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.

6 January 1934

Today we commemorate the passing of Herbert Chapman on this day in 1934

In our own way, the AISA Arsenal History society can say we’ve done something to continue the recognition of the contribution that Herbert Chapman made to Arsenal. For it was AISA that persuaded Arsenal FC to erect a statue of Herbert Chapman at the stadium. Our instructions were, “Have him looking up at the stadium as if he’s saying, ‘I built this’.”

Getting Herbert Chapman to come to Arsenal in 1925 was the final part of Sir Henry Norris’ great plan for the club which had begun with the rescue of the bankrupt club in 1910.

Quite how Norris did it we’ll never know, but he persuaded the most famous manager in the country to leave Huddersfield where he had performed miracles and where he was on track to perform another, and come to Arsenal, the club that had never won anything and had been dallying with relegation in the last few years

Indeed Huddersfield had finished third in the 1st Division in 1923, and then won their first league title in 1924, and again in 1925, both under Chapman.  That 1924/5 season was also the first time a title-winning side had gone through a season without conceding more than two goals in any match.

So why did Chapman leave Huddersfield?  The answer is most likely the crowds – and since crowds were the clubs’ only source of income other than selling players, the ultimate reason had to be, the finance.

Huddersfield’s ground could pack in 60,000+ crowds, but in 1925 when they won the league they actually had a crowd average of only 17,670.  And that as we have noted was in their second successive championship winning season.  In 1924/5 Arsenal, under Leslie Knighton’s management were once against battling against relegation, but still had the largest average attendance of any club in the country: just under 30,000

The following season under Chapman the Arsenal crowd went up by 6%.  By 1929/30 as Arsenal approached their first ever trophy (the FA Cup) the league crowd average had reached a record high of 35,500, and then leaped up against to over 37,000 the following season.

To reiterate the point, clubs only had two forms of income in these days, other than money donated by directors: gate receipts and player sales.   Arsenal as a buying club did not make money on their player sales, so they needed the crowds – and that is what Norris gave the club through a large ground with good public transport facilities, and Chapman gave them by winning the Cup and the League.

By 1932 the average crowd at Highbury for league games was over 40,000, and by 1934/5 the average attendance had risen to 46,252.  The second highest average attendance was achieved by Manchester City at 34.824, and just behind them was Tottenham on 34,389. Arsenal were way ahead.

This was the achievement of Henry Norris and Herbert Chapman: to give Arsenal an income second to none.   Of course, the club was often known as the Bank of England club because of the high transfer fees that the club paid.  But this was entirely achieved through these record attendances which Henry Norris had predicted could be gained as a result of the move from Plumstead to Highbury. This is what Herbert Chapman had delivered – and indeed what was maintained after his passing on this day in 1934.

We’ve published a wide range of articles on Herbert Chapman on the Arsenal History Society website and you can find an index to some of these here.

We also have a complete history of Arsenal in the 1930s, continuing the story of Chapman’s heritage up to the outbreak of war

I do hope you find them of interest.

Tony Attwood

5 January 2002

The league table on 5 January 2002 looked promising

1Leeds United21118233171641
2Manchester United21123651312039
4Newcastle United21123639281139

Not just sitting third, but third with a game in hand.

Arsenal had won the double in 1998 but since then had had to accept second place in the league three years running.  Worse, each time they were second to Manchester United.

Worse still in 1999 Manchester United had themselves done the double for the third time in six years.  Arsenal on the other hand had won the FA cup three times in the past decade, and there was thought that maybe this would be their best shot at silverware.

So thoughts were positive for the FA Cup third round match on this day in 2002 and indeed it ended Watford 2 Arsenal 4.   And yes, it was the start of  the cup side of the 3rd double season.   Henry, Ljungberg, Kanu and Bergkamp scored, but it was Henry who was the star, scoring the first, setting up the second.

In the end Arsenal won the league by a staggering ten points, ending 13 points above Manchester United.

