By Tony Attwood
Woolwich Arsenal entered the final month of their first season north of the river still entertaining hopes of promotion – something which was quite remarkable given the difficulties that had to be overcome in moving to Highbury, and in rebuilding the team’s morale after the disasterous relegation season of 1912/13.
At the start of the month Arsenal had seven games to fit in, in just 21 days, with the league table looking like this:
|2||Bradford Park Avenue||32||19||2||11||58||44||1.318||40|
In essence Arsenal simply had to match Bradford PA’s and then improve on their goal difference – or win their game in hand.
Following the collapse of the wall at Highbury noted in the previous article the ground had been shut but on 2 April 1914 Gillespie Road stadium re-opened for the game Arsenal Reserves v Fulham Reserves after repairs to the leaning wall were declared complete.
4 April 1914 saw Arsenal play Bristol City at Highbury. It was the last game for George Jobey the man who scored the first Arsenal goal at Highbury. It was a 1-1 draw with and Jobey went on to play with Bradford for the final season before football was suspended. There was some relief as the evening papers brought in the scoreline Bury 0 Brandford PA. Both clubs were on 41 points.
6 April 1914: The Islington Gazette reported (not completely accurately) that “Woolwich Arsenal” had become “The Arsenal”. In fact the club changed its name to The Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited between 20 and 23 April, and the Board of Directors publicly changed its name on 23 April, but the board did not formally approve the change until 10 May 1915.
Moving away from football for a moment, on 9 April the first colour feature film was shown in Britain: “the World, the Flesh and the Devil.” It was not quite as gory as the title suggests, dealing as it did with a botched attempt to switch children immediately after they were born.
The following day, Good Friday, Arsenal were away to Stockport – a resolutely mid-table team, and lost 0-2. Worse, Bradford PA beat bottom of the table Nottingham Forest 4-0. Arsenal were on 41 points still, Bradford now on 43.
As with Christmas, football was played throughout the Easter period, and on Easter Saturday on 11 April 1914 Arsenal had another draw this time away to Leeds City – it ended goalless as Henry Norris met Leeds’ manager Herbert Chapman for the second time. But the gloom deepended as the news came in that Bradford PA had beaten Huddersfield 2-1. Arsenal had 42 points, Bradford 45.
The final Easter match was on Easter Monday, as Arsenal at last got a win – 4-0 over Stockport. And wouldn’t you know it, Bradford lost 1-0 to of all teams, Nottingham Forest. Arsenal went up to 44 points, Bradford of course were still on 45.
In its edition of Tuesday 14 April the Times reported Arsenal’s official change of name; behind the Islington Gazette, but ahead of the official change over.
Meanwhile away from the football, the suffragette movement continued its agitation as on 17 April members of the suffragettes undertook an arson attack on the pier at Great Yarmouth.
Then on 18 April Arsenal faced their second London derby since moving north, and this time it was with their local neighbours – Clapton Orient, the game ending 2-2 in front of 35,000 the biggest crowd thus far at Highbury. It was also (despite earlier press reports to the contrary) the very last game of Woolwich Arsenal – the club that had played its first match on 2 September 1893.
The team for this momentous match was
The crowd was also the largest crowd of the day. Up to five minutes before the final whistle Arsenal were 2-0 up and had had a third goal disallowed on the grounds that the whole of the ball had not crossed the line, when suddenly out of nowhere Orient scored. Arsenal were suddenly nervous, Orient rushed forward and immediately got a second.
Bradford were away to Lincoln and won 3-0, giving them 47 points to Arsenal’s 45.
And so Woolwich Arsenal ended their official life exactly as they had started, with a 2-2 draw. The game was followed two days later by a friendly at Highbury against Chelsea – a benefit match for CH Lewis, technically the first match for The Arsenal.
The next game was on Thursday 23 April at home to Grimsby Town. A win would put Arsenal equal on points with Bradford, meaning there was everything to play for in the final game.
For this game members of Islington Trades Council were invited to Highbury by Hall to see the game (which Arsenal won 2-0) and then discuss (of all strange things) the problems the club had been having printing its programmes. Quite why the local council were involved I am not sure, but maybe Arsenal had promised the local council that they would bring work to the borough, not least through the printing of the programmes locally.
As noted above this was the first game under the name The Arsenal, although the League had not formally approved the name change as yet. The board had accepted the special resolution to officially change the name but the name was not formally changed on 10 May 1915.
On 25 April Arsenal were away to Glossop for the final League match, but only 4,000 attended to see Arsenal win 2-0. If Bradford drew or lost Arsenal would be promoted, but if Bradford won, then they would go up, on goal difference. And win they did beating Blackpool 4-1.
Thereafter there was one more game: a friendly against Norwich. As for Arsenal, they would have to play another season in the second division, but by the time the season had started, the world had changed.
Here is the list of games this month.
|04 Apr||Bristol City||H||D||1-1||12,000||Division Two|
|10 Apr||Stockport County||A||L||2-0||15,000||Division Two|
|11 Apr||Leeds City||A||D||0-0||22,000||Division Two|
|13 Apr||Stockport County||H||W||4-0||18,000||Division Two|
|18 Apr||Leyton Orient||H||D||2-2||35,000||Division Two|
|20 April||Chelsea||H||Benefit match|
|23 Apr||Grimsby Town||H||W||2-0||25,000||Division Two|
|25 Apr||Glossop North End||A||W||0-2||4,000||Division Two|
|30 Apr||Norwich City||A||W||0-3||6683||Norwich Hospital Cup|
|2||Bradford Park Avenue||38||23||3||12||71||47||1.511||49|
|17||Glossop North End||38||11||6||21||51||67||0.761||28|
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
- How Henry Norris secured Highbury for Arsenal in 1913.
- Norris at the Arsenal: 1913 and the opening weeks at Highbury
- When Highbury opened, and “Victoria Concordia Crescit” was introduced
- The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth and Arsenal’s games in October 1913.
- The rebirth of Arsenal after the move to Highbury: November 1913.
- December 1913, the alleged redcurrent shirts, and Chapman comes to Highbury for the first time
Section 5 – 1914