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.

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!

27 December 1915

Throughout December 1915 the FA and Football League finally began discussing the issue of match fixing allegations that had been made the previous spring, involving Liverpool and Manchester United.  Little was heard of this by the football going public since under the war restrictions the newspapers were now restricted to just four pages of heavily censored patriotic war news, and thus there was precious little coverage of the FA Commission that met to discuss the matter.

But although Arsenal were not in any way involved in the match fixing scandal of the era, this was of interest to Arsenal and it chairman Henry Norris, since it was he who had first made public concerns about Liverpool’s match fixing following his visit to a game involving the side in the spring of 1913, after which instead of the League investigating the allegations Norris made, instead warned him against making any such further allegations!

He was now too busy with working in his newly appointed role on recruitment for the army to become involved in the issue again, but he would certainly have noted the match on Good Friday 1915.  Man U were threatened with relegation, yet they won in the most ludicrous circumstances.  You can read more and see the implications for the league table in our article on April 1915.

Reports at the time spoke of a Liverpool team that was not really trying.  It was also reported that when Liverpool got a penalty the penalty taker rolled the ball wide, and when Fred Pagnam of Liverpool headed the ball against the Man U cross bar late in the second half, several members of his team took issue with him.  The referee John Sharpe, interviewed at the subsequent hearing testified that the game was “the most extraordinary match I have ever officiated in.”

A week after the Good Friday match, the Sporting Chronicle reported: “… unsavoury comments are made, and the repetition of these observations, if not checked, is not likely to do the game any good, when football needs every friend it can find.” (This last was a reference to repeated attempts by the House of Lords, The Times and others to have all football prohibited during wartime, as it was distracting young men from their patriotic duty).

It was then suggested that a lot of bets had been placed at 7 to 1 on a 2-0 win by Manchester United, and the word spread that three players from Manchester United: Sandy Turnbull, Arthur Whalley and Enoch West, plus four players from Liverpool (Jackie Sheldon, Tom Miller, Bob Pursell and Thomas Fairfoul) were involved.  It was also said that Jackie Sheldon who had previously played for Man U used his contacts with the opposition to fix up the arrangement.

Further it was subsequently stated that two players, Fred Pagnam of Liverpool and George Anderson of Manchester United, had refused to take part.  Fred Pagnam indeed testified against his teammates at the hearing.  Billy Meredith of United said that he knew nothing of the arrangement but became suspicious when during the game he hardly got a touch of the ball.

The testimony was taken during the run up to Christmas 1915 and the verdict was delivered on 27 December 1915. The FA’s  conclusion was that there had indeed been a conspiracy by the players, but not by the club or its officials.  As a result it was felt unreasonable to fine or deduct points from either club!  There was no suggestion made that the officials and directors of the club ought to have been aware what was going on or moved quickly to deal with their own players, although clearly if they didn’t know and didn’t suspect, there was a clear dereliction of duty among the directors.

The players involved were banned for life from playing League football in England, but could play in Scotland, and since four of the players were Scottish, and with the Scottish League 1st Division still running, that gave them an opening to continue their career.   Enoch West was the one player who completely protested his innocence, and subsequently sued the FA for libel.

Sandy Turnbull died in the service of his country in the war, and all the other players, except West, had their bans lifted by the FA in 1919 in recognition of their service to the country while Turnbull received a posthumous reinstatement.  West’s suspension was finally lifted in 1945, by which time of course he was completely beyond the age of playing professional football.

Some subsequent reports suggest that this victory saved Manchester United from relegation – this is untrue.The victory certainly helped but just winning that game did not make them safe.

However two other issues were associated with this event, and all three grouped together became highly significant in the application Henry Norris made in 1919 for Arsenal to take a place in the First Division.

First these findings gave credence to the possibility that the Liverpool game Henry Norris had commented upon, having watched in on Easter Monday 1913, was fixed, given that it was once again Liverpool whose players were being examined on match fixing charges once again.  If the League and FA had taken his allegations of 1913 seriously, they could at the very least have examined Liverpool’s conduct at the time, and warned players that they were watching, and so put a stop to  subsequent match fixing events before things got out of hand.

And there was more because the Manchester United v Burnley match on 11 October 1913 there were also allegations of a betting scam, and for this, one of the Man U players who was cleared in 1915 was finally jailed in 1918 for being part of a large scale match fixing for betting purposes syndicate.

