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.

21 January 1893

The end of Royal Arsenal in the FA Cup

In the early days of the FA Cup when there were only two divisions in the Football League, the amateur teams would play in a set of four or more qualifying rounds and then the League teams would join in, in the first round (the equivalent of the third round today).

Thus on 10 December 1892 Royal Arsenal beat Clapton at home 5-0 in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.   It was the fourth time Arsenal had been in the FA Cup and the first time Arsenal had won through the qualifying rounds to reach the first round.

That is not to say that Arsenal had not been in the first round proper before because for the previous two seasons Royal Arsenal had been excused qualification.  It all seems a bit erratic – a bit like the FA today in fact.

The record runs like this:

1889/90 Arsenal played in the qualifying rounds and lost in the fourth qualifying round 1-5 at home to Swifts.

1890/91.  Despite the size of the defeat upon their exit last season Arsenal were given a bye and moved straight into the first round, where they were beaten 1-2 at home by Derby

1891/92.  Although the result in the first round was poor thus far (two defeats in two games) Arsenal were again given a bye and this time were beaten 1-5 away by Small Heath in the first round.

1892/3.  Playing in the cup for the last time Royal Arsenal were put back into the qualifying rounds.  The draw gave them every game at home, and the results were

  • 14 October Beat Highland Light Infantry 3-0
  • 29 October Beat City Ramblers 10-1
  • 19 November beat Millwall Athletic 3-2
  • 10 December beat Clapton 5-0

As a result the club moved back into the First Round but on 21 January 1893 Arsenal once again lost in the first round – this time 0-6 away to Sunderland.

There is one interesting moment in the club’s qualification in 1892/3 and that was the match against City Ramblers.  Arthur Elliot  played in this game and he along with  James Henderson and Charles Booth each got three goals – the only time ever that three players all got hatricks in one game.

To give a bit of context to the time, this cup run in the qualifying round in 1892 came after the club had earlier in the year attempted to start up the Southern League.  Indeed in February of that year the following teams were elected by their peers to be part of the new Southern League:

Chatham, Chiswick Park, Crouch End, Ilford, Luton Town, Marlow, Millwall Athletic, Old St Marks, Reading, Royal Arsenal, Swindon Town and West Herts.

Although the league did not get off the ground a second tier of teams was formed as the Southern Alliance (effectively a second division):

Chesham, City Ramblers, Criterion, Erith, Old St Stephens, St Albans, Tottenham Hotspur, Upton Park, Uxbridge, Westminster, Wolverton and Woodville.

So we can start to see a few familiar names appearing.  But to return for a moment to City Ramblers, they must have got used to big defeats as Southampton St Mary’s beat City Ramblers 13-0 in a friendly in 1895/6.

After getting through the qualifying rounds in 1893 Arsenal had to play in them again in the following season, and on October 14 1893 had their record win of 12-0 against Ashford United.  Arsenal played for the last time in the qualifiers in 1903 where after two replays Arsenal beat Bristol Rovers 1-0 at Tottenham to go through.

But here’s a twist: between 1889/90 and 1893/4 Arsenal played 12 matches in the qualifying rounds, winning 11 and losing one.  10 of these games were at home, and only two away.   Of course it might be just a quirk of the balls coming out of the hat, but I wonder if there was anything done to give Arsenal the home games, perhaps because of the quality of the ground, or the expected size of the crowd.  Arsenal did not get drawn away in the first match they played in the competition in any season in the qualifying rounds until 1900/1 when they were drawn away to Darwen.

20 January 2001: Leicester 0 Arsenal 0.

The time is up for Wenger, Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg, and Parlour

On 23 December 2000 Arsenal lost 4-0 to Liverpool, the Arsenal team including Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Dixon, Keown, Parlour, Ljungberg… The media called it a “thrashing” with some editors undoubtedly getting excited with memories of their own public school experiences.

Indeed, December 2000 had proven to be a difficult month all round for Arsenal with just two wins in the last six, and a sequence of just five goals in five games.

And of course the press couldn’t let go of the tale that Arsenal had not won at Anfield in eight years and hadn’t even scored in their last three visits to Anfield, and after this game (making it no goals in four visits) the press crowed over the “wonderful” Steven Gerrard, “the game’s outstanding performer” (the BBC).

