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.

5 December 1921 & 1960

Two for the price of one today.

Monday, 5 December 1921 was a very black day in the history of football in England, for on this day the FA cited opinions (ie fantasies) about football’s unsuitability for females and instructed clubs belonging to the association “to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches”. The League took up the fantasy and also, to their eternal shame, instructed clubs not to let women use their grounds.  As a result the ban destroyed women’s football and, pouring even more shame on the League and FA, the ban was not lifted until 1971.  Even to this day, the FA has (perhaps typically) never apologised.

The cause of this appalling diktat was not just the rampant sexism which has always been part of the FA, but also a fear by some clubs that women’s football was becoming more popular than the men’s game.

However, what was really needed were innovations to make the men’s game more attractive to spectators – such as covered areas for standing spectators and more goals – and these eventually did come in (the change in the offside law in 1925 did make a significant difference to goalscoring).  But the FA has never been forward looking and its automatically reactionary approach took the day. The women’s game was destroyed.

5 December 1960

The London Challenge Cup was a competition that Woolwich Arsenal FC entered from the 1908/9 season (when the competition was first formed) onwards.

In its early years the competition ran through four rounds with the semi-final and final being played on neutral grounds.  This changed in 1933 when all rounds were played on the ground of one of the participating teams (the home team being the first drawn from the hat, as in the conventional style).

From the start, the competition attracted both Football League and Southern League teams plus leading amateur teams – Arsenal for example playing Bromley in 1909 and Tufnell Park in 1914.

There was an unofficial change in the early 1930s when the first division clubs moved over to playing their reserve teams.  This change was similar to that which Arsène Wenger introduced with the League Cup many years later – the selection of the players was entirely a matter for the clubs and not a formal matter of policy by the London FA who organised the competition.

However change was afoot, and by 1966/7 it was compulsory for all league clubs to enter the Football League Cup (until that date some clubs, including Arsenal, refusing to take part).  The London Challenge Cup was thus of even less significance than before, and it finally ceased with the 1973/4 competition.

It was revived in 1990 for non-league teams, before being discontinued once again ten years later.

Arsenal’s first ever match in the competition was on September 28 1908 –a 1-0 away victory over Fulham.  The club’s final match was on November 12 1973 in the semi-final, played away to Tottenham in which Arsenal lost 0-3.   The team on that final occasion is worth recording as it includes a few famous names:

Barnett, Rixon, Nelson, Powling, Tones, Matthews, Chambers, Hornsby, Ritchie, Price, Brady.

Arsenal reached the final on 16 occasions, winning the competition eleven times including on 5 December 1960, our 12th appearance in the final. We lost to Chelsea on that occasion, but got to the final again the following two seasons, winning each time. We played in the final for the last time in 1969, beating Wimbledon.

4 December 1926

In the match day programme for this day Sir Henry Norris threw down the gauntlet to the FA in public over the way it had treated our player Tom Whittaker, who had suffered a career ending injury while playing for England in Australia.  The game resulted in a 1-0 win over Bury, but the big interest was in what the FA would do against such a public challenge.

Also at this time (on either 3 or 4 September the FA made Tom Whittaker what it called its “final offer” of £350 in compensation for his career-ending injury suffered in June 1925 on the FA tour of Australia.

Both Sir Henry Norris and Herbert Chapman expressed themselves outraged by this – not just arguing that this was too little, but arguing that £350 was an insult to a player who had gone on tour on behalf of the FA, to promote football in another continent.  Sir Henry decided, and the Arsenal board agreed, that the club should no longer stay silent on this issue (as it had done up to now), and that they would make a public complaint concerning the affair.  The club gave £100 to Whittaker (which may not seem much, but the club had continued to employ him while he was developing his skills as a physio, and would indeed continue employing him until his death) and minuted their profound disapproval in the records of the board’s proceedings.

But then they went further for in the match day programme of 4 December the club ripped into the FA with no holds barred.  This was intended to bring the matter to the attention of both the FA and football journalists, as of course it did.  And it had a profound impact beyond this matter, because this was Sir Henry throwing down the gauntlet to the FA in public – something that although not contrary to any rule, was against the understanding that disputes within football were settled by football’s authorities behind closed doors, and and not aired in public.

This incident over Whittaker’s future was of course not the first battle between Sir Henry and the authorities – we may particularly think back to the allegations of match fixing in 1913 when Henry Norris wrote a newspaper article in the West London and Fulham Times concerning the match on 24 March 1913 which he had attended, between Liverpool and Chelsea, in which he accused both teams of match fixing.

There was a formal enquiry, Liverpool were exonerated and Norris was warned as to his future behaviour.  However it was only two years and at least three more accusations of match fixing later that another match involving Liverpool was thought to be so obviously fixed, that this time there was no chance of the matter being hushed up.

So Sir Henry had a history of breaking the silence of the authorities in matters wherein he believed they should be called out.   Now having been called out for severely embarrassing the League with the opening report of match fixing and being strongly reprimanded by the League, he was not letting go.

We may also recall just how strongly Sir Henry had disagreed with the footballing authorities on other matters such as his long running campaign to get the maximum wage of players removed and instead have a limit on transfer fees.  Such a move would have benefited the players but restricted the ability of wealthy club owners of buying success through offering ever higher transfer fees.  Indeed the free-for-all that was the transfer market meant that it was impossible for the League to keep track of exactly how much had been paid, and where the money had gone.

