By Tony Attwood
Jimmy Logie was an Arsenal player from 1939 to 1955, playing 296 league games for the club. It could of course have been many more, of course, but for the war. However he was still there for the club in 1946 and went on to win the FA Cup and the first division title twice with Arsenal during those post war years.
But then something odd happened for in the 1953/4 season Arsenal started to get lots of letters through the post all directed against Jimmy Logie. Tom Whittaker, manager at the time, reports that they were all of the form that said, “Dear Sir, Last night I see your inside right, Jimmy Logie, out past midnight and he was drunk.”
They were of course anonymous, and after this carried on for a while Tom decided to talk to Jimmy – not because the manager believed any of the letters (Jimmy was famous for not being a drinker) but because he wanted to warn Jimmy.
The manager dug out one particularly vicious letter which accused the player of being in a London night club drunk at 2.30am the previous friday. It was at least uncontentious because that night Logie was in a hotel with the rest of the team in preparation for an away match.
However nothing it seemed would stop the campaign and in the end the campaign against Logie reached such a pitch that the club published an article by Tom Whittaker in the programme. This said, among other things…
“The number of occasions that Jimmy takes a drink of intoxicating liquor are so few that he could virtually be described as a teetotaler. When the team is doing badly there are always those who seek to place the responsibility of such a failure on the shoulders of an individual. It seems that Jimmy is the unfortunate one on this occasion. Even a newspaper telephoned us to say that a member of their staff had seen Jimmy drunk in an Underground train. It would all be very laughable were it not that any accusation like this is serious.
“After all the years of loyal service he has given Arsenal it is grossly unfair that irresponsible people can jeopardise his reputation and possibly his whole future, by spreading abuse, which might be believed by those who do not know him.
“These suggestions have upset Jimmy considerably and he wishes it to be known that they are absolutely untrue. We not only believe what Jimmy says, but from our long years of association with him we can honestly say that Arsenal could have no player with a higher sense of loyalty.”
The club later arranged for Jimmy to defend himself in an article in The People, to which Tom Whittaker added a statement saying
“I have read Jimmy Logie’s article and I can say he is not exaggerating when he describes the viciousness of the anonymous letter campaign to which he has been subjected. It is the worst I have ever known in football and I cannot repeat too often that I have the utmost confidence in Jimmy and the greatest admiration for him as a player. There was no need for me, knowing Jimmy as I do, to ask him for explanations but the campaign had got so vicious that we had a chat together and nothing gives me greater pleasure than again to refute any allegations against him.”
So, what do we make of this? Arsenal were having a poor season in 1953/4, made all the worse by the fact that they had just won the league the previous year. Expectations were high.
But there was a massive campaign of booing of the team going on in the ground, and players often reported being told how awful the team was – even when they were winning as in 1952/3.
Reading all the reports from that era, as I have been doing in preparing the new AISA Arsenal History Society publication on the Whittaker years for release at the start of next season, it is quite clear that the media loved the anti-Arsenal stories, and stoked them up while at the same time laying off all the other clubs and giving none of them the same treatment.
I think it is also an inescapable conclusion that this campaign, and others that went on around it, which I deal with further in the forthcoming publication, were a significant factor in bringing to an end the first golden age of Arsenal, after the 1953 championship. The club, as you will know, then failed to win anything again until the Fairs Cup in 1970.
Poison pen letters, as they were known at the time, were the scourge of the era. They did of course eventually die out – only to be replaced by trolls on the internet. What links them is that in both cases the newspapers lap such stories up.
We might also link this to what happened to Mr Wenger on his first day at Highbury, and the disgusting chanting that has been heard at Old Trafford ever since.
Such attacks are, it seems, part of British society, and finding ways to give credence to them is what the British press do.
15 June 1899: George Leavey elected chair of Woolwich Arsenal. Although his business appeared to be a modest gentleman’s outfitters in Plumstead he contrived to be a major source of revenue for the club during its early days.
15 June 1910: Woolwich Arsenal factories started to lay off men due to a long-term downturn in work following the end of the Boer War – spelling catastrophe for Woolwich Arsenal FC which depended on a vibrant workforce to boost its attendance figures.
15 June 1912: Andy Ducat sold confirming the club’s policy of selling off its best players in order to try and balance the books. The policy led directly to relegation the following season with the worst Arsenal record of all time.
15 June 1925: Arsenal announced that the club had bought the Highbury stadium, and some additional land around it, and that the lease of the site had ended. Sir Henry Norris’ huge gamble in taking the ground on a full-repairing lease had paid off.
15 June 1935: Arsenal sign Jackie Milne for a fee reputed to have been £5000. He played 49 league games and scored 19 goals.
15 June 1935: Ray Swallow born. Aside from playing 13 times for Arsenal he also played 38 first class cricket matches for Derbyshire.
15 June 1974: Trevor Ross signed as a professional. He played 58 times for Arsenal before moving on to Everton. He later became a non-league manager before becoming an HGV driver.
15 June 1995: Bruce Rioch became Arsenal manager and simultaneously Stewart Houston resigned from his post as temporary manager. Rioch lasted just one season and managed a European slot on the final day of the season, before being sacked.
The complete Arsenal on this day index is now here with around 5000 major events in Arsenal’s history recorded. May and June recently fully updated.