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Arsenal in the 1930s Part 1. The 1929/30 season, and Arsenal’s place in the hierarchy.

This article revised 16 April 2017 to include enhanced details of the FA Cup semi-final and final.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal in the 1930s.

This is the start of a series of almost 100 articles relating to Arsenal in the 1930s, all of which are published on this site.  This series is dedicated with the fondest memories to my father, the late Arthur Charles Attwood, who was a passionate Arsenal supporter, and who took me to the Arsenal as a child.  He is deeply missed, every day. 


 

We start here with an introduction to life in Britain at the start of the decade and an introduction to Arsenal as the club approached this momentous season and momentous decade.

I won’t dwell on the former – there are a million history books available – I just want to set the scene.

Britain in 1930

Economically Britain was in chaos.  The economic policy from 1925 onwards was a disaster, and the recovery after the first world war disintegrated.  Employers attempted to cope by reducing salaries, and cutting any investment in new equipment.  The government changed from Conservative to a minority Labour government, but economic policy remained the same: balance the budget no matter how much the working man got hurt.  And boy did they get hurt!

In October 1929 the US stock market crashed, and the consequent depression hit full blast.  There was even talk about this being the end of capitalism.

At the start of 1930 there were around 1 million unemployed.   By the end of the year it was 2.5 million – mostly without any unemployment benefit. London didn’t feel the full brunt of the failure of the economy, but it certainly was affected.  Industries such as coal mining, shipbuilding and steel were based on northern England, South Wales, Northern Ireland and central Scotland, and these were the areas where unemployment shot up.

In January 1930, Oswald Mosley, then a junior minister proposed that the government should take over the banks and control exports, increase pensions an boost the amount of money in the economy (anathema to the economists of the day).  Labour would have nothing to do with it, so he left and founded his own New Party.  Later that became the British Union of Fascists.

Arsenal in 1929/30

The manager was, of course Herbert Chapman who had replaced the awful Leslie Knighton in 1925 with the remit of bringing some silverware to Arsenal.

In his first season (1925/6) he came close – taking Arsenal to an unprecedented second in the league (they came 20th out of 22 the previous season).

In his second season he was close again, taking Arsenal to their first ever FA Cup Final.  In his third season it was another FA Cup semi-final, but in his fourth season (1928/9) it seemed like a step back – 10th in the league and out of the Cup in the quarter finals.  That seemed like a significant step backwards and on 5 April 1929 after a 1-2 home defeat to Newcastle, he offered to resign.

It was an odd moment.  True Arsenal were out of the cup, but the team had just gone 11 without defeat. scoring 28 along the way.  Major Sir Samuel Hill-Wood who had been chair of Arsenal since the start of the 1927/8 refused to accept the resignation and Chapman stayed.   It was a brilliant decision by Sir Samuel for as it turned out, Chapman had almost brought his vision to fruition as the following season would show.

Arsenal started the 1929/30 season brightly, and despite an early setback against Manchester City away had progressed to the top of the league by late September.  However a second defeat – this 5-2 away to Villa heralded a period of decline.  In the remaining 17 games of 1929 Arsenal only won four and slipped down to 13th in the table by the year’s end.

Arsenal started 1930 with a 2-3 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday which saw them slip to 16th in the league.   The team for that day was

Lewis

Parker Roberts Hapgood

Baker Haynes

Hulme James Jack Jones Bastin

This was the first time Chapman had used this line up, and once again it could not bring Arsenal victory, but it did bring a couple of goals (from Bastin and Parker) which was something of a rarity for the club and a novelty for Bastin; aged 16 it was his first league goal for Arsenal.

But there was relief at hand the following Saturday with the FA Cup 3rd round in which Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0.  Bob John came back into the squad instead of Baker, and Jack Lambert who had been out of the side since the defeat to Man U in October, returned at centre forward.  He had scored six goals in his first six games, so his ability at number nine was not in doubt – apart from to himself.  He was notoriously unsure of his own abilities.