Indeed if we go back to an earlier incident, there had been the payment to amateur player Dick Roose who, with Arsenal, exploited the very ill-defined rules on the level of expenses amateur players could legitimately claim.  It was yet another long-running dispute between Henry Norris and the authorities as was the case of the contract of Clem Voysey which in fact resulted in two inconclusive FA inquiries of the management of Arsenal. Arsenal vs the FA was in short a long running and on-going battle.

Sir Henry had also invented the notion of the payment per goal for Charlie Buchan, a brilliant piece of publicity which the League for some reason did not like (other chairmen seemed to object largely on the grounds that they hadn’t thought of it), and which was subsequently outlawed at the AGM of 1926 – another rap on the knuckles for Sir Henry and another example that the authorities really didn’t like the free-thinking attitude of a man who had not come up through the ranks of the aristocracy and established football families.

And above all we must remember that Arsenal, for all that the club did for the League by joining the Football League not the Southern League, were considered outsiders from the very start.  With their thoroughly working class origins, their ground being closed because of crowd behaviour, their radical ideas such as merging Fulham and Arsenal, the notion of ground sharing at Craven Cottage, their move across London, and their rise from outsiders to become the best supported clubs in the country, the club was simply “not one of us”.

Thus Sir Henry was a dichotomy for the FA and League.  He had cast football in a most positive light with his creation of the football battalion in the first world war, and was clearly recognised by the state through the award of his knighthood and his promotion from having no rank to the rank of Lt Colonel in the army as part of his work in the War Office.  But Sir Henry had an attitude towards women (particularly in regard to arguing for equal pay for women at a time soon after the pre-war arson and attacks by the Suffragettes, while the authorities were doing everything they could to stop women playing football) and other progressive views (like not limiting the pay of players) which did not sit easy with the powers that be.

Thus throughout his time in football Sir Henry had been a thorn in the side of the League and FA.  He had supported the Football League by rescuing one of its few southern members from bankruptcy in 1910, but he had what the officialdom of football must have considered to be seriously dangerous views on social matters.  Yet he had been recognised for his extraordinary work in recruiting volunteers, organising conscription, while being proven absolutely right in warning against conscription in Ireland, and finally playing a major role in organising the demobilisation of troops.   And now here he was again engaged in an all out assault on the Football Association.

The programme in which the attack on the FA was published was for the match which resulted in a 1-0 win against Bury.  It was Arsenal’s second successive win, which brought some relief after four games without a victory in the league,

The Daily Express ran the story of the programme notes on 6 December, asking the FA to comment on the article in the Arsenal programme.  No one would speak to the paper on the record, but there were enough people in the FA who did not like Sir Henry for it to have been easy for the paper to find someone who would give them some good anonymous copy.  Arsenal historian Sally Davis speculates that the person interviewed by the Express was Charles Crump, who was on the FA Council, and was noted as an opponent of Sir Henry’s forward thinking views, and that might very well be right.

So on 6 December the Express ran a piece stating the FA’s position, saying that Whittaker had been treated “handsomely” and claimed that it was the FA and not Arsenal who had been paying Whittaker’s wages from the date of the injury until the date of the settlement, and that Arsenal had not even re-signed Whittaker for this season.

This latter point might well have been technically true.  Whittaker would not be re-signed as a player since he could not play and was unlikely ever to play again, but Arsenal had taken him on as trainer of the reserve team, and he was by now giving the club advice and guidance on the use of the new technology of electrical treatment for players’ injuries, to speed up the recovery process.  (This notion of electrical treatment might seem a little worrying to anyone who has not experienced it but the use of very mild electric shocks to help speed up the recovery from muscle injuries is still very much one of the options today – I write as one who has had it himself after a sporting injury).

As might be expected, Sir Henry was not going to accept this sort of statement from the FA and so he wrote a letter to the Express, which it published on 7 December, noting that all the FA had offered Whittaker was one year’s salary, and only after a lot of haggling, and this for an injury which ended his career.  What’s more they had started out with an offer far less than even this very minor offer.

Worse, he claimed, the FA had behaved intolerably by not insuring its players for the tour, and that if they had not scrimped on this matter, there would be no problem. Sir Henry also called the FA “impudent” for responding to the commentary in the programme anonymously.

The FA chose not to respond to Sir Henry’s commentary, and there the matter stopped, at least for the moment, but the battle lines were well and truly drawn.

3 December 1949

On this day the Arsenal programme printed a rebuttal of allegations in the South Wales Football Echo and Express, which had claimed that the Arsenal players came out for the second half of a match between Arsenal reserves and Cardiff City reserves smoking cigarettes! 

Now in those days smoking was not as frowned upon as now, and the level of smoking in the general population was much, much higher than today, but Arsenal decided that such a report, if not challenged, would harm their image.

As a result Arsenal took legal action against the paper, and indeed more than that, actually publicised the fact that they were taking this action by commenting on the matter in the programme for the next reserve game at Highbury – that on 3 December 1949.

Here they stated that following the article they had received “numerous letters from Arsenal fans from far and near,” adding that they had “placed the matter in the hands of the club’s solicitors.”   Following the note that since the matter was now heading for the courts, they could say no more. 

