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.

7 March 1927

For the regulars at Highbury,1926/7 must have started as a season as stupendous promise.   Having never won a single thing of consequence (not the second division, not the first division, not the FA cup) Arsenal had hired the man who had just delivered unto Huddersfield Town two league titles.   The repayment of Henry Norris’ belief in the man who had once been banned from football for life was the highest ever position for Arsenal thus far in their history – second in the first division.

Surely 1926/27 would be Arsenal’s year.  Huddersfield didn’t have Chapman, Arsenal did.  Arsenal had clearly sorted out the new offside rule, with the second best defence in the league.  Most importantly they had moved from one place from relegation two seasons before, to one place for the championship in one season.  Was this man a genius or what?

Well, what?

By Chapman’s second season (1926/7) he had his feet under the table and was been lauded as a god having taken Arsenal from being regularly relegation threatened to championship chasers.  

But then something went wrong.  After two opening victories in 1926/27 Arsenal won only two out of the next 14, and the season, in terms of building on that wonderful second place achievement of Chapman’s first season was gone.

Arsenal did recover in the league, and ended 11th, thanks not least to a run of five consecutive wins in April.  But it was in the cup that matters progressed:

  • Round 3 Sheffield United
  • Round 4 Port Vale (division 2) (after a 2-2 draw)
  • Round 5: Liverpool
  • Round 6: Wolverhampton (division 2)
  • SF: Southampton (division 2)
  • Final: Cardiff

Arsenal’s progress was helped by having to play three out of the eighth matches against lower league teams and never having to play a top seven club from the first division.  But we lost the final 0-1, and so the first trophy was not to be.

But still Mr Chapman had delivered another unknown for Arsenal – a cup final – and there was still hope, despite the return to mid table for the league.  And it was all done by using the same resources used by his predecessor plus one new high profile player (Charlie Buchan) who was at the end of his career.   No, primarily it was tactical changes that worked.

But there is something odd, if we look at our goal scoring it was 77 for, 86 against.

77 goals that season was an average figure.  Derby a place below us got 86, but Huddersfield in second place in the league got 76.  Yet 86 against was poor, the fifth worse in the league.  Leeds and West Bromwich were relegated with 88 and 86 goals against.  Arsenal avoided relegation by 13 points, which shows how important the six wins in the last seven games were.  Without that run we would have been in real trouble.

And the worst of those defeats was on March 7th: West Ham United 7 Arsenal 0, part of a series of six consecutive defeats, a run of terrible results in the league coincided with our final push into the FA Cup semifinal and then final.  What Chapman did was to start trying out fringe players in the league while keeping his best possible team for the FA Cup.

What, I wonder, would the blogger of the 1920s have made of all this?   Certainly there would have been cries for the removal of Mr Chapman, and demands for new blood.  Two seasons, and one new regular player – and he at the very end of his career.  No trophies, and a defence that was among the worst in the league.  Yes a cup final, but an easy run to the final by any standard and only one of the cup run games was won by more than one goal (2-0 against Liverpool).

Really, he had to deliver next season, or else surely Mr Norris would put up with no more.  The crowds were right down (only 22,000 for the last home game), and they would fall further if something were not done.  If only there had been the fanatically anti-manager blogs then.  What a field day they would have had.  Not least because after the defeat on this day in 1927, we also had on April 6th: Newcastle United 6 Arsenal 1, and then on April 9th: Sunderland 5 Arsenal 1.

I wonder if anyone held up a placard saying “Chapman out”.

6 March 1935: Tottenham 0 Arsenal 6

1934/5 was the season in which Arsenal won the league, and indeed won it for the third time running, and indeed even more, (if one may be permitted a second “indeed”) won it three times running under three different managers to wit:

1932/3 under Herbert Chapman, finishing four points above Villa, and scoring 118 goals

1933/4 under Joe Shaw, finishing three points above Huddersfield Town and scoring 75 goals

1934/5 under George Allison, finishing four points above Sunderland and scoring 115 goals.

Within this final season of triumph Arsenal went on a 13 match unbeaten run which included within it this away victory over Tottenham, an 8-0 home win over Manchester City and a 5-3 away win over Leicester.