But there was something else.  The victory at Watford was Arsenal’s fourth successive victory, having just beaten Liverpool, Chelsea, and Middlesbrough in the League.

After that things seemed to cool down somewhat with draws against Liverpool and Leeds.  But then we were off on another run of three victories, followed by a draw (at home to Southampton) followed by a couple of victories, a draw… so it went on.  Mostly wins, the occasional draw, and no defeats.

Actually there were some defeats however – in game 19 after the Liverpool game we played Deportivo La Coruña and lost.  A week later we also lost to Juventus, and that was it we were out of the Champions League.

But gradually it dawned.  These were the only defeats.  Arsenal were simply plodding along winning (or drawing occasionally) each FA Cup and Premier League game. One after the other after the other.

In fact the club went 28 games in FA Cup and Premier League without defeats,  including straight wins in each of the last 12 games of the season.

Arsenal won the FA Cup on 4 May by beating Chelsea 2-0.  Then on 8 May Manchester United knew that  they had to beat Arsenal at Old Trafford, and hope that Arsenal lost their last match of the season (while hoping that Man U would win theirs) in order to stop another Arsenal double.

But it didn’t work out for them.  Arsenal just kept on winning each and every game to get that third double.

4 January 1992: History don’t mean a thing

The defeat of Arsenal by Wrexham of the fourth division on 4 January 1992 was not just portrayed as a big piece of giant killing, it was the giant killing of the league champions, and was a defeat of Arsenal, and so pumped up by the media to stand alongside the defeat of Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal by Walsall of the third division north.

Certainly the Wrexham game was a real top v bottom affair since not only had Arsenal won the league the previous season, Wrexham had finished bottom of the Fourth Division, and had been saved removal from the League by the “re-election” process.   This involved the bottom four clubs having to apply for re-election while various non-league clubs applied for election.  The third and fourth division clubs then voted, and most of the time the bottom four got re-elected.  After all, fourth division chairmen always recognised they were all just one bad season away from applying for re-election themselves and so favours were done and later called in.

Wrexham survived and in 1991/2 Wrexham they rallied and finished 14th in Division 4 (a league that at that time also included Cardiff City) while Arsenal slipped back under George Graham and finished fourth, ten points behind Leeds United, who won the title.

If I mention that Arsenal scored the opener with Paul Merson cutting back to Alan Smith, you’ll appreciate that this was not a second XI team of the type that Mr Wenger sometimes deployed.  The famous back four also were all on display.

Not only was it a wonder moment for Wrexham, but also for Mickey Thomas (not, of course, the Thomas who beat Liverpool to win the league in 1989).  Thomas was a local lad of whom, before the game, the Wrexham manager said of him, “He trains when he wants to train.  I don’t see him too often.”  We later found out why.

It was he who placed a disputed 25 yard free kick past David Seaman on 82 minutes.  On 84 minutes  Steve Watkin’s scored the winner and Arsenal were out.

In the next round Wrexham were defeated by West Ham after drawing 2-2 away.  Arsenal recovered under Graham to win both the FA Cup and the League Cup the following season.

As for Thomas, the old chap who rarely trained, he was soon after jailed for 18 months for his part in a money counterfeiting business.  He also had an extra marital affair which resulted in him being knifed.  The football media would probably call him “a bit of a lad”.

But for Wrexham, that was the highlight.  By the 21st century the club was involved in attempts by their own chairman to have them evicted from their ground so his property company could use the land for house building.  

On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration owing over £2.5m and became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction which proved decisive in determining Wrexham’s relegation.

The club’s future remained in doubt until 2006 when a new limited company took over the club, thus allowing the club to avoid debts built up by the old company.

The ups and downs of the club continue and most recently on 16 November 2020 the club was once again taken over by a new set of owners, one of whom proclaimed that “We want Wrexham to be a global force”.  At the time of writing they are 15th in the National League. Arsenal meanwhile had set the record for the longest run of consecutive years in the Champions League of any English club ever.

