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GCR Books

Henry Norris at the Arsenal part 10: the summer and autumn of 1911

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal had had a run of 11 games without defeat at the end of the 1910/11, and an overall increase in attendances of almost 10% over the previous season.  This was not enough to scoop back the huge losses in crowd numbers Arsenal had suffered from their heyday when they were the second most supported club in the Football League, but at least the losses in crowd numbers had stopped and partially been reversed.

Here are the figures for the top 21 clubs in 1910/11

No. Club Div Average Gain or loss %
1 Newcastle United 1 25.055 0,9%
2 Manchester City 1 24.955 34,6%
3 Chelsea 2 24.515 -14,1%
4 Manchester United 1 24.190 29,1%
5 Tottenham Hotspur 1 23.155 -16,0%
6 Aston Villa 1 22.705 7,5%
7 Everton 1 18.860 -1,3%
8 Liverpool 1 16.825 -22,2%
9 Bradford City 1 16.780 -18,7%
10 Sunderland 1 16.650 43,3%
11 Middlesbrough 1 15.955 42,1%
12 West Bromwich Albion 2 15.190 38,4%
13 Blackburn Rovers 1 14.350 3,9%
14 Oldham Athletic 1 14.155 20,2%
15 Fulham 2 14.140 -1,1%
16 Birmingham City 2 13.850 65,5%
17 Notts County 1 12.750 24,4%
18 Sheffield United 1 12.595 -9,0%
19 Sheffield Wednesday 1 11.890 10,9%
20 Bradford Park Avenue 2 11.675 13,3%
21 Arsenal 1 11.525 10,9%

Figures from EFS Attendances.

The AGM of Woolwich Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited, was held on 17 June 1911, and it was seemingly a slightly cautious meeting, as well as being the first AGM to contemplate the new Arsenal – the Arsenal with Henry Norris playing a major part.

The club, far from being relegated, which had been looking on the cards the previous season, had ended up in 10th position in the league, winning 13, drawing 12, losing 13, leaving them 14 points behind the league winners (Manchester United) and 11 points clear of relegation – Bristol City and Nottingham Forest going down.

H O M E A W A Y
Pos Team P W D L F A W D L F A GA Pts
1 Manchester United 38 14 4 1 47 18 8 4 7 25 22 1.800 52
2 Aston Villa 38 15 3 1 50 18 7 4 8 19 23 1.683 51
3 Sunderland 38 10 6 3 44 22 5 9 5 23 26 1.396 45
4 Everton 38 12 3 4 34 17 7 4 8 16 19 1.389 45
5 Bradford City 38 13 1 5 33 16 7 4 8 18 26 1.214 45
6 The Wednesday 38 10 5 4 24 15 7 3 9 23 33 0.979 42
7 Oldham Athletic 38 13 4 2 30 12 3 5 11 14 29 1.073 41
8 Newcastle United 38 8 7 4 37 18 7 3 9 24 25 1.419 40
9 Sheffield United 38 8 3 8 27 21 7 5 7 22 22 1.140 38
10 Woolwich Arsenal 38 9 6 4 24 14 4 6 9 17 35 0.837 38
11 Notts County 38 9 6 4 21 16 5 4 10 16 29 0.822 38
12 Blackburn Rovers 38 12 2 5 40 14 1 9 9 22 40 1.148 37
13 Liverpool 38 11 3 5 38 19 4 4 11 15 34 1.000 37
14 Preston North End 38 8 5 6 25 19 4 6 9 15 30 0.816 35
15 Tottenham Hotspur 38 10 5 4 40 23 3 1 15 12 40 0.825 32
16 Middlesbrough 38 9 5 5 31 21 2 5 12 18 42 0.778 32
17 Manchester City 38 7 5 7 26 26 2 8 9 17 32 0.741 31
18 Bury 38 8 9 2 27 18 1 2 16 16 53 0.606 29
19 Bristol City 38 8 4 7 23 21 3 1 15 20 45 0.652 27
20 Nottingham Forest 38 5 4 10 28 31 4 3 12 27 44 0.733 25

The club’s financial state had been resolved.  Thanks for Jack Humble, relations with the fund-raising committee had improved and committee members now attended the AGM.  The committee’s secretary made a speech praising the efforts of the new directors over the past season – but still would not hand over the money raised in 1910.

With Norris now at the helm there was stability and the guarantee the club would not move or merge with another at least in the next year, but it was noted that for the forthcoming season, season ticket sales were down, and the papers were full of the need for new players (it was ever thus).

