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GCR Books

Arsenal wartime league tables and player appearances: 1915/16

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal, as we have seen, played in two competitions through the 1915/16 season – the London Combination and then the London Combination Supplementary competition.

The London Combination was put together quickly, organised locally, seemingly without any input from the Football League (which set up the two northern leagues, abandoning the clubs in the south, the south west and Wales to their own devices).

For this reason there is very limited information on how the leagues were arranged, and one can only make deductions from reading the fixture lists and league tables.

The opening league was presumably made up of all the clubs that either applied to be part of it, or were invited into it.  Each played the other twice, on the normal home and away system used in all the leagues from the start of league football.

Some of the teams were from the Football League and some were from the Southern League.  The one name in the league you perhaps will not know is Croydon Common who were a Southern League club.   They were in financial difficulty before the war started, and the wartime leagues with their tiny attendances seems to have finished them off, for they did not reappear with the rest of the teams in 1919.

Here’s the league table from the first league programme that was organised…

Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Chelsea 22 17 3 2 71 18 37
2 Millwall Athletic 22 12 6 4 46 24 30
3 Arsenal 22 10 5 7 43 46 25
4 West Ham United 22 10 4 8 47 35 24
5 Fulham 22 10 4 8 45 37 24
6 Tottenham Hotspur 22 8 8 6 38 35 24
7 Brentford 22 6 8 8 36 40 20
8 Queen’s Park Rangers 22 8 3 11 27 41 19
9 Crystal Palace 22 8 3 11 35 55 19
10 Watford 22 8 1 13 37 46 17
11 Clapton Orient 22 4 6 12 22 44 14
12 Croydon Common 22 3 5 14 24 50 11

I have no idea if there were plans as to what to do once each club had played its 22 games – which took the clubs from September 1915 into January 1916 – but at some time before February there must have been discussions on this issue.

The crowds thus far were not enormous, but sometimes decent numbers attended games, and with the established procedure of the clubs sharing the gate money between the home and away club, everyone was at least earning something.  Besides which, all the clubs had given notice to all their officials and players upon the outbreak of war, so no one was being paid anything than “expenses” for the matches.

Whatever exactly happened the Supplementary League of spring 1916 was arranged with all the teams from the 1915/16 league plus several newcomers as noted in the monthly accounts on this site.

The fixture arrangements are a bit odd – clubs did not play each other once, but seemingly arranged games on a more ad hoc basis.  Here is the final league table of this second league, which took place in the late winter and spring of 1916, as supplied by TheArsenalHistory website.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Chelsea 14 10 1 3 50 15 21
2 West Ham United 14 9 2 3 32 16 20
3 Tottenham Hotspur 14 8 3 3 32 22 19
4 Fulham 14 9 0 5 38 19 18
5 Millwall Athletic 14 8 2 4 30 22 18
6 Crystal Palace 14 8 2 4 41 29 18
7 Watford 14 5 3 6 22 20 13
8 Brentford 14 5 2 7 29 33 12
9 Croydon Common 14 4 3 7 28 27 11
10 Clapton Orient 14 3 4 7 17 27 10
11 Arsenal 14 3 4 7 19 31 10
12 Luton Town 14 4 1 9 31 44 9
13 Queen’s Park Rangers 14 2 5 7 14 37 9
14 Reading 14 2 2 10 23 64 6

Arsenal’s poor performance is probably down to four factors.

One is that Henry Norris, as the driving force behind Arsenal, had from the moment of declaration of war, deeply immersed himself in the war effort.   This was not something that happened to everyone, for many club directors and owners were aged 60+ or were running major businesses, and thus either had little that they could contribute to their country or were doing more important work keeping industry moving.

Norris’ business in building houses was probably not seen as vital.  However, as we have noted, was a brilliant administrator whose work in recruiting, and indeed in organising first recruitment and then conscription was quickly recognised by the state.

Second, as we noticed, George Morrell the manager of The Arsenal, had left before the 1914/15 season and replaced by James McEwen, whose work we summarised in an earlier article: “James “Punch” McEwen: Arsenal’s manager in the first world war

McEwen was a long time servant of the club, but not necessarily an established manager, nor a person who would necessarily be expert at recruiting guest players to Arsenal.   Indeed with both Morrell and Norris absent, there was no one of stature and authority who might be able to bring in guests to keep Arsenal up the league.

