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GCR Books

March 1922: Desperate times for Arsenal, Norris returns and another allegation overturned

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal entered March 1922 with the League table looking rather parlous.  The one hopeful bit of news was that although Manchester United had of late climbed above Arsenal, they had played two games more and had a worse goal average, so a win in one of those two games in hand would at least make the table look a little less unnerving.

Pos Club P W D L F A GAv Pts
16 Preston North End 29 10 7 12 33 48 0.688 27
17 Birmingham City 30 10 4 16 32 43 0.744 24
18 Oldham Athletic 30 8 8 14 23 39 0.590 24
19 Everton 28 7 9 12 37 39 0.949 23
20 Manchester United 31 6 10 15 33 54 0.611 22
21 Arsenal 29 8 5 16 28 42 0.667 21
22 Bradford City 28 6 7 15 32 57 0.561 19

Arsenal’s games in hand were caused by the postponement of matches due to Arsenal’s success in the FA Cup, having reached Round 4 (the equivalent of Round 6 today).  Indeed this proved to be Leslie Knighton’s most successful season as Arsenal manager in the FA Cup.  But Bradford also had one game in hand on Arsenal and no less than three on Manchester United.

But Arsenal could make no progress at the start of the month as March 1922 started with that 4th round game, Arsenal being drawn at home to Preston, who can be seen from the table above to be in 16th position in the league.  But more encouraging was Preston’s away record up to this point: they had played 14 but not won a single away game, drawing just four and losing ten.

But on this day Preston managed to get another draw – the result being 1-1, which meant a return game at Deepdale – a ground that had recently been extended to accommodate growing crowds.  White got Arsenal’s goal which made it five goals in the last three FA Cup games for him.  The crowd was a healthy 37,5117.

We know that Sir Henry Norris was now back in England after his prolonged break in Italy and France, although there’s no record of whether he attended the Preston game or not.  However he was back in Parliament for the debate on Monday 6 March, a debate on the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill which formalised arrangement for handing over the central and southern counties of the island to the new country.

However although he attended, Sir Henry was not in Parliament for all the votes either on this day or on future days, suggesting he was still not well enough to be part of the late night life that MPs lived both then and now.

Back with the football, as always at this time the replay of drawn cup games happened within a few days of the original game, and sadly for Arsenal, Preston’s home form held and they won 2-1, although not until extra time had been played.  Blyth got Arsenal’s goal in a team that was identical to that for the match at Highbury.

On 10 March Arsenal completed a transfer – that of Samson Haden who joined from Castleford.  He didn’t come into the first team until 1923/4, when he took over the outside left position, and made it his for the rest of the season.  In all he played 88 League and five FA Cup games.

The following day, 11 March, Arsenal had an absolute crunch game against relegation rivals Manchester United amid talk in the Islington Daily Gazette that Arsenal were in serious danger of being relegated.  And by the end of the afternoon, that danger looked even greater as Manchester United beat Arsenal 1-0.

By having the FA Cup fourth round game, and a mid-week replay Arsenal had continued to be behind the clubs that had been knocked out of the Cup earlier, and the foot of the table now looked like this…

Pos Club P W D L F A G.Av Pts
16 Blackburn Rovers 34 9 10 15 41 49 0.837 28
17 Everton 31 9 9 13 44 43 1.023 27
18 Oldham Athletic 32 9 8 15 24 40 0.600 26
19 Birmingham City 31 10 5 16 33 44 0.750 25
20 Manchester United 32 7 10 15 34 54 0.630 24
21 Bradford City 31 7 8 16 36 61 0.590 22
22 Arsenal 30 8 5 17 28 43 0.651 21

Arsenal still had the better goal average than Bradford City and Manchester United and one game in hand of the former and two over the latter.  But these games had to be won, and Arsenal were not winning at the moment.  After their solid spell from New Years Eve to 4 February Arsenal were unbeaten in seven (although three were FA Cup games).  But now they had just had four defeats and one draw in five.

As for Man U, having lost seven games in a row in December and January they were unbeaten in the last six, winning three; they were on the up just as Arsenal were decidedly on the slide.   What was needed therefore was a change of fortunes for both Arsenal and Man U.  Bradford City – the other relegation contender – however had not won in nine, and if that form continued, again an upturn by Arsenal could certainly do no harm.  That would leave Bradford C relegated for sure and Arsenal and Man U slogging out to avoid the other place.

11 March, aside from being a vital match for the club, was also Joe Shaw’s last league game as a player.  He had played an astonishing 309 league games as a player and never scored a goal but in this, his final season he managed just six games.

However it was far from the end of the road for Joe as he went on to be Arsenal’s reserve team manager, before taking over the first team on the death of Herbert Chapman and leading the side to another League title.  After that he happily accepted the move of George Allison to become manager, and he quietly moved back to managing the Combination side until the outbreak of war, and then, being too old for active service, continuing to work with the club during the conflict.  

After the war he worked as a coach at Chelsea briefly before returning to Arsenal as assistant manager to Tom Whittaker, a job that he left finally in 1956 at the age of 72!  He had worked for Arsenal for 49 years, one of its longest ever servants.   He died in 1963 at the age of 80.

Next on the pitch, on 18 March Arsenal had an away game with Aston Villa.  Villa were third in the league, seven points off the pace.  Arsenal were bottom of the league, three points away from both Manchester United. and Bradford City

The result was hardly unexpected: Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 0.  It was Arsenal’s fifth consecutive defeat in the league and the fourth consecutive league match without scoring.  Stanley Earle recently signed as an amateur came in for his one and only game of the season at inside right.

