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.

13 June 1966: Billy Wright, one of the club’s worst managers, resigned

Quite why Billy Wright was such a failure may be because top footballers generally are. Excluding temporary managers the only people who did less well than he did were Leslie Knighton and George Morrell from the early days of the 20th century.

The story generally told by those who were around the club at that time was that Billy Wright really didn’t take control of the club as a modern manager might. It is said that he did not arrange the supervision of training properly and that players would come in, put their track suit over their clothes, jog round the pitch one, and go home again. 

Part of his problem might have been that he only ever played for Wolverhampton, so had no understanding of the huge variety there is in the way clubs work.    Then there is the fame associated with being the first football player in the world to get 100 caps, and holding the record for longest unbroken run in competitive international football.  Or captaining your country 90 times.  Maybe he just thought everyone else ought to be able to do what he could do.

He joined Wolverhampton aged 14 and made his first team début aged 15 in 1939 in a wartime game. His postwar début was in the 1945–46 FA Cup in a two-legged tie against Lovells Athletic.  (It is an interesting side note that there was no league that season – only the FA Cup, so all games were played home and away, what with the clubs having little else to do!  Arsenal were knocked out in the third round by WHU – but of course the ability of the clubs to compete depended on how many players they had been able to round up after the end of the war.)

But, really Wright should have known more about training since he was a Physical Training Instructor in the army. But then again, maybe he just assumed that at a football club one could give an order and men would obey just as they would in the army.

As a player he won the league three times and the FA Cup once retiring in 1959 to become manager of England’s youth team.  He then came to Arsenal in 1962, a high profile non-Arsenal man, to wipe aside the failures of the Swindin era.

It didn’t work.

Arsenal anniversaries 13 June – 19 June

13 June 1910: The deadline day for Arsenal

13 June 1966: Billy Wright, one of the club’s worst managers, resigned.

14 June 1973: David O’Leary signed for Arsenal.

14 June 2014: Sir Chips Keswick announced as Arsenal’s new chairman

15 June 1925: Arsenal buy Highbury

16 June 1917: Sir Henry Norris under attack

16 June 1934: Arsenal create football’s first feeder club

17 June 1922: Bob John signed from Barry Town

17 June 2020: After a pause of 100 days because of the pandemic football resumed, with curious results.

18 June 1979: Paul Davis signed professional forms for Arsenal.

19 June 2009: Thomas Vermaelen signed from Ajax for £10m

12 June: Pat Jennings birthday

Pat Jennings played for Tottenham for 13 years, playing 591 competitions, winning the FA Cup, two league cups and a UEFA Cup.  He famously scored in the 1967 Charity Sheild kicking the ball from his own area into the Manchester United area.  It bounced over Stepney, the Man U keeper and into the net. Pat looked embarrassed.

Then in August 1977, he came to Arsenal.   The reason was, I believe, Tottenham thought it was time for a new younger man in goal – Pat was 32  at the time, and this was the era before older keepers were the norm.   And maybe Arsenal thought at first he was going to be a backup – but true to style he came into the first team and played every league match, FA Cup and League cup match that season – 55 in total.

He also played in the three successive FA Cup finals, (1978, 1979, and 1980) and so is I think the only man who has won the FA Cup with ourselves and Tottenham.

He retired in 1985 having become the first player ever in the English game to play over 1000 senior matches.   His last match was away to West Ham on December 5 1981.  He was replaced at Arsenal by George Wood.

Pat then returned to Tottenham H playing for their reserves in preparation for  Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup campaign and played his last international aged 41 – apparently the World Cup’s oldest ever participant.

He then became a goalkeeping coach at Tottenham and continued his Tottenham, rather than Arsenal connection, as a corporate host in the Pat Jennings Lounge at White Hart Lane.  Although as a result of this he has not been able to see Tottenham win the league he may well however have at least seen Arsenal win the League while there. 

11 June 1971: Liam Brady joins Arsenal

On this day Liam Brady joined Arsenal as an apprentice professional from St Kevin’s Boys, aged 15. He turned pro two years later.   

His first game was on 6 October 1973 against Birmingham City and in that season he made nine starts and four appearances as a substitute.   He scored his first goal in Bob Wilson’s last match – against QPR.