But less you think any of this was a fluke that season we also had these results earlier in the season:

  • Arsenal 8 Liverpool 1
  • Arsenal 5 Birmingham 1
  • Arsenal 5 Tottenham 1
  • Chelsea 2 Arsenal 5
  • Arsenal 7 Wolverhampton 0
  • Arsenal 8 Leicester 0
  • Arsenal 5 Preston 3

You could say we rather liked scoring goals.  In fact Ted Drake liked scoring goals.  He played 41 league games that year and scored 42 goals!  Cliff Bastin – the Boy Bastin – scored a mere 20 from 36 games.

It was also the time of the introduction of Alf Kirchen, playing at number 7, and reports suggested he overshadowed Bastin – which is possible because he scored two, Drake got two, Dougall and Bastin got one each, as Tottenham tried to beat Arsenal with an offside trap which failed.

Alf Kirchen was born 26 August 1913 in Norfolk and died 18 August 1999.  He started out with his local Norwich City and Arsenal signed him for £6000 in March 1935 aged 21.  By 1936/7 he was the first choice outside right.  In 1937 he got three England caps.

With Arsenal he won the 1937/8 title, and during the war served his country in the RAF as a physical training instructor, playing 116 times for Arsenal, scoring 8 goals.

However in 1943 he was injured playing a wartime game and retired having played 101 league and cup games for Arsenal scoring 45 goals.

He returned to Norwich as a trainer, and then as a farmer, before becoming a director of Norwich City, and President of the Norfolk Arsenal Supporters Club.

As for the whole team on 6 March 1935 it was

Moss, Male, Compton, Crayston, Sidey, Roberts, Kirchen, Davidson, Drake, Dougall, Bastin.

What is interesting is it was a fairly patchwork team, with five of the players for Arsenal making one of only a small number of appearances each.

Compton played 5 that season, Sidey 6, Kirchen 7, Davidson 11, and Dougall 8, and still we won 6-0.

Arsenal were top when they played Tottenham but with Sunderland and Manchester City having won in the cup Saturday, and with Wednesday gaining an extra point on Monday (while Man City lost to Blackburn) Arsenal were now only top on goal difference.  But what they had was a game in hand over the nearest rivals and indeed two games in hand over Wednesday.  A win would see them pull clear again.

Tottenham had not won since they had beaten Grimsby on Boxing Day.  It had been a long decline since they were sixth at the start of October, although they had managed a draw with Sunderland in February.

Four changes were made from the team that were knocked out of the cup. Alf Kirchen came in for his first game, playing at outside right.  Dougall continued in his league position of inside left.  Leslie Compton got a game, this time at left (instead of right) back, and Sidey took over at centre half.

But if either the cup defeat or the multiple changes gave Arsenal any fears of visiting White Hart Lane they certainly didn’t show them and Arsenal were 0-3 up at half time, ending the game as 0-6 winners.  Kirchen got two, Drake two, Dougall one and Bastin a penalty.

Leaving aside two friendly matches in the 1880s, in which Arsenal beat Tottenahm 6-2 (1888) and 10-1 (1889), this was the first time either team had scored six or more.  Even though the respective league positions of the two clubs predicted an Arsenal win, it was a result that shook London to the core.

It also meant that Arsenal had one defeat in nine, and re-established their clear lead at the top of the table, while improving their goal average even further.

5 March 1892

The original Football League was formed in 1888 consisting of 12 clubs from the Midlands and the North West of England.  It wasn’t completely organised from the off, for it is reported that the clubs took some time to agree how a league table should be drawn up – and this was not agreed until well into the season, when the two points for a win and one for a draw procedure was developed.

Thereafter there were moves to set up a similar league in the south, but this proved more troublesome, with clubs agreeing to join a league and then dropping out.  One attempt at a league involved leaving the clubs to set up the fixtures themselves, but this foundered after many of the games of the season were simply not played, the clubs being unable to agree dates.

Having had their own proposals for a Southern League rebuffed Arsenal decided to turn their attention to the idea of extending the Football League into the south of England, something the Football League felt positive about, in order to see off the rival leagues and establish themselves as the main league across the whole country.