3 January 1953

We are all familiar with Arsenal winning the league on the last match of the season.  George Graham’s team beating Liverpool 0-2 away, and Bertie Mee’s  Double with that last match win at Tottenham.

But there was another equally dramatic win in the last game of the season – back in 1953.  Because of the lack of TV cameras we have now forgotten this game, and yet it was as dramatic as the others. And within the story we see a moment of the discontent that has been heard at Arsenal over the years.

To tell the story we need to go back to January 3 1953, a day on which Arsenal lost 1-3 at home to Sunderland.

It was hardly a catastrophe, because Arsenal were undefeated in the previous seven games and in this era, losing 10 or 11 games while winning the league was the norm. Besides, although it was a home defeat, it was also only the fourth defeat all season for Arsenal, with over half the games now played.

Prior to the match Arsenal had beaten Bolton 6-4 away from home on 25 December 1952,  and indeed the recent run of results had also included Liverpool 1 Arsenal 5 on 15 November 1952.

As a result of this run of form Arsenal were standing a promising second in the league. What’s more Arsenal were not only second, but second with a game in hand and a far superior goal average than other teams around them.

This was the team of Logie, Lishman, Goring and Holton, a team evolved from the side that had won the cup in 1950. But the defeat on this day against Sunderland knocked Arsenal down the league table to 6th – and some of the fans showed what is perhaps not, after all, such a modern trend, of taking the last match alone as the indicator of how things stand.

The volume, “Highbury: the story of Arsenal” by John Spurling recounts the story that Peter Goring was confronted after the Sunderland game by a fan who said that he’d seen the Arsenal team of the 30s and that the current team wasn’t fit to lick their boots. Peter is quoted as saying, “I wasn’t the only player to be confronted in such a way.  Some of the other boys also got hassle from fans which wasn’t nice”.

The Anti-Arsenal Arsenal (as they were labelled after they started their constant attacks on Arsene Wenger) were thus active in the 1950s, as indeed they were in the 1930s (Chapman regularly railed against the boo-boys as they were called then), and indeed as they were when the fans deserted the club between 1910 and 1913.

Indeed, Jon Spurling’s account of the era includes the comment that “One of Goring’s team mates snapped and told the Daily Mail journalist… that he was ‘ashamed of the crowd and considered them the most unsporting collection in the country’.”

But all was not lost – as with Arsenal it never is.  Arsenal in fact recovered quickly from the Sunderland game and the next seven games scored 27 goals.

There was then another difficult run of four draws and two defeats in the league between March 7 and March 28.   But then on April 3 another run started – a run of seven undefeated including five straight wins.  Indeed not just five straight wins, but five wins that involved scoring 18 goals.

At the end of that run – on the evening of April 18 – the league table had been transformed…

  PldWDLFAGl AvPts
2Wolverhampton Wndrs411913984601.4051
3Preston North End391812980601.3348

But then with the season drawing to an end, and Arsenal needing just three points from three matches to claim the title, there was another twist.

  • 22 April 1953:  Cardiff 0 Arsenal 0
  • 25 April 1953: Preston 2 Arsenal 0

Now either Arsenal or Preston could win the league.  If both clubs produced the same result, or if Arsenal did better than Preston, then Arsenal would win.

  PldWDLFAGl AvPts
2Preston North End412012984601.4052
3Wolverhampton Wndrs4219131086631.3651

Preston played their game in hand first and won 1-0, taking them up to 54 points but still with a worse goal average than Arsenal.  So Arsenal had to win.  It didn’t matter by how many but they had to win.

The Highbury pitch was in a terrible state by this time – utterly covered in mud and without a blade of grass in sight with the edges utterly unplayable – but it was at Highbury that Arsenal had to play their last game, against fifth placed Burnley.

The teams had drawn at Turf Moor 1-1 back on December 13, and this was certainly not seen as a certainty for Arsenal.

This final match was played on a Friday evening, to avoid clashing with the Cup Final the next day, and when Arsenal went for their normal pre-match meal at Kings Cross station they were met with fans already turning up for the Cup Final the next day. There were also people hanging around Highbury from mid-day onwards – a precursor of the game at Tottenham in 1971.

