departing early. Monreal and Welbeck scored in a game that became famous for Arsenal’s change of tactics.

By winning this FA Cup match Arsenal secured their 28th FA Cup semi-final.  The win also secured a place in history for Arsene Wenger. He had already had more semi-finals to his name than any other manager (10) and with this win took his number to 11.

By the time Arsene Wenger left Arsenal he had won the FA Cup seven times which overtook the record of George Ramsey who won the cup six times between 1887-1920. The only other multiple winner as a manager was Sir Alex Ferguson whose three FA Cups seems rather small by comparison. Mr Wenger’s triumphs ran from 1998 to 2017. It is a record very unlikely ever to be overtaken.

Speaking after to the FA Mr Wenger said, “Personally, I’m very proud of the record, because I’m a little French boy coming to England and this competition now exists for 150 years and I’ve won it more than anybody else,” he said.

“Of course, I don’t hide it and I’m very proud of that because it’s not easy and it means when you stay for 22 years, basically every three years I won the FA Cup. I’m very proud of that because it shows a remarkable consistency and that I had a huge respect for this competition as well.“Let’s wait until somebody beats me and even then…I think I was the first foreign manager to win the Premier League and then have the record in the FA Cup so overall I think I didn’t do too badly in the English game.”

“I’ll never forget in ’98 when we won the first double, you walk through Islington to go to the city and you realise the number of people who are there and how happy they are – you want them to feel that again.

The curious tale of Jimmy Patterson who played his last game on 6 March.

Dr James Alexander Paterson was an Arsenal player who in many regards should be remembered by us all not just as an Arsenal man but also for his gallantry in the first world war. But also he became a key part in unravelling the story of the deliberate falsehoods that were told (and are still believed by some) about the club’s early days.

Jimmy Paterson was born on 9 May 1891 in London, but moved to Scotland where he trained to be a doctor, while playing for Rangers with whom he won the Scottish League.

During the first world war Dr Paterson was appointed Medical Officer with the rank of Major, and served on the front line. In 1917 as he was awarded the Military Cross for acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations.

His citation stated, “Under an intense hostile bombardment, he dressed the wounded and cleared them from the road, personally seeing to their removal to the aid post. He then returned and cleared the dead from the road, setting a fine example of coolness and disregard of danger.”

Post-war Dr Paterson moved to London, making his debut for Arsenal on the left wing against Derby on 30 October 1920, with Leslie Knighton as the Arsenal manager.

And Knighton is important in this story not just because he was the manager from 1919 to 1925, but also because in 1948 he published his autobiography “Behind the Scenes in Big Football” in which he remorselessly attacked Sir Henry Norris who as chairman of Arsenal had rescued the club from insolvency in 1910, moved the club to Highbury, appointed Knighton as manager in 1919 before removing him in 1925 after two disasterous seasons, appointing Herbert Chapman in his place.

After Knighton retired from football management he published his autobiography, with extracts serialised in a Sunday newspaper, and it was these extracts that created the image of Henry Norris that many have today: the man who somehow fixed Arsenal’s promotion in 1919 and subsequently stole money from the club.

By then however Norris and Chapman had both passed away; but through this book Norris was condemned as a con man. Norris’ rescuing of Arsenal, and indeed his war record in which he rose from having no rank at all, to Lt Colonel, and the award of his knighthood, were ignored.

Indeed it was Knighton’s reference to Jimmy Patterson in his autobiography that first alerted me to the fact that quite a lot of what Knighton claimed in his autobiography (written we must remember, 25 years after he left the club, and without any access to the club’s archives) was actually utterly untrue.

For Dr Patterson (a league winner in Scotland with Rangers, as noted above) was undoubtedly Arsenal’s best player during Knighton’s time as manager. Yet in Knighton’s autobiography, Dr Patterson claims that he was so short of players (because Norris would not allow him to buy anyone), that he was at one stage even forced to play the “brother-in-law of the club’s physio”, to make up the numbers.  That brother-in-law was the war hero, and Scottish League winner, Dr Jimmy Paterson.  

Sadly Jimmy Patterson’s role with Arsenal was further misunderstood by Bernard Joy in his influential book Forward Arsenal! where he mistakenly reported only that Paterson had played for the amateur side Queens’ Park in Glasgow, ignoring the fact that Paterson had won the league twice as an integral part of the Rangers team.

What Knighton also omits to say is that in 1920/1 under his management, Arsenal won only two of their first 11 games.  Dr Paterson then made his Arsenal début against Derby on 30 October 1920 and with Paterson in the side the club went unbeaten in the next seven, winning five.

Jimmy Patterson retired from playing in 1923/4, but then on 13 February 1926 he was persuaded by Herbert Chapman to play once again – following a set of injuries to other members of the squad. He played his final game on 6 March 1926 away to Swansea, making in total 77 appearances for Arsenal.