And it is quite likely that the training regime slipped dramatically.  While some clubs seemingly expanded the notion of “expenses” to pay for training sessions, Arsenal probably did not, since the only person who could come up with the necessary money was Henry Norris, who was busy elsewhere.

Third, not only was Norris absent serving his country, he was in fact actively encouraging players at Arsenal to leave the club and sign up for the two Football Battalions he created.  While this was very much in the nation’s interest (1915/16 being a time of crisis in the recruitment of young men to fight Germany) it was clearly not in Arsenal’s interest.

Finally, there was the issue of having Guest Players.  This was allowed under the rules of these competitions – players registered elsewhere could play for Arsenal.  The lack of a manager or owner who were familiar with players who might be available did not help, nor did the lack of “expenses”.

But I suspect there was another issue: the involvement of Henry Norris in exposing the match fixing scandals that beset football from the 1912/13 season onward, had not gone unnoticed.  Indeed the very first set of revelations about such an issue arose because of Norris’ article following his attendance at a Liverpool game.  This, I suggest meant that players who were registered with northern clubs and who found themselves in London were much more likely to go to other clubs (such as Chelsea) and not Arsenal.

Of course until 1916 no one had to sign up for active service (although huge pressures were put on young men so to do as we have seen) but from 1916 onwards conscription meant that all single men not in a reserved occupation did indeed have to sign up.

In this table of 1915/16 players, those who were registered with a club have the name of their club shown.  Those who had played for Arsenal in 1914/15 are indicated in the same column by a number showing the number of first team league games played in that final league sseason for The Arsenal.  For Kempton I’ve added the note that he played in one of the club’s two FA Cup games the previous season, as he did not play in any league games in 1915/16.

League Friendlies
Player Guest’s Club  (AFC games 2014/5) Games Goals Games Goals
RH Beale Manchester United 5
RW Benson  (27) 1
HS Bourne Manchester United 6 1
F Bradshaw  (29) 27 1 2 1
MA Broderick 5
CS Buckley  (29) 29 1 1
J Caddick Bristol Rovers 1 1
JJ Chipperfield Luton Clarence 19 8
ES Cockle 4
JC Cooper Barnsley 4 1 0
H Dawson 2
A Ducat Aston Villa 13
J Elkington 7 1 1
G Ellerby 1
J Emms 1
JT Flanagan (26) 2 1
AH Fletcher (4) 1
JA Fordham 3
S Foreman 1
JA Graham 4
GM Grant (28) 10
FW Groves (2) 26 6 2 1
HG Groves 1 1 1
HTW Hardinge (12) 10 2
HH Horton 1
AR Kempton (1 FAC game) 27 1
HE King (37) 24 19 1
JWD Lees Barnsley 5 3
SG Legge Coventry City 1 1 1
CH Lewis (24) 14 3
E Liddell (2) 7 2
A McKinnon (21) 7 1
W Madge 9
S Mason 2
J Moore Glossop 3 2
CE Morris 3
J Norman (4) 3
E Roe 1
J Rutherford (26) 15 2 2 1
PR Sands (10) 15 1
JE Shaw (38) 22 2
J Small 1
AA Thompson 18 7
FA Tyler 11 2 1
CW Wallace Aston Villa 22 1
S Whittaker 1
Own Goals 1

 

We thus have 47 men playing for the club.  10 were registered with other clubs, 20 had no registered club, and 17 had played for Arsenal the season before.

But to get a true impact of what happened we should consider this: in the previous season 12 players played 20+ league games for Arsenal.   Only four of those players managed 20+ games for Arsenal in the two campaigns held in 1915/16.

Sadly I don’t a similar analysis for Chelsea, but it would be interesting to see how they are fared.  I suspect they had more quality guest players and managed to retain more players from their final league season.

Of course come the end of the season, no one quite knew what would happen next September, for more of those who had continued playing for Arsenal were certain to be sent overseas and not be available for the club.

There is one other point: across these two first war seasons, Arsenal only had one goalscorer of note: Harry King with 19 goals in 24 games.  Our second highest scorer was JJ Chipperfield scored eight in 19.  He is a man of whom I know nothing other than the non-league club to which he was affiliated.  A tantalising sneak view of man who clearly knew where the net was, but then vanished from our vision.

The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915

Section 7 – 1916

 

 

 

 

 

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