Arsenal on the other hand were said to have travel sickness and a complete inability to score goals.  The attacking players (Henry, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Parlour) just were not up to the job and needed to be moved on if Arsenal were ever to make a serious challenge for the title.

As a result of the game Arsenal retained their second place above Leicester on goal difference but were eight points behind Man Utd.

Worse, this result made it three defeats two wins and two draws in last seven, and there was considerable talk of Arsenal slipping down the league especially looking at the next fixtures.

In fact, on Boxing Day Arsenal had to play third placed Leicester City.  The media predicted another Arsenal defeat.   Arsenal won 6-1.

But we still were not back on track.  New Year’s Day saw an unusual defeat to Charlton.  In fact the new year started as the old year had finished, and by 20 January with a goalless draw against Leicester, that made three draws and one defeat in the last four league games.

The league table on this day showed Arsenal in third, with Liverpool and Ipswich only one point behind them.  A top four finish was said to be unlikely, especially as on 25 February came another disaster: a 6-1 defeat to Man U, emphasising the fact that there were now 16 points between Man U and Arsenal.  Arsenal’s days with this Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira team were numbered. Or so we were told.

In fact Arsenal did recover enough to finish the league second, ten behind Man U, making it a hat trick of coming second.

Of course had this been 2014, the 6-1 defeat to Man U, and the 4-0 to Liverpool, not to mention a 1-3 home defeat to Middlesbrough, would have had sixty or so Arsenal “fans” up in arms demanding that Wenger should go, with the full support of the press.

Thankfully for the moment at least the board took no notice. I say fortunately because the following season Arsenal won the Double.

It would have been a shame to miss it.

19 January 1991

It is sometimes forgotten that before the Unbeaten Season, there was the Almost Unbeaten Season of 1990/91.  And on 19 January 1991 we had league match 23, the last match of the run before the one defeat of the season in the next game.  This match ended Arsenal 1 Everton 0.  Merson scored.

Of course with talk of “unbeaten” generally referring to league matches, we don’t take into account the one defeat Arsenal had suffered before this match, on 28 November the game ended Arsenal 2 Manchester United 6 in the League Cup.

After  the match on 19 January Arsenal played Leeds United home and away in the FA Cup, both games ending in draws, 0-0 at Highbury, 1-1 at Elland Road, but after those two battles, the game three days later at Stamford Bridge was a step to far, and Arsenal lost away 2-1 to Chelsea.  A mere 29,024 turned up to see the game.

Arsenal were however still top of the league, one point above Liverpool, and three points ahead of third placed Crystal Palace.  The media’s view was that Arsenal’s bubble would now burst.

 In fact the four games between 27 January and 13 February 1991 were the low point of the season – the defeat to Chelsea and three FA Cup draws all told with Leeds, before Arsenal finally beat Leeds 2-1 to continue on to the relentless league match and FA Cup games against Shrewsbury Town (we won 0-1) and the mighty Cambridge United (2-1 to the Arsenal)

In fact the final defeat was in the FA Cup to, of all people, Tottenham Hostpur 3-1. But by then there were just five games to go to see out the title.  We won three and drew the other two.

But there was one other twist.  The game at which Arsenal were certain of the title (following a failure to win by Liverpool earlier in the evening) was at home against Manchester United, who graciously clapped Arsenal onto the pitch in the traditional manner.  No argy bargy this time.

Which was ironic because Arsenal had been deducted two points and Manchester United one point for unruly behaviour in a match between the two on 11 December 1990.  It was seen as a deliberate attempt to stop Arsenal winning the title, and so the entire return match against Manchester United, with Arsenal already having won the title, was accompanied by seemingly the vast majority of fans singing a song which reflected upon where the Football League could place the two points that it had stolen from Arsenal.

Even more amusingly, the game was filmed live on ITV, and watching a recording of it later, wherein it is quite clear what the crowd is singing, the commentator was reduced to saying, “And the Arsenal crowd are singing “We are the champions”.”   As if we ever would.