Lambert (who had been signed for £2,000 in June 1926 from Doncaster) and Bastin (who had been introduced to the first team on a permanent basis in December) scored the goals and Arsenal were through to the fourth round of the Cup.

It was Bastin’s first goal – scored from a centre from Joey Hulme the right winger – and the fact that it was a pass from the outside right to the outside left shows how Arsenal were playing now they had Bastin in the squad.  There were most certainly three forwards – the two wing players and the centre forward, and if the centre forward moved out of position one of the wing players moved to take his place.

Bastin had taken the place of Charlie Jones who had in 1928/9 been the first choice outside left.  But Jones, who had originally been an inside forward with Nottingham Forest, now found a new role for himself as first left half, and then in the following season right half. It was a journey at Bastin himself, as he got older, was also required to make.  The move to right half for Jones who like Bastin was totally left footed, was interesting, for it allowed the player, on receiving a quick ball out of defence, to make long range passes upfield which (because of using the left foot on the right side of the pitch, had an unexpected spin on them.

Back in the League Arsenal managed to pick up a point away to Burnley, but they were now getting perilously close to the relegation positions, having slipped to 18th.  But there was encouragement.  Bastin scored again, Jack got the other.

Now it was straight back to the FA Cup with a home game against Birmingham in the 4th round.  The result was a 2-2 draw, with Bastin scoring (with a cracker of a shot for the second goal which went in after hitting the underside of the crossbar) for the third match running – his first three goals for the club thus coming in quick succession.  Jack got the other, and notably Lambert kept his place in the team.  Chapman was showing confidence in him and he was repaying the manager

The replay happened the following Wednesday, and Chapman made a couple of changes.  Jones who had appeared in the first match at inside left, moved back to left half – the position he had been adopting of late (feeding balls to Bastin out on the wing), and Lewis (who had been replaced by Preedy in the first game) returning as keeper.

What grabbed attention for this match was the fact that Alex James rose from his sick bed to play.  Alf Baker, the right half, scored from the penalty spot.

January thus ended with Arsenal in the fifth round of the cup but with the league table looking very unhealthy Arsenal having won just one of their last six league games…

Arsenal were just two points off relegation, and it is interesting, in the light of what happened later in the 1930s so see that even lower than Arsenal were Everton.

Arsenal now played out a goalless draw away to Bolton, with Lambert and Bastin still being kept in the team on February 1, but then one week later, at last there was a little bit of a break through in the game against Everton.  True Everton were a lowly club, but Arsenal in the league were now willing to take any help they could get and if that meant hammering another team in relegation trouble, then they would certainly not hesitate.

But Everton were not a totally soft touch as they had just won two of their last three games,  but Arsenal won 4-0.  Better still this included a second hattrick for Lambert (he had got one earlier in the season against Grimsby) and a rare goal for the winger Williams.

With that bit of relief taken care of Arsenal returned to the Cup with another away game, this against Middlesbrough.  And Arsenal duly won 2-0 with another goal from Lambert and another from Bastin.  Suddenly it seemed that the two players brought into the team by Chapman to share out the goals were doing exactly that.

Unfortunately in the game Lambert was injured and so forced to miss the next league game – this against Derby away, and the rejuvenated Arsenal came down to earth with a bang and lost 4-1. Halliday taking over from Lambert scored Arsenal’s consolation goal.

This left one more match for February – away to lowly Grimsby who had lost their last three league games and were now sitting at the foot of the table.  Lambert kept his place with Bastin on the wing, but the defence was being seriously disrupted by injury.  Arsenal managed a 1-1 draw, with the goal coming again from Lambert.  The bottom of the table now looked like this with Arsenal (for all their cup triumphs) still having only won one game in the last six.

Slowly it seemed that Chapman was putting together a team that could play well, and although the league results were still leaving a lot to be desired, the FA Cup games was making that team into winners.