A “Southern Alliance” league was formed in the south, but as with other attempts this only last one season.  Woolwich Arsenal, the only fully professional team in the south (Luton are reported to have paid a handful of players, but not the whole squad) felt that being in a league was essential to their financial well-being, and so they started to discuss the value of a London club in the League.

Meanwhile Arsenal played friendlies, both against local sides and professional teams.  For many years the annual Arsenal handbook ran a history section in its opening pages which reported that during this period Arsenal suffered severe financial hardship because local clubs refused to play against Arsenal on the grounds that professionalism was wrong.

But a quick glance at the fixture list shows how false this notion was.  In fact the London amateur clubs knew that Arsenal was the biggest draw of the season in terms of crowds, and queued up to get a fixture against them.  Where the author of Arsenal’s handbook got his information from is unknown, but it gave a completely false picture of the situation in the club’s early years.

Finally on 5 March 1892 The Southern Alliance was formed but by this time Arsenal had had enough of the endless agreements and subsequent backtracking, and was in discussion with the Football League about bringing professional football to London. The Southern Alliance went the same was as so many other proposals, and lasted only one season.  Ultimately Arsenal joined the Football League for the 1893/4 season.

4 March 1914

On 4 March 1914 London County Council finally granted planning permission for the Gillespie Road stadium, seven months after it opened and one year to the day after Norris announced that Gillespie Road was the site of the new ground.  This might sound bizarre to us now, or indeed illegal, but in the early part of the 20th century, this was mostly how matters went.

Of course, anyone developing a spot of ground for a new use while planning permission was still pending did risk having it refused, but planning controls were far less of an issue at this time than in the 21st century.

Besides, had the matter gone to planning prior to the building, there could have been – and indeed there were – many theoretical issues raised, just as there were when Arsenal applied for planning permission for what became the Emirates Stadium.   Then we had the emotive talk of local residents being “prisoners in their own homes” on match days, but the Emirates, as with Highbury before, found that within ten minutes of the final whistle much of the crowd had dissipated.  Also by the spring of 1914 the notorious Highbury Defence Committee was but a rump, and its days of influence gone.  Islington Council knew that they had no chance of overturning the building of the ground, and had welcomed the additional payment of the rates (now known as council tax) from land that previously had paid none (being for religious use and thus exempt).

Furthermore, by the time of the final hearing there were many local traders who positively loved the presence of Arsenal in the area.  With no alcohol in the ground the pubs around the area did a roaring trade – the highly restrictive licensing hours of much of the 20th century did not come into effect until after the outbreak of war in 1914 – as did the restaurants and street vendors.

On 7 March Arsenal played an away goalless draw with Nottingham Forest in front of 10,000, but even before this match most Arsenal fans were focussed on the next match on 14 March: the first North London derby at Highbury.

Arsenal had played their first London derby on November 9, 1907 with the result Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1 in front of 65,000 .  The return match at Plumstead on March 7, 1908 was a goalless draw with 30,000, in the ground.

And 30,000 was the attendance again on 14 March 1914 as Arsenal won 2-0 – revenge for the humiliating defeat at Craven Cottage.

This was an encouraging upturn but then disaster struck as Andy Kelly has reported in an article on the Arsenal History Society site.  As he wrote…

On the evening of Thursday 19 March a torrential downpour hit north London. The sewers were unable to contain the rainwater which flooded down Highbury Hill pushing mud against the west terrace boundary wall. The wall was unable to take the pressure and started listing in towards the terracing.

The following morning the staff arrived at Highbury and noticed the problem with the wall. The directors were now faced with a dilemma. Arsenal were due to host Grimsby the next day.

A surveyor from the London County Council was called in and he told the directors that, although it was a danger to public safety, he would not condemn it or close the ground.

The directors discussed several options including not allowing spectators on to the west terrace and playing the game behind closed doors, but ultimately a decision was taken to close the ground until the wall was made safe. This was a risky option as it could result in a points penalty from the League: worrying given that Arsenal were still second in the table and heading for promotion. Thankfully, the Football League saw sense and did not censure the club for taking this action.