18 January 2015

On 1 January 2015 Arsenal were sixth in the League, 13 points behind the league leaders, and there were, what was by then, the regular demands for the sacking of the manager, not least for the fact that we were behind Tottenham, and “clearly” not even going to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Worse we then lost 2-0 to Southampton in that game on New Years’ Day, and although this was followed by the defeat of Hull in the FA Cup, that hardly gave much reassurance.  Even the 3-0 home win over the team who were by now as much of an enemy as Tottenham (Stoke City) at least in terms of their playing style, did not reassure everyone that Arsenal were on the way back up.

Especially as the next game, on 18 January was against Manchester City. Away.

It was however a match which stunned critics of Arsenal, not just for Arsenal’s victory (Giroud and Cazorla scored) but the style of play in which Arsenal conceded possession to Man C for much of the game.  Having lost to Southampton on New Year’s Day this was now Arsenal’s third win in a row without conceding.  It also turned out to be part of a run of eight wins in nine games and just three defeats in the last 26 games of the season.

Even the normally anti-Arsenal media found it impossible to knock Arsenal’s achievement in this game, This was City’s first defeat in 15 matches in all competitions since CSKA Moskva’s win at the Etihad Stadium on 5 November 2014 and was Arsenal’s first win at the home of the Premier League’s reigning champions since a 1-0 win at Manchester United on 8 May 2002.

That game of course was also important since it was part of the run which meant Arsenal became the first top flight team to go through a season without losing an away game since Preston North End in 1889.  It was also the case that the last time Arsenal won at the defending champions by more than a single goal margin was on 26 May 1989 when Thomas’ last minute goal at Liverpool won the title just as the commentator was saying what plucky losers Arsenal were.

And to cap it all the referee was Mike Dean!

So what did Arsenal do and how do they do it?

In fact what Mr Wenger did was change the team’s style of play, setting the side up to defend, often with all 11 players back behind the ball defending in depth with a work rate that could not be criticised, and a previously unseen 4-1-4-1 formation which left Giroud on his own up front and Francis Coquelin lying in between the back four and a midfield four of Alexis, Cazorla, Ramsey and the Ox.

But there was more, for Arsenal averaged only 35% possession, and it was hilarious to hear the TV commentators proclaim how Arsenal were going to get hammered “if they don’t manage to keep hold of the ball.”  In fact Opta later said that it was Arsenal’s lowest possession rate since 2003, when they started keeping records.

Meanwhile Monreal and Bellerin held their positions at the back and refused to get drawn forward – which was clearly the opposite of what the Manchester City players had been told to expect.  If one did go forward, another player held back to make sure the back line was intact.

It meant Arsenal were never caught with too many men forward, and you could tell that was definitely part of their game-plan because of what happened when they did get carried away.

For when Monreal did forget himself and got involved in an attack, Francis Coquelin gave him a reminder in no uncertain terms of what the game plan was.  And Coquelin was entitled to lay down the law, for he made more clearances and more interceptions than anyone else on the pitch.

Equally outstanding was Santi Cazorla, who was hailed by the media for being both creative and fearless.

But what really made the game so memorable was the way the media had built it up, seeing Arsenal as a soft touch and Wenger as a one dimensional manager.

The run that followed was one of 16 wins in 19, another top four finish, and to cap it all, our most emphatic FA Cup final win of all time – 4-0 against Aston Villa.   It didn’t all come from this day, but I am certain it made the team believe they could play this way, and win.

17 January 1976

On 17 January 1976 the score was Leicester City 2 Arsenal 1 and “Boring Arsenal” was a theme within the press, whose reporters suggested the fans thought relegation a distinct possibility.  The away support for the Gunners was only 300 in number. The Mirror said, “you need masochistic tendencies to enjoy Arsenal these days.”

So why pick such a dismal time in Arsenal’s past as our feature for 17 January in this column?

I suppose for myself it is to maintain a sense of perspective.  Having watched the Arsenal win the Double in 1971, I also watched their extraordinarily rapid decline thereafter under Bertie Mee and so I remember what a poor Arsenal side is really like.

Which I guess is why I supported Arsenal through the era in which Arsene Wenger was endlessly criticised for merely winning a record number of FA Cups while keeping Arsenal in the top four.  The go-to comment of the time was “fourth is not a trophy” to which I always wanted to add, “no it isn’t, but it is certainly preferable to 16th and 17th which is where we ended up just four and five years after the first glorious Double.

