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A Memorial to the founders of Arsenal’s Highbury dynasty: the launch of a new campaign

A Memorial to the founders of Arsenal’s Highbury dynasty

Today, 8 August 2015, Arsenal History Society is launching its new campaign: a campaign to invite the club to erect a memorial to the founders of Arsenal’s Highbury Dynasty in the area that surrounds the Emirates Stadium.

Every Arsenal supporter knows about Herbert Chapman – and it is right that the Club has honoured him with a statue at the Emirates.

But we would like all visitors to the Emirates Stadium to be aware that the establishment of our club as being in the elite, not just during Chapman’s tenure as manager, but ever since, is due not only to Chapman, but also to the brilliance and dedication of the three men who first worked with him, and then continued his work after his passing; Joe Shaw, George Allison and Tom Whittaker.

Without these men the achievements of Chapman would have faded, and quite possibly Arsenal would have found themselves back in the lower reaches of the first division, which is where they were when Chapman became manager in 1925.

Thus the suggestion we want to make is for a memorial of these four men to be placed outside the Emirates Stadium, alongside a suitable plaque which outlines their involvement in the club, and their achievements.

Herbert Chapman transformed the fortunes of the club after his appointment in 1925, winning the league twice and the FA Cup, before his early death. He laid the foundations for his next three successors; all of whom worked with the Club during his era, and indeed for the success and stature of the modern-day Arsenal Football Club.

Joe Shaw played and captained Woolwich Arsenal, including the final match at Plumstead, and continued working for the club for 49 years, winning the league in the season of Chapman’s premature death, when he took over the management of the team.

George Allison was programme editor and then a Board member, before becoming manager, and winning (like Chapman) the league twice and the FA Cup once, as well as keeping the club together during the second world war, when Arsenal were based in an office at White Hart Lane.

After the war Tom Whittaker, amazingly, replicated his predecessors’ achievement with another two league championships, as well as winning the FA Cup.

The magnitude of the achievements of these four men, who came together for the first time at Highbury in 1925, can be seen from a brief look at Arsenal’s history before and after their time.

Prior to 1925 Arsenal won neither the FA Cup nor the League, despite entering the League in 1893.

Then in 17 seasons under Chapman, Shaw, Allison and Whittaker, Arsenal won the league seven times and the FA Cup three times.

To emphasise their achievements even more, between Tom Whittaker’s final triumph in 1953 and Bertie Mee’s Fairs Cup win in 1970, Arsenal won nothing.   No trophies in 16 seasons after 10 trophies in 17.

Or to take another perspective, between April 1933 and November 1948 England played 58 full internationals.  Every single one of them had at least one Arsenal player in the team.

Or again, on 14 November 1934 seven members of the England XI against Italy were Arsenal men.  Tom Whittaker was the England trainer, and George Allison did the radio commentary for the BBC.

Or yet again, against Bristol Rovers in the third round of the cup in 1936, ten of the Arsenal team were internationals, the first time ever for any league club.

Together these men made Arsenal the nation’s dominant team from 1930 to 1953, and there is good reason to say that they made Arsenal the most famous club in the world.

But they did more than that.  These are the four men who gave Arsenal their professional style, their class,  indeed a style and class that was as well known in the Chapman – Shaw – Allison – Whittaker era as were their ten trophies.

It would be therefore be suitable and fitting that there should be a memorial at the Emirates Stadium to the men who founded the Arsenal dynasty, commemorating them, and celebrating their achievements.

Back in 2010 I had the pleasure of being able to present to Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s CEO, the notion of putting up some statues in the area around the stadium.   The start of that adventure is recorded on this site in the “Where is the statue of Herbert Chapman” article.   To my joy and amazement on December 9, 2011 the first statues were unveiled.

I’ve not been bombarding the club with new ideas for what to place in the walkways outside the stadium ever since, for I can imagine how quickly one might lose one’s credibility in such matters.

But today we’ve published the latest in the series of AISA Arsenal History booklets which not only trace the history of the club from its foundations onwards but also always reveal some insights that were not previously well-known, or in some cases had been utterly lost in the mists of time, but which were utterly fundamental in forging a real understanding of the club’s development.

The new publication is “Tom Whittaker – The End of the Dynasty” and it has, I am delighted to say, a forward by Bruce J Whittaker, grandson of Tom.

This means we’ve published revised histories on the four men who gave Arsenal their first round of success: Chapman, Shaw, Allison and Whittaker, and it seems fitting that they, as the absolute founders of the Arsenal Way of doing things, should have their own memorial.

Most histories deal with Arsenal’s history year by year, and although this is obviously logical and valid, an overview of an era can also be worthwhile.  My belief is that a memorial to these four men will help share that broader understanding with today’s fans, and enhance the understanding of exactly what it means to be Arsenal.

“Tom Whittaker – The End of the Dynasty” is being sent automatically to all AISA members, and will shortly be available to non-members from AISA’s website.

I do hope you find the idea of a memorable tribute to the founders of the Highbury Dynasty of interest, and that in a while I will be able to write again and tell you the unveiling date!

Tony Attwood

8 August 2015

2 comments to A Memorial to the founders of Arsenal’s Highbury dynasty: the launch of a new campaign

  • Dave bowden

    Whilst ‘less is more’ can be applied to memorials, statues and the like, I really feel that Cliff Bastin deserves a statue for his achievements at the club. This would emphasise the longevity of achievement within the club, rather than just thinking recent history. It was only in the 1990 that Ian Wright surpassed his goal scoring record.. And Bastin was a winger!

  • Dave, I fully support your point of view, but although I can’t say for sure, I get the feeling that when it comes to statues the club will go for more contemporary players, simply because this is what attracts the crowds. Before each game there are so many people around the player statues, each trying to get their picture next to the recent player of their choice.

    That’s why I haven’t proposed another historic statue – apart from the fact that the club likes to have a big launch with the player in question also there. But by putting four great names together I think I might be able to get somewhere. Maybe.

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