It was clear from the off that Arsenal’s directors were angry at the slur, not only because they felt the allegation was false but also because Arsenal had worked hard across the years to develop its reputation as a club associated with Christian traditions of fair play and decent behaviour. So annoyed were they that they took the unusual step of legal action against the newspaper. Arsenal reported this in the programme for the reserves’ game against Reading on 12th November but added that since legal action was now in process they could say no more.

On the same day the newspaper printed an explanation of the events saying that since publishing their original story they had found that the items in the players’ hands were not cigarettes but smelling salts capsules.

In short the paper was admitting that they had made an assumption which was detrimental to Arsenal, and run the story without checking.  Whoever would have thought that of a newspaper?

Given that the newspaper had made an apology I suspect the case was dropped, with quite possibly the newspaper paying some compensation to Arsenal, but that of course we don’t know, and since Arsenal was a private company, details were not required to be given in the annual accounts. The fact that Cardiff have apologised was given a full run out in the programme of 3 December.

The fact that the South Wales Football Echo should choose Arsenal to be on the receiving end of such knocking copy shows that the media attacks upon Arsenal, which as the AISA Arsenal History Society has shown, go right back to the early days of the club, was continuing.

Why Arsenal should be picked upon in this way, above and beyond the way most clubs are treated, is probably down to the association with the military.  Newspapers loved nothing more than shock-horror tales of soldiers behaving badly, and given that the very name of the club stressed this association, Arsenal were always seen as fair game.

The famous closure of the Woolwich Arsenal ground in 1895 because of crowd behaviour was initially proposed for the whole of the second half of the season, but later this was reduced to six weeks.  And yet as the article on the subject on the AISA Arsenal History Society website shows, “an almost identical episode of ref bashing at Wolverhampton Wanderers next season in October 1895 led to their ground being closed but for only two weeks. At least one non-local reporter put the disparity in the harshness of the sentences from the FA, down to Arsenal’s role as the pre-eminent southern professional team.”

It was ever thus.

2 December 1967

On this day Pat Rice made his debut as a sub in 1-0 defeat to Burnley but had to wait until 1970/71 to become a regular in the first team.  

Pat Rice MBE was born on 17 March 1949 and I feel very much moved to write about Pat because my dad told me about meeting Pat.  Of course he would remember meeting such a famous guy, but he stressed what a nice chap he was.

Pat played 397 games for Arsenal and scored 12 goals, before going to his only other club: Watford, for whom he played 112 times.  He also played 49 times for his country: Northern Ireland.

Pat worked initially in a greengrocers on Gillespie Road (you can’t get much closer to the old stadium) and became an apprentice in 1964, and a pro in 1966.

Like most players who have come up through that route he played just a few games in his early years, but even so he was picked for N Ireland in 1968.  Eventually when Storey moved into the centre of midfield to become the ultimate enforcer Pat took over at right back.  He won the Double and had three seasons where he played every game.

He was the last of the 70/71 side to leave the club, and was made captain – and as such was presented with the FA Cup in 1979.    He played in five FA Cup finals and the Cup Winners Cup final.

He left us in 1980 and helped Watford gain promotion to the First Division, again playing as captain.  He retired from playing in 1984 and returned to Arsenal as youth team coach, a job he kept until 1996.  In that role he won the Youth Cup twice.

And then the big time: he became manager after Houston resigned (Houston was caretaker after Rioch had been sacked).    He managed three league games – and won the lot, and I remember saying to my old pal Roger at the time, “that makes him not only the best right back we ever saw, but also the most successful league manager.”  OK, not very funny, but if you’ve been a regular at away games with the long journeys in the car you’ll know how the conversation goes.

Then along came Arsène Wenger who made Pat his assistant manager and that led him to being one of only two men who have been part of the three Doubles.  The other of course is Bob Wilson.

At the end of the 2010/11 season it was announced that Pat was about to retire, and the disgraceful mob that had started opposing everything Mr Wenger did, began to run stories on their web sites that Pat could no longer stand working with Mr Wenger.  But Mr Wenger got Pat to do one more season – and he finally stepped down after 48 years service to the club we all still love despite the disgraceful activities of some of its so-called “supporters”.

In tribute Mr Wenger has said, “‘Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his whole life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion to this club…I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole. On the training pitches and on matchdays, Pat has always been a passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we will all miss.

“He’s just been tremendous. It’s a sad, sad, sad day. His life was linked with Arsenal and Arsenal have been privileged to have him as a player, a captain, a coach, and personally I’m very grateful for his contribution to my period here.

“I would like him to forgive me the bad moments I’ve given him as well,” Mr Wenger added. “He’s been a constant, loyal supporter. I’m just very grateful and privileged to have had him at my side for such a long time.

“[His experience is] important when you come from abroad… to have an assistant who knows the culture of the club and the country.”

Thanks Pat, it was an honour to watch you play and to see the throughput of your work with the youth team, and alongside Mr Wenger.  The true Arsenal supporters really did love every moment of your time with the club.

1 December 1992

Ask most Arsenal supporters how many times Arsenal have done the double, and your will almost certainly be told three.  Because we think of The Double as being victory in the FA Cup and the League Championship in the same season.

And yes we have won three of those doubles.  But in 1992/3 we did another Double – an FA Cup and League Cup Double – the first ever club to do it.