In December 1976 Arsenal had won two out of six games, scoring just two goals in the process, and ended the year in 17th

There was some thought that maybe there might be relief against a relegation threatened Wolverhampton in the third round of the FA Cup – for although the game was away from home there was the fact that the club had only won four games all season, and scored only 24 goals in the 24 games they had played.

But even against such opposition in a trophy that Arsenal had done so well in just a few years before, the club could not raise itself and on 3 January 1976 the score to depress the depressed supporters even more was Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Arsenal 0, with 22,215 in the ground.  As the old timers said, it felt like 1958 all over again.

Bobby Campbell put the result down to Wolverhampton having all the luck, but the truth was that for 70 minutes Arsenal only had one shot on target.  Wolverhampton played with Alan Sunderland at right back, and the home team and its manager were barracked by their own fans throughout.  Arsenal must have wondered what the local fans did when the side were playing badly.

There was of course a chance to recover in the league, but the following weekend’s result of Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 0 with just 24,501 at Highbury gave little hope.  (Those who in pre-pandemic days complained that not every seat was taken at the Emirates, might care to remember these days: fans don’t turn up to see a declining team.)

Alan Ball suggested in public that the club ought to give the supporters their entrance money back not least because Villa adopted the increasingly popular approach of playing at Highbury with the entire team behind the ball.  As a result everyone seemed to accept that this was going to be a 0-0 after about 15 minutes, and simply gave up.  Mee, never the master tactician, clearly did not have alternative strategies that he could pass on to the players, so 10 behind the ball it was.

Ron Saunders admitted his team’s anti-football stance, saying that a 0-0 draw was a good result for Villa .  Bertie Mee pointed out that Arsenal had four teenagers in the team – but the feeling was that aside from O’Leary none of them were really good enough; even Brady was having an off day.  Besides, if Mee was using that as an excuse, it was a fairly lame one, since it was up to him to buy or bring through players, and he was the one who had spoken at length of the need to cut the squad.   He had, after all, been in post since 1966.

For the record Arsenal’s young team was

Rimmer, Rice, Nelson, Powling, O’Leary, Mancini, Armstrong, Ball, Stapleton, Kidd, Brady.

And so we come to 17 January with the result was Leicester City 2 Arsenal 1 with a crowd of just 21,331 in Filbert Street.

“Boring Arsenal” was starting to be a theme within the press, although some preferred “Dreary Arsenal”, while others suggested that the fans thought relegation a distinct possibility.  Indeed the estimate for this game was that the away support for the Gunners was only 300 in number.  It was the start of the ironic song suggesting “we will follow the Arsenal “overland and sea and Leicester”.

The Mirror said, “you need masochistic tendencies to enjoy Arsenal these days.”  Yet Arsenal actually took the lead on 19 minutes hitting a 25 yard drive in off the post from Ross.  Both Leicester’s goals came in the last three minutes.  It was a disaster for Arsenal’s morale.

Arsenal had now lost to two of the clubs in the bottom section of the league and drawn their other match.  All that was left was to play the division’s bottom club – who then, as this season already looked doomed: Sheffield United.

Arsenal did win that game (1-0) but the crowd sank even further; 14,477 was Arsenal’s lowest home crowd of the season, and it felt as if each of us were able to have a crash barrier to ourselves as Arsenal, who  could have scored half a dozen, took 85 minutes to get their goal.   In fact my memory of the game was of walking all around the North Bank during the course of the match, just because one could.

To be fair, visiting keeper Jim Brown decided to have one of his most magnificent performances and even when Arsenal did score, they relied on a spot of luck, as Brown failed to hold Kidd’s shot and the ball bounced to Brady who slipped it home.   Until that moment Sheffield played with ten behind the ball (undoubtedly having watched a recording of Villa earlier in the month).  United took this further playing “how many defenders can you get into the penalty area at once?”  A tedious game, as Ball, Ross and Powling all conjured up attempts to find ways through.

In fact Sheffield left no weapon untried, as a result of which Mancini suffered concussion.  When he arose and carried on we could see the stud marks and blood down his face, and it was reported that he retained vision in only one eye for the rest of the game.  Medical precautions?  Who needs them!

Arsenal were now 18th, just two places above relegation.

