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GCR Books

285 miles and a match on friday; defeat on saturday

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On Thursday March 24th 1910, Woolwich Arsenal players travelled 285 miles to Newcastle on Tyne.

On Friday March 25th 1910 (Good Friday), they played Newcastle and drew 1-1

That same day they took a train back to London – another 285 miles.

On Saturday March 26th 1910, the self same players (with just one change to the team, caused by an injury to Greenaway, our outside right) turned up at Plumstead to play The Wednesday.

Quite how they felt is anyone’s guess, but fit and raring to go are probably not words that would be used to describe them.

Worse, only 8,000 turned up to watch.

The idea of playing matches on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday goes back at least to the arrival of Woolwich Arsenal in the league in 1893.  Their first experience of the event was on Good Friday of 1894 with a home match against Northwich Victoria resulting in a 6-0 win in front of 5,000.

The idea of these matches packed in next to each other over the Christmas and Easter holidays was simple.   There were only a set number of saturdays in the year, and mid-week games had to be played during the hours of daylight, when the men were at work (no floodlights, obviously) and so crowds could be low.

There was also the feeling that football should never start before September 1, and should end in mid April (although by 1910 it had extended to April 23rd.  This was because cricket (which was established long before football) claimed the summer as its own.

So the two holiday periods were used – and could attract good crowds.  Arsenal against The Wednesday on Easter Monday 1908 was played in front of 25,000 at Plumstead, for example.

But by Easter 1910 the mood was grim.  Arsenal were going out of business, and quite possibly going out of the 1st division.  One or the other, or both.

Arsenal lost the game in 1910 to the Wednesday 0-1 and that was not definitely not good Easter news.

Now, teetering on the brink they had to prepared for Easter Monday and the biggest game of the year.   Chelsea away.  Both teams in a very bad way, and both likely to go down, and a crowd of over 40,000 expected in Chelsea’s crumbling stadium.

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You can read the whole story of 1910 through the eyes of a Fleet Street journalist in Making the Arsenal by Tony Attwood.

There’s more on Arsenal in the present day on Untold Arsenal

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Special feature

Arsenal’s fixed promotion. When someone wants to slag off Arsenal’s achievements they often turn to the story that Arsenal somehow fixed their way into the First Division in 1919 through bribery and corruption.  Not only is the story untrue, but it is itself a clever deception put about by the clubs who really were guilty of match fixing.  Read the full story.

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