But surprisingly come kick off the ground was not full.  Only 51,586 turned up – perhaps because it was a Friday night.  Perhaps because everyone expected it to be impossible to get in!  Perhaps it was the awful weather which had seen heavy rain off and on through the day.

Doug Lishman stated later that the earlier antagonism of some of the crowd vanished for this match, saying, “The crowd was at their best that night.  The noise they made was unbelievable, it was really ear piercing…. However much the players and the fans were in conflict that season I can’t deny they were superb on that night.”

Burnley took the lead on six minutes, but then midway through the first half Forbes and Lishman scored within minutes of each other to give Arsenal the lead which Logie extended to 3-1 just before half time.

Then at half time the heavens opened once again and there was talk in the crowd of the match being abandoned as the pitch clearly got utterly waterlogged.   The game however did re-start, and within minutes Burnley had got one back.  The conditions meant players started to pick up injuries – Joe Mercer said playing in that match crocked him for good while Don Roper played on with torn ligaments.  Logie and Goring were hardly able to move and so were just put behind the ball as Arsenal tried to hang on for the rest of the second half.  

Part way through the second half Tom Whittaker, the manager who had won the league in 1948 and the cup in 1950, left the dugout and reputedly poured himself a stiff drink!  Luckily there were no TV cameras to capture the moment or we’d never have heard the last of it. Burnley hit the bar, and had a call for a penalty, but at 8pm the match ended and Arsenal had won the league on goal difference.

  PldWDLFAGl AvPts
2Preston North End422112985601.4254
3Wolverhampton Wndrs4219131086631.3651

It turned out to be Tom Whittaker’s last trophy, for tragically during the 1956/7 season while still manager, he died suddenly. Jack Crayston took over for one and a half seasons, followed by four seasons of George Swindin and four seasons of Billy Wright. The club did not win another trophy until 28 April 1970 – 16 years later which makes it even more worth recording as a most special moment in Arsenal’s history.

2 January 1903: Arsenal manager found guilty in court

On 2 January 1903, Harry Bradshaw, the Arsenal manager was charged with “keeping the Manor Ground for the exercise of a lottery,” found guilty and fined, after Arsenal’s archery tournament was found to be illegal.

The fine was £5.  There is no record as to whether the club paid the fine for him, I truly hope they did.

At the end of the 1901/2 season with the Woolwich Arsenal FC funds looking a bit dodgy, Jack Humble, a director of the club who had in fact been the club’s first chairman back in 1893, came up with the idea of organising an archery tournament as a fundraiser.

Which might seem a bit dull to you today – but stay with me on this, because this archery competition became one of the big events in terms of fundraising for Arsenal at the time.  In fact, when it was held on 29 November 1902 it raised about £1,200.

Now that again might not sound too much by today’s standards, but let us consider.  That’s about £146,000 in today’s money raised in one day. The average rate of inflation over the years since 1903 being just over 4% per annum.

OK, that is still not that much in footballing terms compared with today, but in fact, in the early 20th century, it was over one-fifth of the total yearly income for the club from all sources, raised in just one day!  This surely meant that this was the end to Arsenal’s financial problems -at least for one season.

Except that the Law stepped in at this point and after a fair amount of saying “Hello hello hello, what’s all this then?” or whatever the equivalent was 100 years ago, they decided that this was not an archery tournament at all, but a lottery – which in the law of the day had a different meaning.

So let’s see what happened…

On the day of the tournament, Arsenal opened up the Manor Ground as a funfair and showground, with various stalls and the like to occupy visitors, with the archery competition being the highlight of the event.

80,000 archery tickets were sold across much of the southeast and even up to the Midlands, in advance, at 6d each (that’s six old pennies or half a shilling, or…. well money was all a bit silly in the old days, so let’s leave that).   In the build-up, everyone who had entered was allowed to practice with a bow and arrow, although there was no prize for the best shot.