16 January 1946

A series of FA Cup replays were played on this day in 1946, with 30 minutes of extra time and then if scores were still equal the game continued until someone scored. The Middlesbrough and Blackpool match played 31 minutes after extra time and slightly shorter games were played out with Nottingham Forest v Watford,and QPR v Crystal Palace. The Middlesbrough game was thus the longest official football match ever played in England at 151 minutes.

Indeed 1945/6 was a strange season.  It had been agreed by the Football League that there was not enough infrastructure operating in the country after the end of the second world war to set up a new League programme, and so the wartime leagues continued as before.  Besides too many players were still away from their clubs and clubs had not had enough time to arrange for transfers to plug the gaps in their squads.

But the FA Cup came back after its wartime suspension, and for one season only, it was played on a home and away basis after the six preliminary rounds involving non-league teams.

The home/away system for this one season meant that draws were less likely over the two legs, and of course this reduced the chances of giant killing considerably, as the smaller clubs can often pull off a shock once, but rarely twice against the same team.

However there were inevitably some drawn games.   And this was a problem as there was also a partial ban on mid-week games being played as the government attempted to get the rebuilding programme underway. The lack of power also meant no floodlighting was allowed and thus a midweek replay kicking off at 2.15pm might have tempted supporters to take an afternoon off work and very few were allowed.

In the FA Cup replays that did happen it was agreed that in the event of a draw the game would continue until someone scored.

In the 4th round games on 26 and 30 January 1946, Blackpool beat Middlesbrough 3-2 and Middlesbrough then beat Blackpool 3-2.  The replay on 4 February 1946 is recorded as resulting in Blackpool 0 Middlesbrough 1.

In his memoires, Arsenal manager, Tom Whittaker reported on this match.

“I remember the third game between Middlesbrough and Blackpool, on the Leeds United ground, lasting 30 minutes of extra time, and then, played to a finish, going another 31 minutes before the Middlesbrough captain, George Hardwick, brought merciful relief with a penalty.”

From what I can make out, Nottingham Forest v Watford, 3rd round replay on 16 January 1946 was finished in the same way, as was QPR v Crystal Palace on the same day.

Apparently the FA then ordered the practice to be stopped, and presumably reached a compromise with the government about additional replays if required.

None of this affected Arsenal as they fared poorly in the Cup this season losing 0-6 to West Ham away on 5 January and winning 1-0 in the second leg on 9 January 1946.

Indeed the whole season was something of a disaster for Arsenal as we finished 13th. Allison had only continued running the club at White Hart Lane through the war out of loyalty to the club and the board, and was very reluctant to manage this first season back. But the board wanted Tom Whittaker as manager, and he was not yet available, and so Allison stayed on.

He then wrote his autobiography, “Allison Calling” and finally was able to retire. That autobiography totally contradicts the work of fiction produced by previous Arsenal manager Leslie Knighton, but as is the way of things it was the false story of Knighton that hit the headlines. I imagine Allison was outraged by Knighton’s book but was by probably told by the board to stay quiet “for the sake of the club”.

Just another of those little quirky things that has slipped out of most history books.

15 January 1921

The first north London derby in the League and what happened next

On 15 January 1921 the result was Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1; and that caused a fair bit of interest because it was the first league derby between the two clubs following Arsenal’s move to north London. 

There had been a few previous friendlies which seemed to have calmed Tottenham’s anger at the move much of which centred on the concern that having two clubs within a couple of miles of each other. 

Their view, based it seems on no evidence, was that crowds would be diminished with both team playing locally.   However Henry Norris argued the opposite.  He said that three teams in the area (there was Clapton Orient as well, who when Arsenal moved, were in the same division as Arsenal) would keep football in the local papers every day.  That in turn would raise public awareness and excitement, and so crowd numbers would go up.

Indeed the Tottenham objection to Arsenal’s move was disappointing, given that when Tottenham had applied for a place in the Football League in 1908 (having been playing in the Southern League) it was Arsenal’s vote which had given them the place.  

Tottenham had in fact resigned from the Southern League (as their rules required) before the election was held for new teams to enter the Football League, and to their horror (and despite the fact that Tottenham were by then previous FA Cup winners) they failed to get elected.