A new director also appeared: George E Davis, William Hall’s brother-in-law, a man who could be relied upon to represent the Hall and Norris viewpoint if they were not present at a meeting.  But new  players and a new direction was there none – and the local reaction to this was probably not helped by the fact that this was the hottest summer on record in London.  Tempers across the capital were on edge.

There was the coronation of George V to distract the population on 22 June, but the drought as a result of the heat wave couldn’t have helped anyone and on 9 August a temperature of 36.7°C was recorded in Northamptonshire – a record not beaten in the UK until 1990.

To prove the point about short tempers, on 13 August rioting took place in Liverpool as police and soldiers broke up a peaceful meeting of striking transport works.  Two days later two men were shot dead in the city by the military drafted in to keep the peace.  A national railway workers strike started on 17 August and in riots relating to this strike two more men were shot dead by soldiers.   Magistrates’ homes were attacked and four more people were killed.

The new season kicked off in September with no new players in the side for Arsenal, and in fact nine of the eleven who had played in the opening match at the start of the previous season made up the team for the first game.  Only Flanagan and Chalmers had not been in that opening line up one year before.   Both were however sound additions – Chalmers particularly for he had scored 15 goals in 29 games after his first in the team in the seventh match of last season.

But by the sixth match of the new season it looked very much as if the end of season form which had lifted Arsenal to mid table respectability was not being continued as Arsenal notched up three draws, two defeats and a single win – 2-0 against Newcastle.

But then when it looked as if this might be another doom and gloom season, from the end of September things had started to pick up a little as the results table shows…

Date Game Result Score
30 Sep 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Oldham Athletic D 1-1
07 Oct 1911 Bolton Wanderers v Woolwich Arsenal D 2-2
14 Oct 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Bradford City W 2-0
21 Oct 1911 Preston North End v Woolwich Arsenal W 0-1
28 Oct 1911 Manchester City v Woolwich Arsenal D 3-3
04 Nov 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Everton L 0-1
11 Nov 1911 West Bromwich Albion v Woolwich Arsenal D 1-1
18 Nov 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Sunderland W 3-0

This was far from being top of the table stuff, but at least it wasn’t relegation material either.  But there was a certain amount of searching out of players still going on.

For example Alex Graham had played at first for several Scottish clubs before getting a trial with Woolwich Arsenal in December 1911, by when he was 21.  He was a fine signing and went on to play over 179 games for Arsenal

Meanwhile word seems to have got around in early December 1911 that goalkeeper Dr L R Roose wanted to leave Aston Villa.  Roose was an amateur so there was no question of a fee – but the registration formalities had to be arranged.

Over the weekend of 9-10 December the press were saying he’d be joining Fulham and it seems the deal did get as far as Aston Villa sending Fulham the papers needed to register him there.

But then, out of the blue, and with no rumours circulating in the ever active press, on Monday 11 December, Roose signed for Woolwich Arsenal FC.

It appears that Roose was induced to change his mind by an offer of money, and indeed in 1927 Henry Norris admitted that in 1911 he and Hall had put up half each to pay a player £200 to sign for Woolwich Arsenal.  There was potentially something wrong with this of course because signing on fees were very strictly limited – but there was no legislation relating to the “expenses” that players could be paid if they were amateurs.   Indeed Roose himself was called upon by the League at one point to explain his expense claims, and it was the League that got the worst of the encounter.

On the occasion the Football League (at least according to the legends Roose spun around himself) tried to take him on by questioning his increasingly outrageous expense he presented a list of costs including buying a newspaper to keep himself amused when his team were attacking, and the cost of two visits to the toilet.   Making the report public he dared the League to go head-to-head with one of the few men who on their own could attract the crowds.  They declined the fight and backed off.

So the chance of Arsenal being hauled up over this by the League was very limited or basically non-existent.  Roose was a highly popular figure – an early football star in fact – and this was indeed a very clever ploy because it gave Arsenal the extra burst of publicity they needed at the time.  The fact that he was going to Arsenal put the club back at the top of the back pages.

There is a complete account of the life of Leigh Dick Roose and his brave but sad end on this site

Recently we have been completing the list of players who played in 1910/11 and that full list is published here at the end of the final article in the series.

Here is the list of articles on the Henry Norris Years

The Henry Norris Files

Section 1 – 1910.

Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.

Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere

Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens

Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.

Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.

Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years

Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season

Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.

Section 2 – 1911

Henry Norris at the Arsenal part 9: 1911 – Arsenal escape relegation.

 

 

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