Arsenal in the 30s part 7: December 1930. 3 games in 3 days; 14 goals.

by Tony Attwood

The month started with a reminder of just how desperate the economic situation in Britain was as a result of the disastrous economic policies of the government, with 75,000 Scottish coal miners going on strike.   The action was brought about by the introduction of the Coal Mining Act which only allowed mining companies a certain market share of the coal industry in order to restrict competition.  The result was that the hours that men working in the mines could work was restricted to seven-and-a-half-hour working day unless the owners and the miner’s federation agreed to a spread over of 94 hours per fortnight.  This effectively reduced salaries.  

On the football front, Arsenal entered December top of the league.

Meanwhile in Germany there were signs of the growing power of the far right as when, on December 5 the film All Quiet on the Western Front had its German premiere at the Berlin Mozartsaal. Joseph Goebbels and his followers disrupted the event by throwing smoke bombs and sneezing powder, and attacking members of the audience who protested against the disturbance.  Within a week it had been banned from all cinemas in Germany.

On a more peaceful note, December 8 saw the premiere in London of “Black Coffee”, Agatha Christie’s first play.

Looking forwards Arsenal faced four home games in December which would start balancing up their home/away situation (having played seven at home and 10 away thus far).  Of these, the biggest challenge was expected to come from the second game against Liverpool who were eighth at the end of November.

But before that game, the month began with a disappointment, for the match between Arsenal and Grimsby on 6 December at Highbury was abandoned on 63 minutes due to that old London curse: fog.  However the match, when it was replayed, went down in the history books – but for that we shall have to wait until our story reaches January. The abandoned match sat at 1-0 to Arsenal when the game was halted.  My suspicion is that Arsenal would have welcomed the abandonment, since their game was built around a very quick movement of the ball out of defence into attack, through accurate passing rapidly up the field.  If one couldn’t see the whole pitch that tactic became almost impossible to see through.

All the other matches for 6 December however went ahead unhindered by the weather, and there were some remarkable results including Derby County 6 Chelsea 2; Sheffield Utd 3 Aston Villa 4, and Sunderland 6 Liverpool 5.

Arsenal’s abandoned game saw a crowd of just 27,087 turn up (I suspect those who didn’t show were fairly convinced that the battle through the fog was not going to be worth it – and we should remember the nickname for London at this time was “The Smoke”).

For the fourth game in a row Arsenal sent out the same team (Harper, Parker, Hapgood, Seddon, Roberts, John, Williams, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin).  Alex James got the goal that would not be counted in his record.

However the results still left Arsenal one point clear at the top of the league and now obviously with a game in hand.

The following weekend, December 13, saw Arsenal playing the away game in Liverpool and across the country the high scoring continued.  Chelsea, having lost 6-2 the previous weekend, came back with a 5-0 win over Sunderland, while Arsenal’s challengers at the top of the league, Sheffield Wednesday beat Birmingham 9-1.  They must have been confident of being the highest scorers of the day, and perhaps of the season, and must have been astounded to find out in the evening papers that Huddersfield had just beaten Blackpool 10-1, and this with Huddersfield having not won a single one of the last six games.  Sadly under 12,000 turned up to witness their highest ever score.

Back at the Liverpool match, 1-0 down at half time Arsenal came back through a goal from Jack to get the 1-1 draw.  The team once again was identical to that of the previous game; the fifth game in a row with the same line up.

Next up was Newcastle at home on 20 December.  32,212 turned up, and once again it was the same team, with the same scorer, but this time Arsenal lost to the team in 17th.  The result was part of a remarkable turn around for Newcastle who had lost eight games out of ten in October and through to the first week in December. In fact in just four games during this spell they had let in 17 goals.  But the previous weekend they had beaten Leicester 3-2, and after beating Arsenal they went on to beat Huddersfield away 0-3, climbing the table from 18th to 15th en route.