This left them without a league, but then another team dropped out – but Arsenal then stepped in.  You can read the full story here.

So it was disappointing that Tottenham did not reciprocate Arsenal’s favour in getting Tottenham into the League, when Arsenal proposed the move to Highbury. They were either being vindictive or clearly did not believe Henry Norris’ vision that crowds would go up if there were three league teams all playing within a few miles of each other

In fact in 1913/14, Arsenal’s first year in north London, not only did Arsenal’s crowds leap up (by a staggering 142%, despite their having dropped to the second division), Tottenham’s went up by 17% as well.

As a result in 1913/14 Tottenham had an average home gate of 28,020.  Arsenal had an average of 22,745.

By 1920/1 Tottenham’s average crowd had risen to 36,010 while Arsenal were now hot on their heels with an average crowd of 35,540.

The crowd at this first north London derby was 39,221, but the return match at Highbury a week later got a crowd of 60,600.  So both teams got an above average crowd for their home derby game, but it was Arsenal who got the big benefit.

However as Arsenal’s crowd continued to grow, Tottenham’s slipped back, although in overall terms north London had by now become the centre of football in terms of crowds.  Tottenham, in 1922/3 were the second most supported club in England, Arsenal the fourth.

And then the unthinkable (at least from Tottenham’s point of view) happened.  Arsenal’s average crowd in 1923/4 at 29,950 was the second largest in the country, while Tottenham’s at 28,420, was fourth.  And this despite neither club being anywhere near challenging for any trophy.  Tottenham ended the season in 15th, Arsenal in 19th – just above the relegation zone.

Of course thereafter, once the Chapman revolution happened, the crowds went up even more, but we should not forget it was Norris’ vision that was right.  Put two or three clubs in the same area, and the local papers will have a football story every day.  Supporting one of the local clubs would be a central part of life for the menfolk in the area, and the children would grow up with that notion.  It was not success that bred the big crowds, he argued, but local rivalry and a good transport system.  (And of course not being by the river).

14 January 2006: Thierry Henry and Cliff Bastin

On 14 January 2006 the score was Arsenal 7 Middlesbrough 0. Henry scored a hat-trick, and on the AISA Arsenal History Site you can see a video of the match. 

And indeed seven goals is enough by itself to make it worth celebrating this match.  But there was also something else, for those goals for Henry meant that he had equalled Cliff Bastin’s record as Arsenal’s top scorer.

Clifford Sydney Bastin was born on 14 March 1912 in Exeter and played for his school and local recreation teams.

On leaving school he started to train as an electrician, but also joined Exeter City FC.  His first game was for the Reserves in the Southern League against Bath City on December 24, 1927 age 15.   He was in the first team by the following April aged 16 years 1 month playing against Coventry City in a 0-0 draw.    In his home debut for the first team he scored two in a 5-1 win against Newport County.  In all he played 17 times for Exeter and scored six.

The fact that he only played 17 times for Exeter was something of an accident – at least according to legend.  For the story that is told is that Herbert Chapman actually went to St James Park to watch a Watford player he was contemplating signing, but Chapman was so taken with Cliff that he negotiated to buy him instead.  True or not, the signing is the indication of what Chapman did.  He travelled the land to see players, and having seen one he thought make do it, he would buy him. 

Bastin in his autobiography however says that Blackburn were also after him, and that before Arsenal arrived he had already had a dispute with Exeter over wages, they trying to pay him lower than the norm, probably thinking that as a 16 year old, he wouldn’t really know what’s what.

However when Chapman arrived, Bastin turned down the offer of Arsenal.  Again in the autobiography Bastin tells of Chapman pursuing him to his house and making another pitch for his signature.  Eventually Bastin agreed, but then needed his mother’s permission.  She apparently said, “Do as you please.”  So he signed.

Arsenal paid £2,000 for Bastin on 27 April 1929, and Bastin himself tells the tale that when he turned up at Arsenal on the first day the doorman wouldn’t let him in, thinking he was just another supporter trying to get autographs.

This was the time when Herbert Chapman was changing the role of the wingers, as part of his complete re-writing of the tactical approach following the change in the offside rule in 1925.   Wingers, up to this point had been playing up and down the line.   Chapman’s idea was to get the wingers to come inside, either with the inside forwards dropping back, or with them moving out to the wing to receive the ball if it came lose in a tackle from the full back.   Bastin, he thought, was the ideal player to do this since he had played both on the wing and as an inside forward.