Despite the fact that the record books record this, I’ve never seen anyone gather together all the games in one table – and just to see what it looks like I have done it below.

But before you sneak a look, see how well you know your Arsenal history with these questions:

1.  Which teams did we play in both the League Cup and the FA Cup?

2.  Which rounds needed a replay?

3.  What was the result in normal play of the first three cup games of this momentous season?

4.  Which club did we play that is no longer in existence?

5.  How many games did we play in the FA Cup and League Cup together that season?

The answers become obvious from the table below. In the score in the final column Arsenal’s score is always shown first.  The second round of the league cup was played on a home and away basis, irrespective of the score of the first match.

22 SeptemberMillwallLeague Cup 2Home1-1
7 OctoberMillwallLeague Cup 2Away1-1; 3-1pens
28 OctoberDerby CountyLeague Cup 3Away1-1
1 DecemberDerby CountyLeague Cup 3 replayHome2-1
2 JanuaryYeovil TFA Cup 3Away3-1
6 JanuaryScarboroughLeague Cup 4Away1-0
12 JanuaryNottingham FLeague Cup 5Home2-0
25 JanuaryLeeds UtdFA Cup 4Home2-2
3 FebruaryLeeds UtdFA Cup 4 replayAway3-2 AET
7 FebruaryCrystal PalLeague Cup SFAway3-1
13 FebruaryNottingham FFA Cup 5Home2-0
5 MarchIpswich TFA Cup 6Away4-2
10 MarchCrystal PLeague Cup SFHome2-0
4 AprilTottenham HFA Cup SFWembley1-0
18 AprilSheffield WLeague Cup FinalWembley2-1
15 MaySheffield WFA Cup FinalWembley1-1 AET
20 MaySheffield WFA Cup Final replayWembley2-1 AET

The answers are…

1.  We played Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday in both cups

2.  We played replays in the 3rd round of the league cup and the 4th round and Final of the FA Cup.

3.  The result in normal play of the first three cup games of this momentous season were all 1-1.

4.  The club no longer in existence is Scarborough Town.  They were formed seven years before Arsenal, and went out of business on 20 June 2007 with debts of £2.5m.  Their last ever game was played on 28 April 2007, and was Hucknall Town 0 Scarborough Town 1.  A new club was established in 2008.

5.  And we played 13 games to win the Cup Double.

Thus if anyone were to ask, when were the Arsenal’s Doubles the answer in full would be

  • 1971: FA Cup and League Double
  • 1993: FA Cup and League Cup Double
  • 1998: FA Cup and League Double
  • 2002: FA Cup and League Double

You might also like to add

  • 2004: The Unbeaten Season.

Only seven teams have won the FA Cup and Football League Double in England: Preston, Villa, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool have each done it once, while Man U and Arsenal have each done it three times.  Liverpool and Chelsea have also won the League Cup and FA Cup double.  Preston had one unbeaten season in 1888/9, but only played 22 league games that season.

30 November 1925

30 November 1925: Athletic News celebrates the coming of the New Arsenal

On Saturday 28 November 1925 Arsenal were top of the league for the first time in history and Athletic News on 30 November marked the occasion big time, celebrating the work of individual players such as Bob John at left back, and the tactics of the team deployed by Herbert Chapman.  It was seen as a triumph of style, tactics, and an excellent footballing brain, which had taken a club that only last season had seemed to be on the edge of crashing back into the 2nd Division, to the very top of the tree.

Indeed as Arsenal entered November 1925, things under Chapman were better than they had been under Knighton, for Arsenal had won three and lost three of the last six – the sort of balance of results that Knighton had rarely achieved in his last two years.

But Arsenal’s transition from relegation contenders to possible champions was not going smoothly.  For in Chapman’s first season that had already lost 7-0 and 4-0, while on other occasions winning 5-0, 4-0 and 4-1. It all seemed rather chaotic, although the multitude of goals was good fun and certainly drew in the crowds.

At the start of November Arsenal had been fourth in the league, four points and 12 goals behind Sunderland at the top – with just two points for a win of course.

This was a clear improvement on the dire days of Knighton, and at the start of November the signs were very good.   For the first match of the month, away to Manchester City, Chapman picked the same team as had beaten Everton 4-1 at Highbury on 31 October.   And that proved to be very much the right decision as Arsenal won 5-2.

As a result Arsenal were second in the table, three points behind Sunderland but with a game in hand.  Huddersfield were in fourth, two points behind Arsenal.  We should also  record that it was also the final first team game for John (Jock) Robson – the shortest ever Arsenal keeper at 5 feet 8 inches.  He played 101 times for Arsenal, including 9 games in 1925/6.

Now, you may also know that this was the first season of the new offside law, where only two defenders had to be behind the ball for the attacking player to be onside rather than three.   Most if not all clubs were still experimenting with the system, and high scores were the order of the day.   The first Saturday in the month included relegation threatened Cardiff City 5 Leicester City 2, Manchester City 2 Arsenal 5, Tottenham Hotspur 4 West Ham 2 and West Bromwich Albion 4 Notts County 4

For the second match of the month Arsenal played Bury, and the match saw the return of the Jock Rutherford.   The result was Arsenal 6 Bury 1; Brain got another hat-trick, Buchan got two. 

