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GCR Books

The players and the crowds: Arsenal 1938/9

by Tony Attwood

Arsenal used 29 players in the 1938/9 season of whom 12 played fewer than nine league games.  Here is the chart, as usual, along with appearance figures for the previous two seasons by way of comparison.

Player Position 1938/9 Games 1938/9 Goals 1937/8 Games 1936/7 Games
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 24 4 41 37
Arthur Biggs Inside fwd 2 1
Frank Boulton Goalkeeper 17 25
Ray Bowden Inside right 10 30
Gordon Bremner Inside fwd 13 3 2
Edward Carr Centre fwd 1 0 11
Sid Cartwright Half back 3 0 6 2
Ernest Collett Wing half 9 0 5
Denis Compton Outside Left 1 0 7 14
Les Compton Centre half 18 2 9
Wilf Copping Left half 27 0 41 42
Jack Crayston Right half 35 3 34 32
Horace Cumner Outside left 12 2
George Curtis Inside fwd 2 0
Robert Davidson Inside fwd 5 30
Ted Drake Centre fwd 39 14 30 29
George Drury Inside fwd 24 3 11
Andrew Farr Inside fwd 2 1
Alf Fields Centre half 3 0
Mal Griffiths Outside rt. 9
Eddie Hapgood Left back  39 0 34 34
Joe Hulme Outside rt. 7 3
George Hunt Forward 21
Bryn Jones Inside fwd 31 4
Leslie Jones Inside fwd  18 0 31
Bernard Joy Centre half 40 0 29 6
Alfred Kirchen Winger 27 9 22 37
Reg Lewis Centre fwd 16 7 4
George Male Full back  29 0 37 41
George Marks Goalkeeper 2 0
John Milne Winger 16 22
David Nelson Wing half 9 0
David Pryde Wing half 4 0
Sydney Pugh Half back 1 0
Herbie Roberts Centre half 13 34
Norman Sidey Centre half 3 6
George Swindin Goalkeeper  21 0 18 19
Winfred Walsh Outside rt 3 0
Alex Wilson Goalkeeper  20 0 10 2

Ten players who had played in the previous season did not get a single game in 1938/9.  And ten players who had not played in 1937/38 now got at least one league game.

If we look back to 1930/1 and the very first Arsenal league title we can see that the great survivors throughout the whole of the glorious 1930s were Cliff Bastin, Eddy Hapgood and George Male.

As for the stars of the future, this year’s showing suggested Gordon Bremner, Alex Wilson, perhaps Bryn Jones and most certainly Reg Lewis were the names to consider.  Bernard Joy had secured his position as  the dominant centre half the club needed after the loss of Herbie Roberts.

The players who returned in 1946/7

League football was suspended for seven years meaning that any player aged 27 or over in the 1938/9 season was very unlikely to return for the resumption of the league.

But some players did make it back, and for Arsenal these were

  • George Swindin (38) *
  • George Male (15) *
  • David Nelson (10) *
  • Bernard Joy (13) *
  • George Curtis (11) *
  • Reg Lewis (28) *
  • Cliff Bastin (6) *
  • Leslie Compton (36)
  • Dennis Compton (1)
  • George Drury (4)
  • Bryn Jones (26)
  • Alf Fields (5)
  • Ernest Collett (6)

Thus just 13 players of the 29 from the last pre-war season returned.

Those players marked with * played in the opening game of the season on August 31 1946.  The figure in brackets is the number of appearances in the league that the player gained in the 1946/7 season.

 

The crowd

Although this was not Arsenal’s worst league performance in the 1930s it was the first time that Arsenal slipped from being the team with the biggest average home crowd into second position behind Aston Villa.

Here is the list of the teams with the largest average home crowd for the 1930s, with the average crowd figures for divisions 1 and 2 in the final two columns.

