The Decline and Fall of Woolwich Arsenal FC

Until the point we have covered so far in this FA Cup review, Woolwich Arsenal had been in a period of modest but steady growth.  From a seemingly endless period of hardly being able to crawl out of the preliminary rounds through a period of messing around in the first round or two of the competition proper, Woolwich Arsenal had moved on to 7th in the league and two semi-finals.

League position Lost in the cup to… Lost in round…
1906/7 7 The Wednesday Semi-final
1907/8 15 Hull City 1
1908/9 6 Millwall 2
1909/10 18 Everton 2
1910/11 10 Swindon Town 2
1911/12 10 Bolton Wanderers 1
1912/13 20 Liverpool 2

But looked what happened.   And this wasn’t just a bad run – this was, I am certain, the reason for the financial collapse that led to the events in 1910 so wonderfully described in that magnificent volume, “Making the Arsenal”  (OK I am mucking about, but even history can have a bit of being silly.  My view is that the classic view that Arsenal went bust because they did not have a natural audience, is at best only partially true.  In this period the armaments factory was in retreat: the Boer War was long over and the first world war was nothing more than a thought that we might have a bash at Germany at some time.  The torpedo factory went to the Clyde in 1910 and other changes were made too.   But much more important, I think Arsenal were spending according to the success of the 1905-7 period, and were completely unprepared for the collapse on the field that followed.


1st round.  Jan 11th.  Hull City (home).  Drew 0-0  Crowd 15,000

So having gone to the fisheries of Grimsby we were off to Hull.  Hull started out in 1904, from the start facing the competition of two major rugby clubs.  they joined the second division in 1905-6 and they came fifth in their first season – staying a respectable mid to upper part of the table in these early years.  They were  8th this season – the season in which Tottenham won notoriety by being elected to the second division having just come a very ordinary seventh in the Southern League this year.

1st round.  Jan 16th.  Hull City (away).  Lost 1-4  Crowd 17,000

Villa knocked out Hull in the second round, and Manchester United knocked out Villa in the third and they in turn were knocked out by Fulham in the fourth.   In fact it was a fairly miserable January including a 5-2 defeat at Sunderland, and a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City.  February carried on in this vein, with Liverpool Woolwich Arsenal 1 concluding the run on February 15th.

In the semi finals, Newcastle beat Fulham 6-0 and Wolverhampton of the second division beat Southampton of the Southern League 2-0.  In the final Wolverhampton Wanderers played Newcastle United at Crystal Palace as usual. Newcastle were still the team of the moment, having won the league two years running (they came fourth this year and won it the following season) and having been in three cup finals in four years.  After losing their previous run of cup finals it seemed certain that Newcastle would win this time, but they lost 3–1.   No royalty at the cup final in those days but they did dig up The Lord Mayor of London to hand over the cup.

“Making the Arsenal” – the story of Arsenal in 1910

Arsenal History Index

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