He is a player we should remember as one of those who helped Arsenal avoid relegation in 1925, and who gave loyal and unstinting service both to his country and to Arsenal FC.

5 March 2005: Henry looks bored as he scores hattrick

3 March 1993: Sometimes it’s tough on us supporters

3 March 1993: Norwich 1 Arsenal 1 was the 12th consecutive match in which neither Arsenal nor their opponents scored more than one goal. Not a good time to be on the terraces.

1992/3 is a season well recorded in Arsenal’s history as the season in which the club did the Cup Double – the first ever club to achieve this, winning both the FA Cup and League Cup.

And what is sometimes forgotten is that it is also the season in which the phrase “Boring boring Arsenal” came to haunt the club through a seemingly endless succession of games in which neither side could score more than one goal.

Arsenal in fact only once scored four goals, and only twice scored three in any league match during the entire season.  As for over four goals, that never happened.

The worst part of the league season ran from 12 December 1992 through to 3 March 1993 – and the gruesome details are set out below… although I’ve saved this story until 3 March, as it was the end of such a run by scoring two in the next game.

  • 12 December 1992: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0
  • 19 December 1992: Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough (23197)
  • 26 December 1992: Arsenal 0 Ipswich Town 0 ( 26,198)
  • 9 January 1993: Arsenal 1 Sheffield U 1 (23,818)
  • 16 January 1993: Manchester City 0 Arsenal 1
  • 31 January 1993: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 1 (27,580)
  • 10 February 1993: Arsenal 0 Wimbledon 1 (18,253)
  • 20 February 1993: Oldham Athletic 0 Arsenal 1
  • 24 February 1993: Arsenal 0 Leeds U 0  (21,061)
  • 1 March 1993: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0
  • 3 March 1993: Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1

So Arsenal then did end this awful run with a 0-2 away victory against Coventry on 13 March, and followed this with an utterly unbelievable  4-3 win over Southampton at Highbury on 20 March 1993.  Sadly the excitement didn’t continue as then we went back to our old ways

  • 24 March 1993: Manchester Utd 0 Arsenal 0
  • 6 April 1993: Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 0

By this stage the league table looked like this

1Aston Villa36191075233+1967
2Manchester United36181265428+2666
3Norwich City37198105152-165
4Blackburn Rovers34141195134+1753
5Manchester City35148134940+950
6Sheffield Wednesday33131194237+550
7Coventry City371311134847+150
9Queens Park Rangers361310134846+249
10Tottenham Hotspur341310114349-649
15Ipswich Town371016114246-446
17Leeds United351111134549-444
18Crystal Palace35914124150-941
19Sheffield United35117174245-340
20Oldham Athletic35108175262-1038
22Nottingham Forest3599173348-1536

Arsenal had the worst attack (equal with bottom of the table Nottingham Forest) and the second best defence.  This combination kept us in mid-table and undoubtedly served the club well in the cups, but it did not endear the club to the fans at league games.   As a result crowds dropped as shown in the figures for home matches above.  There was certainly no need to buy a ticket in advance.

And things didn’t really improve after the 6 April game, for Arsenal had eight more league matches to go, and the results were

  • Won: 2
  • Drawn: 3
  • Lost: 3

Of this sequence, only the last two games had more than one goal for either side.  They were

  • 8 May 1993: Arsenal 3 Crystal Palace 0  (22,225)
  • 11 May 1993: Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (26,393)

In all we had played 42 games and scored 40 goals and had played Tottenham in front of just 26,393.  OK it was a meaningless end of season match – but still it was Tottenham.  22 years after the famous end of season victory as part of the double.

2 March 2002: The greatest Arsenal goal of all time

1 March 1987: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2. League cup semi-final, 2nd leg.

This was the game when the announcer at half time told supporters of Tottenham how to get cup final tickets.  Anderson and Quinn got the goals and one long remembered by Arsenal fans at the time.

On 1 March 1987 the league table showed Arsenal in third, one point behind the league leaders and with a game in hand. Interestingly, behind Arsenal at the time came the mighty Luton Town and Norwich City, before Tottenham Hotspur.

4Luton Town2914873428650
5Norwich City29121254138348
6Tottenham Hotspur27145848291947
7Nottingham Forest29138850351547

Arsenal had been doing well in the league as the table above reflects, and had had an easy ride in the third round of the FA Cup beating Plymouth Argyle 6-1 at Highbury.

But in the league cup semi-final Arsenal were up against Tottenham, and in the first leg, again at Highbury, expectations were dashed as Tottenham beat Arsenal 0-1.