3 March 1993

The result of Norwich 1 Arsenal 1 on this day was the 12th consecutive match in which neither Arsenal nor their opponents scored more than one goal. The crowd was 14,802.

We could of course blame that small crowd on Norwich, but Arsenal’s crowds were pretty woeful too.  On 10 February 1993 only 18,253 turned up to the league match at Highbury – thus putting the lie to the notion that Arsenal have a “natural” attendance of 60,000.

Of course 1992/3 was not without its moments as it was 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.

But it was 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…

  • 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 March1993: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0
  • 3 March 1993: Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1

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 which time Arsenal were 11th in the league.

And yes this was the Graham era with Arsenal one point above Wimbledon and 18 point behind Norwich. 

The fact was that Arsenal had the worst attack (equal with bottom of the table Nottingham Forest) and the second best defence in the league.  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

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 1971

It is strange to think, but February 1971 gave Arsenal three defeats in five games, leaving everyone uncertain what Arsenal would deliver in March. But no one was talking of a possible double.

And yet a 0-3 away victory on 2 March to Wolverhampton in League match 30 made everyone think again.  And well they might have thought again for it turned out that this match was the first a run of nine consecutive wins, five of which were played without conceding a goal.

But before taking matters forward, there was the little detail of the FA Cup.  Arsenal had just been Wolverhampton 0-3 away, with Wolverhampton lying fourth in the first division.  But next was Leicester, a second division club, although one destined to win that division at the end of the season and gain promotion back to the first after two seasons out.

At the moment of this game they were third in their league, just one point away from the leaders, but with two wins, two draws and two defeats in the last six.  It was anticipated that they would attack Arsenal at Filbert Street, and then if they scored, try and hold onto the lead.

42,000 turned up on 6 March for the game, and not too much happened (except for one classic Wilson diving save at the feet of Fern in the 69th minute).   But then in the 88th minute Dick Glover saw the ball coming towards him, two yards out and with the goal beckoning.  He swung a boot – and missed the ball completely.  So as with Portsmouth in the previous round, a replay was needed, the game ending 0-0.

Normally at this time, replays were held within a matter of days.  Delays for the police to make the streets safe and check their diaries had not been invented, and few of the games were all ticket.  However on this occasion Arsenal now had the small matter of the Fairs Cup fourth round to consider and on 9 March  Arsenal beat FC Koln 2-1 in the first leg of the tie.  The crowd was 40,007. 

The following Saturday Arsenal were away to Crystal Palace – the team that had knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup earlier in the season.  But Crystal Palace after early promise now stood 14th in the table with four defeats in the last six, and here the form guide was accurate as it finished Crystal Palace 0 Arsenal 2.  Four wins in five restored the faith that this might just be Arsenal’s year, although Leeds remained six points ahead and Arsenal only have two games in hand.  Graham and Sammels got the goals.

Next it was back to the FA Cup as Arsenal saw off Leicester at Highbury 1-0.   “Wembley ahead by George” was a common headline, as in the games against Portsmouth and Man City in the cup, Charlie George had scored.  Leicester attacked constantly, and Shilton in goal was at his best for the odd moments when Arsenal launched a counter, and indeed Leicester did get the ball in the net, only to be ruled offside.  The players protested long and hard – and perhaps used too much emotional energy on that protest, for after that Arsenal took control.   57,433 came to the game – the highest crowd of the season thus far.

20 March 1971: Arsenal 1 Blackpool 0.  Five wins in six gave Arsenal renewed hope of winning the league but with Leeds continuing to win there were also doubters. The crowd was a modest (given what was happening), 37,372.  

And the pressure was utterly unrelenting for three days later Arsenal were in West Germany where they were defeated 1-0 by FC Koln 1 Arsenal 0 in the Fairs Cup 4th round 2nd leg in front of 50,000 spectators.  The result left the score overall at 2-2, and Arsenal went out on the away goals rule.  Thus the holders were out, and Arsenal were left with just two competitions to fight for.

