by Tony Attwood
It sounds exceedingly odd I know but it is quite true. Arsenal once played Liverpool in Hornsey.
The occasion was 25 February 1895, and the match was a friendly and it really as played on the ground of Crouch End FC in Hornsey. Better still the Crouch End club is still going today under the name Crouch End Vampires, a name they adopted two years after this match.
Let’s start with the issue of why Arsenal were playing in Crouch End. As recorded elsewhere on this site, the cause was crowd trouble at the game against Burton Wanderers on 26 January 1895. The club eventually accepted a punishment of having the ground closed for six weeks, and until now we’ve recorded just two league games as being moved elsewhere.
What I had forgotten was the friendly schedule, and these games, already arranged would have gone ahead, not least to keep Arsenal’s income stream flowing. One such was this match against Liverpool.
My first sighting of this game came via the excellent Arsenal on this Day web site which carries two newspaper reports of the game – one looking very much like a cut down version of the other. Seems that journalists cheated back in the 1890s just as they do today.
The report says that Crouch End FC placed their ground at the disposal of Woolwich Arsenal for the match, and the offer was accepted. The report continues:
A late start was made and about one thousand spectators witnessed the game. The turf was in such a wretched state that accurate play was almost out of the quetion. Liverpool played down hill at first and scored two goals through Kerr and Ross to one kick by O’Brian. The Arsenal scored three times in the first fifteen minutes after changing ends, O’Brian and Buchanan doing the needful, one goal coming from a penalty kick. Bradshaw put on another for Liverpool but the Arsenal won by four to three.
The only other friendly game that could have been affected by the ban on the use of the Manor Ground was against Gainsborough Trinity on 16 March 1895, but at the moment I can’t trace the location of that game. Other friendlies were played away, and the records are quite clear that the only two league matches affected by the ban were, as we have reported here before…
- February 23 1895: Arsenal v Burton Swifts (won 3-0) 5.000. Played at New Brompton
- March 9 1895: Arsenal v Leicester Fosse (drew 3-3) 3,000. Played at Leyton.
So what of Crouch End FC and their transmutation into Crouch End Vampires?
It so happens that a leading light in the club is fellow AISA member Andrew Copeland, whose documentation of Crouch End Vampires is an absolute model that every non-league club should follow. If only they did it would make my job so much easier!
The web site of the Vampires
tells us that Crouch End Vampires is an FA Charter Standard amateur football club based in Muswell Hill, London N10. With 7 open age men’s teams and a Veterans’ team (over 40s) playing every Saturday afternoon from September until May, “the Vamps” is set up to accommodate all comers, be they budding internationals or players with two-left feet.
But then here’s something…
“One of the highlights of the Vamps’ calendar is the annual trip to Antwerp to play in the Easter Tournament hosted by KFC Rood Wit Wilrijk. The first sortie across the channel was way back in the 1960s but the reception was so grand and the friendships made so enduring that Vampires have been flocking back ever since. Rood Wit (Red White in Flemish) visit the Vamps in return each summer.”
Now if you are a regular reader of Untold Arsenal, you will know that our deputy editor and leading contributor is Walter Broeckx who is also chair of Arsenal Belgium supporters club and who lives in a most beautiful village just outside Antwerp. Coincidence or what?
The Crouch End Football Club was founded at least as early as 1883 – that is at least three years before Dial Square, which became Royal Arsenal in 1887, and there is some suspicion it may have been earlier.
The club played its home fixtures in front of sizeable crowds – some rumoured to stretch into four figures – on the Crouch End Playing Fields. This area of land is now occupied by the North London, Highate and Crouch End cricket clubs in Park Road, Crouch End.
Like most clubs of its era, Crouch End engaged in friendlies and was invited to join the Southern Football League which Royal Arsenal proposed in 1891. The League did not happen, as several of the clubs that had opted to take part then pulled out, but Crouch end played friendlies against Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall Athletic and Queen’s Park Rangers.
In 1896 Crouch End became founder members of the London League – a league that Woolwich Arsenal later joined. For reasons that are not completely clear Crouch End merged with the Vampires Football Club based in Norbury to form Crouch End Vampires which is the club still with us today. At this time the club was still playing its matches in Crouch End, possibly in the grounds of Alexandra Palace, roughly where the current Alexandra Park F.C. is situated, with changing facilities and hospitality offered at the Railway Tavern pub on the corner of Nightingale Lane, near to Hornsey railway station.
So there we are. Woolwich Arsenal v Liverpool at the ground of Crouch End – now Crouch End Vampires.
I really am grateful to Crouch End Vampires for their extraordinarily good web site – and believe me I have spent so many hours on the web sites of other clubs that Woolwich Arsenal played, trying to piece together their history, this one is a joy to behold.
Again my sincere thanks to Andrew Copeland of the Vampires.