This article updated 28 March 2017
By Tony Attwood
Having won their opening game of the new season 4-1, Arsenal were faced with seven games in September.
They began with an away match against Bolton, with Chapman not surprisingly putting out the same team as had won away at Blackpool at the weekend. In the first game Bastin had scored two, and Jack got two. This time Lambert scored three, and Hulme the other. Two 4-1 wins away from home, four different scorers. It was only the third time since the first world war that Arsenal had actually won both opening games and the best goal scoring feat ever for the club in their first two games.
What’s more Bolton had in goal the three time FA Cup winner Dick Pym – who had actually never let a single goal in, in any of those cup finals. Shock waves were reverberating around the football world.
This immediately made historians remember the best league start Arsenal had ever had: 1903/4 when they came second in the second division and gained promotion winning the first eight matches along the way. Even in the 1925/6 season when Arsenal had come second, the club had not started like this!
For the third game – the first of the season at home – Chapman once again kept the same team and this time played Leeds, and won again 3-1. Lambert got two and Jack one. 40,828 turned up – by no means a record, but bigger than normal.
But of course there were the nay-sayers – there are always nay-sayers, and they pointed out that Blackpool had just been promoted and Leeds were strugglers. And Arsenal had been lucky to be able to play the same team for the first three games. This in itself was unusual, and had only happened once before in Chapman’s reign.
Now he had to make a change as Alex James was forced to miss the midweek game, and Bill Johnstone came in for this and the next game – rare appearances for him since his transfer from Reading.
Johnstone managed to get on the score sheet, and Bastin got another two, but the game was closer ending 3-2, although having taken the lead 2-1 at half time, Arsenal did not look to be in trouble at any time.
That was four wins in a row and on 13 September Arsenal were away to Sunderland. Johnstone kept his place, and Seddon came in for Jones at number 4. Sunderland it must be said, were not strong opposition, since they had drawn the first three games and then lost the fourth and Arsenal had no problem going back to their opening form, winning 4-1. Lambert got three and Hulme the other. It meant that in five games Lambert had scored eight.
Arsenal, in the promotion season, had won their first eight games in a row. This time the club didn’t go quite so far because game six, away to Backburn was a 2-2 draw. Hulme and (of course) Lambert got the goals.
Although it was only a draw Blackburn’s result gave other teams hope, and their methods were carefully studied. For with Arsenal sweeping all before them, Blackburn had first only narrowly lost at Highbury (3-2) and now had become the first club to stop Arsenal winning. What made it even more interesting was that thus far they had lost four and won one (against Blackpool). In fact although they were 20th at this time their defensive tenacity paid off eventually and they ended the season in 10th.
There were now two games left in the month; first off a home match with Leicester. Leicester were unbeaten so far and had risen to 3rd in the table, although midweek matches meant they had slipped to 5th by the time the game with Arsenal kicked off. Arsenal kept the same team, and inflicted Leicester’s first defeat on them, by Arsenal’s favourite score: 4-1. Lambert got two and Hulme and Bastin one each.
Arsenal ended the month with an away trip to Birmingham with the same team for the third match running, and Arsenal once again got four, although the defence let in two. Lambert got three and Bastin the other.
In the table that follows, column three “Op pos” shows the position of the opponents BEFORE the game as a measure of their strength. “AC” is listed to show the average crowd. For Arsenal home matches it is the average crowd for the season, and thus always the same number. For away matches it is the average crowd of the opposition for the season.
The aim in each case is to be able to judge the attractiveness of Arsenal as opposition away from home, and the attractiveness of the opposition at Highbury.
Crowds in red were above the average for the home club.
* indicates a midweek game, remembering that there were no floodlights and games were thus played on a working afternoon. However many such games were arranged around the local “half day closing” day which was common in shops at the time.
Thus leaving aside the first match in September (for which Bolton’s position of first is of course measured on only the opening day’s games – and that because they had conceded no goals and thus on the goal average system had an average of infinity), Arsenal had four matches against clubs that were struggling, before meeting 5th placed Leicester and 8th place Birmingham at the end of the month.
As for the crowds – all were above the average for the season except the Blackburn home game, against modest opposition, on a midweek afternoon. This meant Arsenal fans were excited, and so were the fans at the grounds they visited.
