By Tony Attwood
When the real success started for Arsenal with the FA Cup victory in 1930, football in England was dominated by a group of regular cup and league winners. The subsequent turnaround for football in general and Arsenal in particular was extraordinary.
In the post-first-world-war era before Arsenal’s first triumph in 1930, the league was won three times by Huddersfield (who also were twice runners up), twice by Liverpool and twice by Sheffield Wednesday.
In the years between 1930 and 1956 when Tom Whittaker died (and remembering of course that there was no football league between 1939 and 1946) Arsenal, the team that had previously not won either trophy, won the league seven times and the FA Cup three times.
It was a most amazing turnaround and it was brought about by four men: Herbert Chapman, Joe Shaw, George Allison and Tom Whittaker. Chapman instituted the great reforms in the disaster of a club left by Knighton, Joe Shaw provided the glue that held everything together, Allison was the great PR man who spread the word of the club and turned out to be a good manager too, and Whittaker first transformed the club’s approach to training, and to rehabilitating injured players, and later kept the machine rolling after the second world war.
And as if that is not enough to show the magnitude of what this group of four men did, consider also this. Between Tom Whittaker’s final triumph in 1953 and 1971, Arsenal won not a single FA Cup nor Championship.
An 18 year run of no trophies, after 19 years that produced 10 trophies!
Even more to the point, between April 1933 and November 1948 England played 58 full internationals. Every single one of them had at least one Arsenal player in the team. On 14 November 1934 seven members of the England XI against Italy were Arsenal men.
Here’s another stat. Against Bristol Rovers in third round of the cup in 1936, ten of the Arsenal XI were internationals – the fist time ever for any league club.
And all this from a club that had been going nowhere except back to the second division. For let us not forget that in 1925 Arsenal ended the season just one place above relegation.
The full story of the Whittaker years, including his time as a player, a coach and a manager, is told in the forthcoming Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn booklet – part six of our annual series of publications tracing Arsenal’s history from 1886 onwards. There are details of AISA here.
Tom Whittaker: The End of the Dynasty will be published in August.
Meanwhile here are today’s anniversaries…
- 8 June 1899: Duncan McNichol signed from Scottish junior club St Bernards. He became a regular at full back and played in the record breaking 12-0 victory over Loughboro
- 8 June 1905: Jimmy Sharp signed for Woolwich Arsenal from Fulham, then of the Southern League. He had won a runners-up medal with Dundee, and Scottish caps before moving on to play for Arsenal.
- 8 June 1910: Henry Norris, Arsenal’s new owner, told manager George Morrell that his job was safe despite missing relegation by just one place and two points in the season just finished.
- 8 June 1914: Frank Bradshaw signed from Everton. In 1907, he played in Wednesday’s FA Cup winning team and got an England cap before moving to Northampton, and then Everton for whom he played 66 times.
- 8 June 1925: The Football League voted to change the offside rule to two men behind the ball rather than three, leading to Chapman’s variant “WM” formation in his first year at Arsenal. The tactic helped Arsenal come second in 1925/6
- 8 June 1936: Arsenal fined £250 for fielding weakened teams in order to protect their FA Cup squad (which won the cup the previous April).
- 8 June 1954: Lionel Smith sold to Watford. Although a regular in the title winning 1952/3 team he only played ten games in 1953/4 and left on a free transfer, having played 162 games. He played just seven times for Watford before moving onto Gravesend.
- 8 June 1982: Tony Woodcock signed from Cologne. He had been in Germany for three seasons, scoring 28 goals in 81 games.
- 8 June 1995: Bruce Rioch appointed manager of Arsenal from Bolton. In 1994/5 Bolton were losing League Cup finalists, and beat Reading in the Division One play off. It is said Bolton supporters think of him as one of their best managers.
- 8 June 2010: Philippe Senderos joined Fulham from Arsenal on a free. He played 57 times for them before moving on to Valencia and then in 2014, Aston Villa.
- 8 June 2011: Carl Jenkinson signed for £1m. He showed great promise and was loaned to West Ham for 2014/15 where he became a regular with the side.
There is an index to all the anniversaries and to some of the other series on this site on the home page of the Arsenal History Society