And indeed, the reality that the players were seeing league and cup matches differently, was revealed fully by the next two matches: away to West Ham in the FA Cup on 1 March and away to West Ham in the league on March 8.

The team in each case was identical, but the results completely different.  In the FA Cup Arsenal won 3-0, with Lambert getting two, and Baker the other, in the League Arsenal lost 2-3 with Baker getting the other.  Arsenal had sunk to 19th, just two points above relegation, and with one of the relegation placed clubs (Newcastle) having a game in hand over Arsenal.

But on the other hand they were in the semi-final of the FA Cup for the third time in four years – a run that was utterly unprecedented for Arsenal, the club that had never won either of the major trophies in English football.  Woolwich Arsenal had fought through to the semi-finals in 1906 and 1907 but that had been the height of the club’s achievements.

Even more exciting in terms of possible achievement was the news that Arsenal were drawn against Hull City of the 2nd division in the semi-final.  And Hull were not just of the second division but currently 14th in the second division.

The FA Cup semi final, to be played at Leeds, was not until 22 March, and before that Arsenal had two vital league games, both at Highbury.  The first was against Manchester United and the second against Birmingham City.   It was a great relief to all concerned that Arsenal won both games beating Man U 4-2 with goals from Bastin, Williams, Lambert and Hulme, and then beating Birmingham 1-0 with a goal from Alex James.

Hull on the other hand had just lost three consecutive games, to Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and Charlton scoring two and letting in a total of nine.  As a result they had sunk to 19th and were now in more trouble than Arsenal in the league, Arsenal having risen to 16th thanks to their two recent victories.

Of course Arsenal never like to make it easy for themselves, and on 22 March in the semi-final they managed to draw 2-2 with the second division strugglers, after being 2-0 down at half time, with the goals coming from Jack and Bastin.  It was Bastin’s fourth goal in this cup campaign in his first season in Arsenal’s first team.  He had just turned 17 years of age.

For Hull’s first goal on 15 minutes, Danny Lewis ran to the edge of the penalty area, and kicked the ball out 30 yards up the field.  It went to Howieson, Hull’s inside left, who then simply lobbed it back into the unguarded goal, as Lewis had remained on the edge of his area to admire his clearance.

Worse, 14 minutes later Eddie Hapgood sliced his attempt to clear a shot from Duncan, and it shot into the goal – Hull were thus 2-0 up.  Then the luck changed.  Walsh the Hull right half was injured, and moved over to the wing where he was little more than a passenger (as injured players were called before substitutes were allowed).  Within two minutes Baker put Hulme through on the right, he immediately centre and David Jack scored.

Hull were now playing a totally defensive game, ensuring among other things that Bastin did not receive a ball.  This ploy succeeded totally for 20 minutes but with eight minutes remaining James passed to Bastin who cut in, bypassed Mills and scored in the top right hand corner.  Bastin was the hero, despite not having touched the ball for so long previously.

There was one more incident to play out from the first semi-final however.   Arsenal’s coach was held up in traffic and the team and management looked like missing the train back to London.  Chapman reportedly leaned out of the coach and shouted instructions to the police officers directing traffic, and eventually arranged for a motorcycle escort to get the players to the station in time.

In the other semi-final Huddersfield (Chapman’s previous team) had beaten Sheffield United to secure a place in the final.  They had beaten Bury, Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford and Aston Villa in the previous rounds.

The replay against Hull was at Villa Park the following Wednesday with Joey Williams coming in for Hulme.  Hull had suffered injuries of their own in the first game, and they made two changes.  Joey Williams looked to be the star of the first half, until five minutes before half time he sliced the ball wide when faced with an open goal.