With Malcolm Macdonald and Frank Stapleton, Liam Brady played in a team guided by Terry Neil and Don Howe and it is not too much to say that Arsenal should have been at the very top, but it was not to be.  But Liam Brady started the move that led to Alan Sunderland’s winning goal in the FA Cup final – so he did get one medal at Arsenal.

And here’s the goal everyone remembers – whether they were there or not

8 June 1910: Owner assures manager – your job is safe

By 8th June 1910 there was no doubt at all who was in charge of Woolwich Arsenal – it was Henry Norris.

And to prove it, he did what the previous owners had done – he told the manager (George Morrell) he was safe in his job – which was quite something considering the disaster of a season the club had just had with Arsenal only just missing relegation.

But Norris understood money, and money was what Morrell was good at looking after.

Yet Norris was not getting everything his own way.  By now the independent Fund Raising Committee which had been set up when the previous owner had declared that Arsenal had totally run out of money had, against all the odds, and despite the fact that no one wanted to buy the shares that Norris was trying to sell, raised a fair old sum.

However, they were in no hurry to hand the cash over.  Norris was not trusted, first because he was clearly Mr Fulham, second because he had proposed to move Woolwich Arsenal out of Kent and into Fulham, and third because Norris had not given any assurances to the contrary.

In the end the fundraisers, shepherded and organised by Dr Clarke, made it clear that without a cast-iron commitment to the club staying in or around the armaments factory, the money that had been raised to save the club, would not be handed over.

There was a club, there was a manager who had just been told his job was safe, there was a ground, and there was some sort of a squad left over from last season, but no one was convinced about Norris’ motives. And the club was still desperately short of cash. Indeed without Norris there was not enough money for the club to continue. But Norris had just told the manager, “your job is safe.”

7 June 1915: the media finally report football might be corrupt

On 7 June 1915 the Football League opened its enquiry into the Manchester Utd 2 Liverpool 0 match from the 1914/15 season – a game that was widely perceived to have been fixed; indeed fixed so openly that the spectacle the game offered was considered laughable.

There had been multiple allegations of match-fixing before, but the League had refused to investigate any of them, seemingly fearing that even having an enquiry would give credence to the widespread belief on the terraces that football was indeed fixed. Also, they were worried that those alleging match-fixing now had a powerful voice: Henry Norris, a director of both Fulham and Arsenal and a regular commentator on football matters in the press – and by 1915 an increasingly important person in terms of the war effort.

But when  Henry Norris had first raised the issue in 1913 in his newspaper column he had been ordered by the League never to speak or write another word about match-fixing, Now his concerns about match fixing in general and Liverpool, in particular, were about to be vindicated.

On 7 June, the League opened their enquiry into the Manchester Utd 2 Liverpool 0 match.  Undoubtedly the League hoped that this would be a little local difficulty that could be forgotten in time of war, not least because Norris himself was so clearly engaged in working for the government in terms of recruiting troops for the war effort. But the final game of the last season had become notorious and could not be ignored.

Part of the problem was that the betting companies were refusing to pay out on the result, leaving a lot of punters very angry.  Second, Lieutenant Norris, while hardly yet the major figure in the war effort he was soon to become, was now an officer in the army, and so required an extra level of respect in wartime.  And even if he was otherwise engaged that did not mean that he would not return to the 1913 affair at some stage, and the League could hardly take action against an officer serving his country who was pointing out corruption.

To rub matters in, three days after the League started considering match-fixing, on 10 June the King and Queen Mary visited the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Workshops in Britannia Road, Fulham, where disabled soldiers worked making children’s toys.  This was the second royal visit to Fulham in a very short space of time for a project Norris was centrally involved in. It made the League uneasy.

People of all positions in society were noticing that by mid-June the 177th Field Artillery had 200 recruits, whose wages Henry Norris was paying himself.  That was both quite an achievement and a generous offer, although Norris sought no publicity through this. Even the councillors of Fulham didn’t know he was doing this.  

By 30 June the 177th had recruited everyone it needed apart from the harder-to-find skilled metal workers who maintained the guns in the field.  In recognition of this, the government then asked him to raise a second artillery brigade (which he did and billeted them in Fulham Town Hall.)

On 11 July the 177th Field Artillery Brigade led by the Harry Lauder Pipe Band marched through the streets of Fulham to a concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.   Injured soliders were brought along as heroes.

