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GCR Books

1 March 1913: Woolwich Arsenal defeat Tottenham without a ball being kicked

By Tony Attwood

Continuing with the events of 100 years ago, to the day, I noted previously that no sooner had the story come out in the press that Arsenal were moving to Highbury, than Tottenham Hotspur and Clapton Orient went to the management committee of the Football League, demanding action.

But as the League pointed out, they had confirmed at the AGM of 1910 that the League had no power under its statutes to decide where a club played, only which league they played in.  To now decide otherwise would have undermined their decisions of three year’s previous – which had themselves resulted in Arsenal moving.

However when the management committee of the league turned them down, then again they immediately moved on to Plan B.

Their argument was simple: that the issue of Arsenal’s proposed moved affected all clubs, and so should the vote of the whole League.

But again as we have noted, Henry Norris had witnessed the situation first hand with Fulham’s objection to Chelsea’s arrival, and with his own attempt to have a ground share arrangement between Fulham and Woolwich Arsenal.

Tottenham too should have known their case was hopeless, for as we have seen, they were old hands at this sort of action – with objections being lodged against the applications of Chelsea and Clapton Orient.

And so whatever else might have been said, when on 1st March 1913 the League rejected the appeal, no one was surprised.  For Tottenham it was probably just another step in a battle plan.

The reason for this was twofold.

First, the moving of grounds was not new, and many clubs had done it.  In London the most dramatic move had been that of Millwall in 1910 when they moved across the river from the Isle of Dogs to the Den.  Manchester United had also moved to Old Trafford in 1910.

Other clubs were looking at moving – particularly where their existing ground was in need of upgrade, and no one wanted to restrict their own chances of moving, just to help Tottenham.

Second Woolwich Arsenal playing in Highbury, North London was a lot more attractive to League clubs than Woolwich Arsenal playing in Plumstead.   The reason for this was simple: the vast majority of teams were in the Midlands and the North of England, and they came to London by train.

Having arrived at Kings Cross or Euston, as most did, they could now get an underground train straight to Gillespie Road, and that is exactly what they did.  Previously the journey from their London terminus across the river to Plumstead was more arduous than the journey by train to London.

Additionally there was the post match entertainment.  Most players from the north valued their journey to “The Smoke” as they disrespectfully called the capital.  What they wanted to do was to see the city, going to a show, or some somewhat more disreputable form of entertainment.   There was no chance of doing that with a game in Plumstead.  The players welcomed the move too.

Tottenham therefore had no grounds to complain, and perhaps knew that their attempts to do so were doomed.

But even after the rejection of 1 March 1913, they still wanted to play another trick, and they began that action immediately, as we shall soon see as this series continues.

The full details of Arsenal’s move north, and indeed the whole history of Woolwich Arsenal, are given in Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.

The books…

The sites from the same team…

3 comments to 1 March 1913: Woolwich Arsenal defeat Tottenham without a ball being kicked

  • Mayor of the Woolwich

    It so happened on a very memorable day. My birth anniversary that is. It can’t happen to a better club than the spuds.

  • Dominic

    The reason for Tottenham’s objection to other teams moving into “their” territory is psychological. Just like their supporters they just want to spend all their days playing with themselves.

  • I guess that Tottenham (formed 1882) had no qualms about forming themselves in Orient’s (formed 1881) patch?

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