Within minutes of the second half starting the Hull centre half Childs was sent off for repeated foul play thus entering the history books as the first player to be sent off in a semi-final.  His final offence was hitting Jack Lambert (as if he wasn’t nervous enough about playing already).  What then followed was a spot of what commentators later came to call “a bit of argy bargy” but which in the 1930s could lead to questions being asked in the House of Commons about the poor example footballers gave to young people – not least because with the crowd intermingled (there of course being no segregation) the press reported outbreaks of unruly behaviour (fighting) in various parts of the ground following the assault on Lambert.

The goal followed the sending off and was a perfect Chapman move.  Alex James performed one of pinpoint crossfield passes.  Joey Williams took the ball forwards, crossed just as it looked like the ball would go out of play and David Jack met it in the penalty area to score.

The resultant injury toll for Arsenal from the game was particularly worrying however: Lewis, Baker, Parker and Jack all leaving the field at the end of the game in bad shape while the officials made a formal complaint to the FA about the language of the Hull players.  Baker and Jack indeed were each seriously enough hurt not only to miss the next game the following saturday against Blackburn but in fact the next five league games.

And so, having never reached a cup final before 1927 Arsenal were now in their second final in four years.

The final was set for 26 April, and Arsenal now had eight league games in 26 days, by way of preparation for the match.

The first of these on 29 March gave Arsenal great hope for the future, for it turned into a 4-0 route of Blackburn, with Williams, Hulme and then two from Lambert, knocking up the score.   This meant that at the end of March the league now looked like this

Arsenal were six points above the relegation places with games in hand.  The situation had indeed improved.

Away from football for a moment in a first sign of the upgrade to the nation’s power system the first section of what was to become the National Grid – the unified electricity supply for the UK – was switched on in Scotland on 30 April.

However the mood of footballing excitement surrounding Arsenal was brought back down to the ground with the next three league results: a 0-1 home defeat to Liverpool, and successive 1-1 draws to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, both away from home.  A major cause of the problem was the injuries caused by the Hull replay, but although the Liverpool defeat was disappointing, with other teams not playing (Arsenal catching up on games missed because of the Cup), Arsenal actually rose up the table and now reached 13th.

Then on April 12 with a home match against Sheffield United, came the first of two utterly extraordinary league results in the space of nine days in the run up to the Cup Final, results which in many ways heralded what was to come time and again through much of the subsequent decade.   Arsenal beat Sheffield United 8-1, their biggest league win to date, exceeding the 7-1 drubbing of Bury in March 1929.

The ever improving Lambert got a hattrick, Johnstone making only his fourth appearance of the season got two, Hulme, James and of course Bastin, got one each.  Arsenal were up to 12th, and looking much safer in their first division status than at any time since Christmas.

There were now three more games left to play before the Cup Final, and all ended in draws – which was a little disappointing after the Sheffield result, but enough to make Arsenal completely safe in the league.

On Good Friday, April 18 Arsenal drew with Leicester 1-1, James getting the goal.   On the next day there was the oddity of a match against Cup Final opponents Huddersfield away, which ended 2-2 (Bastin and Hulme), and then most bizarrely of all on Easter Monday a 6-6 away draw with Leicester in which Halliday got four goals and Bastin the other two.

Ahead of the cup final the league table now looked like this

In terms of recent form, Arsenal were unbeaten in their last six league games – although five of those were draws.  Huddersfield had won two, drawn three and lost one.

Arsenal had thus in the space of a month, pulled themselves away from the threat of relegation and now were comfortably mid-table.   From 12 March to 21 April Arsenal had five wins, five draws and one defeat.  And in the midst of this Arsenal got to their second FA Cup final.

