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.

15 February 2015

85 years to the day after Arsenal beat Middlesbrough on the way to their first trophy, two goals from Giroud saw Arsenal sail through the fifth round of the FA Cup against Middlesbrough, and hopes began to develop that the club might retain the FA Cup, something it had only ever done once before.  The match came in a run of eight wins and just one defeat in nine consecutive games.

The starting line for the match against Middlesbrough (who surprised City in the round before) was Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Özil, Alexis, Giroud and Welbeck.  On the bench we had Akpom, Coquelin, Rosicky, Walcott, Martinez, Mertesacker and Monreal.

This meant that Gabriel made his debut in the first team for Arsenal playing in the Mertesacker position. Santi Cazorla was the captain for this match.

In the next round of the cup Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 away, then it was 2-1 against Reading in the semi-final and the most glorious final of 4-0 against Aston Villa.

The 1930 run was quite different for it came at a time when Herbert Chapman was struggling as a manager.  He had been at the club since 1925, and although he had had two near misses for a trophy (runners up in the League, and beaten finalists in the cup) he had not actually won anything.  In the board room battles of 1927 Chapman had sided with the rebels led by the Hill-Wood clan, and they had indeed won, so they had shown their faith in Chapman as manager, refusing to accept his subsequent resignation.   Mind you, by this time the club was debt free and making a significant profit so the board were willing to fund Chapman’s extensive transfer plans.

But even so, at the time the 1930 run to the final began Arsenal were 16th in the League, just three points above relegation, having won two and drawn one of their last ten games.

But in the Cup everything was different as Arsenal beat Chelsea, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, West Ham, Hull in the semi-finals (after a replay) and then Chapman’s old club Huddersfield in the final as the managers famously led their teams out at a final for the first time ever.

14 February 1925

 Although crowds after the first world war were much higher than those before the war there was a feeling in football, that the game needed to be made more exciting in order to attract even higher numbers of people to games.

This was particularly felt when in 1924 Huddersfield won the league scoring just 60 goals in 42 games as opposed to West Brom, the 1920 champions who scored 104 goals in the same number of games.  The number of goals had been declining generally, although in 1924/5 there was something of a small recovery outside of Huddersfield.

But Chapman’s tactics worked and were being copied which meant that goals were becoming more scarce, so something had to be done.

What’s more crowd numbers were certainly drifting down – the average crowd in 1919/20 was 29,252 in the first division.  It dropped each year until in 1924/5 it was over 7,500 lower at 21,609.  (Interestingly Arsenal, this season were the best supported team with an average attendance of 29,485 – thus proving Sir Henry Norris right in his view it was the location of the ground that brought in the crowds, as much as the success – or as it was that season, lack of it).

The British nations and the recently formed Fifa thus decided to make the game more attractive by changing the offside rule from three opposition players behind the ball when kicked in the opposition half to two.

In order to experiment with this idea a number of League games were played under the new rules including two games on 14 February 1925 of which Arsenal v Huddersfield Town was one.  The build up to the match included several meetings so that agreement between the clubs could be gained as to the application of the new law, and it is more than likely that Sir Henry Norris used this as an occasion to meet with the then Huddersfield manager Herbert Chapman.

Huddersfield who were heading for the title, won 5-0, which did little for Arsenal’s precarious league position but a lot for the future of the club.  It was Arsenal’s worst home defeat since 28 October 1893 when Arsenal lost to Liverpool by the same score. It seems to have cemented in Sir Henry’s mind that it was time for a change.

It is also reported in many books that part of Chapman’s subsequent revolution at Arsenal was to adjust the defence with the centre half pulled back to play in between the two full backs. This is a gross simplification of a much more complex set of changes that Chapman created, which included playing in a different style away from home to that used at home, and having a deep lying inside forward (who effectively became a mid-fielder) who could receive the ball out of defence and immediately pass it on to a fast running winger.

It was never as simple as pulling the centre half further back, but it was a response to the new off side law first tried out on this day.

13 February 1892

First Crowd inspired Arsenal song as 3,000 chant “Ta ra ra boom de ay, the Arsenal’s won today”

On this day Arsenal played Chatham.  There were estimated to be10,000 in the ground with 3000 of those being Royal Arsenal supporters.

