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GCR Books

1930 Arsenal pre-season. Preparing for the unthinkable – winning the league.

By Tony Attwood

On 19 February 1930 the score that was revealed in the London late evening papers was very unimpressive for your London based Arsenal supporter.   Derby 4 Arsenal 1.  (There was no radio roundup of match results then – that didn’t start until the Light Programme launched Sports Report at 5.30pm on a saturday evening in October 1947).  It was hardly a promising portent of what was to come.

Arsenal only won four more league matches in the rest of the season and eventually ended the season in a disappointing 14th position.  

And yet this was the moment – the moment that everyone associated with Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal and Arsenal had waited for since 1886 – although I doubt that they dreamed of such things, at least until entering the league in 1893, and even then they must have recognised they might have to wait a year or two.

On 26 March 1930 the FA Cup semi-final replay ended Hull City 0 Arsenal 1.  It was Arsenal’s four appearance in the semis.  In the first two the club had lost at that stage.  In the third, three years before, they’d lost in the final.   So fourth time lucky?

As it turned out: Yes.  David Jack scored the goal at Villa Park which took Arsenal to their second final and ultimately their first major trophy.

Meanwhile Arsenal had league games to play out, and the results showed that the players minds were elsewhere.   On 29 March 1930 we had Arsenal 4 Blackburn 0 which looked promising but in the nine remaining league games after this Arsenal had only one win.

However there were other signs of progress,  On 5 April David Jack was the first Arsenal player to captain England.  

Four days later on 9 April the score was hardly one to remember – Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 1.  Except that Charles Preedy began his return as goalkeeper – a run that eventually led to his appearance in the Cup Final – and a winner’s medal.

The final league victory of the season was memorable however on 12 April 1930  Arsenal played eight games in April, came a poor 14th in the league, but beat Sheffield U, on this day, 8-1.  Lambert got a hat trick.

However the negative results of the rest of the campaign dominated and Arsenal 1 Leicester 1 on 18 April 1930 (Good Friday) made relegation looked possible for Chapman. Arsenal ultimately avoided the drop, but only by three points.

On the following day there was a foretaste of the cup final, one week before the big game.  It ended Huddersfield 2 Arsenal 2.  Only 11988 turned up for the league match.  Bastin and Hulme scored.

Then on Easter Monday (yes it really was three games in four days) we had Leicester City 6 Arsenal 6: the all time record top league score.   Four goals were scored by David Halliday, but that wasn’t enough to get him a place in the cup final!

And so after that busy long week. the following weekend on 26 April 1930 Arsenal won their first ever F.A. Cup 2-0 v Huddersfield.  And indeed they won their first ever major trophy.   It was the final remembered for the Zepplin flying overhead, and because it involved Chapman’s present and past employers playing each other.  It was also the first final in which the managers led their teams onto the pitch. 

After that league life went on.  On 28 April 1930 having won the FA Cup just two days before Arsenal then proceeded to lose 0-1 at home to Sunderland.  Also see here

On 3 May Arsenal showed off the trophy in their final match but lost 2-4 at home to Villa, completing the rout of only one league win in the last nine games of the season.  But still, they had won a trophy.

Arsenal played only one post-season match that year on 5 May 1930: Northampton Town 0 Arsenal 7.  It was one of a series of end of season games with Chapman’s first managerial club, which was set up to help Northampton recover from a devastating fire that had swept their ground.   The game was agreed in the winter, and although when they made the offer Northampton knew they would get their old manager and his first division team back, they didn’t know that Arsenal would be displaying the FA Cup!

There was little transfer activity that summer – indeed just one player turning pro and one stalwart leaving.

8 May 1930: George Male turned pro on his 20th birthday.  He started out on the left wing as a deputy for Bob John and he played just three times in the first championship winning season, but played in the 1932 cup final due to an injury to Alex James.

6 June 1930: John Butler (the man who played for Arsenal at the heart of their “WM” tactical revolution in 1925) was sold to Torquay United.

So the question was: what was the dominant factor at Arsenal.  The league form that left them just three points above relegation, or the heroics in winning a trophy for the first time?   What would we see next season?

It turned out to be the latter.  Arsenal won their first five games of the new season, scoring 18 goals – with Lambert getting eight.

In fact Arsenal won seven of the first nine, drawing the other two, and only stumbled when they had to play their first “friendly” of the season – the Charity Shield game against Sheffield Wednesday, which Arsenal won 2-1.

After that there were one or two hiccups but normal service resumed in November when Arsenal won four consecutive games scoring 17 goals in the process, seven of which came inevitably from Lambert.

In the end Arsenal won the league by seven points and scored 127 goals.  Both the points total (66) and the goals scored were records.

After 43 years without a major trophy Arsenal had won two in two seasons, and started breaking records as well.   The First Golden Age and indeed the Highbury Dynasty had begun in earnest.

From the Pre-season files

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