Thus if we combine cup and league results near the end of the season we can see there is a fairly reasonable record.  Not one that would point to what was to come next season, but still an improvement.   The last two league games played after Arsenal won the first ever trophy hardly mattered.  Leaving those two aside, there was only one defeat.   Here are the results…
.
Date Opponent Venue Op pos Result Pos Pts Crowd Av crowd
12.03.1930 Manchester U home 14 W4-2 17 28 18082  35,537
15.03.1930 Birmingham home 15 W1-0 16 30 32174  35,537
22.03.1930 Hull City Leeds FAC D2-2 47549
26.03.1930 Hull City Villa FAC W1-0 46200
29.03.1930 Blackburn R home 4 W4-0 16 32 40459 35,537
02.04.1930 Liverpool home 6 L0-1 16 32 18824 35,537
05.04.1930 Newcastle Utd away 20 D1-1 14 33 36309  32,559
09.04.1930 Middlesbrough away 18 D1-1 13 34 9287 18,172
12.04.1930 Sheffield Utd home 15 W8-1 12 36 24217 35,537
18.04.1930 Leicester City home 9 D1-1 12 37 46663 35,537
19.04.1930 Huddersfield T away 6 D2-2 12 38 11988 15,767
21.04.1930 Leicester City away 5 D6-6 11 39 27241 21,344
26.04.1930 Huddersfield T Wembley  FAC W2-0 92486
28.04.1930 Sunderland home 10 L0-1 12 39 31250 35,537
03.05.1930 Aston Villa home 5 L2-4 14 39 37020 35,537

Here are the abbreviations which are used in this table throughout the whole series from 1930 to 1939…

  • Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game.
  • Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
  • AC is the average crowd in league matches for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day (in the previous column) and the norm expected by the home side.

This was not sparkling form, but it was definitely an improvement – and an improvement combined with the high emotion of the first ever trophy.

So what caused the turn round this season, and indeed into the glorious 1930/31 season?

The clue is to be found with the two players we have highlighted, who stepped up in the second half of the 1929/30 season.  Lambert became a regular from February onwards taking over the number 9 shirt from Halliday.  He ended the season with 18 goals from 20 league games – sign enough of something extraordinary to come.  But so was the fact that he played all eight FA Cup games and scored five, including the opening goal in the final.

The other was the boy Bastin who after a couple of early games in October 1929, took on the number 11 shirt on Boxing Day, and with a few sojourns onto the inside right position ended the 1929/30 season having played, 21 and scored seven.  Apart from the goalkeeper (Chapman could never stop tinkering with the goal keeper position) the team was in place and ready to roll.

But there were other signs of progress,  On 5 April 1930 David Jack was the first Arsenal player to captain England; England beat Scotland 5-2; he thus missed the Newcastle game but he did score for England.  Alec James played for Scotland.

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 (even though he was then dropped and became third choice keeper the following season; but still ultimately made 19 appearances.  Chapman never could decide on a goalkeeper).

As for David Halliday, his four goals in the league wasn’t enough to get him a place in the cup final and he left the club in the summer.   1929/30 was his only Arsenal season, having come from Sunderland, and leaving in November 1930 for Birmingham.  He played 15 games and scored 8 goals.  But Chapman was putting together a forward line that didn’t need him!

On 26 April 1930 Arsenal won their first ever F.A. Cup 2-0 v Huddersfield.  And indeed on this day 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.

And it was also that very rare thing: a London side lifting the cup.  It had only ever happened twice before and both those times had been by Tottenham in 1901 and 1921.

The Huddersfield team contained seven internationals – Arsenal’s had six – including Alex Jackson who had achieved fame throughout the UK by being the hero of Scotland’s 1928 win against England at Wembley scoring a hat-trick in the 5-1 victory which had rocked English football to the core.  The Scottish team had also contained Alex James (whom Cliff Bastin, playing in the final at the age of 18 years and 1 month, described in his autobiography as “unintelligible”.)

Arsenal had developed the habit of going to Brighton before each cup tie to help overcome the nerves.  And indeed nerves there would have been as Arsenal had lost their one and only previous cup final, and Huddersfield were very much the top team of the moment.  But Arsenal had already beaten Huddersfield 2-0 in the league at Highbury and drawn the away game.