Our fans were pretty happy to be 3-0 up just after half time and according to the newspapers started singing this re-arranged music hall song as victory was all but secured. However, Chatham scored two late goals and the last few minutes were nail biting for the Royal Arsenal fans, but the Reds held out for a win.

This is the earliest crowd song mentioned in newspaper reports as being sung at a ground about the Arsenal team.

The origins of the song are from the Music Hall singer Lottie Collins who sang ‘Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay’ in a revue called Tuxedo in 1891. Her husband obtained the rights for England, and Lottie developed a suitably ‘burlesque’ dance to accompany it, which comprised energetic Can-Can style kicks that excited audiences. It made her a star.

Local football reports later in 1892 refer to players high kicking to get the ball and comparing them to Lottie Collins’ performance. It would not be beyond the realms of imagination to suggest that while regularly singing this song the supporters performed their own dance along to the chant – when there was room.

Lottie performed it at theatres and music halls across London through 1891 and 1892, often several times a night.  Tragically however her private life was less than happy culminating in 1898 when Lottie tried to commit suicide at 16, Highbury Crescent, close to the Highbury Station of the North London Railway. She eventually died on 1st May 1910 of heart disease aged 45.

Here is a performance and below are the original lyrics, in case you want to try a performance…

A sweet tuxedo girl you see
A queen of swell society
Fond of fun as fond can be
When it’s on the strict Q.T.
I’m not too young, I’m not too old
Not too timid, not too bold
Just the kind you’d like to hold
Just the kind for sport I’m told

Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-re! (sung eight times)

I’m a blushing bud of innocence
Papa says at big expense
Old maids say I have no sense
Boys declare, I’m just immense
Before my song I do conclude
I want it strictly understood
Though fond of fun, I’m never rude
Though not too bad I’m not too good


All together now….

12 February 1966

On this day Arsenal’s centre forward Joe Baker played his last Arsenal game.  He played 144 games for Arsenal and scored 93 goals – a terrific goal to game record – before going on to Nottingham Forest on 26 February.

Joe was signed by Billy Wright who brought a problem of his own – a lack of club management experience, and who joined a club with a problem – Arsenal’s huge historic reputation but a lack of trophies stretching back to 1953.

Under Swindin, Arsenal’s previous manager, the seasons had ended with us 3rd, 13th, 11th and 10th.  In the cup we had once reached the fifth round, once the fourth, and twice gone out in the third, including on one occasion to Rotherham.

In one sense almost anything would be an improvement – but in another there was clearly no sound base to the squad, and Wright had no base in club management experience.  He had been made manager of England’s youth team in 1960, but that was it.

Swindin’s final season first team outfit was

Kelsey, Magill, McCullough, Brown, Sneddon, Neill, McCloud, Eastham, Charles, Henderson, Skirton, with Petts, Griffiths and Strong coming in later in the season.

Wright started with

McKechnie, Magill, McCullough, Brown, Neill, Sneddon, Armstrong, Strong, Baker, Bramwell, Skirton.

Joe Baker was the big name summer signing, at centre forward, despite being only 5 feet 7 inches tall.  He was born in 1940 and went through some junior Scottish clubs before playing for Hibernian and was their top scorer for four years getting 102 goals in just 117 league games.

The Hibs board apparently refused to up his weekly wage from £12 to £17 and so sold him to Torino for £75k.   However Joe was involved in a serious car crash, while there, and Joe, like other Britains of the era who tried playing outside the UK did not fare well.

He then became Arsenal’s record signing in July 1962 and made his début on 18 August 1962 in the opening league game of the season away to the newly promoted Leyton Orient.   I remember it well – I was there with my dad.  (I also remember being at the match where he had a fist fight with Ron Yeates of Liverpool, and winning.  Both were sent off – Joe said in the press after that he had never been sent off before in his life – although there was another report of him throwing a journalist into a canal while in Italy.)

He was the top scorer for three of his four years with us, and got 100 goals in 156 games, playing alongside Geoff Strong who had come up through the youth and reserves teams.  Near the end of his career Wright sold Baker to Nottingham Forest for £65k – after which he moved on to Sunderland before going to Hibs again, and then Raith.