Instead, to find the winner, the stub of each ticket sold was placed on a board measuring 17 feet by 17 feet and a young lady from the town was invited to fire an arrow at the board.

There was some fun and games at this point as the lady missed the board completely, which must take some doing since 17 feet by 17 feet is a pretty big board.  And indeed she missed again with the second shot, getting it right with the third, hitting one of the stubs and thus finding the winner.

The winner was a Mr Grubb of 190 Plumstead Road who won £50 (about £6,000 today) and in total 150 minor prizes were also awarded.

Then they cleared the mess off pitch, Arsenal played Lincoln and won 2-1 and there was a concert in the local freemason’s hall where prizes were handed out to the lucky winners.

However, there was a technicality: because since the young lady was clearly not an expert shot, the event was considered by the law to be equivalent to being a lottery.  Arsenal’s manager, Harry Bradshaw, who had had no real involvement in the event at all, poor chap, was charged with “keeping the Manor Ground for the exercise of a lottery”.   And lotteries were illegal.

The week following the tournament a small group of ecclesiastics wrote a letter to the Kentish Independent newspaper expressing their distaste of the event in which they laid out the basis for the argument that said lottery and not a tournament based on skill and athleticism. They accused the club of encouraging poor local people to gamble.

The police had become involved before the tournament and advised the club that they were organising a lottery. However, the club weighed up its options and decided to go ahead.

The upshot was that Arsenal’s manager, Harry Bradshaw, was charged with “keeping the Manor Ground for the exercise of a lottery”. On 2 January 1903, Bradshaw was found guilty, fined £5 and had costs of £10 awarded against him. Good news for Woolwich Arsenal, though, was that they got to keep the proceeds from the “tournament”.

1 January 2001

On 1 January 2001 Charlton Athletic beat Arsenal for first time in 44 years as the club had its first away win since November, winning this match 1-0.

The result meant that Arsenal had played 11 away league games, won two, drawn four, lost five.

The media made much of the result and the sequence, pointing out that Arsenal were a long way from winning anything “because of their awful away form”.  For it was noted that not only had they lost to Sunderland away, along with Everton, Leeds and a crushing 4-0 to Liverpool, Arsenal had also lost 4-1 to Spartak Moscow, on their travels, before this 1-0 loss to Charlton.

And there was worse to come, much to the delight of the media, with a 6-1 beating at Old Trafford.

There was relief however on 3 February 2001 as Dennis Bergkamp scored the only goal at Coventry City to give Arsenal a win.  It was our first away win since November.  The times did not feel particularly wonderful, and yet that opening to 2001 marked (had we but known it) the moment when the world changed.

Within a year there was early talk of Arsenal going through a whole season unbeaten away from home.

Within two years there was talk of Arsenal going a whole season unbeaten home and away.  How times do indeed change.  I don’t however recall any apologies from those journalists who made fun of Mr Wenger at the time, but then that’s how it goes. Say what you like, except never say sorry.

In 2000/01 Arsenal were FA Cup finalists and second in the league to Manchester United. In 2001/2 Arsenal completed their second double in four years.

It was Sylvain Wiltord who scored the goal on 8 May 2002 away to Manchester United that gave Arsenal both the record of being unbeaten away from home while the four goals against Everton on the last day of the season (when it felt like the whole of the North Bank was about to collapse, as I may have mentioned before!) gave Arsenal the record of being the first team to score in every league game through the season.  Bergkamp, Henry and Jeffers scored.

Arsène Wenger however wanted more and made his “shift of power” speech, referring to the move of power away from Manchester United.  And on 20 September 2002 Mr Wenger suggested his team could remain the whole season undefeated.  Here’s what he said.

“It’s not impossible as AC Milan once did it but I can’t see why it’s so shocking to say it. Do you think Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea don’t dream that as well? They’re exactly the same. They just don’t say it because they’re scared to look ridiculous, but nobody is ridiculous in this job as we know anything can happen.”

