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Arsenal in the 30s – March 1936. Wembley again but player rotation starts affecting the crowds

By Tony Attwood


 

Arsenal ended February through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, but slipping further behind in the league title race.  Here’s how the table looked at the start of March 1936:

March looked set to be a particularly challenging month with six league games scheduled plus the FA Cup quarter final against Grimsby Town.

It began with a midweek game away to Derby County who were sitting in third place at the start of the month.  Nine points off the top of the table but with a game in hand, Derby had been improving year by year and although they hadn’t won the League since 1915 they were looking to re-establish themselves as one of the top clubs.

Derby’s home record was impressive – 11 wins, three draws and just one defeat, while Arsenal’s away form (five wins, four draws, five defeats) suggested an Arsenal win would be something of an upset.

There were even greater doubts about Arsenal because of Allison’s new found approach of using the remaining league games in the season to experiment with the team, and see who was ready to step up.  Such were the level of changes that again, to describe the team changes, the best approach is to lay out the whole team graphically.

Wilson

Male Sidey Hapgood

Crayston Cartwright

Kirchen  Bastin  Cox  Dougall   Beasley

This was the first game of the season for George Cox who had come from Horsham in 1933 as an amateur.  He had played twice in 1933/4 but had remained in the reserves the following season.  As it was he made five first team appearances in 1936, and that was all.   He stayed registered with Arsenal until the end of the season when he moved on to Fulham.  He was also a country cricketer with Sussex between 1931 and 1960.

Also getting his first run out was Alf Kirchen who had played seven games the previous season after signing on 1 March 1935.  This season he played six times and got three goals, but his main impact came in 1936/7 when he played 33 games and scored 18 in the league.

Peter Dougall had played five times in 1933/4, and got eight league games in each of 1934/5 and 1935/6 but was transferred to Everton in August 1937.

Cartwright now got his second game, having played against Portsmouth the week before, and Sidey played for the sixth time this season, and thus five of the team could be considered inexperienced.

And yet, and yet, despite all these changes, and despite Derby’s drive to establish themselves, and despite Derby’s fine home record, and despite the fact that Derby had had only one defeat in the last 11 league games,  Arsenal were 3-0 up at half time and in the end won easily 4-0 with goals from Dougall, Kirchen, Cox and Crayston!  It was a defeat that marked a period of decline for Derby, as they won only four more games out of the 11 matches remaining in the league.

By chance, Grimsby Town, also catching up with games because of their own cup exploits, also played in the league on the same afternoon, losing 1-0 away to Wolverhampton.

On the Saturday (7 March) Arsenal had another top club to play – Huddersfield Town who were currently third; this match at Highbury.  Huddersfield had won six away games out of 17 this season, while Arsenal had won seven out of 14 home games.  Huddersfield however had won only one of their last four games.

However most of the pre-match debate concerned who manager Allison would now put out in the team.  Crayston had managed to get injured in the Derby game, and so was out of the squad.  Sidey dropped out as Roberts returned, but otherwise the squad was the same as for the Derby game and at least this time everyone had played at least once before this season.

Unfortunately Huddersfield came with more awareness of what they were facing than Derby had done, and the result was a 1-1 draw, with Bastin getting the goal.  Grimsby the next cup opponents had a goalless draw with Preston.

As Arsenal approached their third match of the month against 8th placed Manchester City, there must have been some positive vibes around the club.  Arsenal were fifth but there were only three points separating the clubs between second and fifth, and Arsenal had a game in hand.   They were still miles behind Sunderland (12 points to be more exact) but it was not too much to think that another second place could be achieved.

And then Arsenal chose this moment to have the sort of dip that they had not experienced in years – six league games without a win.   Indeed the last time such a run had happened was in the early months of 1928, in the third year under Chapman’s management.

The dip began on Wednesday 11 March with Manchester City away.   The team was


 

Wilson

Compton Sidey Hapgood

Cartwright Copping

Kirchen Bowden Cox Dougall Beasley


If we compare this with the team that lined up against Barnsley in the Cup we can see what was going on…  Here is the Cup team

Wilson

Male Roberts Hapgood

Crayston Copping

Hulme Bastin Bowden James Beasley


Wilson, Hapgood, Copping, Bowden, Beasley.  These are the five names that appear in both line ups.   Here is the rest of the team with their appearances for 1935/6 (and goals in brackets).

  • Compton: 12 (15)
  • Sidey: 11 (6)
  • Cartwright: 5 (2)
  • Kirchen: 6 (33)
  • Cox: 5 (0)
  • Dougall: 8 (0)

This really was a fringe team.  Leslie Compton was an up and coming youngster certainly and Kirchen really did make it the following season, but the others were outsiders who would not get a look in, when it came to putting out a strong Arsenal team.

Manchester City were 7th with a reasonable home record of seven wins, four draws and three defeats.  After a run of five straight defeats around the turn of the year they had recovered and had four wins, one draw and two defeats in the last seven games before meeting Arsenal, including a 6-0 win over Middlesbrough in their last match.  In this game Man City won 1-0.

On 14 March Arsenal then had Preston away.    Preston were five matches into a 12 match unbeaten run and were sitting ninth in the table with a strong looking home form of 10 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats.