Baker retired in 1974, having scored 301 league goals in 507 games.  He also won eight caps for England (he was born in Liverpool – and was that rarity – a man who plays for England without having played for an English club).

After playing, Joe Baker was manager of Albion Rovers – which I think was probably a part time position.  He ran a pub and worked for Hibs but died tragically young at 63 while playing in a golf tournament.

11 February: the not an anniversary day

According to the book “The Gunners: Day to Day Life at Highbury”, Royal Arsenal played Millwall Rovers at the Manor Ground, Plumstead on 11 February 1888. This was (they say) the first Arsenal game at the Manor Ground.

But according to Roper (2004) although the first match was indeed against Millwall Rovers, but was not until 30 March 1888. So which one is it?  And why were Arsenal playing in Plumstead when they were Woolwich Arsenal?

Let’s deal with the name and location first. Arsenal’s first match was played as Dial Square played on the Isle of Dogs.  After that match they became Royal Arsenal, a name they happily held until 1893 when the club (by now professional) joined the Football League and became a limited company.

Then as now, limited companies are not allowed by law to have a name that suggests a royal connection, so they changed to Woolwich Arsenal, which was the name of the factory where the original players had worked, and indeed where many of their supporters worked.

But that didn’t mean they played in Woolwich – no, they actually had a ground in Plumstead initially called the Manor Field, but then becoming the Manor Ground in 1894.  And the first game at the Manor Field was indeed the one against Millwall Rovers, but not until 30 March 1888, and it wasn’t even called the Manor Field then but rather “Mr Cavey’s Field”.    Arsenal did indeed play Millwall Rovers on 11 February 1888 but this was played at The Sportsman Grounds.

Royal Arsenal  played at the Manor Field (under its varied names) between 1888 and 1890, before temporarily moving to the Invicta Ground, which was almost opposite. Following the split in the club between those who wanted the club to be professional and those who didn’t, Arsenal bought the Manor Field, leaving Royal Ordnance Factories FC to play at the Invicta.

The Manor Field was in essence a field, and was not turned into a football ground with terraces and grandstand until the creation of Woolwich Arsenal FC, and entry into the Football League in 1893.  And this was done in a matter of a few weeks, after the owner of the Invicta Ground conspired with some members of the Arsenal committee to take over the club, by doubling the rent and thus forcing the existing committee out.

The elected committee however moved to the ground opposite, and built a new “stadium” there in the summer so the club was ready to enter the League the following September.  Even then the battle was not over since the rebel group tried to bribe the owner of the Manor Field into which Arsenal were moving, to play the same trick and double the rent after the ground had been built, and thus force Arsenal out of business.  Fortunately for the club this landlord was a man of honour, and told the rebels where to go.

Where they went was to the Invicta Ground, setting up their own rival team Royal Ordnance Factories, which played for a few seasons in the Southern League before going out of business.

But yes, 11 February is an anniversary for on this day in 1888 Arsenal played Millwall Rovers at The Sportsman Grounds.   I am glad we got that sorted.

10 February 1979

Towards the end of Mr Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, and indeed since, in the days when we were allowed to attend football matches, there were a lot of complaints from one particular supporters group about the number of empty seats at Arsenal for matches.  The club, it was said, should do much more to make sure every seat is occupied.

Personally I never saw many empty seats in the part of the stadium where I sit, but I was reminded of the time (3 February 1979 to be exact) when we beat Man U away 2-0 and the home fans showed what they thought of it all by holding a mass walkout after Sunderland scored his brace on 62 and 63 minutes.

The following week, on 9 February the ever escalating cost of players was back in the headlines as it was announced that Trevor Francis had become Britain’s first £1 million footballer when he is transferred from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, doubling the earlier British record fee set when West Bromwich Albion signed David Mills the month before.

Excitement in football, and good times for Arsenal, you may be thinking, but on the day after that transfer we all came back to earth as Arsenal played out a goalless draw on 10 February at Highbury with Middlesbrough.   Only 28,371 turned up.

