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12 April 1913 – Woolwich Arsenal relegated

by Andy Kelly
(@Gooner_AK)

One of the many myths of Arsenal’s history is that the club has never been relegated. Unfortunately, this is not so. Even worse is that when they were relegated it was with one of the worst records ever.

The fateful day when Arsenal were relegated was 12 April 1913. Prior to this date they had been hanging on by the skin of their teeth, mainly because Chelsea were having a pretty poor season as well. That morning the bottom of the First Division table looked like this:

    Pld W D L F A Pts GA
17
Tottenham Hotspur 35 12 5 18 43 67 29 0.64
18 Chelsea 35 8 6 21 42 71 22 0.59
19 Notts County 35 6 8 21 24 50 20 0.48
20 Arsenal 35 3 10 22 23 70 16 0.33

Back then only the bottom two teams were relegated at the end of the season. Teams level on points were then graded on goal average (“goals for” divided by “goals against”). Mathematically Arsenal could still stay up but they would have to hope that Chelsea would lose all of their games, as well as having to make up a 20 goal difference.

Derby County journeyed down to Plumstead hoping to join the long list of teams that had taken points from Woolwich Arsenal that season. The locals were obviously expecting the worst as a meagre 5,591 of them paid to watch the game.

Arsenal’s team was:

H.McDonald

Shaw Fidler

Grant Randall McKinnon

Lewis Flanagan McLaughlan Devine Burrell

Derby led 1-0 at half-time and nailed Arsenal’s coffin well and truly shut a minute into the second-half when they scored a second goal. Charlie Lewis scored a consolation goal after 67 minutes but that was it. The local paper reports of the game agreed that the game had gone the same way as so many Arsenal games at the start of the season – Arsenal having the best chances but not being able to convert them into goals. The final score was 2-1 to Derby.

The First Division table that evening looked this:

    Pld W D L F A Pts GA
17
Tottenham Hotspur 36 12 5 19 43 68 29 0.63
18 Chelsea 36 9 6 21 43 71 24 0.61
19 Notts County 36 6 9 21 24 50 21 0.48
20 Arsenal 36 3 10 23 24 72 16 0.33

And so it passed that Woolwich Arsenal were relegated. If there was a positive to be gained from the defeat against Derby it was that we weren’t sent down due to the result of the following game – a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.

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15 comments to 12 April 1913 – Woolwich Arsenal relegated

  • mark andrews

    Andy,

    Apparently the crowd “rocked with mirth” at the ineptitude of the forwards in this game against Derby, such was their humourous reaction to the team’s poor display.

  • ajibola

    wow i thought aarsenal never relegated

  • JAjbola – just the once in the spring of 1913. That summer we moved to Highbury so Highbury saw second division football for two seasons.

  • Idrissa M Kamara

    I really appreciate it, thanks for this beautiful history

  • bolaji isiaq

    Tnx God I seen it

  • I dnt even no that arsenal have religate before;I really love arsenal

  • kolawole

    Did they relegate in premier league or other league

  • In 1913 Woolwich Arsenal came bottom of the First Division (there was no premier league in those days) and went into the second division where they played for two seasons.

  • John Harrison

    But we have been made to understand that Arsenal has never been relegated. And it brings so many argument among fans and supporters.

  • I think there are a couple of issues that lead to the confusion.

    First the club name: it was Woolwich Arsenal FC while playing in Plumstead at the Manor Ground who were relegated. So technically Arsenal FC have never been relegated. And one can say Arsenal has never been relegated since going to Highbury in 1913.

    That second point is worthy of note because the continuity of appearance in the first division since 1919 is one that is far ahead of every other club, and means we should have one hell of a celebration in 2019 – assuming we don’t get relegated.

    And if you hear a story that says Arsenal bribed their way into the first division in 1919 you might like to read this

    10 March 1919, Arsenal elected. Find the bribery and get the reward

    http://www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk/archives/5592

  • Akobada

    @ Tony Attwood i want to ask a question, back then in 12 April 1913 is Premier league referred to as first division? if yes, you are right that Arsenal had been relegated is irrespective of name they may be calling them then and now, but if the answer is no then you are wrong with your post because the basis of the argument is that Arsenal have not been relegated from from Premier league

  • Akobada, in 1913 Woolwich Arsenal were relegated from the 1st division to the 2nd division. So to be technical, it wasn’t Arsenal, it was Woolwich Arsenal, and it certainly wasn’t the Premier League. But just as Woolwich Arsenal morphed into The Arsenal and then into Arsenal, so the First Division morphed into the Premier League.

    Different name, same club; different name, same league.

  • Anthony

    If that is how you want to interpret it then neither have Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd, Man City etc. never been relegated from the Premier League….Not so much of a boast, but at least an honest statement…

  • Chris

    Tony Attwood, You claim it’s not Woolwich Arsenal because they changed their name, then you say about the Bribery blog from 1919 (I’m guessing 6 years after they changed their name) So why is the 1919 blog Woolwich arsenal.co.uk? oops.

  • The blog is called “The History of Arsenal” the address is blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk, and the date the club first called itself “Arsenal” was 6 December 1919. I hope that clarifies things for you.

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