By the end of the month the team was as below. The goals scored by each player by this point, after eight games is shown in brackets after the players name
|Outside left||Bastin||6 inc 1 pen|
|Centre forward||Lambert||14 inc 3 hat tricks|
|10||West Ham United||8||3||2||3||21||20||1.05||8|
There was one other big incident in Arsenal’s world during September. The original big clock at Highbury was placed at the rear of the then uncovered Laundry End of the ground (which later became the North Bank), between the 7th and 9th September thus being ready for the home game on 10 September 1930.
The exact date of the work is not known – the source of our information (which is different from that which has been published by Arsenal) is a picture in the Daily Mirror in its paper on that day – in its preview of the match against Blackburn.
The picture shows a clock with a 45 minute face. Other sources state that the end of each half would be announced by a klaxon and that the clock measured 8 feet 6 inches across.
Thus fans who did not carry their own wrist watches (the majority of people at that time) were shown how much time there was in each half. (There being no substitutes, and fewer visits from medical staff, interruptions were fewer, and so halves really did last 45 minutes).
However the Football Association felt that this ticking of 45 minutes would provide far too much information to the fans, would distract them from the game and undermine the credibility of the match officials. Thus it was that they ordered the club to remove the offending instrument of time.
Arsenal naturally had to obey the instruction but rather than remove the timepiece totally (which the FA had clearly intended in their instruction, but didn’t actually say) Arsenal simply changed the clock so that the clock face showed the normal time of day which of course was enough to tell supporters how much time was left.
The FA gave up at this point and took no more action and the clock remained at the rear of the terracing until 1935 when it was decided to cover part of the Laundry End. With the College End of the ground remaining uncovered, the clock was placed at that end, and this quickly became known as the Clock End.
Also during the month (on 18 September) William Harper returned for second spell with Arsenal having previously left Arsenal to play in the American Soccer League. He replaced Keyser in goal in October, and played 19 games in the season.
On 15 September the government announced that 90 railway stations would be closed to passengers because of the decline in the use of the railways.
On 18 September in a sad misunderstanding of political events which both scientists and politicians can make, Albert Einstein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that there was “no reason for despair” over the Nazi Party’s strong showing in Sunday’s elections, because it was “only a symptom, not necessarily of anti-Jewish hatred but of momentary resentment caused by economic misery and unemployment within the ranks of misguided German youth. I hope that the momentary fever and wave will rapidly fall.”
On a much lighter note on 24 September there was the first performance of Noël Coward’s comedy Private Lives at the Phoenix Theatre (London) featuring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier in the cast. The play (which caused the censor much concern but was ultimately allowed) has been constantly revived for both the West End and Broadway and has played around the world.
This picture from Arsenal.com shows the ground in 1931
One final point. In 1903 a speed limit of 20mph was introduced in Britain. It was abolished in 1930 leaving those who owned cars free to drive at any speed that they wished, anywhere, including in city centres.
Arsenal in the 30s
- 1: Life in 1930 and winning the first major trophy.
- 2: The cup winners who dropped out and the players who came in
- 3: How Chapman put his triumphant 1931 team together.
- 4: September 1930; played 8 won 7 drawn 1.
- 5: October 1930: A stumble, Villa are close behind, Man U have 12 defeats in a row.
- 6: November 1930: Scoring 5 in three games in one month.
- 7: December 1930: 3 games in 3 days and 14 goals scored.
- 8: January 1931: the biggest league win ever at Highbury
- 9: February 1931: the goals just won’t stop coming.
- 10: March 1931: hope, defeat, hope
- 11: April 1931: Arsenal win the league for the very first time.
- 12: Arsenal in the summer of 1931, the records and the Scandinavian tour
- 13: Arsenal in shock – July and August 1931
- 14: September 1931; the champions recover from a poor start.
- 15: October 1931: Arsenal lose to Grimsby
- 16: November 1931: Chapman’s exasperation with goal keepers
- 17: December 1931: A scoring sensation but a dreadful month
- 18: January 1932: A return to form and a record score
- 19: February 1932: From a faltering start to nine wins in a row
- 20: March 1932: Huge crowds, an emergency signing, better results, another semi-final
- 21: April 1932: Film of Arsenal in the Cup Final, and attempts to win the league.
- 22: Arsenal in the summer of 1932. Arsenal runners up in league and cup, Man U’s average gate drops below Plymouth’s, Stanley Matthews first game, and the greatest run in Arsenal’s entire history is about to begin.