Season Top club for attendance Top club’s crowd Div 1 avg Div 2 avg
1939 Aston Villa  39.932 24.820 18.673
1938 Arsenal  44.045 25.160 18.651
1937 Arsenal  43.353 24.605 17.313
1936 Arsenal  41.960 24.624 14.958
1935 Arsenal  46.252 23.386 13.190
1934 Arsenal  40.750 22.596 12.531
1933 Arsenal  41.958 20.175 13.343
1932 Arsenal  40.547 21.529 12.213
1931 Arsenal  37.106 20.462 13.168
1930 Arsenal  35.537 22.647 13.651
1929 Manchester City  31.715 22.712 14.498
1928 Manchester City  37.468 22.885 14.919
1927 Newcastle United  36.510 22.881 14.108
1926 Chelsea  32.355 22.597 13.257
1925 Arsenal  29.485 21.609 14.405
1924 Chelsea  30.895 22.654 12.682
1923 Liverpool  33.495 23.213 13.474
1922 Chelsea  37.545 27.003 13.030

So Arsenal’s average crowd in the final season before the second world war was 39,102 – they had the second highest level of attendance.  Below are the figures for this final league season, and what we can see is that Villa rose to the top because their crowd figures declined by less than Arsenal’s.

Thus it wasn’t a case of Villa rising up on a tide of popularity, but rather that the Arsenal crowd had got so used to success, that a season in which Arsenal spent most of the time eking out such results as they could from a mid-table position, would not hold the large crowds in place.

It is interesting to compare this chart with today, noting for example how Millwall is up in 11th place.  I have not reproduced the whole chart from the European Football Statistics site but have included all the first division teams, and entered the details for the least supported team, by way of comparison.

No. Club Div Average  Change
1 Aston Villa 1 39.932 -4,8%
2 Arsenal 1 39.102 -11,2%
3 Everton 1 35.040 15,6%
4 Newcastle United 2 32.693 53,7%
5 Liverpool 1 31.422 13,5%
6 Manchester City 2 31.291 -4,2%
7 Chelsea 1 30.999 -8,8%
8 Manchester United 1 30.365 14,0%
9 Tottenham Hotspur 2 29.397 12,6%
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 29.328 -5,5%
11 Millwall 2 27.387 20,3%
12 Sheffield Wednesday 2 27.147 17,4%
13 Sheffield United 2 26.022 18,7%
14 Birmingham City 1 25.528 4,0%
15 Charlton Athletic 1 25.141 -11,3%
16 Portsmouth 1 23.630 3,5%
17 Brentford 1 23.117 -0,9%
18 Bolton Wanderers 1 23.073 -7,8%
19 Stoke City 1 22.535 -9,8%
20 Sunderland 1 21.740 -13,5%
21 Preston North End 1 21.534 -5,0%
22 Middlesbrough 1 21.184 -12,7%
23 West Ham United 2 20.135 -12,5%
24 Coventry City 2 19.506 -24,5%
25 Leeds United 1 19.309 -9,2%
26 Blackpool 1 19.178 -9,8%
27 Derby County 1 19.101 10,5%
28 Fulham 2 18.679 8,5%
29 West Bromwich Albion 2 18.400 -20,7%
30 Blackburn Rovers 2 18.262 23,6%
31 Plymouth Argyle 2 16.735 -9,3%
32 Huddersfield Town 1 16.490 -3,0%
33 Leicester City 1 16.225 -20,5%
34 Luton Town 2 15.327 -3,2%
35 Crystal Palace 3S 14.799 9,6%
36 Southampton 2 14.596 -12,0%
37 Norwich City 2 14.242 -11,5%
38 Cardiff City 3S 14.217 -28,9%
39 Barnsley 3N 13.777 16,7%
40 Burnley 2 13.731 2,5%
41 Chesterfield 2 13.272 -4,3%
42 Nottingham Forest 2 13.033 -12,0%
43 Grimsby Town 1 12.064 -1,8%
88 Accrington Stanley 3N 3.419 -21,3%
Overall league averages Overall Percentage change
. Total 14.619 -3,1%
. Division One 24.820 -1,4%
. Division Two 18.673 0,1%
. Division Three South 8.654 -12,9%
. Division Three North 6.329 -4,6%

It was in short a year when crowd totals declined almost everywhere as social deprivation and frightening news of what was to come swept across the country.

As for the post-war era with crowds, Arsenal no longer held top spot – they had an average crowd of 43,266 in the first season back.  That was 10.6% higher than the last pre-war season, but was a long way short of Newcastle, who despite being in division 2 took their attendance up to 49.379 on average.  Arsenal had to wait for their title winning run in 1952/3 to get back to the top of the attendance charts.

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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