It was a tactical innovation that was part of the revolution that emerged post-1925 and it was aided by the additional facts that Bastin became a dead-ball specialist, and was dangerous in the air at the far post – another rare trait for a winger at the time.   In his first full season (1930-1) he scored 28 goals in 42 games playing in each game at number 11.  Arsenal won the league after being 14th the previous year.

In all Bastin scored 150 goals in 350 games for Arsenal.  He won the league five times and the Cup twice.    He was capped for England 21 times.

Cliff Bastin played in the friendly against Germany in May 1938 when England won 6-3 – he scored the first goal.  You can also see him in “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery” film and in the in the 1942 movie “One of our aircraft is missing”.

In 1936 Bastin suffered from a serious attack of the flu, which led to an inner ear infection, which in turn led to the onset of deafness.  Although his form declined somewhat he was able to keep playing, and during the last three pre-war years he often played as a half back rather than a winger.

War broke out when Bastin was 27 and he was excused war service for failing the army hearing test, instead serving as an ARP Warden at the Highbury.   During the war he played 241 games and scored 70 goals.

He played in the first six matches after the war in the 1946/7 season but with age catching up and his hearing gone he then retired.   His total including cup games for Arsenal was 178 goals in 395 games.

In retirement he ran a café back in his home county, wrote for the Sunday Pictorial and went on to be a publican.  He died aged 79 in Devon.  In 2000 Exeter named one of their stands after him.

One can only hope Thierry knew a little about the modest man whose record he went on to beat.

13 January 1919: Football in the days of the pandemic

In January 1919, with the war over, but the wartime football leagues continuing, discussions began about how the official Football League could be resumed.

And on 13 January 1919, there was a meeting of the Football League with representatives of all the 40 League clubs – except Glossop North End, which the Hill-Wood family had now pulled the plug on.  Indeed unlike Henry Norris who had bailed out Woolwich Arsenal with his own money in 1910, the Hill-Woods were made of less stern stuff, and having abandoned one club, now decided to go looking for a club that might make money rather than just lose it.  They did indeed find one – but not for several years yet.   

The meeting’s agenda for the Football League included the issues of getting to away fixtures by train (not all lines were working, and rail prices had risen by 50% – and motor coaches did not arrive until 1925), the demands of the Players’ Union on wages, the state of the pitches, which had been neglected during the war and an extension to the season, to reduce the number of midweek games.  There was also a debate on uniting the Football League and the Southern League.

Arsenal’s chairman, Sir Henry Norris, now no longer required on a daily basis at the War Office, took his full part in these debates, once more putting forward the view that there should be no maximum wage for players – although he was alone in this plea. Overall the League wanted wages cut, the Union ultimately settled on £2 a week.

The FA followed this with their own meeting the following day, formally allowing players to be paid (which they were being anyway), and allowing matches on days other than saturdays, and public holidays.  As had been the case before the war, 1 May was designated as the day on which clubs could start registering players for the new season.

A third meeting then took place in the evening of the same day (14 January) which voted to extend the football season in 1919/20.   This was curious because with no extension to the number of clubs, there was no reason to go for an extension.  But then, when has football management ever been logical?

It also became clear at this meeting that following the previous days’ meeting Claude Kirby, chairman of Chelsea FC, had written to the Football League Management Committee demanding Chelsea be reinstated in the First Division, given that they had only been relegated because of the match fixing activities of Liverpool and Manchester United in the last season before the cessation of the league for the duration.

On 18 January 1919 Arsenal played top of the league Brentford in the London Combination wartime league in front of 30,000 at Highbury.    

And this is of note because this crowd appeared despite the fact that Spanish flu had arrived in the UK in May 1918, and had since reached unprecedented heights.  The government said nothing, but the local authorities advised the public to catch later trains to avoid the crush, wear extra layers of clothing, wash drinking glasses more thoroughly and avoid shaking hands and kissing.  Theatres banned children from attending performances and removed their carpets.