In his account of the match Bastin only criticised one player in the Arsenal team for cup final day – Charlie Preedy, who played in goal because Lewis was injured.  There were in the 1930s some keepers who stayed on their line, and others who came out.  Preedy was one of the latter and Bastin described his “far too daring antics” which he claimed gave most of the team heart failure.

Bastin also described in detail the goal, which he suggests was carefully arranged – not by Chapman as it turned out but by the players!  Bastin was facing at full back the England captain Roy Goodall and it was agreed that if there was a free kick inside the Huddersfield half Alex James would give a short pass to Bastin who would draw the defence waiting for James to be free in the box.   It worked and James scored his first, and only, FA Cup goal of the season.

The second goal was a classic in the Chapman style.  James put the inch perfect counter attack pass through from his own half to Lambert who by-passed the members of the defence who had not been drawn upfield and scored.

Arsenal had their first trophy and aas for Bastin, he had a cup winner’s medal less than a year after leaving Exeter City.

Here was the Cup Final team…

Charlie Preedy

Tom Parker (c)  Bill Seddon   Eddie Hapgood

Alf Baker                                                        Bob John

             David Jack      10 Alex James   

Joe Hulme            Jack Lambert            11  Cliff Bastin

The only players who survived from the previous Cup Final against Cardiff in 1927 were Tom Parker, Bob John and Joe Hulme.

Here is one of the goals…

Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town 1930

And here is the Zepplin

Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town 1930

And the cup winners… the lights you can see hang over the dog track that went around Wembley at the time.

Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town 1930

And the winning team posed

Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town 1930

Back Row: Baker, Lambert, Preedy, Seddon, Hapgood, John Middle Row: Herbert Chapman (Manager), Jack, Parker, James, Whittaker (Trainer) Front Row: Hulme, Bastin.

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 run of only one league win in the last nine games of the season.  But still, they had won a trophy, they had won one match earlier in the season 8-1, and aside from the final two games after the final (which were excusable) they were quite often looking a really good team.

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!

 

After this 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.

On 10 May England played out a 3-3 away draw with Germany.  David Jack was again captain and again scored.   Then to conclude the tour, England played Austria, and again Jack was captain.  This time however it was a 0-0 draw.

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?  In the coming years we were going to find out

Football attendances

With the sort of a collapse in the economy noted at the start of this piece, we might expect that crowd figures at League matches might go down in the 1930s, and the 1st division league average did indeed go down for 1930/1, but not dramatically.   Here are the figures taken from the History of English Football site.

Season Top club for attendance Top club in crowd terms league posn Top club average crowd 1st division average crowd
1921/2 Chelsea 9th in Div 1 37.545 27.003
1922/3 Liverpool 1st in Div 1 33.495 23.213
1923/4 Chelsea 21st in Div 1 * 30.895 22.654
1924/5 Arsenal 20th in Div 1 29.485 21.609
1925/6 Chelsea 3rd in Div 2 32.355 22.597
1926/7 Newcastle Utd 1st in Div 1 36.510 22.881
1927/8 Manchester City 1st in Div 2 37.468 22.885
1929/30 Arsenal 14th in Div 1 35.537 22.647

*Relegated

Arsenal’s average crowd for 1929/30 was certainly at the upper end of average crowds for the past ten years, but was then beaten in 1930/31, although that was still not the highest of the era.  And to understand this fully we need to look at the decline in the first division average crowd as shown in the last column.

This combination of a decline overall, but a rise in the attendance of a London club spells out what the country was going through.  The bulk of division 1 teams were in the north and they were suffering in terms of crowds (their prime form of income).

