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GCR Books

The end of Woolwich Arsenal and of the first season at Highbury.

By Tony Attwood

Woolwich Arsenal entered the final month of their first season north of the river still entertaining hopes of promotion – something which was quite remarkable given the difficulties that had to be overcome in moving to Highbury, and in rebuilding the team’s morale after the disasterous relegation season of 1912/13.

At the start of the month Arsenal had seven games to fit in, in just 21 days, with the league table looking like this:

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Notts County 34 21 6 7 73 34 2.147 48
2 Bradford Park Avenue 32 19 2 11 58 44 1.318 40
3 Woolwich Arsenal 31 17 6 8 43 33 1.303 40
4 Leeds City 31 17 4 10 69 41 1.683 38
5 Hull City 32 15 8 9 52 32 1.625 38

In essence Arsenal simply had to match Bradford PA’s and then improve on their goal difference – or win their game in hand.

Following the collapse of the wall at Highbury noted in the previous article the ground had been shut but on 2 April 1914 Gillespie Road stadium re-opened for the game Arsenal Reserves v Fulham Reserves after repairs to the leaning wall were declared complete.  

4 April 1914 saw Arsenal play Bristol City at Highbury.  It was the last game for George Jobey the man who scored the first Arsenal goal at Highbury.   It was a 1-1 draw with and Jobey went on to play with Bradford for the final season before football was suspended.  There was some relief as the evening papers brought in the scoreline Bury 0 Brandford PA.   Both clubs were on 41 points.

6 April 1914: The Islington Gazette reported (not completely accurately) that “Woolwich Arsenal” had become “The Arsenal”.  In fact the club changed its name to The Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited between 20 and 23 April, and the Board of Directors publicly changed its name on 23 April, but the board did not formally approve the change until 10 May 1915.

Moving away from football for a moment, on 9 April the first colour feature film was shown in Britain: “the World, the Flesh and the Devil.”  It was not quite as gory as the title suggests, dealing as it did with a botched attempt to switch children immediately after they were born.

The following day, Good Friday, Arsenal were away to Stockport – a resolutely mid-table team, and lost 0-2.   Worse, Bradford PA beat bottom of the table Nottingham Forest 4-0.  Arsenal were on 41 points still, Bradford now on 43.

As with Christmas, football was played throughout the Easter period, and on Easter Saturday on 11 April 1914 Arsenal had another draw this time away to Leeds City – it ended goalless as Henry Norris met Leeds’ manager Herbert Chapman for the second time.   But the gloom deepended as the news came in that Bradford PA had beaten Huddersfield 2-1.  Arsenal had 42 points, Bradford 45.

The final Easter match was on Easter Monday, as Arsenal at last got a win – 4-0 over Stockport.  And wouldn’t you know it, Bradford lost 1-0 to of all teams, Nottingham Forest.  Arsenal went up to 44 points, Bradford of course were still on 45.

In its edition of Tuesday 14 April the Times reported Arsenal’s official change of name; behind the Islington Gazette, but ahead of the official change over.

Meanwhile away from the football, the suffragette movement continued its agitation as on 17 April members of the suffragettes undertook an arson attack on the pier at Great Yarmouth.

Then on 18 April Arsenal faced their second London derby since moving north, and this time it was with their local neighbours – Clapton Orient, the game ending 2-2 in front of 35,000 the biggest crowd thus far at Highbury.  It was also (despite earlier press reports to the contrary) the very last game of Woolwich Arsenal – the club that had played its first match on 2 September 1893.

The team for this momentous match was

 J Lievesley

J Shaw                                                R W Benson

GM Grant          P R Sands         A Graham

J Rutherford    Pat Flanagan   S J Stonley        D Slade        C H Lewis

The crowd was also the largest crowd of the day.   Up to five minutes before the final whistle Arsenal were 2-0 up and had had a third goal disallowed on the grounds that the whole of the ball had not crossed the line, when suddenly out of nowhere Orient scored.   Arsenal were suddenly nervous, Orient rushed forward and immediately got a second.  

Bradford were away to Lincoln and won 3-0, giving them 47 points to Arsenal’s 45.

And so Woolwich Arsenal ended their official life exactly as they had started, with a 2-2 draw.   The game was followed two days later by a friendly at Highbury against Chelsea – a benefit match for CH Lewis, technically the first match for The Arsenal.

The next game was on Thursday 23 April at home to Grimsby Town.  A win would put Arsenal equal on points with Bradford, meaning there was everything to play for in the final game.

For this game members of Islington Trades Council were invited to Highbury by Hall to see the game (which Arsenal won 2-0) and then discuss (of all strange things) the problems the club had been having printing its programmes.  Quite why the local council were involved I am not sure, but maybe Arsenal had promised the local council that they would bring work to the borough, not least through the printing of the programmes locally.

As noted above this was the first game under the name The Arsenal, although the League had not formally approved the name change as yet.  The board had accepted the special resolution to officially change the name but the name was not formally changed on 10 May 1915.

On 25 April Arsenal were away to Glossop for the final League match, but only 4,000 attended to see Arsenal win 2-0.  If Bradford drew or lost Arsenal would be promoted, but if Bradford won, then they would go up, on goal difference.  And win they did beating Blackpool 4-1.

Thereafter there was one more game: a friendly against Norwich.   As for Arsenal, they would have to play another season in the second division, but by the time the season had started, the world had changed.

Here is the list of games this month.

 Date Opponents  H/A Res  Score  Crowd Competiton 
04 Apr Bristol City H D 1-1 12,000 Division Two
10 Apr Stockport County A L 2-0 15,000 Division Two
11 Apr Leeds City A D 0-0 22,000 Division Two
13 Apr Stockport County H W 4-0 18,000 Division Two
18 Apr Leyton Orient H D 2-2 35,000 Division Two
20 April Chelsea H Benefit match
23 Apr Grimsby Town H W 2-0 25,000 Division Two
25 Apr Glossop North End A W 0-2 4,000 Division Two
30 Apr Norwich City A W 0-3 6683 Norwich Hospital Cup
 And the final League Division Two table…
Pos Team P W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Notts County 38 23 7 8 77 36 2.139 53
2 Bradford Park Avenue 38 23 3 12 71 47 1.511 49
3 Woolwich Arsenal 38 20 9 9 54 38 1.421 49
4 Leeds City 38 20 7 11 76 46 1.652 47
5 Barnsley 38 19 7 12 51 45 1.133 45
6 Leyton Orient 38 16 11 11 47 35 1.343 43
7 Hull City 38 16 9 13 53 37 1.432 41
8 Bristol City 38 16 9 13 52 50 1.040 41
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 18 5 15 51 52 0.981 41
10 Bury 38 15 10 13 39 40 0.975 40
11 Fulham 38 16 6 16 46 43 1.070 38
12 Stockport County 38 13 10 15 55 57 0.965 36
13 Huddersfield Town 38 13 8 17 47 53 0.887 34
14 Birmingham City 38 12 10 16 48 60 0.800 34
15 Grimsby Town 38 13 8 17 42 58 0.724 34
16 Blackpool 38 9 14 15 33 44 0.750 32
17 Glossop North End 38 11 6 21 51 67 0.761 28
18 Leicester Fosse 38 11 4 23 45 61 0.738 26
19 Lincoln City 38 10 6 22 36 66 0.545 26
20 Nottingham Forest 38 7 9 22 37 76 0.487 23

The Henry Norris Files

Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

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