Interestingly at half time the score was Arsenal 0 Bury 1 – and this was not the first time Arsenal changed tactics halfway through the game in order to confuse the opposition – which it did.

For the next game on 21 November away Arsenal were at Blackburn Rovers who were 16th in the table.   Arsenal won again, with the result Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 3, Buchan and Brain getting the goals with an own goal from Rollo completing the victory. Arsenal were second.   Elsewhere we might note it was Notts County 4 Tottenham Hotspur 2.

In the Islington Daily Gazette “Norseman” was full of how dramatic was the change in Arsenal, and all done with the addition of just two new players.  He did not mention the adoption of the WM tactics however which more recent histories of Arsenal have emphasised. Indeed very few reports ever did – the notion that Arsenal under Champman revolutionised tactics simply by dropping the centre half into the back line is another myth invented later to explain Arsenal’s change of fortunes.

But this was not because the papers didn’t talk tactics.  Athletic News on 30 November however did take up this theme of players and tactics – but not WM.  It did however note that Arsenal were now top of the league, one point ahead of Sunderland. 

29 November 1924

On 29 November 1924, Bolton beat West Ham 5-0, and at once you are probably saying, “so what?”

In fact, this is noteworthy as Arsenal’s manager Leslie Knighton claimed 22 years later that WHU were the most fearsome team of the era, and suggested that he had had to drug the Arsenal team to get them hyped up enough to play against the club.

And that point is remembered because Knighton’s autobiography, published in 1946, has been a prime source of misinformation for journalists and “historians” (I use the latter word lightly) ever since.

Which itself is important since Knighton’s tales of Arsenal, which take up much of the book, although he managed elsewhere, are the single source for almost all the negative tales that have since been propagated about Arsenal and its chairman, Henry Norris, who rescued the club in 1910, paid off the debts, moved the club to Highbury, successfully got the club back into the top division, and then brought in Herbert Chapman as manager.

What is particularly interesting is that the stories about the awfulness of Henry Norris have survived, despite two simple facts.

First, if anyone bothers to check the data they will find very quickly that huge chunks of the autobiography simply don’t fit such facts as can be checked.  Second, because at the same time as Knighton’s tell-all book was serialised in the News of the World, George Allison published his autobiography – and that tells an utterly different tale.

 Now as you may know, Knighton was a real failure as a manager, managing to keep Arsenal in the 1st Division by the skin of their teeth, and nothing else.  Whereas Allison won the league twice and the FA Cup, and without any reward kept the club going through the second world war, managing them on his own from a small room in White Hart Lane.

So why has Knighton’s work been accepted as the truth?  First because it is scandalous.  Apart from suggesting that he drugged Arsenal players, he suggests Henry Norris was a crook, he argues that he had been promised the entire gate receipts of Arsenal v Tottenham in 1925 in compensation when he was sacked, and never got them, and says that if only he had been able to buy the quality players he wanted he would have taken Arsenal to the top, rather than the bottom of the table.

What makes this situation so outrageous however is not so much that Allison says otherwise (Allison worked for Arsenal and in fact knew Norris from 1910 onwards, and goes out of his way to praise him) but rather that so many of the allegations in his book are easy to check against the facts.

Like the fact that he was really worried about playing against WHU, claiming them to be the most fearsome team of the era, and he had to drug the Arsenal team to get them hyped up enough to play against the club. Which is why WHU’s result on this day is interesting. They were not a fearsome team.

They were just an ordinary club – Arsenal remained the dominant London team, not West Ham. But the appropriately titled “Chapter X” of the autobiography pulls no punches for it is titled, “I dope Arsenal for a Cup tie” and he says (page 74) that Arsenal had been having a bad run and he was approached by a famous Harley Street doctor with his pills while in his office contemplating the tactics to employ to overcome West Ham in the 1st round of the FA Cup.  He doesn’t give his name, or leave an address, Knighton doesn’t check him out, he is just given the pills. So Knighton uses them.

Arsenal’s record in the FA Cup since Knighton took over was hardly exciting.  Under Knighton Arsenal had once got to the quarter finals but otherwise had gone out at the first or second time of asking.  They had won just five cup matches in five years, and not a single one of these was against a first division side.

And just to be clear, Knighton’s quarter final appearance with Arsenal was certainly not a record for the club.  Arsenal had twice made the semi-finals while playing at Plumstead.  So Knighton’s record with the knock out trophy was fairly modest.

But Knighton notes none of this in his autobiography.  Instead he makes the point that he was very specifically concerned about this match in the 1st round of the FA Cup, because, most specifically, Arsenal were playing against West Ham.  So could it be because West Ham United were Arsenal’s bogey team?

In fact Arsenal had only played West Ham five times in their history, once in the cup with a replay in the Plumstead days, and three times in the league, winning once and losing twice by the odd goal.

And in the run up to the WHU games things were fairly normal for Arsenal with four wins, seven defeats and one draw, and as a result of what we might call this “modest” record hey were currently sitting 16th in the league.

Yet Knighton writes (page 74) “then during the cup rounds, we were drawn against the Hammers.  Rightly has West Ham gained this menacing nickname.  They have a mighty reputation as tough fighters who can beat the most polished and skilful opposition into a frazzle.  A year or two before our match with them they had thudded their way to the Final.