At first everything seemed fine and with the beating of Leeds away 4–1 on 26 September 2002 Arsenal then broke the record for scoring in 47 consecutive games, and the record for away league games without defeat (22).

But Arsenal lost to Everton on 19 October 2002, and then at home to Blackburn on 26 October 2002.  A 1-2 home defeat to Auxerre on 22 October 2002 sandwiched between these two meant three defeats in senior competitions in a row – the worst run in 19 years.

But as we know, Mr Wenger can do things, and Mr Wenger has a sense of humour.  In May 2004, at the end of the Unbeaten Season, he said…

“Somebody threw me a T-shirt after the trophy was presented which read ‘Comical Wenger says we can go the whole season unbeaten.’ I was just a season too early!”

I got one of those t-shirts too.  I still have it, and it still brings back such memories…

31 December 1994

On this day, John Jensen scores – Arsenal 1 QPR 3

John Jensen was a defensive midfielder, a cult hero, and the man whose transfer ultimately brought down George Graham.

When we bought him he had already been Danish Player of the Year, and played in a UEFA cup semi final with Brøndby.  He was signed by Graham following the departure of David Rocastle and was in the 1992/3 Cup Double side.

He played 132 senior games for Arsenal, but as his search for a goal went on, the songs about being there when Jensen scores multiplied.   The one and only goal scored came on this day in 1994 and finally allowed the stock pile of  I saw John Jensen score tee shirts to be released and sold.

But that goal came just before the end as the story broke that the move for Jensen was accompanied by a secret exchange of money paied by Rune Hauge to George Graham for buying players Hauge represented.

Graham was sacked as manager of Arsenal and was banned from all football activities for a year.  John Jensen was found not culpable and he stayed at Arsenal for another 18 months before he rejoined his old club, Brøndby IF.

He then moved into management and won the top league in Denmark in his first season.  Next he moved as assistant to Michael Laudrup at  Brøndby IF, and later at Getafe in Spain.

His first English management period came as assistant to Steve Kean with Blackburn but despite signing a second one year deal in May 2011 he left in September and became a consultant for Brøndby in October 2012.

Of course we might also note that none of this folklore is of any interest in Denmark where he is remembered for scoring the opening goal in Denmark’s 2–0 victory over Germany in the final of the 1992 European Championship.

30 December 1893

If you have read “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football,” (the book that AISA members wrote to unravel Arsenal’s work in bringing professional football to the south of England), you will know that Woolwich Arsenal FC became a professional club in 1891, but did not join the Football League until 1893. 

Naturally this meant that all these away games were played at grounds which were unfamiliar to the club and its players, and involved a fair bit of travelling.

And thus it was that although the club picked up some good home wins, away games were a problem. For although after four matches in this season Arsenal must have thought they were doing ok, and their fans seemed to be thinking of instant promotion, (the results were won 2, drawn 1 and lost 1) all was not as it might seem.

But the problem was that three of these games were at home – and the only defeat was away – at Notts County.

Slowly came the awakening.  Newcastle United, also elected to the league in the same year, beat Woolwich Arsenal 6-0 – the start of a three match sequence in which we let in 15 and scored 1.  The away bit of this football league lark was a bit tougher than some had expected.

The first away point came on December 9 in a 2-2 draw with Northwich Victoria.   The first victory away was on this day: 30 December 1893, 1-0 against Ardwick.

Henderson got the goal in front of a crowd of 4,000.  Arsenal went on to win away twice more in the season, including a 3-6 win at Middlesbrough Ironopolis..

There is an Ardwick FC still with us today, but not the same club as we played in 1893.  That Ardwick was founded in 1880 as St. Mark’s (West Gorton), and they became Ardwick AFC in 1887 – but more on them in a moment.

Unfortunately, the win over Ardwick did not end the run of away defeats.  The next three league matches were all away and we lost all three.

What saved Arsenal from what was starting to look like a disastrous season was a run of four consecutive wins in February (including two away games).  Even though we lost the last three games, the club ended a respectable ninth, out of 15. 

