This is the 11th article in the series Arsenal in the 1930s. The index to all the articles in the series can be seen at the foot of the article.
By Tony Attwood
April opened with a very curious incident for on 1 April 1931 Arsenal wrote to the BBC banning all future radio broadcasts from Highbury. (The exact date is uncertain, but certainly it was within two days either way). They rather bizarrely failed to let George Allison know – even though he was the BBC’s chief commentator and a member of the Arsenal board and club secretary (a position of considerable importance at the time).
The argument was that the commentaries were keeping crowd numbers down, which was an odd claim, probably made more out of emotion than statistics. Here is what the statistics for the season would have shown, had the club worked them out. The change column is the rise (or drop) over the previous season. The figures come from European Football Statistics
|11||West Bromwich Albion||2||19.816||49,3%|
|16||West Ham United||1||18.505||-8,1%|
But the matter was passed by the board, and although there might have been more arguments when Mr Allison found it, nothing more was heard of it, not least because at the start of the month the league table showed that not only were Arsenal getting the largest average attendances, they were also top of the Football League.
There were six games left for Villa which if they won all of them would give them 63 points. Arsenal had seven games left to amass 10 points – although almost certainly, given the goal averages, nine points would do. Two wins and five draws to win the title.
On 3 April, Good Friday, Arsenal got one of their necessary draws 1-1 away with Portsmouth, Bastin scoring the goal. It was Arsenal’s game in hand as Villa were not playing, giving Arsenal a four point lead. Roberts returned at centre half, making this the same ten outfield players who had started the season. Only Keyser had gone as Harper continued in goal.
The following day – Easter Saturday, 4 April, Arsenal were at home to Chelsea while Villa were away to Portsmouth.
Villa came into this game on the back of a tremendous run
|17 Jan 1931||Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers||Won||3-1|
|24 Jan 1931||Liverpool v Aston Villa||Drew||1-1|
|31 Jan 1931||Aston Villa v Middlesbrough||Won||8-1|
|07 Feb 1931||Huddersfield Town v Aston Villa||Won||1-6|
|18 Feb 1931||Aston Villa v Sunderland||Won||4-2|
|21 Feb 1931||Birmingham City v Aston Villa||Won||0-4|
|28 Feb 1931||Aston Villa v Leicester City||Won||4-2|
|07 Mar 1931||Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa||Won||0-2|
|14 Mar 1931||Aston Villa v Arsenal||Won||5-1|
|21 Mar 1931||Derby County v Aston Villa||Drew||1-1|
|28 Mar 1931||Aston Villa v Blackpool||Won||4-1|
There were ten points left to play for and Arsenal had a six point lead. If Villa won all five remaining games, they would have 61. Arsenal now needed four points to match that, and win the league on goal average. Two wins in five games was all that was required.
On Easter Monday, 6 April, Arsenal played their third game in four days, and yet again it was Portsmouth, who had just done Arsenal such a favour on Easter Saturday.
40,490 turned up at Highbury to see a 1-1 draw (James getting the goal) but all attention was on the result from Aston Villa in the evening papers. Villa kept faith with the team that had lost so badly to Portsmouth, and Villa beat Newcastle 4-3. However only 29,975 turned up at Villa Park. It seemed their fans realised there was only one way this was going to go.
The gap between the two teams remained the same, but now Villa had only four games left to make up the difference.
On 11 April Arsenal were away to Grimsby, the club whom they had thrashed to ratchet up their all time record score at Highbury in the League. This time it was a calmer affair, Arsenal winning on the coast of the North Sea 0-1, with Lambert back on the score sheet for the first time in four games. Roberts was out injured again, and once more Thompson came in, for his second game at centre half of the season.
Aston Villa were at home to Sheffield United and won 4-0 and the table read…
There were six points to play for, meaning Villa could now only get 61. A draw for Arsenal in their next game would just about do it because of goal average, a win would make it certain. Arsenal had three games left to get that one (or more comfortably two) points.
On 18 April 1931, Arsenal played Liverpool at Highbury in front of 39,143 people.
Arsenal’s record of late against Liverpool had not been good:
|21 Dec 1929||Liverpool v Arsenal||Lost||1-0|
|02 Apr 1930||Arsenal v Liverpool||Lost||0-1|
|13 Dec 1930||Liverpool v Arsenal||Drew||1-1|
But this time there was no mistake. Lambert, Bastin and Jack scored in the team that had been the foundation of Arsenal from the opening day of the season through to now, with, as noted before, only the goalkeeper changing:
Parker Roberts Hapgood
Not just this, but a London team had won the League for the first time ever, and that caused some celebrations in the capital as well – although perhaps not in Tottenham.
Plus there was a little social change in the air (not that anyone interested in football noticed much), for the following Monday the House of Commons finally passed a bill allowing places of amusement (by which it primarily meant cinemas and theatres, but which could also mean football grounds, should anyone wish it) to open on Sundays.
Next up in footballing terms there was an oddity, for on 22 April 1931 Arsenal played their first Sheriff of London game – a competition which was set up to be played between and amateur and a professional side in England once a year by Sir Thomas Dewar. Arsenal beat Corinthians 5-3 at Highbury; attendance 12,000. Lambert (2), Hulme (2) and John, getting the goals.
There was one more league game to be played this month – an away trip to Newcastle, and Arsenal continued the winning form, running out on top 3-1 thanks to a goal from Jones (his only goal of the season) and two from Hulme.
The table then looked like this
And suddenly a realisation swept through the football world in that sunday’s papers; one more win in the final game would give Arsenal the highest number of points ever achieved in the first division.
Here are Arsenal’s results for the month’s games in summary
- 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 for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day and and the norm expected by the home side.
But while Arsenal were celebrating, what of second division Tottenham? For much of the season they had looked as if they were going to climb back into the first division. However while Arsenal were entering their all conquering (apart from one game against Villa) run, Tottenham were getting into difficulty.
|28 Mar 1931||Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion||D||2-2|
|03 Apr 1931||Tottenham Hotspur v Cardiff City||D||2-2|
|04 Apr 1931||Port Vale v Tottenham Hotspur||L||3-0|
|06 Apr 1931||Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur||D||0-0|
|11 Apr 1931||Tottenham Hotspur v Plymouth Argyle||D||1-1|
|18 Apr 1931||Bristol City v Tottenham Hotspur||L||2-1|
|25 Apr 1931||Tottenham Hotspur v Barnsley||W||4-2|
|02 May 1931||Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur||L||1-0|
Just one win while Arsenal were steaming ahead to absolute triumph, left Tottenham missing out on promotion by four points.
|2||West Bromwich Albion||42||22||10||10||83||49||1.694||54|
Next time: the final game of the season, and the end of season friendlies
- 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