The fact that crowds could sink that low (Highbury did not become all seater until 1991), reminds us that Arsenal has no natural right to expect and demand 60,000 for each game.  Supporters come, supporters go.

For this match however maybe the stay-at-home fans were right as Middlesbrough took the eleven man defensive plan to a new level of boredom.  John Neal, Borough’s manager, professed himself pleased, but it was quite clear why Boro’s own home crowds were so small.  No one in his or her right mind would watch this week after week when it is quite possible to lie on a bed of nails or walk barefoot across burning coals instead.

Brady was man-marked throughout and Arsenal failed to score at home for the first time this season.  But the most worrying thing was that other clubs would now copy this approach to stop the Irishman.

But it was another match without defeat (a fact the media singularly failed to mention) and indeed on 13 February the record was extended further with the result Queen’s Park Rangers 1 Arsenal 2 in front of 21,125.  That made it just one defeat in 16 and this was Terry Neill’s best run during his time at the club as manager.  

And the time traveller going back to these games would have another shock having become used to the perfect pitch at the Emirates Stadium.  After the snow covered hard grounds, this was a pitch that was mud, and quite clearly unfit for football.  But second half goals by Brady and Price carried Arsenal  up to fourth in the league so in the end Arsenal’s complaints were tempered.  That made it one defeat in 15 – even with Brady reduced to trying to find the occasional piece of pitch where his boots would not get stuck – and the first time he did it almost resulted in a goal with Parkes just saving at the last.

Young brought down Bowles, Bowles threw the ball at Young’s head from a distance of about 10 inches.  Both were booked.  Arsenal changed to lifting every pass above the mud and on 59 minutes Young smashed the ball at the goal, it bounced back to Price who scored from 15 yards.  Brady added the second and the mud was beaten.

And as a result, amazingly Arsenal were suddenly second, and by some careful ignoring of the number of games played by each side a little dreaming of a second double started to emerge.

No one mentioned the size of the crowds.

9 February 1957

If you know your Arsenal history you will know of the famous managers from the 1930s onwards: Chapman, Allison, Whittaker.  But what then?

Chapman was of course an outsider, brought in from Huddersfield Town, but Allison and Whittaker were Arsenal through and through.  Allison had started with the club in 1910 as the programme editor / writer, and risen to become manager.  Whittaker was a player for the club, who after being injured playing for England’s B team became the club’s first ever physiotherapist, and ultimately manager.

Like Chapman, Whittaker tragically died while still managing the club, and he was replaced by another Arsenal man, William John Crayston (known universally as Jack)

George Allison had signed Crayston in May 1934, noting that he was impressed by his sober attitude to life and once Crayston joined the team he was a regular, playing 37 league games in his first season, and winning the title with the club.  He even scored on his debut, although perhaps that wasn’t hard as Arsenal ran out 8-1 winners.  It was the season of Ted Drake with 41 league games 42 league goals.  Crayston even got a goal.

The following year Arsenal were unable to hold onto their crown – but they won the FA Cup instead with Jack Crayston playing in all 7 cup games.  And he won his first cap for England that season.

The following season was without trophies but Arsenal were back for 1937/38 with another championship (won on the last day of the season with a  5-0 thumping of Bolton) and 31 games and 4 goals for Jack Crayston.

Jack Crayston served in the RAF, until he was injured in a war-time football match in 1943, and retired from playing aged 33.

At the end of the war he joined the coaching staff at Highbury and in June 1947 was appointed assistant manager to Tom Whittaker.  That remained Jack’s job through the rest of the Whittaker years as the two men won the league twice, the FA Cup once and picked up a runners-up medal in the Cup as well), until Tom died suddenly in November 1956.  Jack took over as caretaker manager in October when Tom was taken ill,and was made manager at the end of the year.

Prior to his death Tom Whittaker was having difficulty in getting the club into anything like the dominant position of the 1930s, and Jack Crayston found life at the top even more tough – not least with the defeat to Northampton in the FA cup.  And on this day in 1957 Jack suffered only his 4th defeat as manager – Man U 6 Arsenal 2.  In the previous game Arsenal beat Sheffield W 6-3.

