By Tony Attwood
After the successful run from the first preliminary round to the first round proper in 1893/4, Woolwich Arsenal, now established in the league and having secured a decent mid-table position in their first league season, were given a bye in 1894/5, and so entered in the first round proper.
There were 32 teams in the Football League for 1894/5 and it is possible (but I don’t have all the details) that all 32 were excused until the first round. But it is also the case that in the last two years Woolwich Arsenal had showed where the stood among the minnows and were given a bye while other clubs lower in the second division had not.
In 1892/3 Arsenal had played four preliminary round games, and won four scoring 21 and letting in three. In 1893/4, the year covered in the previous article, Woolwich Arsenal played four, won four and scored 22, and again let in three.
But beyond the preliminaries Woolwich Arsenal were not so hot, and each year since 1890/1 onwards they had qualified for the first round game in January, and promptly been knocked out.
This year there was a change, but sadly only in the month, not the result. Arsenal were drawn away to Bolton, and on February 2, 1895 duly lost 0-1.
Bolton had been in the original league and in 1891/2 had come third – their highest position. In 1894/5 they were mid-table in the first division, but still too strong for Woolwich Arsenal from the second.
The game was played in front of 7,000 fans and the Woolwich Arsenal team was
1: H Storer
3: J Caldwell
4: F W Davis*
5: J Boyle
7: G Crawford*
9: R Buchanan
10: P O’Brien
11: W H Sharpe
* These are the players who played in the first round game one year before. The level of change is symptomatic of the era, Arsenal’s team changing in a wholesale fashion year after year.
Despite this failure Woolwich Arsenal were again excused qualifying in 1895/6 and this time met Burnley away in the first round proper, again on February 2nd. This time they lost 1-6 in front of 6,000, and that was enough to convince the FA that it was time to return Arsenal to the preliminary rounds.
Both the Arsenal handbooks and the Official History give 2nd Feb as the date of the game. Curiously the Gunners Day to Day life doesn’t have it listed.
However, remembering the hammering Woolwich Arsenal could hand out to local teams in the early rounds in 1896/7 Arsenal were excused until the 4th preliminary, and here’s how the record went.
4th prelim round. Dec 12. Leyton (home). Won 5-2. Crowd 3,000
You will see that in the next entry there is a problem with identifying Chatham. The same is true with the identity of Leyton – although fortunately I’ve been through this before, so can now give you a quick summary. The club was founded in 1868, and has disbanded in the 1890s, 1911 and 1914). In 1905 they joined Southern League II and in 2002 won a High Court action to show they were a continuation of the original team, of this name, making it the second oldest existing club in Greater London, after Cray Wanderers.
5th prelim round. Jan 2. Chatham (home). Won 4-0 Crowd 4,500
It is not often that I get to the stage of being bemused by a club name, even with Leyton, but Chatham is an exception. Arsenal’s records show that the club played Chatham. But was this really Chatham FC or Chatham Town FC? Here’s a comment from the excellent Football Club History database.
From the time Chatham joined the Southern and Kent Leagues upon both leagues' formation, Chatham and Chatham Town as club names seem to be interchangeable - for instance Non League (Barton) refers to the club throughout it's Kent League history as Chatham Town, whereas the same book always refers to the club in the section on the Southern League as simply Chatham. AFS annuals for the period & the AFS Southern League First Division book seems to stick to Chatham, but the evidence is as yet inconclusive.
And here is an extract from the history of the “United” club on its current web site – under the heading History of Chatham Town Football Club. (It is still very much in existence).
“The club was formed in 1882 as Chatham United, when Rochester Invicta merged with the football team of the Royal Engineers Band with the intention of creating a side that was capable of holding their own with the best in the country….
“Having been formed with an eye to competing in the F.A. Cup, they went on to reach the Quarter-Finals in 1888-89 – famously defeating Nottingham Forest after two replays, only to lose to the holders West Bromwich Albion. This game, which was played on “The Lines” where an admission fee could not be charged owing to Army regulations, was instrumental in the decision by the Football Association that all future matches in the competition must be played on fully enclosed grounds, where the visiting club would receive a share of the gate money.
“In 1894 Chatham were founder members of both the Southern League and the original Kent League, becoming the first winners of the latter competition. They were also winners of the Kent F.A. Badge in the three seasons it was contested, and the first winners of its successor, the Kent Senior Cup, in 1888/89. They also became the first club to win the Thames and Medway Combination, the direct predecessor of the present Kent League, in 1896/97.”
Final supplementary round. Jan 16. Millwall (away). Lost 2-4. Crowd 14,000.
This was the same Millwall as was played in 1892 – see the earlier commentary on that club.
I’ll carry on the series in due course.
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