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 16 May – 22 May

16 May 1891: Arsenal turn professional, but the consequences were not as reported.

16 May 1998: Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0. FA Cup final.

17 May 1929: Cliff Bastin signed

17 May 2014: FA Cup Final – Arsenal v Hull City

18 May 1910: Arsenal allowed to continue despite debts

18 May 2023: Everton 1 Arsenal Women 4

19 May 2001: The video that doesn’t really tell you what will happen…

19 May 2001: … What no one could have guessed.

20 May 1993: Winning the FA Cup at the second go

20 May 1993: Winning the FA Cup – the video

21 May 2005: Winning the FA Cup on penalties

21 May 2017: Arsenal make it seven wins in the last eight before Wenger breaks the record

22 May 1902: Remembering Jack Lambert

15 May 2004: Arsenal complete the season unbeaten

15 May 2004.  Ever since that day, those of us who were at Highbury have been saying, yes, I was there.   And so of course on the anniversary of the day, we celebrate the day the Invincibles came Invincible.  

Sir Alex Ferguson’s had spent the week telling anyone who would listen how his Rangers team had been heading for an unbeaten season and then lost the very last game – and how he wouldn’t be surprised if that happened to Arsenal.  Which is how it felt at half-time with the score Arsenal 0 Leicester 1.  I remember tears welling up as the final whistle blew, trying like mad to hide the fact from others around me, and then realising that the guy next to me was sobbing uncontrollably. It was that sort of moment.

It was a time when there was talk of the new stadium, of Arsenal buying David Beckham and talk of Patrick Vieira going to Real Madrid.  There is always talk. But what there really was, was the unmistakable fact of the league table.  And the laughter we had at every journalist who through the season had said it would not be done.

What makes the day extra memorable is that Leicester City did turn up and made a game of it at the start.  They expected Arsenal to be nervous, and Arsenal were, so they exploited it.  On 26 minutes Vieira passed to Sinclair (ooops – wrong team) and the ball went to our old boy Dickov and he headed in.  Talk about parking the bus, this was 11 men on the Leicester goal line from that point on.

Half time was horrible.  Surely we could not lose, not as Sir Alex predicted?   Not to relegated Leicester!   But then on 47 minutes, Dennis Bergkamp chipped the ball over the top of Frank Sinclair.  Sinclair turned, brought down Ashley Cole in the area and for the next six weeks (or so it seemed) we waited for Henry to step up.  Surely this could not be the day Henry hit it into the north bank…..No, of course it wasn’t.  1-1.

Then on 66 minutes Bergkamp did that wonderful thing he liked to do – he stopped, with the ball, looked up, looked around, considered the windspeed, noted the temperature, checked for any gravitational anomalies, measured the gradient, took into account the inward gasps from the crowd, re-checked who was where, noted the position of the sun, made sure the cameras were rolling, rounded a divot, and simply passed an impossible ball to our Patrick who had about 25 square miles of space through which to walk the ball around Ian Walker.  2-1 to the Untouchables.

It wasn’t just that we were Invincible, it was Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira.  And I am going to add Lehmann.  Not a player normally spoken of with the other three, but still, the only man ever to keep goal through a whole season in the top division and not lose a game.  An amazing achievement.

But there was sadness too.  Kanu was going, as was Wiltord.  Martin Keown made his last appearance too, and there was talk of the replacement already having been found – what the Guardian called “the Swiss prodigy Philippe Senderos”.  Hmmm.

Of course we stayed after the game to see the players walk the pitch.  Mr Wenger was there with his daughter shaking supporters’ hands and just smiling, smiling, smiling as he walked around.  You might remember the way when, at the final whistle, he would turn and go straight down the tunnel.  On this day he looked like he would never leave.

You might recall that at Highbury there was that corner of the ground between the clock end and the west stand where the away support was housed.  Leicester took up all their places even though they were relegated, and many stayed to see the celebration, and as Arsenal walked past them on the lap of honour, they too applauded.  It was a nice touch.

On the North Circular road everywhere there were cars on the roads with red and white, windows down, horns blaring.  It was our day, and we were not going to let it end.

Attendance: 38,419.  I was there.

15 May 2016: The most amazing St Totteringham Day

15 May 2016: Arsenal sat third and Tottenham second in the league ahead of the final day’s games, with Tottenham needing just one point (at relegated Newcastle) to secure second and end above Arsenal for the first time since 1995. 

Here is the league table before the final game

1Leicester City372311367353280
2Tottenham Hotspur371913568303870

Outside of supporters of Tottenham and Arsenal not too many people were interested in who came second, and the media spent weeks and weeks blowing the trumpet on behalf of Leicester City, and besides Tottenham were widely expected to knock Newcastle around, what with Newcastle having won just eight games in the whole season.