Earle clearly did not make much of an impact at Arsenal in that he only played four games across three seasons – but it is notable that in those four games he scored three goals.   But the next signing, although not a long term success for the team, really did make a difference.  He was Andrew Young (generally known as Andy) who was born in Darlington  on 17 September 1896.

Andy was a centre forward and half back and played originally for Blyth Spartans and then Aston Villa before moving to Arsenal.  (Arsenal.com had him listed when they used to run a history section on the site as a full back, but this is incorrect).

Leslie Knighton paid £2,000 to bring Young to London from Aston Villa, a high price at the time, and further proof if it were ever needed that Knighton was not prohibited from buying any player over £1000 as he endlessly repeated in his autobiography.

The problem thus was not the lack of money made available by Sir Henry, but rather the fact that Knighton was a bit hit and miss at picking players from other clubs.  For although Andy Young was a decent player, he had only played 26 games for Villa.   He had scored 11 goals, but there was not that much to show that he could maintain that for a full season.

He survived the remainder of Knighton’s time at Arsenal and then two years under Chapman, but was ultimately not of the pedigree that Chapman wanted, any more than helping solve the problems of Knighton’s Arsenal, when his team were in dire straits.

Andy Young’s first game was on 22 March 1922:  Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0.  And although Young didn’t make it in the long term he was part of a particularly notable Arsenal performance; Arsenal’s first victory after five consecutive defeats in which the club had scored one and let in 11.

But to the wider public it was perhaps more notable because at the start of play Liverpool were four points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand and only two away defeats to their name all season.

Arsenal on the other hand had a home record that was worse than every other team in the 1st Division save Birmingham.   As a result of the fixture, both clubs stayed in their respective positions, but now Arsenal had a spot of hope being only one point behind Manchester United and two behind Bradford City, and still with a game in hand.

Pos Club P W D L F A GAv Pts
17 Everton 33 9 10 14 44 44 1.000 28
18 Birmingham City 33 11 6 16 35 45 0.778 28
19 Oldham Athletic 33 9 9 15 25 41 0.610 27
20 Bradford City 33 8 9 16 37 61 0.607 25
21 Manchester United 33 7 10 16 34 55 0.618 24
22 Arsenal 32 9 5 18 29 45 0.644 23

Looking forward, we can also see with hindsight that from this point on the team settled down as a regular XI with very few changes through to the end of the season.  In particular the back six (keeper, full backs and half backs) played without change through to the end, and that indicates exactly where the trouble was.  To be fair to Knighton he was not meddling with the team for the sake of it, but rather he was trying to manage a side that was afflicted by injury and flu.

Arsenal now had one more game before the end of the month: away to Aston Villa.  In fact as we look at this we can see Arsenal had three games in succession against two of the top three: Liverpool and Villa.  One had been lost and one had been won.  It seemed too much to expect that there would be a second win, at home to Aston Villa.

But there was a ray of hope because Villa were a Jekyll and Hyde team when it came to home and away form.  At home they were almost unbeatable – having won 14, drawn three and lost just one all season scoring 45 goals – eight more than any other team had notched up at home.

However away from home Villa were below average.  In fact only six teams had a worse record than they did.  Five wins, no draws and ten defeats was their record and their goalscoring away was 21 for and 27 against.  Arsenal had won six, drawn four and lost five away.  It was certainly worth going for.

And go for it Arsenal did, beating Villa 2-0, White and Boreham scoring.  Arsenal had just won two in a row, against two of the top three teams!!!  Here’s the table…

Pos Club P W D L F A G.Av Pts
15 Preston North End 32 12 7 13 35 50 0.700 31
16 Huddersfield Town 32 11 8 13 37 37 1.000 30
17 Birmingham City 34 12 6 16 39 48 0.813 30
18 Everton 33 9 10 14 44 44 1.000 28
19 Oldham Athletic 34 9 10 15 25 41 0.610 28
20 Bradford City 34 8 10 16 37 61 0.607 26
21 Arsenal 33 10 5 18 31 45 0.689 25
22 Manchester United 34 7 10 17 34 58 0.586 24

Arsenal were now one point behind Bradford City with a game in hand.  Here are the matches for the month.

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd Pos
04/03/1922 Preston North End (FAC4) H D 1-1 37,517
08/03/1922 Preston North End (FAC4) A L 1-2 30,000
11/03/1922 Manchester United A L 0-1 25,000 22
18/03/1922 Aston Villa A D 0-2 30,000 22
22/03/1922 Liverpool H W 1-0 12,000 22
25/03/1922 Aston Villa H W 2-0 40,000 21

Henry Norris at the Arsenal

A full index to the series which runs from 1910 onwards is given here

Perhaps the most popular element in the Norris story is that of Arsenal’s promotion to the first division in 1919.  The most complete review of this, which puts right the numerous misunderstandings of the events of that year appears on this site, and most importantly cites contemporary articles and reports, such as the minutes of the FA meeting where the promotion was confirmed, and the reports in local papers thereafter.  It is to be found here in these sets of articles…

The preliminaries

The voting and the comments before and after the election

The Second Libel

The Third Allegation

The Fourth Allegation

Did Henry Norris really beg Leslie Knighton to stay and offer him the hugest bonus ever?  And if so, why were there no new players?

The Fifth Tale

The Sixth Allegation

Leslie Knighton repeated claimed in his autobiography that he was limited to no more than £1000 per player.  But in March 1922 he paid twice that for Andy Young

 

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