After that Arsenal went to Sheffield Wednesday and drew 1-1 and there was much talk of Arsenal throwing away all the promise of the season, although an easy win over Barnsley on 21 February in the fifth round of the FA Cup restored some home.

Next it was Oxford away, which should have been another easy victory, but instead turned into a goalless draw, with the general consensus in the media that Arsenal were imploding, and that the following game – the return leg of the league cup on 1 March would see Arsenal out of that competition and that the “Spurs” would once more go “marching on”, as the media liked to say (despite the lack of trophies the club had actually marched on to).

However to general media surprise, the result on 1 March was not an easy Tottenham victory, but a 2-1 away win to Arsenal. Quinn and Anderson getting the goals.

Now in those ancient days, there was no thought of penalties, but rather the match had to be replayed. There was a toss of a coin to see where the game would be played, and Tottenham won that call, meaning that on 4 March there was a third playing of the match.

Here’s the video and the full run of results.

24 Jan 1987Manchester United v ArsenalL2-0League Division One
31 Jan 1987Arsenal v Plymouth ArgyleW6-1FA Cup
08 Feb 1987Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurL0-1League Cup
14 Feb 1987Sheffield Wednesday v ArsenalD1-1League Division One
21 Feb 1987Arsenal v BarnsleyW2-0FA Cup
25 Feb 1987Oxford United v ArsenalD0-0League Division One
01 Mar 1987Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalW1-2
Agg: 2-2
League Cup
04 Mar 1987Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalW1-2League Cup

28 February 1913: the first admission that Arsenal will move grounds

The story that Arsenal were going to leave Plumstead had circulated for some time but it was not until 22 February 1913 that Gillespie Road (which of course became the home of the stadium later renamed as “Highbury” was citred in the press for the first time as the site of Arsenal’s new ground.  

Henry Norris was not planning to reveal the site of the new ground on that date – and it only came about when two local journalists found him at the religious College in Gillespie Road which currently owned the land.  Given the rumours circulating about Arsenal’s move, and the fact that there was only one site in the area which could possibly have been turned into a football ground the obvious conclusion was reached.  Woolwich Arsenal were going to Highbury.

Not that Norris was planning to buy the land, because it was clear the College wouldn’t sell, but he knew the College was in financial trouble, and so needed some extra income.

The following day, 23 February, Tottenham Hotspur went on the attack, demanding that the Management Committee of the Football League state that Woolwich Arsenal could not move to Highbury.

Tottenham were aided in this by Clapton Orient and on one front it looked like they might have a case, since clearly the region already had two clubs.  Clapton Orient had joined the League in 1905, and Tottenham had joined the League in 1908.  A third they argued, was too much.

But Norris had chosen carefully.  First, he relished the transport links.  Although he had actually opposed the introduction of trams to Fulham (as a Unionist mayor of Fulham he was obliged to listen to his party, and they were resolutely against the move), he knew that the transport issue was key.  Even 100 years ago, the days of the fan walking along a couple of streets to see his/her local team had gone.  Now fans were travelling by train, underground and bus.  Indeed an important part of Woolwich Arsenal’s support in Plumstead came from a group of fans in Rotherhithe.

Gillespie Road had transport options ready-made: Finsbury Park rail and underground services were working by 1913, as was Gillespie Road (later Arsenal) underground station.

What’s more Norris knew that Tottenham had no ability to object to the move, because Tottenham had been down this road before.   When both Chelsea and Clapton Orient had applied for places in the Southern League in 1904 and 1905 respectively, Tottenham had objected.  The Southern League, having accepted Clapton in 1904, rejected Chelsea in 1905, in response to Tottenham’s pleadings, but then Clapton and Chelsea jointly applied to join the Football League and were accepted and here Tottenham could have no objections since they played in the Southern League until 1908.  When Tottenham joined the League in 1908 it was Clapton Orient who could have objected on the grounds of proximity, but they chose not to.

But these arguments had been rehearsed from 1910 onwards and Tottenham’s request for the League Management Committee to hear the case was rejected at once, since the Management Committee were perfectly aware that their rules, re-iterated in 1910, were clear: they did not control where clubs played.

Sally Davis reports that then, on Monday 24 February, a director from each of Tottenham and Clapton Orient “went uninvited to the scheduled meeting of the Football League management committee to ask them to prevent any move by Woolwich Arsenal to north London from going ahead.”  

On Friday 28 February the Kentish Independent published Norris’ response to the paper’s suggestions that Woolwich Arsenal were on the move but by that time the letter had been overtaken by events.  But nonetheless the paper ran it, as it said that if the directors of Woolwich Arsenal were to move the club to a more populated area of London they could scarcely be blamed for doing so with gates at the Manor Ground as low as they were.

