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Arsenal’s sixth season; forming The Southern League

So where have we got to with the story of the early days of Royal Arsenal?

Here’s the summary so far.

  • Season 1 Plumstead Common (1886/7)
  • Season 2 The Sportsman’s Ground (1887/8)
  • Season 3 The Manor Field (1888/89)
  • Season 4 The Manor Field (1889/90) growing crowds
  • Season 5 The Invicta Ground (1890/91) the idea of professionalism

Now we come to Season 6: The Invicta Ground (1891/2) as a professional team and I think it is best to see what happened as a series of interconnected activities…

1.  A massive increase in number of games

Date Opposition

 

Ven

Comp

Score

Crowd

05 Sept 91 Sheffield Utd

 

H

Fr

0-2

3,000

12 Sept 91 Casuals

 

H

Fr

2-1

5,000

19 Sept 91 Gainsborough Trinity

 

H

Fr

1-4

3,000

26 Sept 91 West Bromwich Albion

 

H

Lge Fr

1-1

6,000

03  Oct  91 Birmingham St. Georges

 

H

Fr

1-5

6,000

08  Oct  91 Royal Engineers Train Batt

 

H

Fr

8-0

700

19  Oct  91 Crusaders

 

H

Fr

4-1

2,500

17  Oct  91 Bootle

A

Fr

2-2

2,000

19  Oct  91 Sheffield Wednesday

 

H

Fr

1-8

3,000

24 Oct   91 Long Eaton Rangers

 

H

Fr

3-1

4,000

29 Oct   91 Royal Artil(Shoeburyness)

 

H

Fr

10-0

700

31 Oct    91 Clapton

A

Fr

7-0

6,000

05 Nov   91 Notts County

 

A

Lge Fr

3-4

3,000

07 Nov   91 London Caledonians

 

A

Fr

4-3

4,000

12 Nov   91 Erith

 

H

Fr

7-0

500

14 Nov   91 Cambridge University

 

H

Fr

5-1

4,000

19 Nov   91 Woolwich District League

 

H

Fr

6-1

700

21 Nov   91 St. Bartholomews Hospital

 

H

Fr

9-0

3,000

23 Nov   91 2nd Scots Guards

 

H

Fr

6-0

500

28 Nov   91 Canadians

 

H

Fr

1-1

8,000

30 Nov   91 Sheffield Wednesday

 

A

Fr

1-5

3,000

03 Dec   91 Canadians

 

H

Fr

4-0

4,000

05 Dec   91 Lincoln City

 

H

Fr

3-1

4,000

10 Dec   91 2nd Royal West Kent Reg

 

H

Fr

1-2

12 Dec   91 Chiswick Park

 

H

Fr

5-1

3,000

19 Dec   91 Preston North End

 

H

Lge Fr

0-3

10,000

25 Dec   91 Sheffield United

 

A

Fr

3-3

2,000

26 Dec   91 1st Lincolnshire Regiment

 

H

Fr

6-0

4,000

02  Jan   92 Cowlairs

 

H

Fr

1-2

4,000

07  Jan   92 City Ramblers

 

H

Fr

3-0

600

09  Jan   92 Crusaders

 

H

Fr

4-1

2,000

16  Jan   92 Small Heath

 

A

FAC

1-5

4,000

21  Jan   92 Windsor Phoenix

 

H

Fr

3-1

700

23  Jan   92 Grimsby Town

 

H

Fr

4-1

4,000

30  Jan   92 Burton Wanderers

 

H

Fr

3-1

5,000

04 Feb   92 Sheffield United

 

H

Fr

1-4

4,000

06  Feb   92 Cambridge University

 

H

Fr

2-1

4,000

13  Feb   92 Chatham

 

A

Fr

3-2

10,000

20  Feb   92 Burton Swifts

 

H

Fr

3-1

3,000

25  Feb   92 Windsor Phoenix

 

A

Fr

5-0

27  Feb   92 Derby County

 

H

Lge Fr

3-4

6,000

03  Mar   92 Borough Road College

 

H

Fr

4-1

05  Mar   92 Wolverhampton Wand

 

H

Fr

1-4

5,000

10 Mar 92 Casuals

 

H

Fr

3-1

1,000

12 Mar 92 Great Marlow

 

H

Fr

5-2

3,000

14 Mar 92 3rd Lanark Rovers

 

H

Fr

0-1

4,000

 92 Mar  92 71st Highland Light Infant

 

H

Fr

3-2

2,000

22  Mar  92 Preston North End

 

H

Fr

3-3

10,000

26  Mar  92 Everton

 

H

Lge Fr

2-2

8,000

31  Mar 92 Notts County

 

H

Fr

2-4

3,000

02  April 92 Chatham

H

Fr

5-3

9,000

09 April 92 South Shore

 

H

Fr

1-1

6,000

15  April 92 Small Heath

 

H

Fr

1-2

8,000

16  April 92 Crewe Alexandra

 

H

Fr

2-1

2,000

18  April92 Bootle

 

H

Fr

1-1

6,000

23  April 92 Clapton

 

H

Fr

4-1

3,000

26  April 92 Bolton Wanderers

 

H

Fr

3-2

2,000

30  April 92 Glasgow Rangers

 

H

Fr

2-3

6,000

The number of games was 57 friendlies and 1 FA Cup match – a huge increase, as Arsenal sought to pay its way now that it had a sizeable rent to pay and of course the players’ wages.

