On 22 January 1910 Arsenal won a league match (a rarity in itself in a rotten season), but events elsewhere overshadowed the win.
However I have a real feeling that very few people actually realised just how desperate things were that weekend – and indeed if one didn’t go to either of the meetings on the day, one would have lived in ignorance save for a small article that appeared in the Chronicle on 24th January.
The first meeting, before the game, was for shareholders, and revealed the fact that the club was about to go bust. The second meeting, after the game, was open to everyone, and aimed to set up a Fund Raising Committee to try and save the club. You can read an extract from Jacko Jones’ diary for the day on the Making the Arsenal web site to see what the meetings (and indeed the game in between) were like.
The first real twist in the affair, however, did not occur until that monday, following the appearance of the report. On Monday, 24th January, Henry Norris used the new fangled communication device – the telephone – to call the Daily Chornicle and ask to talk to the journalist who had written up the details of the two meetings the previous saturday. And that was the start of the grand adventure that leads inevitably to Highbury.
In his diary Jones recalls how he had had a particularly heavy night, on Sunday (there were no licensing laws in 1910 and pubs were open whenever and however they wanted to be), and he was not in any fit state to meet with a man of the eminence of Norris – the owner of second division Fulham FC.
In fact Norris didn’t have that much to tell Jones – save the fact that he was concerned about the demise of London’s senior club (meaning, the first professional club in the south).
It was clear that what Norris wanted was to try and get further information out of Jones, but in this he failed, for even in his hungover state, Jacko was unlikely to give away information that could make a good article.
Norris did however reveal how bitter he was about Chelsea – the club that in 1905 had entered the football league without having ever played a game. Indeed they had not even got a team. At that moment Chelsea literally had no history. All they had was a very hastily built ground, which as Jacko notes later in his diary, was already crumbling badly.
But it was enough of a ground to cause problems to Fulham, because it soaked away support from the neighbouring team – and of course 100 years ago money through the gate was the only income the clubs had.
But Norris’ interest in Woolwich Arsenal was there, right from the first moment that it was clear that Arsenal was in trouble – and he kept up that interest for the rest of his life in football.
You can read more about the book, Making the Arsenal, by clicking here. You can also order it direct from the publisher, or via Amazon.co.uk `
Tony Attwood 2010.
For details of Arsenal’s world today, please visit UNTOLD ARSENAL
Today’s topic: the towel.