Some reports suggest that 12th achieved by Crayston in 1958 was Arsenal’s worst showing for 38 years – but this is nonsense.  Indeed in 1946/7 – the first post-war season, Arsenal ended up 13th and were knocked out of the cup in the 3rd round – and going back to the 1924/25 season one finds Arsenal missing relegation by one place that season, and the season before.   However the “worst for 38” statement is on the internet  and is copied by those who don’t do their homework.

But after finishing 12th Jack Crayston decided to leave the pressure, and became manager of Doncaster who had just been relegated to the third division. But they were relegated again eight points from safety, and after two seasons in the mid to lower reaches of the fourth Jack again resigned as manager in March 1961 aged 51.

I imagine that at this stage he may have retired – sadly I have no further information to hand save that Jack Crayston died aged 82 in December 1992.

8 February 1987

Arsenal lose at home to Tottenham

Now before you turn away thinking I have totally lost the plot, let me assure you I haven’t.  Yes I am making a home defeat to Tottenham a feature on Today of All Days, but there is a reason.

If you are of a certain vintage you’ll remember it.  If you are an Arsenal historian, you’ll know what’s coming.   But otherwise…. Believe me it is fun.

In 1979 Arsenal won the FA Cup against Man U as Alan Sunderland attained immortality to make the score 3-2, and Terry Neill’s tenure as manager got a cup to polish.

But then life went a bit downhill.

  • 1980: Losing finalists in the FA Cup
  • 1981: Third in the league
  • 1982: Fifth in the league
  • 1983: 10th in the league and two semi-finals
  • 1984: 6th in the league, and Terry Neill is replaced by Don Howe
  • 1985: 7th in the league
  • 1986: 7th in the league and Don Howe is replaced by Steve Burtenshaw
  • 1987: George Graham first season as manager.

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

On the evening of October 27 1986, after a 0-1 defeat to top club Nottm Forest, the table looked more like the end of the Mee era than anything of recent times…What was really awful was the goals tally – five for, five against.  Indeed in the four games up to and including the Forest match Arsenal had not scored a goal.  We were using Niall Quinn and Charlie Nicholas as the front two.  Wimbledon were ninth, we were 15th.

The first casualty of the disastrous run was Stewart Robson who made it through the first five matches only.  Then out went Graham Rix and Charlie Nicholas, and in came Steve Williams, Perry Groves and Martin Hayes.

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

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

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

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

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

Which left just one competition: the League Cup.  We beat Huddersfield, Manchester City, Charlton and Nottingham Forest to reach the semi-final where we were draw against Tottenham.  The home leg came first and we lost 0-1 with 41,306 in the crowd.

Clive Allen scored that goal at Highbury and when the same player scored after 16 minutes in the return leg it made Tottenham 2-0 up.  At half time the announcer on the White Hart Lane PA relayed details of how Tottenham fans could order cup final tickets.

That turned out to be premature as then Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn both scored.  There was extra time, and then a replay, convened on the toss of the coin, at Tottenham (there being no “away goals” rule in the league cup at the time.)

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

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

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

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

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

7 February 1988

Everton 0 Arsenal 1. Book now for Wembley.

Hindsight is wonderful, or a painful reminder.   The result of Everton 0 Arsenal 1 in the League Cup semi-final first leg on 7 February 1988 really felt good, good, good.

The season was much like the previous seasons as our record in the 1980s for the league was:

 League position Manager

But in 1987 we had won the League Cup (our first trophy since 1979) so there was hope that we might do so again.  On this day in 1988 we beat Everton away in the first leg 1-0 of the semi-final with a goal from Perry Groves.

Progress to the semi-final had hardly been that difficult as we beat Doncaster Robvers 3-0 and 1-0 (it was a two legged second round in those days), Bournemouth 3-0, Stoke 1-0, and Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

Thus we got to the second leg of the semi-final without conceding a goal – and the manager was… George Graham.  We were starting to get the idea of how things went under Graham.

Our team was Lukic,  Winterburn (the left back playing at right back), Sansom;  O’Leary, Adams; Thomas, Rocastle, Hayes, Richardson; Smith, Groves. Names that for the most part ring down through history.

The only trouble was us was that January had not been that wonderful, apart from beating Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round of the league cup.