It is no wonder in such a situation that the League felt itself cornered. It has denounced Norris as a troublemaker, and told him never to write or speak about match-fixing again, and yet now it had, on the one hand, a match that was universally considered to have been fixed to the benefit of the northern teams, and the gambling companies refusing to pay out on the match result. Meanwhile the person the League and FA had told never to speak again on the issue of match-fixing, was emerging as a hero, selflessly devoting his time and his own money to recruiting soldiers and raising funds for the injured (who the state made no provision for).

6 June: the rise and fall of Singleton, and the rise of supporter-owners

6 June 1891: Alf Singleton (who was himself a competent referee) was elected top of the poll to the Committee of Royal Arsenal FC. 

This was at a time when the debate was developing over who should run Royal Arsenal – should it be a committee elected from the supporters or club members (which basically meant the men who worked in the Royal Arsenal factories) or should it be the middle class business owners and company directors: men with experience of business who were also associated with the club.

The debate as to “who owns Arsenal” was a fervent matter that from the early days caused much dissent, not least as the original club – first Dial Square and then Royal Arsenal were very much run by the working men, and they clearly resented the notion that having set up the idea of a club in Plumstead, they were not competent enough to run the club.

Thus it was that one year later, as a result of his expression of his views on the future of the club, Alf Singleton lost his place on the Committee. Indeed in the ultimate irony, having come top of the poll one year before he now came bottom of the poll. 

In retaliation, Singleton then became a leader of the rebels who overtly argued that the “working men” could not run the club. As such he became instrumental in the 1893 split of the Royal Arsenal club which led to the ultimate setting up of rival Royal Ordnance Factories FC, which for a while played in a stadium directly opposite Woolwich Arsenal’s ground.

Both clubs had their difficulties, and although Royal Ordnance Factories FC was an amateur team, playing in the Southern League, its crowds were so low (Woolwich Arsenal supporters not going to watch a team of “rebels”) that after seven games of the 1896/97 season they resigned from the Southern League. All of those games were lost with a total of 46 goals conceded. Although it is speculation as I have not found any financial records of Royal Ordnance Factories FC, it seems likely that their prime sponsor who ran a bottled water company pulled out, as he company was in financial difficulty.

19 years later to the day, on 6 June 1910, at a meeting in Rotherhithe, the supporters’ committee set up to rescue Woolwich Arsenal from its financial woes resolved not to hand over to Henry Norris any of the money it had raised, pending further developments, but instead they applied for shares in the new limited company set up to rescue Arsenal.

This was not quite as reckless as it might sound as if the new limited company failed to get off the ground, the investors would get their money back. If it did get off the ground, the supporters would then own part of the club.

Arsenal anniversaries 6 June – 12 June

6 June 1891: Alf Singleton, a referee, was elected top of the poll to the Arsenal committee.

6 June 1910: Arsenal supporters’ fundraising committee refuses to hand over the money it raised.

7 June 1915: The Football League finally recognise that football matches might be fixed.

7 June 2013: David Bentley leaves football behind.

8 June 1925: Amidst Arsenal upheaval the offside rule is changed

8 June 1910: Despite the club’s dire financial situation, and the desperate struggle against relegation last season, Henry Norris assures the manager that his job is safe.

9 June 1986: Keown sold to Villa after Graham decided he was not good enough to play for Arsenal

10 June 1910: Supporters given the chance to buy Arsenal.

10 June 1985: Brian Talbot sold

11 June 1925: Herbert Chapman joins Arsenal.

11 June 1971: Liam Brady joins Arsenal, and the goal we all remember (even if we weren’t there)

12 June 1945: Pat Jennings birthday

12 June 1980: The strangest Arsenal transfer ever.

5 June 2013: Arsenal’s record signing leaves the club

On 5 June 2013 Arsenal announced that the club’s record signing, Andrey Arshavin, would be released on 30 June 2013.  He returned to Zenit St Petersburg and played on to the end of the 2014/5 season.  He finally retired from football on 3 December 2018

Andrey was Arsenal’s record signing. He seemed an all-round guy (after all he was not just a footballer, he had a degree in fashion design was involved in the fashion business).  And he scored four against Liverpool.  But somehow he was never quite what we all wanted and hoped for.