Quite clearly the authorities, in ignoring Norris’ complaints about the match he witnessed in 1913, and in initially ignoring the allegations concerning the Burnley match the FA were supremely negligent, and they were only forced to act because of the refusal by betting companies to pay up in 1915.

Norris’ position in all this was simple.  Arsenal themselves had not suffered due to the match fixing – they were ultimately doomed to relegation in 1913 anyway, but he had warned the FA and the League about the existence of match fixing, and instead of there being an enquiry, he was told to shut up.

By the end of the war Norris was a Lieutenant Colonel in the War Office and in charge of decommissioning the troops, and a knight of the realm, a most highly regarded war administrator, and it was he who had warned the League of what was going on. 

This would hardly have endeared him to Manchester United or Liverpool, but by the time it came for the clubs to vote for which club they wanted to take up the spare place in the expanded League in 1919, Norris’ work in exposing the match fixing that virtually everyone involved in Division One football would have been aware of, was undoubtedly remembered.

The match fixing clubs wouldn’t have liked him, but the others would have seen him as a man capable of doing the right thing, both in the War Office and in football. It certainly helped Arsenal get votes.

24 December 1932

This was probably the most extraordinary Christmas Eve in the history of Arsenal FC.

Before the game Arsenal were top of the League.  Sheffield Utd were a decent mid-table 12th having won seven, lost seven, drawn five.  But better than that they had just won five in a row, scoring 13, letting in six.  It was a run that was turning a lot of heads given that they had only managed to win two of their first 14 games this season.

During that poor run they had lost once by 2-5 and once 1-5, both away from home, but the five straight wins, including a 4-3 over Derby County suggested they had recovered from that poor opening spell.

Arsenal’s team was now the standard line up…


Male  Roberts Hapgood

Hill John

Jack James

Hulme Lambert Bastin

And on Christmas Eve 1932 it was 5-1 at half time and ended Arsenal 9 Sheffield Utd 2.  It meant that thus far in the season Arsenal had in different games scored six, seven, eight and nine goals.  In this game Lambert scored five – which turned out to be his final hatrick (plus 2!) It was his 12th hat trick – more than any other player in the club’s history, which perhaps emphasises more than ever what a tragedy it is that this wonderful gifted player died young (in a car crash) and is now forgotten.

Such was the amazement in the football world (well, England) at the score, that the fact that Aston Villa drew while Sheffield W beat Liverpool was hardly noticed.  Arsenal were now six points clear with a massively superior goal average to anyone else’s.

So on to Boxing Day – and wouldn’t you know, Arsenal lost at home, 1-2 to Leeds who had crept up to fifth place in the table.  In their nine away games thus far in the season Leeds had scored nine, and conceded nine.  Scoring two away to Arsenal was considered by most people to be a misprint in the evening papers – not for the last time this season.  The only consolation to Arsenal was that Villa lost and Sheffield Wednesday drew.

As was the way of such things at the time, Leeds and Arsenal then played each other again the next day in the return fixture and this time, coping with a loss of form and injuries Chapman shuffled the pack bringing in   Norman Sidey made his debut replacing Hill to become the fourth player to wear the right half shirt this season. Sidey had signed as an amateur from Nunhead of the Isthmian League in 1929 and turned pro in 1931.

Haynes came in at centre half and Stockhill played his first game since the opening two of the season (in which he scored both of Arsenal’s only two goals).   He played at inside right with Jack moving to centre forwards.

There was mumbling a-plenty at the result – a goalless draw –  especially as Villa and Sheffield Wednesday both won. It was one of only two games all season in which Arsenal did not score. 

So after five wins in a row, Arsenal had lost one and drawn one in the space of two days.  But you’ll probably know, it all turned out ok in the end.

I’m having a couple of days off now, and hope to return with more in the series on 27 December.  But the list of anniversaries will continue on automatic pilot on the AISA Arsenal History Society blog – and you can read it there day.

You might also enjoy the article “Christmas Day Schedules for Arsenal”also on the blog.  And you really might enjoy the video we are posting on Boxing Day morning.  Just look at “Recent posts” top left on the history site and click on “The greatest Boxing Day Video of them all” after 8am.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

Tony Attwood

23 December 1978

Terry Neill was the manager of Arsenal, and Tottenham were finding their feet again in the first division, having come up from Division 2 at the end of 1977/8 having come third in the second division.

