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|
|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|
|Bryn Jones||Inside fwd||31||4|
|Leslie Jones||Inside fwd||18||0||31|
|Bernard Joy||Centre half||40||0||29||6|
|Reg Lewis||Centre fwd||16||7||4|
|George Male||Full back||29||0||37||41|
|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|
|Winfred Walsh||Outside rt||3||0|
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.
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|
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.
|21||Preston North End||1||21.534||-5,0%|
|23||West Ham United||2||20.135||-12,5%|
|29||West Bromwich Albion||2||18.400||-20,7%|
|Overall league averages||Overall||Percentage change|
|.||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
- 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