by Tony Attwood
We left Arsenal in our last article (The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth), finishing October with five wins, two draws and two defeats in their opening nine games – the best start to a season since 1906. The table looked like this…
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Henry Norris of course was concerned not only to get results on the pitch, but in most regards he had two more important and more urgent needs: first to get crowds through the gate and second to sell shares in the club which he effectively now owned.
Both were going well – and certainly the target of a crowd average of 20,000 was being easily exceeded. Such success encouraged the sale of shares.
Meanwhile on 1 November 1913 the recently recruited Jock Rutherford made his league debut in a 3-2 win in which he scored twice. But it was not a moment of great joy, because in this match Arsenal lost Angus McKinnon to injury and he did not come back as a regular player until well into the new year. His importance to the club can be seen from his statistics: he played 217 league games for the club, and immediately Arsenal’s results went into decline, and they won just two of the next six.
On 7 November 1913 Hugh McDonald was sold to Fulham – and it would be interesting to know how the discussions were handled, what with Henry Norris being a director of both clubs at the time (something which as we have noticed the rules did not prohibit, and indeed Norris was not the only man to be a director of two clubs, just as many people are today, directors of competing limited companies). McDonald tragically later suffered from the effects of poison gas in the war, and after being a publican in the post-war period died from the after-effects of the gas in 1920.
But if all that was amicable, matters the following day were less so as the result was Fulham 6 Arsenal 1. It was the final game for Matthew Thomson in what was easily Arsenal’s worst defeat in the season – indeed it was more akin to results from the previous season. It was also the largest away crowd of the season for Arsenal – 35,000.
Fulham, as the league table above shows, were not doing too badly, but had won just one of their last four games and indeed lost the last match 4-0 to top of the table Notts County who had just lost to fourth placed Bradford PA. They also lost their next match 3-0 to Leicester Fosse.
Just three days after the horrendous defeat to Fulham, Arsenal had to take on another London club: their near neighbours Tottenham Hotspur on 10 November.
Tottenham had made a reasonable start to the season and were sitting in 7th position in the first division:
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This game was in the London Football Association Charity Cup (LFACC) in which Arsenal had already knocked out QPR and Chelsea, but this time they went out with a 1-2 away defeat on. Both clubs deploying their first team line ups. It must have given Tottenham fans some pleasure, but only 8,000 turned up.
After two successive defeats to London teams it was probably a relief to get out of the city, and this the club did on 15 November as Arsenal were able to recover in the less excited atmosphere of Grimsby’s ground where the clubs played out a 1-1 draw.
The following weekend saw the last senior game for Roddy McEachrane. He ended his career with a 1-0 home win at Highbury against Birmingham in front of 25,000 – the crowd number showing that the 6-1 had been treated as a blip all round. Both his first and last games were Division II games, but in between he played in the promotion season that took Arsenal to Division I for the first time, and the two cup semi-finals against The Wednesday and Newcastle.
It is interesting to note just how many changes were afoot in the playing personnel at this time, now that the crowds had materialised as Henry Norris had hoped. The next match on 22 November turned out to be the last senior game for Joseph Fidler as Arsenal beat Birmingham 1-0 – with another 25,000 crowd in the ground. He went on to play for Port Vale into the 1914/15 season and then served his country in the Middlesex Regiment.
The final league match of the month on 29 November had yet another memorable personnel event – the first appearance for Robert Benson. He had played 19 times for Southampton before leaving to move to Sheffield United (then in the First Division) for a fee once again of £150 and played for them 283 times before joining Arsenal. With McKinnon normally in the side Benson was viewed as a suitable backup.
There were two more league matches in November, a 1-0 home win over Birmingham City and a 1-1 away draw with Bristol City. These results meant that after the horrific defeat to Fulham, Arsenal had drawn two and won one game, scoring three conceding two. It was hardly exciting, but as an activity in steadying the defence after conceding six against Fulham, it was clearly working.
Arsenal had slipped in the league, but they were performing steadily and that was what was wanted. Notts County were three points ahead but even with just two points for a win, Arsenal were one of a number of teams feeling they were in with a chance, not least because County had already played two games more.
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The Henry Norris Files
Section 1 – 1910.
- Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.
- Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere
- Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens
- Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.
- Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.
- Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years
- Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season
- Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.
Section 2 – 1911
Section 3 – 1912
- 11: 1912 and Arsenal plan to move away from Plumstead
- 12: How Henry Norris chose Highbury as Arsenal’s new ground
- 13: Amid protests from the locals Arsenal’s future is secured
- 14: Arsenal relegated amidst allegations of match fixing
Section 4 – 1913