“I was sitting in my office in Highbury with my head in my hand, wondering how on earth we could make sure of putting West Ham out of the cup, when a card was handed to me.  It bore the name of a distinguished West End doctor.”

Now the story of how Knighton confesses to drugging him team in order to get them to win this match is widely known; but its only source is his autobiography.  The doctor in the case has never been identified.

But as we can see, West Ham are set up as something very special indeed.  And yet this was only their second year ever in the first division.  Prior to that they had spent three years in the second division, finally gaining promotion by coming runners up.  Before that they were 16 years in the first division of the Southern League, highest position 4th, which they achieved twice.

The story rambles on in the autobiography, with the game being postponed twice but the players taking the drugs twice anyway, and getting awful side effects and then the players refusing to take the drugs in the match that was played.

But curiously not a word of this leaked out to the press at the time.  Players were paid pitiful wages in those days and the chance of a couple of pounds extra in return for the story of the century would surely have been too much to resist.  But we never heard a word of it until Knighton wrote his autobiography.  That just seems too unlikely for words.

To me everything about the story is something made up with a record book of the fixtures in hand, to suit the needs of either the newspaper or the book publisher.  It is easier to tell as a tale totally related to West Ham and the Cup.  And 20 years on, would anyone remember whether West Ham were a force to be reckoned with at this time or whether the fog suddenly came down, or was there all day?  What it does do, in the biography at least, is take the focus away from what was happening to Arsenal’s form.

Yes Bolton thumped West Ham on this day in 1924, showing us that WHU were at the time a modest middle-of-the-road team – just another fixture.  Yet the wild crazy story about the drugs has been repeated many times since about how Arsenal were afraid to play them.

Like the whole of Knighton’s autobiography, it is nonsense.

28 November 1951

This was the day of Arthur Milton’s only international appearance as a footballer.  That might not be something we would normally mention here except that he also played six test matches for England at cricket. 

Twelve men have played for England at cricket and football: Alfred Lyttelton, Billy Gunn, Leslie Gay, Reginald “Tip” Foster (the only man to captained England at both cricket and football), Charles (CB) Fry, Jack Sharp, Harry Makepeace, Andy Ducat, Wally Hardinge, John Arnold, Willie Watson and Arthur Milton. We might also sneak in Denis Compton who played football for England in wartime internationals.

It is a list of some significance on an Arsenal facing website since Andy Ducat, Wally Hardinge, Arthur Milton and Denis Compton were all Arsenal men. And Arthur Milton was the last man ever to play both football and cricket for England as a full international.

Clement Arthur Milton was born at Bedminster, Bristol, on March 10 1928.  In cricketing terms he scored 30,235 runs for Gloucestershire, in 1,017 innings between 1948 to 1974.   When Milton turned out against Somerset in his final season, Ian Botham was amongst the opposition.

He is in the top ten in terms of catches in first-class cricket (758) and in 1952, he equalled the world record of seven catches in a day, and eight in the match.

On the footballing side Arthur Milton joined Arsenal as an amateur in 1945 and, following his National Service, played for the reserves until making his debut on 10 March 1951 against Aston Villa.   This was indeed his 23rd birthday although it ended badly as he had to be carried off with an injured thigh, and it was his only appearance that season. It is remarkable therefore that he gained an England cap in that same year, in the 2-2 draw with Austria on November 28 1951, after just 12 league games.

Milton’s explanation is a measure of the man.  “Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews were injured.  My pal Jimmy Logie was the first to tell me I’d been picked. He said I was wanted at Wembley, and they’d probably picked me as I was nearby, nearer than anyone else.”

In total he played 84 games for Arsenal (75 in the league) on the right wing, scoring 21 goals and played 23 times for the title winning team of 1952/53 thus getting that most prized possession – a league winner’s medal.

He moved to Bristol City in February 1955 for £4,000 playing for them 14 times that season, scoring three goals, as they progressed to win the Third Division South title. He was never once on the losing side for Bristol City, but at the end of the season he decided to retire from football and Arsenal returned half the transfer fee.

He then won six England caps as an opening batsman between 1958 and 1959.   He retired from first-class cricket in 1974 at the age of 46.  He continued within cricket as a coach for Oxford University (although Milton remained sceptical about the usefulness of coaching) and a scout for England.

Then quite amazingly, he took a job as a Christmas relief postman and so enjoyed the social side he later went full time until compulsory retirement at 60.   He then turned to paper deliveries which he continued until he was 74!

These last events perhaps are the measure of the man, who in the run up to the  “Final Salute” season at Highbury said, “I just wanted to play sport with my mates.”

As if all this was not enough – cricketer, championship winning footballer, and all round nice bloke, he was also a single-handicap golfer, an excellent mathematician, and a fine snooker and billiards player.

He and his wife Joan (the daughter of his first landlady at Arsenal), also enjoyed travelling around Europe, often with the former Hampshire player Jimmy Gray and his wife.    In 2002 the University of Bristol awarded him an honorary degree.

Arthur and Joan Milton had three sons, and he died on 25 April 2007 after a heart attack.  Perhaps the best way to finish a tribute to such a man is to use his own words on reflecting on his later life as postman and newspaper delivery man.

“I loved the quiet of the early morning, looking at the stars. People used to say I’d missed the big money of present-day sport. I told them I was still a millionaire, out on my bike as life stirred so excitingly.”

