By Tony Attwood
For something that started out as little more than an idea at the AGM of the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association just two and a half years ago, the AISA Arsenal History Society has come an extraordinarily long way in a very short space of time.
We’ve done some interesting things along the way – such as setting up this blog, gathering hundreds of articles together in our index on the home page (still not finished by any means but now so much better than it was a few months back), and this season we have our own column in the Arsenal programme (Arsenal Uncovered).
“Making the Arsenal” was published as a celebration of the birth of the modern club in 1910, and Arsenal have welcomed that book, making it available through their shop at the ground, and on line.
And there’s more to come on the publishing front next year, with two books being published in 2012 which will be the definitive histories of Royal Arsenal and Woolwich Arsenal.
But perhaps when we look back over our short history the most important moment must be seen as the meeting that three of us from AISA had with Ivan Gazidis in August 2010 at which I was invited to present the ideas that we had evolved thus far in the AISA Arsenal History Society.
I put several ideas forwards, but right up there at the top of the list was for statues of people associated with Arsenal’s great past. Mr Gazidis was very kind and receptive to our ideas and he said that he personally loved the notion of the statues.
That’s how it all began – and we were delighted that two of the members of the exec committee of AISA Arsenal History Society were able to be at the formal launch of the statues last Friday, to see our idea come to fruition.
So, in many ways this is our greatest achievement so far, but as the dust settles we need to think – what next? What else can we do?
The very next thing we are doing is having our Winter Social at the House of Commons – thanks to the support given by the MP for Islington who has hired a committee room for us. At the meeting will be Philipaa Dawson the grand-daughter of the club’s founding father Jack Humble. Jack as you will know was an original committee member of Royal Arsenal, who took the club into professionalism, became a director, and saw off the split in the club which led to the formation of the rival Royal Ordnance Factories FC, and worked with Henry Norris to move Woolwich Arsenal to Highbury. He was in fact with the club from 1886 to 1927 which just a short break early in the 20th century for family and work reasons – and was instrumental throughout in securing the future of Arsenal.
That’s in January 2012 – and life members of AISA will be receiving their invites soon.
But after that, what next?
- We might think further about more art work and statues around the ground (there is after all a lot of space out there).
- I’m always open to ideas for new series of articles on this site.
- Is there something else we should be doing on the programme?
- Should we be talking to Arsenal about the next anniversary celebration?
Actually, that final question has made me think – we really ought to have a file on this site that is a chronology of the club’s history, showing the key moments year by year. I’ll see what can be done about that. Although looking forward for the rest of this decade there are one or two interesting events to celebrate, leading up the big one in 2019 – 100 years in the first division.
Maybe we should start preparing that fairly soon.
But for now, thanks to everyone who has shown their support for the AISA Arsenal History Society, and particularly to
- Paul Matz who had the original idea, and who now acts as the liaison between AISA and the History Society
- Andy Kelly who is secretary of the Society, and who endlessly researches and corrects me on all the facts about Arsenal’s history (and who, I may add, has repeatedly corrected the copy in the Arsenal Uncovered series, thus ensuring I don’t make a total prat of myself in the programme)
- Mark Andrews, who has undertaken the only academic research project into Arsenal’s early history, and uncovered the most invaluable information on the support Woolwich Arsenal had – information which is being published shortly in our book “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football”.
Thanks to everyone. At every match from now on the statues will remind all of us that the whole notion of the AISA Arsenal History Society was worthwhile, and that it is possible to have an impact on the club we all support.