As for Ardwick, their tale is strange indeed, for they ended up 13th but just before the end of the season they changed their name to Manchester City.  Some versions of the league table show Ardwick having played 27 games and Man City one! (which Man City lost). Others give all 28 games to Ardwick.

Liverpool won the second division without losing a game – the second and last unbeaten season in the league until Arsenal came along and did it in the 21st century.  There was no automatic relegation from the second division, but there was constant movement.   Middlesbrough Ironopolis and Northwich Victoria both dropped out of the league at the end of the 1893/4 season.

As for Liverpool, having won the second division so easily they did go up, but the following season ended bottom of Division One and so went back down again.  One or two questions were asked about that 1893/4 performance, just as they were in the 1914/15 season and the years before. Liverpool, it seemed, were gathering a reputation.

But most importantly, Woolwich Arsenal, the club that brought professional football to the south, survived its first season, coming a creditable ninth, and could prepare themselves for their second season in the league.

You can read the list of the day’s anniversaries of Arsenal throughout its history on the AISA Arsenal History Society blog.  The listing of today’s anniversaries along with links to articles related to this day in Arsenal’s past and a video of the highlights of a game played on this day in the past can be found here.

This page is prepared daily by Tony Attwood.

29 December 2012

You might think that a win by 7-3 against Newcastle would leave even the most fanatical and gnarled anti-Arsenal journalist finally showing some remorse and admitting Arsenal could do well, or at least be entertaining.   But no.   When Arsenal beat Newcastle on this day in 2012 by seven goals to three, celebration of positive football and general rejoicing at just how far the game had moved from the dire days of goalless draws, was there none.

There was much focus on the notion that Theo Walcott (as we were told in virtually every media outlet) was out of contract in the summer and liable to leave on a free.  And in the early stages Newcastle kept on pegging Arsenal back, as each time we scored, so they scored. Our last four goals came because they were tired from a heavy schedule.

Alternatively Arsenal should and would have had eight had Giroud not been so profligate – he hit the bar after we had seven.

The fans were miffed about Walcott too (according to the media) and the chant of “Sign him up” at the end revealed the fans growing frustration with Mr Wenger rather than a celebration of Theo’s skills.  At least according to the media.

Indeed as Jonathan Pearce of the BBC put it, “Seven goals for Arsenal, three for the excellent Theo Walcott. Arsenal need to sign him up.” 

Oh yes and it wasn’t that good anyway, because Newcastle hadn’t won away all season.  And they had four days less than Arsenal to prepare for this game which was hardly sporting.   And had Ba not headed just over from Marveaux’s corner, well it all could have been so different.

And what’s more Arsenal were lucky that Newcastle played a high defensive line. 

Besides Bacary Sagna conceded a needless free-kick outside the box and Ba’s set piece showed how lucky Arsenal were.  Indeed it could have gone either way had Newcastle just been able to steady themselves at 3-3.

In fact Arsenal only won because Newcastle tired.   And the Arsenal goals were all soft goals (the Newcastle manager, a Mr A Pardew, said, and was fulsomely quoted in this regard.

Beside Newcastle had just played Manchester United on a very heavy pitch and they were tired after that game.

Yep, according to the media it was clearly a very lucky 7-3 win for Arsenal.  What would we do without those journalists on hand to set us straight?  Oh yes, and please don’t mention that at this point Arsenal were the second highest scoring side in the league.

Oh yes and we’d already had other results such as…

15 Sep 2012Arsenal v Southampton6-1Premier League
26 Sep 2012Arsenal v Coventry City6-1League Cup
30 Oct 2012Reading v Arsenal5-7League Cup
17 Nov 2012Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur5-2Premier League
17 Dec 2012Reading v Arsenal2-5Premier League

But no, best not mention that. At least, most of the media didn’t.

You can find a list of all of today’s Arsenal anniversaries, with lots of additional detail and a video of one of the historic games of today on the AISA Arsenal History Society Site.