- 23: August 1932 – preparing for the ultimate greatness.
- 24: September 1932: Arsenal’s first steps into immortality
- 25: October 1932: The rise to the stars
- 26: November 1932: Records fall, greatness beckons.
- 27: December 1932: Greatness and supremacy
- 28: January 1933: Top of the league and defeated by Walsall.
- 29: February 1933: New shirts, awful weather, a record score
- 30: March 1933: Top of the league but a month to forget
- 31: April/May 1933: Champions for the second time
- 32: 1929/33: All the men who played in the League for Arsenal.
- 33: Arsenal in the summer 1933: Champions and water shortages
- 34: August/September 1933 – the start of the new season.
- 35: October 1933 – a return to progress
- 36: November 1933 – displacing Tottenham.
- 37: December 1933: Chapman’s last month; Arsenal triumphant
- 38: January 1934: The death of Chapman
- 39: February 1934. Chapman is gone, but the club moves on.
- 40: March 1934. Chapman’s two teams fight for the title
- 41: April 1934. Joe Shaw wins the league for Chapman
- 42: 1933/34 League players, and how the goals declined but the crowds went up.
- 43: Arsenal in the summer 1934: Allison takes over from Shaw and Chapman.
- 44: August/Sep 1934: Allison starts with a bang
- 45: October 1934 – Arsenal finally blow away the north London curse
- 46: November 1934: vying for the top of the league, and the Battle of Highbury
- 47: Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.
- 48: January 1935: Suddenly Arsenal’s form turns upside down
- 49: February 1935. Despite one slip, Arsenal remain top.
- 50: March 1935: Beating Tottenham by a record score
- 51: April/May 1935: Winning the league for the third time in succession.
- 52: Arsenal in the Summer 1935 after three championships in a row
- 53: September 1935: After three successive championships things get sticky
- 54: October 1935: Ok but not good enough
- 55: November 1935; Drake starts scoring again.
- 56: December 1935: beating the record, and record confusions. Ted Drake before and after the magnificent seven.
- 57: January 1936: the league won’t be won, but what about the FA Cup…
- 58: February 1936: an early example of rotational selection
- 59: March 1936: Wembley again but player rotation starts affecting the crowds
- 60: April/May 1936; Arsenal win the Cup. A match report and season’s end
- 61: Arsenal in the Summer of 1936
- 62: Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36: the fundamental problem with the team
- 63: August / Sept 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- 64: October 1936: Arsenal in free fall
- 65: November 1936: Arsenal reborn, TV starts, the king demands, the palace burns down.
- 66: December 1936: Top of the league as the king steps down.
- 67: January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).
- 68: February 1937: Seven in the cup, and all to play for in the league
- 69: March 1937: Arsenal top but Man City close in
- 70: April / May 1937: Arsenal slip back and Man City triumph – for the moment
- 71: Arsenal players 1936/7, Arsenal crowds in the 30s, and comparisons with earlier years
- 72: Arsenal in the summer: the overseas tour of 1937
- 73: Arsenal in August and September 1937: a brilliant start and a TV first.
- 74: Arsenal in October 1937: Allison decides it is time for a total change.
- 75: Arsenal in Nov 1937; a tactical signing changes the game
- 76: Arsenal in December 1937; a settled team and a revival
- 77: Arsenal in January 1938: two steps backwards but a new genius emerges.
- 78: Arsenal in February 1938: a true resurgence takes us top of the league.
- 79: March 1938: Arsenal at the top and a fifth title looks possible
- 80: April/May 1938: from no titles to five in one decade – and the most amazing title of them all.
- 81: Arsenal in the summer: the Nazi salute, Bastin as the symbol, Whittaker for England, the world record signing.
- 82: August/September 1938. The start of the end.
- 83: Arsenal in October 1938: the champions stagnating in mid-table
- 84: November 1938: facing relegation?
- 85: December 1938: the manager makes changes and a new hero is found
- 86: Arsenal in January 1939: some signs of recovery.
- 87: February 1939: Arsenal struggle to make a continuing impact.
- 88: March 1939: goalscoring and away form are the key problems
- 89: April / May 1939: Arsenal clamber back to 5th, and achieve film stardom
- 90: Arsenal in the summer 1939
- 91: The players and the crowds: Arsenal 1938/9 – and the players who returned
- 92: Arsenal in the 30s: Arsenal at the start of the 2nd world war (autumn 1939)