Here are the top ten average gates from across all the English leagues for 1929/30

No. Club Division Posn. Average  Change on previous year
1 Arsenal 1 14 35,537 +33.1%
2 Manchester City 1 2 33,339 +5.1%
3 Everton 1 22* 32,989 +11.8%
4 Newcastle United 1 19 32,559 +2.8%
5 Liverpool 1 12 30,219 +6.9%
6 Chelsea 2 2 27,799 -0,8%
7 Aston Villa 1 4 27,726 -6,3%
8 Sheffield Wednesday 1 1 25,588 -5,6%
9 Sunderland 1 9 24,553 -2,6%
10 Tottenham Hotspur 2 12 21,834 -10,6%

*Relegated

Thus two of the top ten were second division sides and both were in London.

If we then look forward to 1930/1 we find three of the top four clubs were in London and one in the Midlands.  The top northern club has an average attendance 10,000 fewer than Arsenal’s.

No. Club Division Posn. Average  Change on last year
1 Arsenal 1 1 37,106 4.4%
2 Chelsea 1 12 35,808 28.8%
3 Aston Villa 1 2 30,781 11.0%
4 Tottenham Hotspur 2 3 28,148 28.9%
5 Manchester City 1 8 26,849 -19.5%
6 Newcastle United 1 15 26,151 -19.7%
7 Liverpool 1 9 26,086 -13.7%
8 Everton 2 1 26,039 -21.1%
9 Sunderland 1 11 22,015 -10.3%
10 Sheffield Wednesday 1 3 19,911 -22.2%

When we come to look at Arsenal’s crowds at Highbury through the ages we find that they had hovered around the same level then peaking in the first two years of Chapman’s tenure, before finally hitting the big time in 1929/30.

Season League pos. Average crowd Crowd pos. Cup round
1914/5 5 (div 2) 13.820 8 2
1919/20 10 34.485 3 2
1920/1 9 35.540 5 1
1921/2 17 29.170 8 4
1922/3 11 30.245 4 1
1923/4 19 29.950 2 2
1924/5 20 29.485 1 1
1925/6 2 31.471 3 QF
1926/7 11 30.054 4 Final
1927/8 10 27.434 7 SF
1929/30 14 35.537 1 Winners

But we still haven’t understood how a team that finished 14th just three points above relegation, could then become not only Champions, but Champions with the record number of points, and scoring more than double the number of goals than scored by Huddersfield in 1925 when they were champions.

To find what Chapman did we have to look at the 1929-30 competition statistics (first four columns below) and compare with the final column – appearances in the 1930/1 league winning season…

Player Position Games Gls 1930/1
Alf Baker Right back/Right half 19 1
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 21 7 42
James Brain Inside right / centre fwd 6 16
Jack Butler Centre half 2
Horace Cope Left back 1 1
David Halliday Centre forward 15 8
Eddie Hapgood Left back 38 38
Alfred Edward Haynes Half back 13 2
Joe Hulme Outside right 37 14 32
Albert Edward Humpish Half back 3
David Jack Inside forward 33 13 35
Alex James Inside left 31 6 40
Bob John Half Back 34 40
William S Johnstone Inside forward 7 3 2
Charlie Jones Outside left 31 1 24
Jack Lambert Centre forward 20 18 34
Dan Lewis Goalkeeper 30
Tom Parker Full back 41 3 41
Harold Burston Peel Inside left 1
Charlie Preedy Goalkeeper 12 11
Herbie Roberts Centre half 26 40
Bill Seddon Half back 24 18
Leonard Thompson Inside left 5 1 2
Joey Williams Winger 12 3 9

Only three players played in 1930/1 who did not play in the previous cup winning season; two of those were goalkeepers, and one a youngster just learning his way.  Keyser played the opening 12 games and then was removed in “interesting” circumstances.  Harper had been a success with the club between 1925 and 1927, and returned.  As for Male… well he deserves his full mention from 1932 onwards.

  • Harper 19
  • Keyser 12
  • Male 3

So yes, this was, in 1930/1, by and large the team of 1929/30 growing up and believing that they could now do the previously unthought of: the first ever London team to win the Football League.

And how.

Arsenal in the 30s

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Joseph Szabo, his visit to Arsenal, and the way it changed SC Braga’s history.

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