Other advice included eating plenty of porridge and cleaning teeth regularly.  Hospitals were overwhelmed, and the shortage of gravediggers led to bodies lying unburied for days.  Nothing was done to control the size of football crowds.

Eventually the pandemic subsided in the summer of 1919 with over a quarter of a million people in Britain having died.

And throughout talk of football continued. Having launched their notion that Chelsea and Arsenal should be in the First Division next season as part of the plan to increase the league by two clubs, the influential magazine Athletic News also noted that if neither were elected to the expanded league for the 1919/20 season, London would have no teams in the top tier of English for the first time since 1903/4.

Of course that might have been a cause of some rejoicing among the teams of the north, who might welcome the absence of away games at such a distance.  But there was a danger in pursuing this line, because the Southern League were still making noises about joining the Football League, and the London Combination was also talking up the possibility of their continuing with an enlarged London and the South East league.  Given the current transport issues, this could well be an attractive idea.

Besides, the clubs getting the biggest crowds were in London, and London now had six teams of note, and if none were in the top division, they really might well leave the League en masse.

And then, at this moment of much pondering about the future, Charles Sutcliffe wrote an article concerning the future of football.  This was highly significant for when Sutcliffe spoke, football tended to listen.  He had been a player, a referee, and was the founder of the Referees’ Association.  Later he became a member of the Football League Management Committee, introducing, among other things, automatic promotion and relegation.

He now proposed that the two top teams from the second division in 1914/15 should be promoted as everyone naturally expected.  But in addition there should be a voting system to find two more clubs to join them in the first division.  This, he said, would allow other clubs to put right the wrong done to Chelsea, who had been relegated because of the match fixing of Man United and Liverpool, and allow the clubs to vote for one other team to join Chelsea in the expanded top division.

The idea was instantly accepted.  No one even considered stopping football until the pandemic had run its course.

If you would like to read more on this period of Arsenal’s history, and indeed see extracts from publications of the day on these topics, you might find the article “Arsenal in January 1919: rioting in the streets and the question of promotion” interesting.

Tony Attwood

12 January 2012: AISA at the House of Commons

On 12 January 2012: Philippa Dawson, a direct descendant of Jack Humble (Woolwich Arsenal’s first chairman, and a director into the 1920s) addressed an AISA Arsenal History Society meeting in the House of Commons.  She was the first member of the family to do so for four generations.  The meeting was also addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, who as you may recall in 2015 became the Leader of the Labour Party.

Jack Humble was one of the men who founded Arsenal at the Dial Square Cricket Club in 1886.   He was also a player for the club, and from the early days a member of the committee that ran the club.

In 1891 he was part of the committee that proposed the historic motion that Royal Arsenal FC should become a professional club and two years later was elected the first ever chairman of Woolwich Arsenal FC as Arsenal entered the Football League.

In 1906 after 20 years service to the club as player, administrator and director Jack retired from his position, but four years later when the club was taken over by Henry Norris, Jack was the only one of the previous directors that Norris sought out and brought back to the club.

Jack took up his position immediately it was offered and in 1913 he effectively took over the running of the club while Norris travelled across London seeking a new ground for Arsenal to play at.

Jack Humble continued as a director once Arsenal had moved to Highbury.  In the first world war he served his country using his expertise gained from his years working at the Royal Arsenal factories, before returning once again as a director in 1919 with Arsenal back in the First Division.

He was also still on the board with Norris (by then Lt Col Sir Henry Norris, his titles arising from his work as the head of conscription in the War Office) when the historic invitation was put out for Herbert Chapman to take over as manager, and Jack continued to serve on the board until 1927, living to see Arsenal’s first triumph, in the FA Cup.

As such Jack Humble was the only man who was directly and centrally involved with Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal and Arsenal FC – from the very foundation of the club to Herbert Chapman.

In her speech Philippa Dawson revealed that after Jack’s death members of the family had moved to America and had taken with them many of Jack’s mementos and papers, and it is believed that they are still extant, in the United States.

The Celebration at the House of Commons was part of the activity of the AISA Arsenal History Society, which was involved in unearthing the detail about Arsenal’s past.  At the launch copies of the cover of the Society’s book, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that made history” were on show, and one of the discoveries about the club’s early days (the battle with Royal Ordinance Factories FC) was revealed.