True we had progressed in the FA Cup beating Millwall (Graham’s old club) and Brighton, but in the league we were in trouble – and the trouble had started in December.  When we lost 2-1 at home to Manchester United on January 24th that meant that the last eight games had resulted in four defeats, four draws.

As a result the wonderful expectation that had built up earlier in the season following a run of 10 straight wins from September 12 to November 14 had dissipated.  We were not going to win the league after all.

But there’s one other thing to pick up from a quick look at 1987/88 – the clubs who were in the 1st Division but who now one would never expect to be there now:

  • Portsmouth
  • Luton Town
  • Nottingham Forest
  • Wimbledon
  • Watford
  • Sheffield Wednesday
  • Coventry City
  • Charlton Athletic
  • Oxford United

All playing in the first division.  How times change.

The only problem with this bit of gloating is that it includes Luton Town,   If you have any knowledge of Arsenal’s history, you’ll know that we got through to the final by beating Everton 3-1 at home and… that meant we played Luton Town in the final.  That was going to be easy.

Wasn’t it?

February 6, 1909

Millwall Athletic 1 Arsenal 1, FA Cup 2nd round; Crowd: 32,000

On February 6th, 1909 Arsenal played Millwall Athletic in the FA Cup in front of a crowd which is recorded as an astonishing 32,000.

Arsenal had only played in front of bigger crowds when playing a couple of league matches at Chelsea (where 50,000 was not unknown) and in the second of their two cup semi-finals where 36,000 turned up at St Andrews to see the game against Sheffield Wednesday.

This particular Millwall match in 1909 is to be remembered for two reasons.  First, the size of the crowd, which was explained by the fact that Millwall were Arsenal’s local rivals.  The other was that Millwall at the time were planning to move south, across the River Thames and find success. At the time of this game, the foundations for the new Millwall ground (The Den) were already being laid.

Norris would have looked at this crowd at Millwall, the rivalry, and the move across the river, and noted it all.   Then as he plotted the move of Arsenal in 1913 – the move that would take Arsenal in the opposite direction, he would have recalled exactly what Millwall had done.

Millwall Rovers initially played on the Isle of Dogs, being formed one year before Arsenal in 1885.   In April 1889 the club changed its name to Millwall Athletic and they were founder members of the Southern League.

In the first 25 years of their existence they occupied no less than four different grounds but had never found huge support – and the 1909 game against Arsenal from across the river may well have been their biggest crowd during this era.

So in 1910 Millwall (having dropped the name Athletic – which was taken when they moved to a ground of the same name) moved to a new stadium, The Den, in New Cross.   A fictionalised account of their opening game at the ground is provided in the novel “Making the Arsenal”.

 Woolwich Arsenal never played Millwall during the remaining years when both were south London clubs, but the 1909 match was still a major local derby, just as the Cup game between the two sides had been in 1893 when 20,000 turned up at the Manor Ground for a third qualifying round match.  Given that Arsenal’s largest crowd in the League in that inaugural season was 13,000 the power of local rivalry was clear.

So Henry Norris, thinking about what to do with the club in 1912, had in Millwall a model.  First, a move across the river need be no bad thing.  Millwall had made a success out of their move south.  Second a move that left one very close to another club, could be a benefit rather than a distraction.

Of course Norris had other reasons for picking Highbury as his ultimate venue for the new Arsenal in 1913.  Most importantly, it was the issue of travel.  The games between Arsenal and Millwall had been difficult for supporters because of the local transport difficulties.  Norris wanted a venue that was served by good public transport.

Highbury, with its underground stations and its railway connections was ideal, in exactly the way that The Manor Ground in Plumstead was not ideal.  You could get to Highbury readily no matter whether you were coming from the north, south or west.  Only journeys in from the east were more difficult.  At Plumstead all journeys were difficult.

So it must have been with great interest that Henry Norris watched what happened when Millwall played Arsenal in 1909 and then what happened when Millwall moved south in 1910.  And it certainly must have been clear to Norris that what Millwall could do in one direction, Arsenal could do in another.

The complete story of Woolwich Arsenal, including the move from Plumstead to Highbury is reported in Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football.