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The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth and Arsenal’s games in October 1913.

This article is part of the series Henry Norris at the Arsenal.  An index to the articles in the series so far is shown at the end of this piece.  More information about the work of the Arsenal History Society is given on our home page

 


 

by Tony Attwood

Arsenal’s team for the first match of the 1913/14 season – the first season at Highbury, was  as below, showing the players who had played in the previous disastrous season

As can be seen from the list above the team that played the first game at Highbury was made up primarily of established players.  Eight out of eleven were regulars, only three had not played in the previous season: Lievesley, Hardinge, and the first ever goalscorer at Highbury, Jobey.  Reviews of the lives of all these players are on this site – just follow the link.

Our review in the previous article took us up to the end of September.   October saw Arsenal play four league games plus the next round of the London FA Challenge Cup, and a game for the London PFA Charity Fund.

The month opened with the record crowd thus far, and the first home defeat at Highbury – against Bury.  The crowd of 30,000 was quite extraordinary for a 2nd Division game – a season in which the average division 2 crowd was 10,738.

The following Saturday, 11 October saw Arsenal return to winning ways with a 2-1 league victory over Huddersfield.  The following week Arsenal was again back at home with a 3-0 win over Lincoln with another huge crowd – 25,000.   On the same day, 11 October 1913, Frederick Groves signed as a pro, having played for Barnet Albion and Glossop North End before signing as an amateur player for Woolwich Arsenal the previous August.  The fact that such a move took place makes it clear that Norris was not only thinking of recovering the debt by selling shares, but also the longer term well being of the club.

Two days later, on the Monday, Arsenal played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in front of 12,000, winning 1-0; a particularly sweet victory as Chelsea were now a 1st Division team.

But the thoughts of that victory soon faded as the nation was stunned as the news emerged of what was to be Britain’s worst ever pit disaster on 14 October.  439 miners died in the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster.

However these were times when people carried on, no matter what – as was to be shown in a year’s time with the outbreak of war.  But for now Arsenal were away to Blackpool on 25 October in the League and this time got a 1-1 draw (check out the latest soccer betting tips).  Two days later Arsenal played West Ham in a London PFA Charity Fund game, this a 2-3 defeat with only 4,000 in the ground.

Then, to everyone’s surprise, Henry Norris pulled another rabbit out of the hat, for on 27 October he signed Jock Rutherford from Newcastle for £800.  This was a particularly valuable signing as he went on to be regularly in the side up to the first world war, and despite being 35 when the league resumed in 1919 he returned to play for Arsenal in the first division.

Jock was a Newcastle player of renown who had won three Championships and an FA Cup winner’s medal, and played for England.  He also scored the first goal that Woolwich Arsenal conceded as a First Division team on 3 September 1904, and played against Woolwich Arsenal in the 1906 FA Cup semi final.

But at the start of 1913/14 he was in dispute with Newcastle over wages and was sold to Woolwich Arsenal who I believe (although I can’t prove this) exploited their position as the up-and-coming team just 10 minutes from the West End of London.

And this was the point, because now Arsenal were playing to crowds bigger than those achieved by over half the first division clubs, and would allow any player living near the ground (as virtually everyone did, with the club finding rental accommodation for its players) near instant access to the most exciting and notorious city centre in the country.

But even with all this, it still seemed an amazing coup for Arsenal and when in 1927 Norris admitted that a player had been paid £200 in addition to the allowed signing-on fee around this time suspicion fell on Rutherford.

Nevertheless, however he came to Arsenal Rutherford was the solution to Arsenal’s biggest team problem of that moment: the problem with wingers.  Neither Greenaway at outside right nor Winship at outside left were felt to be quite good enough.  Burrell got a few games at outside left without really impressing and Lewis played outside right for three games.  But the arrival of Rutherford solved the problem: Lewis was far happier at outside left leaving Rutherford to claim the outside right position as his own.  Now Arsenal had two wingers that the rest of the league would be scared of.

Jock was by then 29, and quickly became a regular in the side, until the very last match before the four year break for the war – the 7-0 win against Nottingham Forest.  And even then he was not completely finished, for despite being 35 when the league resumed in 1919 he returned to play for Arsenal in the first division – and continued to do so for four years.

In 1923 he left to go into club management but after his club, Stoke, were relegated he returned to Arsenal and played 20 matches in the next two seasons.  He retired in 1925 but came back for a third and final show in January 1926 and played the rest of that season.  His last match was on 20 March 1926 when he was 41 years and 159 days old – the oldest man ever to play for Arsenal.

But still he would not hang up his boots as he went on to play for Clapton Orient for one season before retiring to run an off-licence in Neasden.  In all he played 232 games for Arsenal and scored 27 goals.    His son John was also on Arsenal’s books, playing one game in the 1926/27 season.

The month ended as Rutherford was preparing to make his league debut for Arsenal the following day, and the results thus far were indeed promising.  In the League Arsenal had won five, lost two and drawn two of their nine league games, scoring 13 and conceding six.  Stonely had got six goals.  Last season with an almost identical team Arsenal by the end of October had played one game more, but had only won one and drawn three.  The other six were defeats.

Unfortunately I don’t have comparative figures for each League club by way of crowds month by month, but Arsenal’s average attendance for its first five League matches in September and October was 24,000, over 150% up on the previous season.

What’s more the club was way ahead of all the other 2nd division clubs in terms of crowd figures – the next biggest being Birmingham who were showing an average crowd figure by the end of the season of around 18,000.  Norris was getting what he wanted – money through the gates and the sale of shares in the club.

Two months and nine league games into the new season, and already the great gamble of moving Arsenal north was looking like a huge success.


Here is the story so far.

Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

 

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