Without a pause for breath Arsenal were back into the FA Cup, facing the one team that had humiliated Arsenal during this extraordinary season: Stoke City, and on 27 March Arsenal drew 2-2 at Hillsborough in the semi final against them.  Having drawn games in the 4th and 6th round Arsenal seemed to be working their way to the final the hard way,

And wouldn’t you know it.  Suddenly Charlie was not the flavour of the month any more accused by the media of being “extravagant” and “careless”.    As for the team, they were in “urgent need of raising their game” and were “desperately seeking striking power.”  (This was the team about to win the double!)  Man of the Match was Storey who scored both, including a penalty in the dying seconds of the game, during the taking of which Bob Wilson went down on his hands and knees facing away from the goal, not bearing to look.

After the match Bertie Mee gave a rare insight into the dressing room atmosphere, revealing that during half time the players talked the game through saying “there was no reason to be beaten by two silly goals,” which Stoke had scored in the first half.  One was a crazy spinning rebound off Storey and the other was a poor back pass from Charlie George.

Such were the topics of the contemporary reports, but what most records of this remarkable season forget to mention at this point is that on this day the league match that was scheduled was Tottenham v Arsenal.  Because of this cup game, and the need for a replay, the scheduled match was moved to the end of the season – a decision that led to the eternally famous final match at White Hart Lane.  

1 March 1924: Arsenal’s first Ramsey

The result on this day was Arsenal 3 Liverpool 1.  And it was very important since it ended a sequence of six straight defeats. 

The result lifted Arsenal to 20th, with just Chelsea and Middlesbrough below them.  The clubs in 21st and 22nd position would be relegated, which might well have put Herbert Chapman off coming to the Arsenal for the start of next season. 

It was also the debut of James Ramsay.  Having joined Arsenal from Kilmarnock he went on to play 11 games in the remainder of the season.

Now although there are lists of all the players who have played for Arsenal’s first team over the years the Arsenal player James Howie Ramsay proved to be a surprisingly hard player to track, and most of the normal sources seem to have little or nothing about him.

We know that he joined Arsenal from Kilmarnock (with whom he had won the Scottish cup) in February 1924 for £1775 – this incidentally being yet another example of a transfer over £1000 during the era when manager Leslie Knighton said (in his autobiography) that he was never allowed to spend more than £1000 on a player because of the rules laid down by Sir Henry Norris.

He was born on 7 August 1898 in Clydebank. His clubs are listed as Moor Park, Arthurlie, Renfrew Victoria, Kilmarnock, Arsenal, Kilmarnock, Galston.  Now I believe Moor Park is in Clydebank, so that was presumably a local team.  The Arthurlie still exists in East Renfrewshire.

His early life was however interrupted by the war, and after service as an engineering apprentice, the advent of the compulsory call up meant he joined the 6th Seaforth Highlanders in 1917 and served his country in France during the first world war.

Moving on to the Arsenal days James Howie Ramsay played 75 games (69 of which were league games) for Arsenal and scored 11 league goals.   He made his debut in a 3-1 win over Liverpool on 1 March 1924 at Highbury.

1924/5 was his best season – he started in the first game, and went on to play in every match until the 0-2 away defeat to Tottenham on 28 February 1925.  He scored in the first match and got two on 15 November 1924 in the 2-3 away win at Everton.

But the defeat to Tottenham was seen as a disaster for Arsenal for it was the sixth defeat in a row for the club and wholesale changes were made to the team.  Only six of the previous starting 11 played in the next game and only two of those six were in the same position as for the Tottenham game!  Amazingly on 7 March 1925 Arsenal ended the long run of defeats and beat Bolton 1-0 at Highbury in front of 35,000.

Ramsey played in the first match under Chapman on 29 August 1925 – the home defeat to Tottenham, but was injured.  He did come back to play the last 15 games of the season.

He started the first match in the following season, but was in and out of the side until playing his last game on 27 December 1926 away to Cardiff – a 0-2 defeat.

He left Arsenal immediately after that match to return to Kilmarnock in December 1926.

It is reported that he later became manager of Margate FC – the club that was run as Arsenal’s nursery club.  And indeed on the list of Margate managers from 1934 to 1936 was have “Jack Ramsay” as manager.