27 November 1877: the birth of a great player and great hero

Dr Leigh ‘Dick’ Roose was born 27 November 1877 and died in action on 7 October 1916

He joined Woolwich Arsenal as a goalkeeper from Aston Villa in September 1911 – it was his final season in football.   His transfer was as much a publicity stunt as anything else, for Dick Roose was just about the most famous footballer in the country at the time – an absolute showman who the crowds would turn out to see.  Henry Norris was looking for every way possible to boost interest in Woolwich Arsenal at the time, so signing the most famous player in the country – even if he was at the end of his career – was a good way to do it.

Roose was not only a dare-devil performer, he would swing from the cross bar, and on occasions even climb on the crossbar, he’d turn away from the game and chat to the crowd, he’d comment to the crowd on how he was going to save a penalty before  the ball was struck, and he’d bow and wave after a save.

Roose played for Arsenal as with all his clubs, as an amateur which rather than meaning he got no money for his games (as “amateur” implies) he got far more money than the professionals.  For what he got was “expenses”. While the regular players got a wage, he was paid for getting to and from the match – and quite a few other things as well.

Prior to Roose’s arrival Arsenal’s last home crowds were 15,000, 3,000, 8,000. The 15,000 was against Everton who were top of the league.

For his first game against Middlesbrough on 16 December 1911 a crowd of 11,000 which was more than normal for a match against a mid-table team in the depths of winter.  (These games kicked off at 2pm or 2.15pm to allow for the light, and  many men found it hard to get to the ground after the morning shift, in time for the match).

Roose then had a break but returned in February and 14,000 turned up against Bolton, 12,000 against Man C, 15,000 against WBA and 15,500 against Man U.

After that Arsenal ended the season with games against three distinctly inferior opposition and crowds were, as normal with such clubs, smaller.  Of the last three clubs Arsenal played that year at home – all with Roose in goal, Preston and Bury were relegated and Notts C missed relegation by two points, and the crowds were 8,000 and 10,000 (twice).

What these figures show is that Roose did have some impact on the crowds at the Manor and it was in the order of about a 10% increase over what might have been expected.  The cost of the player would have been far exceeded by the extra gate money.

Incidentally it also shows that the old tale about Arsenal’s prime problem being low crowds because of the remoteness of the ground from central London was only partially true.  If we look at March, by way of example, Arsenal’s away crowds were  8,000  (Oldham) 5,000 (Sunderland) and 10,000 (Everton).  At home they got 12,000 (Man C), 15,000 (WBA) and 15,000 again in the first match in April (Man U).

Arsenal were getting higher crowds at home than away – an interesting perspective.

But back to Roose.  He played 13 times, his last game being 27 April 1912 at home to Notts County.  Arsenal lost 0-3, which is a sad send-off for a personality goalkeeper.  Overall Arsenal won seven of the games he played in goal, drew one and lost five.  Arsenal ended the league 10th in the first division.

Leigh Roose was born in Holt, near Wrexham, the son of a minister.  He was educated at Holt Academy where HG Wells was a master and later graduated from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and studied bacteriology at Kings College London.

He started his football career at Aberystwyth in 1895, and was then signed for Stoke from which era the picture below was taken.

As he moved from club to club he gained the reputation of being a super-hero in goal, not only through being a good keeper but also being a highly eccentric player.  His clubs not only took in Football League teams, such as Stoke and Everton, but also in 1910 Celtic for whom he played one game – the cup semi-final, which they lost to Clyde.  During this game he is reported to have shaken the scorer of one of the Clyde goals to congratulate him on the quality of his shot.

From 1900 onwards he played for Wales and won 24 caps – his last cap being during his time at Arsenal when he played against Scotland in March 1911.

 At the time keepers were allowed to handle anywhere in their own half, but most stayed on the line, as the last line of defence.  Roose was one of the few who took advantage of the rule by running out of goal with the ball and throwing or kicking it accurately to an attacker.  Reports suggest he was also not averse to violently shoulder charging the opposition out of the way so he could run forward with the ball.

He played in an era where the delicacies of today’s game did not exist, and keepers were not protected and nor were the forwards who came up against them.  Goal mouth incidents were more akin to rugby than football; Roose was big and powerful and is said to have used verbal aggression as much as physical.

Indeed it is reported that he could punch and kick the ball further than other keepers of the era and had amazing reflexes and showed a certain recklessness in his style of play.  He was in short, Gordon Banks, Pele and a street thug rolled into one and many reports suggest that the rule change in the summer of 1912 which stopped keepers from handling outside of their own penalty area, was directly a result of Roose’s exploits.

Jimmy Ashcroft, the Woolwich Arsenal keeper in the early years of the century, of whom we have written before himself wrote in praise of Roose.“Last season when Stoke played Arsenal at Plumstead, I watched the Reds swoop down on Roose like a whirlwind. There was a scrimmage in goal and Roose was down on the ball like a shot with a heap of Arsenal and Stoke players on top of him. It was all Lombard Street to a penny orange that the Reds would score. Presently from out of the ruck emerged Roose clinging to the ball, which he promptly threw away up the field. I’ll bet that the thrill of triumph which went through him was ample compensation for any hard knocks he received.”

Roose in 1905.

