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GCR Books

Post War Arsenal: the 1950 cup

By Tony Attwood

Say “The 1930s” to any football fan who knows his/her history and you will undoubtedly get mention of “The Arsenal” – the team that came from just having never won either of the two main trophies to dominate the decade.

Arsenal survived the death of Herbert Chapman, and completed a hat trick of titles without him.   And amazingly, George Allison, the nominated successor won first the league (1935) and then the Cup (1936), and then the league against (1938).

1938/39 – the last season before the second world war, was disappointing by Arsenal standards.   We were fifth in the league and knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford of the second division in the third round. But still the 1930s gave us:

The FA Cup: 1930, 1936

The Football League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938

During the first world war football had continued for a season (1914/15) but in the second world war the season was abandoned after three games as war was declared.  The results from that abandoned season were…

  • 26 August 1939: Wolverhampton 2 Arsenal 2
  • 30 August 1939: Arsenal 1 Blackburn 0
  • 2 September 1939: Arsenal 5 Sunderland 1

That Sunderland game was the end of the 30s for Arsenal.

By 1946/47, when football resumed, everything had changed, but George Allison stayed on for one more season – although a disappointing one in which the club came 13th in the league and were knocked out in the third round of the cup by Chelsea.  Allison stepped down, and up stepped our ex-player Tom Whittaker.

Tom’s opening record was a sensation beyond belief.In his first 17 league matches as a manager he was undefeated – including six straight wins at the start of the season.   True, Bradford knocked Arsenal out of the cup in the third round but that was almost as if to get rid of the distractions.

1948/49 Arsenal came fifth in the league and were knocked out in the 4th round of the cup, but then in 1950, although finishing a disappointing 6th in the league Arsenal won the cup again.  The tradition of the 1930s was continuing.

Round Date Against Score Crowd
3 7 Jan Sheffield W 1-0 54,193
4 28 Jan Swansea T 2-1 57,305
5 11 Feb Burnley 2-0 55,458
6 4 Mar Leeds 1-0 62.573
SF 18 Mar Chelsea 2-2 67,752
Replay 22 Mar Chelsea 1-0 66,482
Final 29 Apr Liverpool 2-0 100,000

One interesting footnote to the cup run is that at this time there was no attempt to play the FA Cup final after the end of the league season.

After the cup final on 29 April 1950, Arsenal had two league matches left – although obviously nothing to play for in terms of title contention.  But there was the Cup to see and the victory to celebrate.

On 3 May 1950 Arsenal played Portsmouth at home and won 2-0.   The crowd is recorded at a suspiciously rounded figure of 65,000 – which makes me think it was an all-ticket match, although I’ve not confirmed that.  (Some other games were recorded with rounded numbers too, so I await some digging in the archives to confirm).

Three days later Arsenal ended their season with a 5-2 win over Stoke away in front of 18,000.

One final point.  Reg Lewis played in all seven cup games – one of eight players to do so.  He scored five of the 11 goals in the cup run including both in the final.  He was also the highest scorer in the league that season with 19 goals in 31 games.

 

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