In the side of the newly-promoted were Osswaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa.   Arsenal’s team was,…

Jennings Rice Walford Price O’leary Young Brady Sunderland Stapleton Rix Gatting

There was nothing much to suggest that Arsenal would romp home; Tottenham had only been in the second division for one year and by the time of the game they were sitting eighth in League Division One, with Arsenal in fourth, three points ahead of them.

3West Bromwich Albion18115236142227
5Nottingham Forest188912011925
6Manchester United209652931-224
7Coventry City198652527-222
8Tottenham Hotspur198652228-622

But we all know what happened. Alan Sunderland scored three, Frank Stapleton scored one, and of course there was Brady.  The attendance was 42,273.

At the time of the game Arsenal had already scored five once that season, beating QPR 5-1 early on.  But there was no real sign in the previous results of either club to indicate that 0-5 was possible.

And indeed after the game Arsenal slipped back a little.  We lost the next match 1-2 at home to WBA before ending the year with a 3-1 win  at home against Birmingham  A wretched end of the season in which we did not win any of our last five games saw Arsenal slip to seventh, four places above Tottenham.

But there were still more celebrations to come.  I missed the match as my first child was due to be born on Christmas Eve and I didn’t dare go from Northants to London. She didn’t arrive but kept us waiting. Six days after the 0-5 triumph the first of my three daughters,  Catherine, was born. I took it as a good sign.

And indeed there was good news to come: the FA Cup final.  After playing Sheffield Wednesday five times in the third round we beat Notts County, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Wolverhampton to reach the cup final where Alan Sunderland scored a suitably dramatic goal in the last few seconds, to win the cup 3-2.

Quite a year to remember.

22 December 1973

The speed of Arsenal’s collapse after the 1971 double is something often ignored by those of us who remember the events.  But it was real enough.

In the following seasons we came 5th, 2nd 10th, 16th, 17th and there really was talk of relegation.

And life away from football wasn’t that great either. 

From the middle of 1973, the National Union of Mineworkers’ members had been on a work-to-rule to get better conditions and higher pay.  With the balance of trade (cost of imports against income from exports) declining by the day, coal stocks slowly dwindled.  Then in October 1973 members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) plus Egypt and Syria proclaimed an oil embargo.  Oil prices rose, and this drove up the price of coal.

The UK government introduced a range of measures to cope with the situation including requiring football clubs not to use floodlights – along with requiring companies only to use electricity for three days a week, not allowing companies to employ people on overtime, and forcing the two TV networks (BBC and ITV) to stop programmes at 10.30.  The BBC responded by running Monty Python as their final show on some evenings – a nice touch.

But there are always things of interest for the historian.  For example, for the first time a commentator (Alan Road of the Observer) writing on 9 December 1973, noted that highly drilled precision of Arsenal’s back four (looking, he said, “like guardsmen”) as they “stepped up smartly” to catch Derby off-side.   George Graham had moved on at the end of last year, but it would be nice to think that he noted this development in an old exercise book, ready to be considered again should he ever move into management….

But despite this on 15 December we lost 1-2 away to Burnley with 13,200 in the ground.

Radford could have had a hatrick in the first half, but not only did he miss, he also slid off a pitch made of mud and hit a concrete wall, clearly injuring himself in the process. But by then Arsenal were 1-0 up, Wilson having punted the ball upfield, and to everyone’s utter astonishment it actually bounced up on hitting the ground rather than getting swallowed in mud.  Radford was the first to react and scored a fine goal.  But after the wall incident he was far from all right for the rest of the game.

Ball and Simpson were the only two able to deal properly with conditions that prohibited all conventional football and in the 62nd minute Burnley equalised.  Worse, 16 minutes later they got the winner.  Unfortunately by then the light was so bad (what with their being no floodlights) that no one was sure who had scored until the players came off the pitch to report matters.  But by then most of the crowd had gone home anyway, fearful of getting lost in Burnley’s Victorian streets without lighting.

Arsenal did however get back to winning ways on 22 December with a 1-0 home win over Everton, 19,886 making their way to Highbury on the last saturday before Christmas. 

