September 1932: Arsenal’s first steps into immortality

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal had started the 1932/3 season in August with a win and a defeat – making some fans wonder if the League and Cup wins of 1930 and 1931 were to be one-offs.  This view was emphasised by the fact that then as now few teams retained the league title.  In fact in the 20th century only Liverpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Aston Villa had done it thus far.  Everton, last season’s run away champions (at least until the last few matches) had been beaten on the opening day of the season.

But on 3 September 1932 Arsenal put some of these fears to rest with a resounding 6-1 win over  Sunderland.  Sunderland had so far won one and lost one – so were equal with Arsenal.  But it was noticeable that Aston Villa beat Bolton on this day by the same score – and a renaissance for Villa, who had run Arsenal very close in 1930/1, seemed on the cards.

Having kept the same team for the first two games of the new season, but without satisfactory results, Chapman now made changes.   Male and Roberts left the team at 4 and 5, Male because his inclusion there had been an experiment and Roberts because he picked up an injury in the West Brom game.  Stockill who had played at centre forward (and scored both Arsenal’s goals in the first two games), was dropped (he had previoulsy just played the last three games of the last season.

Jones, now fit again after presumably having an injury in the pre-season, came back to his regular right half position.  Haynes who had so far played 22 games across three seasons, took over at centre half.

But perhaps the big surprise was the return of Ernest (known as Tim) Coleman.  Not of course the same Tim Coleman (real name John) who had played 172 games for Woolwich Arsenal, but a player signed from Grimsby in March 1932.  He had thus far played one game at inside left.  Now he was the club’s centre forward.   And he scored his first goal for the club; the first of 24 goals in 27 league games – although even that was not enough to make him top scorer this season.  But more of that anon.

So we had


Compton Haynes  Hapgood

Jones John

Hulme, Jack, Coleman, James, Bastin

Hulme 3, Coleman, Jack, and Bastin got the goals and what of course wasn’t known, but was undoubtedly hoped for, was that Arsenal had just started an amazing 18 match run in which they won 15, drew 2 and suffered just one defeat scoring 66 goals in the process (3.66 a game).  This result on its own however lifted Arsenal to a modest 7th.  28,896 were in the crowd, perhaps reflecting the fear that after one win and one defeat after the openers, this was going to be another poor start to the season.  At least poor by the standards that the fans wanted to take as normal.

Next up, on 10 September, we had Manchester City 2 Arsenal 3.  A result which took Arsenal up to 5th.   The victory was not heralded as a monumental achievement given that Man C were lying 15th before the match, but the fact that Villa drew 0-0 away to Liverpool gave a feeling that things were moving in the right direction.    What’s more the team was settled – the line up was exactly the same as for the previous game.  Jack got the first goal, Coleman the other two.

The following Wednesday, on 14 September Arsenal were away to West Brom with the result, WBA 1 Arsenal 1.   This was seen as more of a challenge to Arsenal as WBA were third in the league at the time, with a game in hand which if they had won would have taken them to the top of the league.

Compton was dropped and Parker came back in at right back.  Parker had played the first 38 games of last season before being injured.  Jack got the goal, his third of the season.  This meant that after just five games Arsenal already have three players who had scored three each.

After two away games, Arsenal returned to Highbury on 17 September and beat Bolton 3-2  Arsenal 4th.  Bolton were 10th before the game – the result took Arsenal up to 4th.  There was one change in the team as Roberts came back at centre half after four games out through injury.

On 23 September 1932 Dennis Compton, brother of Leslie who had been playing right back, signed for Arsenal as an amateur.  He had started his football career at Nunhead in 1934/5 before moving to Arsenal, where he made his début in 1936.  He also played for England in wartime matches.

The following day, 24 September, Arsenal met last season’s champions, and beat them 2-1.  The result took Arsenal up to second and left Everton, last season’s surprise package 11th in the league with three wins and three defeats.   Meanwhile Aston Villa beat Portsmouth, the early pacemakers 4-2 away.

Two days later, having had no pre-season tour, Arsenal took part in a mid-season friendly – on 26 September 1932.  This game was a debut for FR “Tiger” Hill in friendly v St Johnstone.  He had been signed on 19 May after Aberdeen had alleged that five of their players (including Hill) were involved in a betting scandal.  No charges were ever made either by the club or the authorities, although the players never played for the club again.  Chapman clearly saw an opportunity and moved quickly to signed him at the end of the season.  

The friendly was arranged to mark 50 years of football at St Johnstone’s Muirton Stadium; the result was as 0-0 draw in front of 15,000 and it was also the match in which Bobby Davidson was brought to the notice of Herbert Chapman.  He was then selected for the Scottish League team against the Irish League at Firhill a few weeks later.  Arsenal came in with a bid of £4,000 and on 1 February 1935, with the club managed by George Allinson.

On the same day as the friendly in Scotland the first contingent of the National Hunger March left Glasgow heading for London.  Meanwhile Sir Oswald Mosley was busy setting up the British Union of Fascists, for a full launch next month.

Here’s the regular table of results etc with a guide to the abbreviations below

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
03.09.32 Sunderland 9 H W6-1 7 4 28,896 41,948
10.09.32 Manchester City 15 A W3-2 5 6 36,542 24,254
14.09.32 West Brom 3 A D1-1 5 7 45,038 22,792
17.09.32 Bolton Wanderers 10 H W3-2 4 9 42,395 41,948
24.09.32 Everton 11 H W2-1 2 11 51,182 41,948
  • 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 (in the previous column) and the norm expected by the home side.  We can see that in Arsenal’s two away matches they were most certainly a sizeable draw.

Overall in the League, Villa’s fine form with no defeats thus far kept them one point ahead of Arsenal.  But Newcastle had won four and drawn two of their last six and looked likely to put in a serious challenge.

Tottenham, still in division 2, had had less of an exciting start, notably losing all four of their opening away games.  They were 16th, just two points off the relegation places currently occupied by West Ham, so recently of the 1st division, and Chesterfield.

The current series being researched and published is Arsenal in the 1930s.  Here’s the story so far



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