And that was all we knew until, after an article appeared in the AISA Arsenal History Society blog, on the subject of Jack Ramsey we received this note from Ian Ramsey, grandson of our player.

My name is Ian Ramsay. James Howie Ramsay was my grandfather. As far as I can tell your record of his football life is correct with Arsenal and other teams. His son, my father, Mitchell Ramsay is still alive at 94 and he lives in Escondido California. My twin brother Andrew and I live in Salt Lake City, Utah in the U.S.A. The last time I saw my grandfather was in the summer of 1967 in Sidcup, Kent where he lived all of his life after managing in Margate and in Kilmarnock. He did die in 1969. His daughter Beth Allison is alive and lives in Runcorn. She was married to my Uncle Malcolm Allison… also a well known football player, manager and TV personality. Thank you for remembering my grandfather Mr. Attwood.

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, with Manchester United in third, but the teams below had games in hand.  Barnwell (2) and Herd got the goals.

But it is the programme for this day that attracts my attention for it runs the headline “Injury problems as great as those ever faced by an Arsenal manager”

The programme is shown as being Volume XL number 20 (ah those were the days when they actually kept count) and as always it started with the Voice of Arsenal.

And this is how it went.  (I would add that in those days they didn’t use paragraphs, which makes it quite hard to focus on the text, so I’ve added a couple, but the text is the same).


Three times fighting against odds.  That sums up the three matches.

At Sheffield we lost Jack Kelsey [he broke his arm] and with the loss went out Cup hopes for 1959.   We then finished the League match against West Bromwich Albion with Henderson and Groves limping passengers, but still with a valuable point.

The problems which confronted our Manager before the Leeds game on Tuesday were probably as great as any faced by an Arsenal Manager when picking a team for one match.  The following players were unavailable for selection:-

Kelsey, Standen (who had played so well at The Hawthorns), Clapton, Groves, Julians, Bloomfield, Henderson, Ward, Nutt and Skirton.


Arsenal had in fact brought in two newcomers – Peter Goy and Roy Goulden for their first league matches in the previous game – a 1-0 victory over Leeds on 24 February 1959.  Goy (the replacement keeper) played two matches that season – the rest of the time Arsenal used Standen.

Roy Gouldon played just this one match at inside right – it was his first and last game for Arsenal.  He showed great promise early on (he played for England schoolboys) and turned professional with Arsenal in September 1954 helping Arsenal win the South East Counties Double in 1956 and the Metropolitan League Treble in 1961.  Despite being the son of the England player Len Goulden, Roy never made it.

After he returned from National Service in the RAF his skill seemed to have gone, and he played in this one game in February 1959.

Moving to Southend United in May 1961, he played just nine games for them, before signing for Ipswich, for whom he did not play a single first team game.  He dropped into non-league football playing for Stevenage, Gravesend and Northfleet and Dunstable and then left England for Australia.

So the positions were shared around until eventually Vic Groves returned in March, but by then the team was hopelessly unsettled.  It also showed the problem Arsenal had with its strength in depth.

But this particular match against Man U saw Arsenal top of the league at the time, despite the injuries – a game played just over a year after the Munich air crash.  The game one year before which ended 4-5 to Man U was the last game most of the Man U players played.  Five of the players who had played against Arsenal lost their lives a few days later.

As a result of the emergency purchases that Man U made following the crash they obtained Albert Quixall who became the most expensive player in football (£45,000 paid to Sheffield W) – and who played in the game on 28 February 1959.

Elsewhere in the programme there was the “Jottings by Spectator” which also focussed on the injury to Jack Kelsey, and came under the headline “Substitutes wanted for goalkeepers injured in Cup Games”

The article goes on to speak of a Wales / England international fifty years before – ie 1909, in which Dick Roose (subject of several articles in the AISA Arsenal History Society blog) is described in the Arsenal programme as “that adventurous Welsh goalkeeper”- with no mention of the fact that he subsequently went on to play for Woolwich Arsenal), was, “so badly hurt that he had to leave the pitch.  Goals began to pile up against his deputy, and the officials of the two countries decided that if a qualified substitute goalkeeper could be found among the spectators he could take the place between the posts.

