By Tony Attwood
Today, December 15, is an Arsenal anniversary that I can’t imagine anyone even thinking about, let alone writing about. Well, anyone except me, I guess.
The event is question is one that won’t throw much light on the situation either, for it is the anniversary of the signing of Harold Peel being signed from Bradford in 1926.
The reason I bring it up is because the signing of Harold Peel gives further insight into the question of how Chapman ran the club during his time at Arsenal. I have written before, in my analysis of Chapman’s sides, position by position, is that the great man sought out top players who could play in each position, using stop-gap players until the master for each part of the pitch was found.
Harold Peel was one of those stop-gaps, and his career makes interesting reading in the light of this.
Harold Peel joined Arsenal from Bradford (the side generally called Bradford PA) for £1,750. He had played over 200 games for Bradford and scored 37 goals. Bradford started in post-war football as a first division side, but were relegated to the second division in 1921 and to the third division north in 1922. Thus Chapman was buying a third division player for a significant amount of money.
He played for the first time on 1 January 1927, and went on to play nine times that season at either number 10 or 11.
In 1927/8 he was in the team for the opening match but then dropped and he made only 13 appearances – all as an outside left.
His third season was his best for Arsenal with 24 leagues and 5 goals. He also played in our five FA Cup matchs – throughout the season being used as number 10.
But then he left and re-signed for Bradford for £1,125 in December 1929.
So what was Chapman’s plan? Clearly he was looking for inside and outside lefts and the clue is in the team that he put out in the 1929/30 season. Our key players in those two positions were
Alex James: 31 league games, six goals
Cliff Jones: 31 league games, one goal
Cliff Bastin: 21 league games, seven goals
Jones had joined the team the season before, James and Bastin started playing for the first team in this 1929/30 season. Thus the stop-gap player was no longer needed.
Harold Burston Peel was born 26 March 1900 and died in 1976. He played 445 league games in all scoring 69 goals.
As I say this anniversary of his signing won’t be marked in many history books, but he was an important element within the gradual building up of the Arsenal team. In 1929/30 Arsenal won their first major trophy – the FA Cup but by then Peel had gone back to Bradford. The following season, with the new Chapmanesque line up complete we won the league for the first time.
By then our team included Hapgood, Roberts, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James and Bastin. The Chapman approach was finally producing results.
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