What’s more, for the second season running a certain Harry Kane was top scorer and seemed certain to keep adding goals against a side who were themselves the lowest scorers in the league.

Indeed, even more to the point Newcastle had a goal difference of -25 while Tottenham had a goal difference of +38. No, it was quite clear, Tottenham were not going to lose this final game of the season and so would come above Arsenal.

And to add to all the advantages Tottenham had, Newcastle then had a player sent off. And yet, despite all of this, Tottenham lost 1-5, while Arsenal beat Villa 4-0 to secure second place, and achieve one of the most unlikely St Totteringham’s Day victories ever.

The media didn’t really notice any of that, so fixated were they on Leicester, but the final table read and St Tots Day was duly celebrated. It was also the last time before 2023 that Arsenal came runners’-up in the league.

1Leicester City382312368363281
3Tottenham Hotspur381913669353470

11 May 2005: Arsenal knock in seven: the video

Arsenal anniversaries 9 May – 15 May

9 May 1891: Arsenal vote to become the first professional team in the south

9 May 2019: Arsenal beat Valencia to make it to the Europa final – the video:

10 May 1941: Arsenal draw in the wartime cup final at Wembley

10 May 2017: Arsenal beat Southampton on this day. The video

11 May 1925: Arsenal advertise for a new manager

11 May 2005: Watch Arsenal knock in seven

12 May 1910: Arsenal discuss merging with Tottenham Hotspur

12 May 1979: Arsenal beat Man United in FA Cup final – the video

13 May 2018: Wenger’s last match with Arsenal – the video

13 May 2018: Arsene Wenger’s last match as manager – the story

14 May 1938: Arsenal players forced to give Nazi salute

14 May 2013: Arsenal knock in four. The video

15 May 2004: Arsenal complete the unbeaten season: what it was like, being there.

15 May 2016: Tottenham lose and miss St Tots

Arsenal anniversaries 2 May – 8 May

2 May 1891: Arsenal vote to become the first professional club in the south

2 May 2019: Arsenal beat Valencia in the Europa on 2 May

3 May 1893: It’s Arsenal day (also 1971 and 1998)

4 May 1976: Bertie Mee leaves Arsenal

4 May 1998: Arsenal win the league and Adams scores – the video

5 May: Arsenal smash four past Villa: the video

5 May 1966: just 4554 turn up for a league game

6 May: The stadium banner of some AISA members and fellow supporters on Match of the Day

6 May 1991, 1998, 2018. Winning the league before kick off and saying goodbye

7 May 2006: the video of the last ever match at Highbury

7 May 2006: the last match at Highbury and the battle for fourth

8 May 2005: Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-1 on this day – the video

8 May: the double, the cup, the unbeaten season, and a wartime trophy

29 April 2002: It’s all Freddie

As the third double approaches….

28 April 2014: How to beat Newcastle

26 April 1975: when Arsenal decided Tottenham’s fate

25 April 1895: Continuing Arsenal play the splitters

Royal Ordnance Factories 0 Woolwich Arsenal 0. 

In 1892/3 Woolwich Arsenal was embroiled in a battle with their ground landlord and his supporters inside the club, which resulted ultimately in Woolwich Arsenal leaving their old ground and joining the Football League while the landlord and others formed a new club (Royal Ordnance Factories FC) and joining the Southern League.  They played on grounds opposite each other and for some time were mortal enemies but this match showed they had resolved their differences to some degree by 1895.  Further matches followed.

The battle within Royal Arsenal FC (which became Woolwich Arsenal FC when the club became a limited company) was between the working men within the club committee and the more middle class elements, and looking back it does look like a classic class battle.

The working men within Woolwich Arsenal FC wanted the players to be paid and for their work with the club, and for the club to be part of the professional Football League (of which there were two divisions at this time). Those who left to form Royal Ordnance Factories FC felt that football should be a game played by amateurs.

Looking back at such reports that survive it appears that the directors of Royal Ordnance Factories FC seriously believed that working men did not have the ability to run a football club, and needed the middle class men with a background in business to do this.

However as that ideological battle was gradually lost the business elements tried a number of dirty tricks, including seeking to persuade the landlord of the Manor Ground to appear to accept Woolwich Arsenal as tenants and allow them to spend considerable sums building a new stand and getting the ground ready for league football, but then at the last to renege on the deal, thus effectively making all the directors of Woolwich Arsenal FC bankrupt.

However the landlord of the Manor Ground was made of a stronger brand of moral fibre, and he refused the deal.

Royal Ordnance Factories did struggle on for a few years, but never gained the support that Woolwich Arsenal did and joined the Southern League, but eventually, its tiny crowds forced it into liquidation mid-season.