The result was a disappointment and it knocked Arsenal off the top of the league and into second place – but only on a goal average difference of 0.01 of a goal.

These were the days in which clubs played on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day –  usually against the same club, and then again a day or two later – an approach that continued regularly until 1951, and thus it was that Arsenal faced Manchester City twice – at Main Road on 25th December, and Highbury the following day, winning the first 4-1 and the second 3-1.  Things were back on track.

The Christmas Day game saw Williams make way for Joe Hulme who had been sidelined since the Derby away game on October 11.  Hulme was the first choice at number 7, and last season had scored 14 in 37 league starts.  After a surprise defeat he was exactly the sort of experienced campaigner the club needed, and he helped the start of 14 goal onslaught in three days by scoring on his return – although it was the fourth goal, with the game soundly wrapped up.  Bastin, Jack and Lambert got the first three in front of 56,750 – a typical Christmas Day crowd.  The result took Arsenal back to the top of the league.

For the return match the following day Seddon dropped out from midfield to be replaced by Cliff Jones who had played the first four games of the season.  Jones was a versatile defensive midfielder and an ideal man to bring back in at this stage of the campaign.  Humle and Bastin once again scored in the 3-1 win, John getting the third.  The crowd though was 17,624 – but Boxing Day crowds at the time were erratic, sometimes in the 30,000 plus, sometimes much lower, for the shops were open and families liked looking for bargains in the sales.

Scores through the first division on 25th and 26th December did not hit the absolute heights of earlier weeks, one 5-1 and a 5-2 being the high spots on the days.  But then, with absolute tiredness setting in (and quite possibly the odd celebratory drink illicitly taken by the odd defender), the third consecutive day of football on Saturday 27 December unleashed the goals in no uncertain manner.

Arsenal took Blackpool apart in a 7-1 thrashing with Brain and Jack both getting hatricks and Bastin adding the extra one.  Meanwhile Aston Villa were intent on showing that anything Arsenal could do, they could do too, beating Man U 7-0. Chelsea also got five in their victory against Grimsby.

It was the fourth game of the season with five or more goals by Arsenal. It was also George Male’s first game for the first team.  Arsenal went on to score 5+ five more times.  

Here are the results for the month’s league game in summary

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
13.12.1930 Liverpool 8 away D1-1 2 29 44,342 26,086
20.12.1930 Newcastle Utd 18 home L1-2 2 29 32,212 37,106
25,12.1930 Manchester City 9 away W4-1 1 31 56,750 26,849
26.12.1930 Manchester City 13 home W3-1 1 33 17,624 37,106
27.12.1930 Blackpool 21 home W7-1 1 35 35,133 37,106
  • Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game
  • Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
  • AC is the average crowd for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day and and the norm expected by the home side.

There is one other football tale to relate this month for it was the month in which a record was established which lasted for 72 years, until Arsenal broke it.  For between December 1929 and December 1930 Chesterfield scored in 47 consecutive league games in the Third Division north.  Jack Lee, who was transferred to Chesterfield from Arsenal in 1928, was very much part of Chesterfield’s run.  In 2002 Arsenal broke that record.

Finally, if I may, a moment of flippancy.  I always look for issues relating to December 29 as it was the birthday of my late father, who took me to Arsenal for the first time at the age of around eight or nine and to whose memory this collection of articles on Arsenal in the 1930s is dedicated.  It is also the birthday of my eldest daughter, my father’s first grandchild, so a doubly important day for me.

On December 29 in 1930 an article by Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was published in the Gazzetta del Popolo, in which he called for the abolition of pasta as it made Italians, “sceptical, slow [and] pessimistic.”  He advocated rice, which he said would create “lithe, agile peoples who will be victorious” in future wars.  He also called for the abolition of the knife and fork. 

Here is how the table (without knife and fork) looked at the end of the year…


Arsenal History Society indexes to the series

Arsenal in the 30s

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Joseph Szabo, his visit to Arsenal, and the way it changed SC Braga’s history.


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