28 December 1997

On this day the result was Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1.  The result left Arsenal in sixth and Tottenham in 19th

1Manchester United21144349163346
2Blackburn Rovers21118238211741
5Leeds United2110563023735
7Derby County219573428632
8West Ham United21101102832-431
9Leicester City217772521428
10Aston Villa217592527-226
11Newcastle United207582125-426
13Coventry City215882028-823
14Crystal Palace215882028-823
15Sheffield Wednesday2165103244-1223
17Bolton Wanderers214981933-1421
19Tottenham Hotspur2155111937-1820

So some pleasure for Arsenal supporters who liked to enjoy the dismay of those at the other end of Seven Sisters Road, but we were also feeling perhaps we ought to be doing a bit better ourselves. 

But did anyone on this day put a bet on where Arsenal would end up in  the League that season?  Few would have done so I suspect.  Would anyone have put a bet on Arsenal winning the double, given that we had already lost four games and were 12 points behind Manchester United? Probably not.

Yet of course if you know your history you will know that 1997/8 was indeed the second double season.  And not only did we win the league, we ended up five points ahead of Manchester United, meaning that between this day in 1997 and the final league match of the season we gained not just 12 but 17 points on Manchester United.

So the result on this day in 1997 was the result of Game 21 of the 2nd Double Season.   Ray Parlour scored.  

The winning match of the season, by which I mean the game when we won the league, was a 4-0 home thrashing of Everton.   You will probably still know this game, even if you were not there – because Tony Adams scored a wonder goal in front of the north bank, and just stood there, arms aloft.  It is one of the iconic pictures of Arsenal and Highbury.

I have so many memories of that day.  Being with Roger, my dear pal, sadly no longer with us, and turning to him at half time and saying “we’ve done it” and him saying, “we could still throw this away.”   And also thinking that “we’ve certainly got an interesting forward line in Anelka and Wreh,” and having of course no knowledge of what was to happen to both.

Plus with five minutes to go, leaning forward in my seat in the north bank upper, and looking left and seeing not the normal straggle of early leavers drifting away from the ground trying to beat the crowd, but instead the streets utterly packed solid with fans outside who had not been able to get tickets to be in the match and who were following it on radios outside.

So why do I write this up as a celebration of today, 28 December, and not leave it for the end of the season?

The answer is that for me, celebrations, as I look back on a lifetime with Arsenal, are not just of the moments of winning but of the whole season.  In this season, I not only remember the fine finish, but the collapse from mid-October. We were undefeated and had beaten Barnsley (yes Barnsley, in the Premier League) 5-0.  But then the next eight games were awful.  We won two of those games, drew two of them 0-0, and lost to Derby, Sheffield W, Newcastle and Blackburn.   By 13 December we were slipping, and slipping badly.

Although we started to rally around Christmas the team clearly had the ability to cause us regular supporters some serious heartache.   Third round of the FA Cup in January – at home to Port Vale, no problem.  We lined up


Grimandi Keown Bould Winterburn

Parlour Vieira Petit OPvermars

Anelka Bergkamp

Not much wrong with that team.  Not taking the FA Cup too lightly eh?  We drew 0-0 at Highbury.   Still the replay would be fine – except that we drew that too, 1-1 in extra time.   We won on penalties.

In fact the FA Cup, which of course we won, gave us particular problems that season.   We had another 0-0 at home in the fifth round with Crystal Palace, then as now (although not always) of the Premier League, and against West Ham in the sixth we once again had to go to penalties.

In the League Cup we were at it again.  Against Birmingham in the third round we won 4-1 but not until extra time.  Against Coventry in the 4th round, there was extra time again.  We finally went out to Chelsea over two legs in the semis.

As for Europe, we lost to PAOK Salonika in the first round we played in, with a draw at home and a 1-0 defeat away.

My point therefore is that we won the double, and of course I celebrate this, not least because I was there.  But there were some very difficult times, and a lot of gnashing of teeth about the team’s performance on occasions.   The record book doesn’t lie – a double and five points ahead, but during the season itself it was not all plain sailing.

Never give up hope!