He was born in Leningrad on 29 May 1981, to a father who was both an amateur footballer and a writer, including among his works the gloriously titled ‘555 Questions and Answers on Women, Money, Politics and Football’.

In January 2008 Sam Allardyce tried to sign Arshavin for Newcastle.  (Can you imagine?)  Arshavin thankfully didn’t go and instead went on to become man of the match in the Uefa cup final that year.   In June Barcelona made a bid, and then Tottenham claimed they had done so too (although that was their ploy at the time – to announce bids long after they had been rejected, allegedly.  In January 2009 Arsenal tried their luck and he signed – technically after the deadline closed. 

Andrey made his debut on 21 February 2009 against Sunderland and scored his first goal on 14 March 2009 against Blackburn.  And then on 21 April 2009, everything that we had waited for, and a lot more, happened.  He scored four against Liverpool at Anfield.  Maybe the fact that the last player to do this for Arsenal was Julio Baptista should have warned us that it couldn’t continue, but Arshavin went on to be captain on 2 May 2009 against Portsmouth and he won Premier League Player of the Month for April.

He was still going well on 13 December 2009, as he scored his fifth goal against Liverpool as Arsenal beat Liverpool 2–1 at Anfield again and in 2010/11 he kept scoring and giving assists – although the goals started to be more sporadic.

His initial dip in form seemed to recover when he played against Barcelona in the Champions League and beat them on 16 February 2011.  But he was also being given a role in some less exciting games, such as the FA Cup match against Orient just four days later.

But by 2011/12 his form was appearing to drop even further, and while earlier there was never a thought in the early games that he ought to be tracking back to help out the defence, now, with the killer pass and clever side step seemingly gone, the fans turned on him, and he was booed.  He could still deliver, but not often enough for some fans liking, and our record signing became a side show.

YearsTeamLge GamesGoals
2000/09Zenit Saint Petersburg23652
2012Zenit Saint Petersburg (loan)103
2013/Zenit Saint Petersburg

Eventually in 2012 he went back to Zenit on loan.  He returned to Arsenal at the end of the loan and became an occasional sub and a league cup player.

On 5 June 2013 it was announced that the player we had worked so hard to get just four years before, and who had been our record signing, would be released on 30 June 2013.  It was a sad end to a saga that I think most of us had hoped would do so much.

4 June: Three insights into Henry Norris

If ever there was a man in the history of Arsenal who has been unjustly condemned by commentators it is Henry Norris. He is portrayed as a crook and a charlatan, and yet in reality he was a self-made businessman, the longest serving regional mayor that London ever had, a significant player in Britain’s victory in the first world war, and the man without whom there would be no Arsenal football club, as he rescued the club from administration in 1910, rebuilt it with his own money, and moved the club to Highbury.

And by chance there are three anniversaries that fall on 4 June which give snapshots of the life and work of Henry Norris.

4 June 1915: On this day Henry Norris launched a recruitment campaign in the West London and Fulham Times gathering men for the new 177th (Fulham) Royal Field Artillery Brigade.  In all Norris was responsible for raising and providing basic training for three separate brigades in this way all at his own expense.  It was for this work that he was knighted two years later, to the day – and that not just because of his efforts in raising and training the brigades, but because he paid for the whole operation himself, using the profits he had made through his property development company in Fulham.

It should be remembered that when the war broke out there was no conscription into the armed forces: the country was very proud of the fact that it had a professional army and navy, not a conscripted one. But of course such a military was never designed to deal with a war as great as that which evolved from 1914 onward, and so the addition of three brigades, all raised and trained by a private individual was an enormous step forward.

One should also remember that some employers (including some footbal clubs) were at the time telling their employees that if they did volunteer for the army, they would immediately lose their jobs and not be allowed back, when the war was over.

4 June 1917: Henry Norris was knighted in the birthday honours list in recognition of his unstinting work in evolving and developing the idea for and then raising the first footballers battalion.  Other such battalions had since followed from that mentioned above.

4 June 1920: In a seemingly unique event, Sir Henry Norris spoke about his source of income, this being rents from property his company had built in Fulham. He made it clear on this day that his wealth was not inherited but had arisen from his inventiveness but in seeing the need for extra housing and evolving a simple method to pay for the developments. The houses were erected in groups of ten, with the first eight being sold to pay for the development, and the remaining two being rented out, to give the property company a continuing income.