“In response to the SOS Dai Davies then with Bolton Wanderers turned up in the dressing room and duly turned out for Wales in the second half.  The substitute agreement caused a lot of talk at the time and at intervals since then the case for substitutes from off the field for injured goalkeepers has been discussed.”

Also in the programme, and just under that two page spread from “Spectator” there is a box headed “Ticket Touts”.  Touting was not illegal near a ground at this time but Arsenal clearly didn’t like it.  The message reads, “If you have bought a ticket for today’s match from a tout, pleased send the counterfoil to us so that we can trace the source of supply.”  I wonder if anyone did.

And the interesting bits go on within the programme, for on the quiz on page 11 there is this question:

Which ranks as the longest post-war sequence of consecutive Football League matches for which a team has been unbeaten?

The answer was Man U with 26 consecutive first division games without defeat – ending on 20 October 1956.   Not any more though!

Elsewhere the reserves meanwhile were fourth in the Football Combination Division 1, the A team top of the Metropolitan League and the B team second in the South East Counties League.   Tucked away in the A team was one Geoff Strong, who had thus far played 12 and scored 15.  But it is hard to find any other names of highly promising talent. 

Arsenal won this game 3-2 against Man U but ultimately the injuries and the lack of obvious reserves to come through immediately meant the club slipped away.  A defeat away from home to Wolverhampton 1-6 at the start of March was also the start of seven games without a win.  Arsenal won their last three games, and ended up third in the table, five points behind Man U and 11 behind Wolverhampton.

27 February 2010: An eternal stain

On this day Aaron Ramsey was seriously assaulted by the Stoke player Shawcross causing a double fracture of Ramsey’s lower right leg, breaking the tibia and fibula. 

Ramsey did not play again until a reserve game on 23 November.  Shawcross on the other hand was immediately given a place in the England squad.  He finally played for England in 2012.

This was not the first serious incident involving Shawcross as in a match against Arsenal as in November 2008, Shawcross had delivered a wild off-the-pitch tackle that led to a three-week injury to Emmanuel Adebayor.  This incident was not recalled by journalists when they dealt with Shawcross’ horror tackle on Ramsey.

At subsequent games between Arsenal and Stoke City large numbers of Stoke fans inanely booed Ramsey, something the Stoke City club did nothing to denounce or discourage, an issue which remains an eternal stain on the standing of the Stoke City, a club that was one of the original founders of the Football League.

Arsenal finished third in the League that season, with Stoke in 11th and its was notable throughout this and subsequent campaigns that there was no move whatsoever to discuss let alone condemn the Stoke tactics by the media, who if anything seemed to support Shawcross in all that he did.

This was Stoke’s second season in the Premier League, and they remained there until 2017/18 when they were relegated.  They have since finished 16th and 15th in the Championship and they are currently mid-table.

Shawcross continued to play at Stoke until earlier this year, before moving to Inter Miami, the American club co-owned by David Beckham.

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

On 12 February 1977 Arsenal lost 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.  It was the fourth consecutive league game without a win, which seemed a bit ominous.  

But worse, it was also the start of seven consecutive defeats in the league – the worst ever run of defeats, beating the six “achieved” under both Chapman and Knighton, and worse than anything in the relegation season in 1912/13.

Matters continued in this vein on 15 February with the result Middlesbrough 3  Arsenal 0, and an attendance of 26,083. In the last four league games Arsenal had scored nil, let in six, won nil, drawn one and lost three.  Quite how this could be in a team that included Stapleton and Macdonald was simply beyond belief.

Four days later on 19 February 1977, Brady and Stapleton did at least get a goal each, but the match ended Arsenal 2 West Ham United 3 meaning that Arsenal had now gone six without a win.   But that run had included in the three teams who had made up the bottom three positions in the league at the start of the month.

This was a game of passes that simply could and did go anywhere, but to be fair it must be said that West Ham managed to score three fine goals that put Arsenal to shame.  There was a feeling that if only Alan Hudson could get the ball, something might go right for Arsenal, but he wouldn’t go looking, and no one wanted to pass it to him, so effectively Arsenal played one man short.