The most extraordinary thing about this game was the side Allison now put out – it contained no less than seven players who had not played in the match against Manchester City: Male, Roberts, Milne, Davidson, Dunne, John and Rogers.  It was as if Allison was looking to see just how far he could push the rules.

Arsenal lost 0-1, and the only good news was that Grimsby lost 5-1 to Middlesbrough.

Which then brought us to the FA Cup semi-final on 21 March against Grimsby, played at Huddersfield’s Leeds Road ground, with 63,210 in attendance.

Grimsby had beaten Arsenal back in September but were now without a win in the last five matches (compared with Arsenal who had at least one win in the last five!)  But their cup run had not been that easy, for although it included two lower league clubs we should remember it was Port Vale who had knocked out Sunderland in the third round.  At least Grimsby had avoided that pratfall.

Here is their journey thus far…

Date Round Opponent Venue Result
11.01.1936 3 Hartlepool United away D0-0
14.01.1936 3 replay Hartlepool United home W4-1
25.01.1936 4 Port Vale away W4-0
15.02.1936 5 Manchester City home W3-2
29.02.1936 6 Middlesbrough home W3-1
21.03.1936 Semi-final Arsenal neutral

 

 We have two very short videos of the FA Cup semi-final – the second is particularly short but worth noting for the pictures of the crowd on the top of the stand – compare this with members of the crowd getting out of the ground via ladders in the other video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELII5ZPCsrY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYvOXm2xk1c

A third video shows both cup semi-finals, but without sound

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/f-a-cup-semi-finals-aka-fa-cup-semi-finals/query/Grimsby


Here’s the team

Wilson

Male Roberts Hapgood

Crayston Copping

Hulme Bastin Bowden James Beasley


The most extraordinary thing about this game was the side Allison now put out – it contained no less than seven players who had not played in the match against Manchester City: Male, Roberts, Milne, Davidson, Dunne, John and Rogers.  It was as if Allison was looking to see just how far he could push the rules.

Arsenal lost 0-1, and the only good news was that Grimsby lost 5-1 to Middlesbrough.

Which then brought us to the FA Cup semi-final on 21 March against Grimsby, played at Huddersfield’s Leeds Road ground, with 63,210 in attendance.   The keeper and his five man defence were identical to the six who played in the first league match of the season.   It was at numbers 7, 9 and 11 that the changes were made – and the most keenly felt was of course Ted Drake still not fit after his injury in February.

But Arsenal won, 1-0 and so were through to the final, Bastin getting the goal.

In the other semi-final Sheffield United played Fulham meaning that in this season of second division success a team from that league would be in the final.  The game was at Molineux, and Sheffield Utd won 2-1.  By chance the two teams played each other again one week later in a league match, and this time Fulham won 1-0 thanks to a penalty, ending the Sheffield Utd unbeaten run of 22 games.

Of course anything after this was going to be an anti-climax, but Arsenal still had two league games to play in March, the first on the 25th at home to Everton.  Only four players survived from the semi-final yet it was still a 1-1 draw with Hulme getting the goal.  The crowd of 18,593 showed just what the supporters thought of the now established rotational selection.

The final match of the month was a 2-2 draw away to Wolverhampton, with yet more changes made by the manager.  This match however was notable for being the first match of the season for Tuckett at number 5 and Wescott at centre forward.

Ernie Tuckett played two games for Arsenal – this one and the final game of the season, having come up through the Margate nursery club.  On 12 February 1937 he was sold to Bradford City.

Ronnie Westcott also played twice for Arsenal, again both in this season.  This was his first game and he played again in the next match at the start of April, and indeed scored.  However his story is a particularly sad one because he was injured in this second game, and never played football again.

As for this final game of the month Arsenal drew 2-2 away to Wolverhampton, Beasley and Kirchen getting the goals.

Here is the usual table of results for the month.

Date Oppostion Op Pos H/A Res Pos Pts Crowd AC
04.03.1936 Derby County 3 away W4-0 5 33  17,930  20,932
07.03.1936 Huddersfield Town 2 home D1-1 5 34 43,930  41,960
11.03.1936 Manchester City 8 away L0-1 5 34 32,750  33,577
14.03.1936 Preston North End 9 away L0-1 6 34 30,039  19,l511
21.03.1936 Grimsby Town (FAC s-f) 19 W1-0  63,210
25.03.1936 Everton 17 home D1-1 6 35 18,593  41,960
28.03.1936 Wolverhampton W 11 away D2-2 5 36 32,330  24,824

What is particularly interesting about the attendance figures is that while Arsenal’s match against Everton got a crowd of under half what might be expected (just 18,593) the crowds in some of the away games were above average.  Thus even with Arsenal known to be putting out makeshift sides in the league, the crowds at some clubs would still turn out to see them, probably for a chance the see them beaten.

It would be interesting to know if Allison was spoken to by the board after the Everton game.  He had just taken Arsenal to another cup final, but were the board miffed enough by the declining crowds to order the manager to stop larking about with the line ups?

The answer, as we shall see next month, was no.

Here’s the league table for the end of the month:

Meanwhile in the second division, the position of Sheffield United was now particularly of interest to Arsenal and the media.  They were fourth having played more than all the clubs around them, and although outsiders for promotion must still have harboured some thoughts in that direction.  Just below them was Tottenham, and although in fifth position they were still the third placed London team in the league.

The series so far is below.  An index to all the series on this site can be found on the home page.

 

 

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