But mostly what was on Norris’ mind was the case of Chelsea.  In the season 1909/10 Chelsea had been relegated to the second division, and there they stayed for the next two years.  In 1912/13 they were back in the first division but came just one place above Notts County who went down with Woolwich Arsenal.  But their crowds throughout were above 24,000 – they were the best supported club in the league irrespective of their league position.

And so on to Friday 28 February in Glasgow where the league committee gathered prior to the Scottish Football League v English Football League fixture.  This time the issue of Arsenal was on the agenda, and as a result of the discussion the League issued at statement on Saturday 1 March, saying that it was recognised the for clubs to move was unusual (the last big move was Manchester Utd going to Old Trafford in 1910), but not unheard of, and that they could not stop the move.  

There was nothing new in that, but this time they went a lot further saying that if it was North London that Arsenal wanted to move to, then north London was perfectly able to support three football clubs.But there was something else.  The point was made by Arsenal that the vast majority of teams were in the Midlands and the North of England, and they came to London by train.   Having arrived at Kings Cross or Euston, as most did, they could now get an underground train straight to Gillespie Road instead of making a second long journey to Plumstead.   Thus, rather craftily Arsenal suggested that although Tottenham might not like it, virtually every other team would find Arsenal in north London an improvement.

Indeed it was probably mentioned in passing that Bradford had two league clubs, as did Sheffield, as did Birmingham.  Bradford had a population of under a quarter of a million at the time, and north London was about eight times that size.  Tottenham’s argument was poor to say the least.

Certainly the northern based Athletic News found itself in Arsenal’s camp, recognising that crowds did not just follow success (a popular misconception) but that they came because of the location of the ground.   The magazine also now published the exact location of Arsenal’s new ground and  Arsenal admitted the truth of the matter at a press briefing in Covent Garden on Tuesday 4 March,

In his arguments in favour of Arsenal’s freedom to move Norris stated that Arsenal had been in the Football League for 20 years, and through this made the point that whereas at the start the footballing public stayed true to their local club, now with improvement transport Arsenal’s local support were going to other grounds, rather than Plumstead.

There was no debate.  The Tottenham and Orient statements had been made by their clubs, and so a vote taken.  The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of Arsenal as it had to be, because the committee had no power to stop Arsenal moving, as they had already said.

The Times made an interesting point too, saying that, “It has been the experience when professional football has been established in any quarter that a new public has been created for the game.  Chelsea is a case in point.

“It would be a thousand pities if a club like the Arsenal had to put up its shutters for lack of support, seeing that for twelve years they were the only members in town of the Football League, and most people will wish the Arsenal good luck in their pluck endeavour to keep the flag flying under the most disastrous conditions in recent years.”

Tottenham however would still not let go and continued to argue that there should be an emergency general meeting of the League to discuss the issue.  There is no doubt that they also encouraged either the setting up of, or the development of, the Highbury Defence Committee which was formed by local residents to oppose the move.  The Committee launched a petition, and did manage to persuade a majority of members on Islington Council to oppose the development.  But Islington Council itself had limited powers in the affair, and there was never any chance that they could have an effect on developments, no matter how much noise local councillors made.

But so strong were the anti-football claims that came out of the Highbury Defence Committee that football fans from across the country began to respond to the accusations, and for some time Athletic News was full of denouncements of the residents of Islington.  Whether Islington residents noticed this backlash or not is not recorded, but it certainly did nothing to raise the positive profile of the area – but Arsenal emerged looking like the heroes, defeating the backwoodsmen and ultra-conservatives.

Arsenal anniversaries 28 February – 6 March

28 February 1913: Arsenal admit that they are leaving Plumstead to go to Highbury.

28 February 1959: The result on this day was Arsenal 3 Man U 2, Arsenal making it six wins and two draws in eight.  The result left Arsenal one point clear at the top of the table.

1 March 1987: Having lost at Highbury in the first leg of the league cup semi-final Arsenal now beat Tottenham 2-1 away to set up a third game between the two on 4 March (see below)

1 March 2015: Arsenal beat Everton: the video, and a bonus

2 March 2002: The greatest Arsenal goal of all time: the video

2 March 2020. The video. Arsenal beat Portsmouth in the FA Cup

3 March 1993: It was not the best of times – despite the famous cup double.

3 March 2012: You won’t believe Van Persie’s winner.

4 March 1987: Arsenal beat Tottenham at WHL for the second time in four days to go through to the League Cup final

4 March 2008: Arsenal become the first English team to beat Milan in the San Siro. The video!

5 March 1892: The Southern Alliance was formed but Arsenal declined to be involved.

5 March 2005: Henry looks bored as he scores a hattrick

6 March 1926: The curious tale of Dr Jimmy Patterson; the war hero who played his last game for Arsenal on this date.

6 March 2004: Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 5 (FA Cup) The video.

23 February: Arsenal swamp Everton – the video