Trevor Brooking stole the show with a display of through balls, free kicks and intricate passing movements of which he was at the heart throughout.  That Brady and Stapleton did score was no more than Arsenal deserved – but to win games like this they need another player of quality and vision in the middle and Hudson was increasingly looking to be not that man.

It was with some relief that Arsenal and Arsenal fans turned back to the FA Cup on 26 February with the long trip to Middlesbrough and revenge for that 3-0 away defeat on the 15th.

But incomprehensibly it ended Middlesbrough 4 Arsenal 1, 35,208 in the ground and Arsenal out of the Cup.

“How bad can it get?” everyone asked, and the answer was, “As bad as you can imagine.”  Having be looking lost, Hudson shone out above the rest offering short, subtle passing, but now everyone else had a day off and whatever Terry Neil had said after the previous game on this ground, just 11 days before, it had not worked.

When Macdonald headed a goal to pull the game back to 2-1 (Boro having scored two in the first quarter hour), Arsenal might have had some hopes.  But Mills, Brine and Souness stepped up and dominated the game and their third goal on 50 minutes marked the end.  But the time of the final goal just on the final whistle Arsenal had long since thrown in the towel.

By the end of the month two successive defeats for Ipswich Town had allowed Liverpool to regain top spot in the race for the title. At the bottom, Tottenham Hotspur now propped up the table.  It was the only thing to bring a smile to a desperate Arsenal fan’s face.

But March brings hope, winter comes to an end, and surely Arsenal would win again soon.  But not on 1 March when it ended Everton 2 Arsenal 1, with 29,802 inside Goodison.

That made it seven without a win and the fourth consecutive defeat.  Macdonald scored, but otherwise it was fairly horrible; the sort of match that leaves everyone without much to say.

It was perhaps with some sadness that the following day, 2 March, we heard that Peter Storey had left the club and was transferred to Fulham.  It was clear his ability had been declining with age, but many of us still held the hard man close to our hearts.

On the same day, Willie Young joined Arsenal from an increasingly doomed looking Tottenham Hotspur.   He had played 54 times for Tottenham, had suffered various suspensions, including a life ban from playing for Scotland and now was brought in to shore up Arsenal.

But it didn’t work – at least not at first, for his first game, on 5 March 1977, the result was Arsenal 1 Ipswich Town 4.  Despite the recent results 34,688 came to Highbury, perhaps because Ipswich still had hopes of winning the league.

Arsenal set out to contain them, and in the first half did so.  But in the second the tight reign was loosened and Ipswich knocked in three within the first 15 minutes of the half.  Willie Young made his first appearance and gave away the penalty for the third.  Arsenal themselves got a penalty which Macdonald scored, and Ipswich got a fourth with a minute to go.

Brady created what he could but Ross and Mathews were not in the game at all.  The simple fact was that nothing went Arsenal’s way and there were too few men in the team who could change that.  The lack of belief showed from the moment of the first Ipswich goal.

Still, it was mid-table WBA at home next, and surely the problems surrounding Arsenal had to come to an end sometime.

That of course was true, but some time was not 8 March, for the result was Arsenal 1 WBA 2.   And there was an ominous warning from the crowd: only 19,517 turned up.

It is worth at this point, showing the whole team: Rimmer, Rice, Nelson, Price, Young, Howard, Brady, Powling, Macdonald, Stapleton, Armstrong.  That was not a bad side, and yet with this result it was now nine without a win and six consecutive defeats.

12 March 1977 saw Queen’s Park Rangers 2 Arsenal 1, the 7th and final consecutive defeat – the worst run in Arsenal’s history – ever.  Even in the dreadful 1912/13 season nothing as bad as this was delivered.

26,191 came out to see it.  The team who played in utterly unwanted record was Rimmer, Rice, Nelson, Powling, Young, Howard, Brady, Hudson (Price), Macdonald, Stapleton, Armstrong.

Then, finally, Arsenal got a point.  It came at Stoke on 23 March with the result Stoke 1 Arsenal 1, a mere 13,951 supporters in the ground.