Once again we see the vast majority of these games as being played at home – clearly coming to the Arsenal was an attraction, despite the difficulties in getting to the ground.

2. Static nature of crowds

The crowds had reached 10,000 on occasion the previous season, and that is where they were sticking.   Arsenal could indeed play more games, but they couldn’t get bigger audiences.

Now of course we don’t know what the capacity was at the Invicta and whether 10,000 was about maximum.  If so Arsenal would have known that this was their target.  But it is possible they were hoping for more.

I think we can also see that the crowds knew about football teams by now.  The bigger wins were witnessed by smaller crowds, and although the crowds liked goals, seeing the minnows was not always that attractive.

3.  Disparity between traditional rivals and professional teams

Arsenal had only been marginally bettered by Derby County in the FA Cup last season and it was perhaps hoped that this year they could start beating the league teams sometime soon.

To show the results I have indicated the games against Football League teams above as League Friendies (Lge Fr), and the results were not always promising.

This was the fourth season of the Football League, with 14 clubs in the league and the final table showed.  Curiously, Arsenal’s worst defeats came against teams not yet in the league but who would soon be, including the two Sheffield clubs.

But although they were not readily beating the League teams the gap was not impossibly narrow.

Here are the details of where the league teams ended that year.

  • Preston North End 2nd
  • Everton 5th
  • Notts County 8th
  • Derby County 10th
  • West Brom 12th

Thus we see the contrast – Arsenal were having easy games against local opposition most of the time, but when they did take on the clubs from the north they tended to find it much harder going.  The draw with Preston in front of 12,000 must have given particular encouragement.

I’m sure the locals would have been happy with such results as the 8-0, the 10-0 and so on, but it must have been obvious – Arsenal were not quite yet ready for league action, even though the second division of the Football League was being formed in 1892/3.

4. No London senior cup games

Having dropped out of the Kent Senior Cup, Arsenal now dropped out of the London Senior Cup – and this might be one reason why commentators so readily made the mistake of thinking that Arsenal were thrown out of the Kent and London FAs.  They were not – Arsenal merely withdrew from their Cups because the Cups were specifically for amateur teams.

5.  The Southern League

Arsenal’s thinking was undoubtedly that they were ready for a league, but perhaps not quite ready for the Football League.   So, since there was not a league yet in existence in the south, they set about starting one up.

As Andy Kelly has shown in his article on the subject in February 1892, “Royal Arsenal sent letters to the prominent clubs in the south of England inviting them to a meeting to … discuss the formation of a Southern League.

“On 24 February 1892, representatives of 34 clubs met at the Anderton Hotel in Fleet Street, London. The attendees agreed to form a Southern League, and a vote was held at the end of the meeting to decide which teams would participate. The following teams were elected:

“Chatham, Chiswick Park, Crouch End, Ilford, Luton Town, Marlow, Millwall Athletic, Old St Marks, Reading, Royal Arsenal, Swindon Town and West Herts.

“And the following teams formed the Southern Alliance (effectively a second division):

“Chesham, City Ramblers, Criterion, Erith, Old St Stephens, St Albans, Tottenham Hotspur, Upton Park, Uxbridge, Westminster, Wolverton and Woodville.”

As you can read in Andy’s article, this league did not get off the ground, and Arsenal had to endure one my season of friendly based football, before joining the Football League in 1893.

However, that season, as we shall discover in the next article, was to be one of the most tumultuous in the club’s history.

The Anniversary Files now contain over 2500 entries

2 comments to Arsenal’s sixth season; forming The Southern League

  • David Marks

    I am trying to find a record of a match in which Arsenal played (and lost) a match with Wolverton Town in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s when they were in the old Southern League. My grandfather was chairman of Wolverton at the time and the fact is mentioned in his obituary. Some years ago I found on the internet a photocopy of a newspaper article referring to the match which I can no longer find. Any help would be appreciated

  • On this site we have a record of all the early games Andy Kelly was able to find during his research into the subject.

    http://thearsenalhistory.com/stat/aftlu.htm

    I don’t have the time at the moment to go through them all but the fastest search would be to go to each year and search for Wolverton.

    Could you write back in and let us know the result – and any other information you find.

    Tony

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