Roose also left some of his own thoughts in print.  In the four volume work Association Football and the Men Who Made It he wrote,“A tall man able to get down to low shots is certainly preferable to a short one, for he can reach shots that no little man can get near, and if his bigness in stature is combined with weight he will find occasions on which his height and weight will prove of great advantage to him; yet he should not come under Dryden’s description: ‘Brawn without brain is thine.’ He should possess quickness of eye and hand, activity and agility, and be as light on his feet as a dancing master. It’s not much use for a man who can only move ‘once in about two months’ trying to defend a space 24 feet wide and 8 feet high against shots coming in from all possible directions, and when there is only a fraction of a second allowed to get a ball and get rid of it, by either kicking, catching or throwing out, or punching away with forwards on top of him.”To a goalkeeper alone, is the true delight of goalkeeping known. He must be an instinctive lover of the game, otherwise goalkeeping will take it out of a man if he is not devoted to it.”

But we must remember that Roose earned his livlihood through being known. He encouraged stories about himself as it upped the fee he could command as an after dinner speaker, and it is not clear that many of the more famous stories told of him were actually true.

The Football League (at least according to the legends Roose spun around himself) only tried to take him on once, by questioning his increasingly outrageous expense claims that made him the most highly paid footballer in the League.  He presented a list of costs including buying a newspaper to keep himself amused when his team were attacking, and the cost of two visits to the toilet.   Making the report public he dared the League to take on one of the few men who on their own could attract the crowds.  They declined the fight and backed off.

At least, that’s how Roose let it be know that the story played out.

He was also known the feign injuries like broken fingers and yet play on “for  the sake of the team”.  He was in fact the absolute showman – and even more so when he started a scandalous affair with Marie Lloyd.  He was also known to shout, swear and pick fights on and off the pitch much to the dismay of those trying to uphold the good name of the game.

In 1916 he joined the Royal Fusiliers and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the first major action that he saw in the trenches.  He died tragically in the Battle of the Somme and his body was not recovered.

26 November 1995

On 26 November 1995 Arsenal played out a dire goalless draw at home to Blackburn.  A very disappointing result given that we had just beaten Sheffield Wednesday 4-2.  Mind you the result before that was a 2-1 away defeat to Tottenham so perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised.

This was the season under the management of Bruce Rioch, and during this particular part of the season Arsenal won just four games in 15, and were very much a mid-table looking team.  Yet the players were of a calibre that pretty much one anyone around at that time will remember – Seaman and the famous back four, plus Platt, Wright, Merson, and Bergkamp.  Yet somehow it just didn’t seem to fire.   Was Dennis worth the transfer fee?  Sometimes most certainly but not everyone was sure, all of the time.

And there was clearly discontent.  Ian Wright was asked to play on the wing, and as a result then asked for a transfer.  Dennis seemed to be firing on one cylinder and by and large kept his head down. 

But worse, there was a feeling of drift and decline that seemed to be around Highbury.  In 1989 we had that most memorable of league titles won at Anfield, in 1991 we won it again in the era when the League suddenly decided that it had the power to deduct two points for argy-bargy – but only if Arsenal were on the pitch.   In 1993 we were the first ever team to win the Cup Double, and the following season we won the Cup winners Cup.

But then in 1994/5 we came 12th as George Graham was sacked for financial doings, (later to return as Tottenham manager of all things), so along came Rioch.

He took us back up to 5th, and the semi-final of the League cup, but going out in the 3rd round of the FA Cup to Sheffield United was not what we were used to after all the Cup Winners’ Cup and Cup Double stuff.

It is hard to describe the atmosphere at that time, but I recall it as almost resigned, sometimes even sullen, as if we couldn’t believe that the excitement was over and demanded that the players do their stuff before we would deign to rouse ourselves to make a noise.

But of course it is never over until… well you know. Because on 4 May 1996 we stood fifth in the league ahead of the final game of the season.  That fifth position was enough to get us into Europe the following season, but a slip up in the one game left meant that the last Euro sport could let any one of Tottenham, Everton or Blackburn instead of Arsenal.

Ahead of that final game Tottenham and Arsenal were both on 60 points so a better result for them in the last match would lift them over us.  (Their goal difference was four worse than ours, and they had scored more than we had so a 6-0 win to them if we only won 1-0 would give them the European position – but that seemed rather unlikely).

But Everton and Blackburn were also close, and if both Arsenal and Tottenham lost in the last game and either of those clubs made it, again we’d miss out on Europe.

And for a while, everything looked to be going wrong.  Bolton took the lead on 76 minutes and depression roared its way around Highbury (if depression can roar, but I certainly recall there being a lot of noise, and not all of it was that pleasant).  But then Platt scored on 82 minutes and our Dennis got the winner just two minutes later, and inside the old ground it was as if we had just won the League at Liverpool all over again.

Of course we had no idea our manager, having got us into Europe, was then going to find he had been sacked as his reward, nor that we were then going to bring in a totally unknown man in his place.  And as Tony Adams famously said, “He’s French, what does he know about English football?”

As it turned out, Mr Wenger knew quite a lot.  As for Bruce Rioch he became assistant manager at QPR before doing a couple of years at Norwich, a year at Wigan and then time with a couple of Danish clubs, before calling it a day in 2008. But I don’t think we noticed.