It was, to say the least, a poor game, which for 60 minutes looked as if it would end fittingly in a 0-0 draw.  Wilson made one save, (one of those where he rushed out to the edge of the area to get the ball before the oncoming forward) and that was it.   Otherwise, Kelly aside, Arsenal did not impress.  The Guardian likened the side to a draught-horse.  But that endeavour was better than Everton who remarkably had one shot, which hit the emblem on the top of the North Bank stand, as a result of which the ball got a puncture.  It was a major incident in the game.

And then out of nothing Ball passed to Rice who sent a 50 yard inch perfect cross to Armstrong.  He chipped to Kennedy who nodded it to Ball who volley home.  Brilliant.  If only there had been more of the same.

With the newspapers now restricting their size because of a paper shortage, despite being excused from the electricity regulations, Arsenal matches hardly got a mention.  And the problems continued through to the last game of  the year on 29 at Leicester City where Arsenal lost 0-2 in front of 25,860.

Afterwards Bertie Mee said that having cut the fourth team in order to save costs when he became manager (which could be defined as his biggest single mistake – for it clearly contributed to the decline in the club in the post-Double season), he was now about to reduce Arsenal to two teams, with a maximum of 19 professionals between them.  And, he said, three of those who were left would be under 19.

Mee blamed this on the expected freedom of contract regulations, an “inevitable” European superleague and a first division of 16 or 18 clubs.  His bleak vision also included a third and fourth division made up of part-timers playing in regional leagues.

Fortunately he was wrong in every single prediction. Even more fortunately, Arsenal eventually decided they had had enough of the man who had had a couple of seasons of success, and then went downhill fast.

And all this overseen by the man who had promised that Arsenal would adopt the new Dutch Total Football model, but within a couple of months were doing the opposite.

21 December 1956

On this day in 1956 Jack Crayston became the permanent manager of Arsenal after being caretake manager for two months.  He had just managed five games undefeated, as acting manager and went on to a further five without loss, winning his first match as permanent manager on 22 December  4-0 against Birmingham.

Now if Jack Crayston is not a name you are particularly familiar with as an Arsenal manager, you’ll not be alone in this regard, but an Arsenal manager he was, although he is more famous as a dedicated Arsenal player.

William John Crayston (known universally as Jack) was born on 9 October 1910 in Grange-over-Sands in North Lonsdale (Cumbria), playing as a defender for local teams Ulverston Town and Barrow before moving south to Bradford PA.

George Allison signed him in May 1934, apparently impressed by his sober attitude to life as much as his ability as a player, and paid £5250 for him.

His first match was on 1 September 1934 (I am not at all sure why he missed the first game of the season one week before, but Hapgood and Beasley also sat that one out.)  Anyway from the second game, the number 4 shirt was his and he played 37 league games that season scoring three goals, as the club took the championship in the first year of Allison’s management and for the third year running for Arsenal. This was also remembered as the year of Ted Drake who notched up 42 league goals in 41 league games.

What’s more Jack scored on his début as Arsenal were 8-1 winners in front of a crowd of over 54,000.

Tom Whitaker said in his autobiography that Jack Crayston, non-drinker, non-smoker, was a close pal of Wilf Copping and they both trained together and played cards together.  It re-iterates the theme of Crayston the tough, dependable, sober man.

The following season Arsenal were unable to hold onto their title– 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 RAFduring the war, 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 – who was of course another ex-player.    That remained Jack’s job through the rest of the Whittaker years as the two men won the league twice more, the FA Cup once and picked up a runners-up medal in the Cup as well).

Tom Whittaker died suddenly in November 1956 and Jack took over as caretaker manager in October being made manager at the end of the year having taken the club to 5th.

However in the following year, 1957/8 Arsenal sank to 12th in the league and were knocked out of the cup in the 3rd round by Northampton Town.

Some reports suggest that 12th achieved by Crayston was Arsenal’s worst showing for 38 years – although 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. Indeed 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.

Nevertheless Jack, wasn’t cut out to be an Arsenal manager and left Arsenal in the summer of 1958 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 resigned as manager in March 1961 aged 51. 

Thereafter he took over a newsagent and general store in Streetly, Birmingham, before retiring in 1972.

Jack Crayston died aged 82 in December 1992, remembered in all the Arsenal history books, but sadly not by Arsenal supporters at large. And yet he was one of our great players, whose length of service was cut short by the war. Not cut out to be a manager but still a great servant to the club.