Arsenal in the 30s. Part 5. October 1930

By Tony Attwood

At the start of the month there was a reminder – as if one were needed – of how Britain’s economy was based on one of the most dangerous jobs there was: coal mining as on 1 October – 14 miners are killed in an explosion in the coal pit at Cannock.  It is a tragic theme we find repeated throughout the 1930s.

Back with the football Arsenal had finished September top of the league but October brought the first little slip.

There was quite an anticipation for the Sheffield United game which resulted in a particularly large crowd – not just because Arsenal were top of the league, but also because of recent results between the two teams which had led to 30 goals in five games…

07 Jan 1928 Sheffield United 6 Arsenal 4
10 Nov 1928 Arsenal 2 Sheffield United 0
23 Mar 1929 Sheffield United 2 Arsenal 2
16 Dec 1929 Sheffield United 4 Arsenal 1
12 Apr 1930 Arsenal 8 Sheffield United 1

After a defeat and four successive wins in the first five games, United had managed two wins and a defeat in the next three, and had climbed from 19th to 9th.

Arsenal remained unchanged and unbeaten, Lambert scored (of course) and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Next came the Charity Shield match on 8 October 1930: Arsenal won the Charity Shield (for first time, obviously, as they had won neither league nor cup before) beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in a match played at Stamford Bridge in front of 25,000.  The team was Keyser, Parker, Hapgood, Seddon, Roberts, Hulme, Brain, Lambert, Jack, Bastin.  Jack and Hulme got the goals.  

But there was now a recognition after the match that the next game could be quite a test for Arsenal.  Derby had been unbeaten in September, although they had drawn half their games and they were sitting third in the league.  But they had the classic results thus far showing themselves much stronger at home in the league than away.

For this game Jack dropped out and Brain came in and the fact that Derby were 3-0 up in half an hour made the adulation of Arsenal turn into criticism in a trice.  In the end a 4-2 away defeat led to the inevitable response from the press; Bastin described it as a “rumbling cheer”:  Arsenal were not as good as they wanted us to believe was the theme.  But Derby had been runners’ up the previous season while Arsenal, although Cup winners for the first time, had been 14th in the league.  As autumn approached the press suggested that we would soon find out what Arsenal were really made of.

But at least respite was at hand for the following Saturday as Arsenal were away to a Manchester Utd side which thus far had lost every single match they had played.  It was hardly a convincing score but at least Arsenal won 2-1 with goals by Hulme and Jack.

However that was to be the only win of the month, as the final game was a further draw, 1-1 with West Ham, Bastin getting the goal.

There was also great news in terms of the club’s finances.  Every one of the four games had resulted in a huge upturn in the crowd numbers measured against the home team’s average, and under the system existing at the time (in which the away team received 40% of the gate receipts – a system that remained in place until the 1980s), as visitors Arsenal were getting a very positive reputation, and a very worthwhile income.

Given that there was no sponsorship at the time, and of course no TV money, and given also that footballers’ salaries were fixed with a maximum wage, this was wonderful news for the club.

The table below shows in the last two columns which players came in after not playing the previous game, and which players dropped out during October

Date Opponent H/A Result Goals Incoming Outgoing
04.10.1930 Sheffield Utd home D 1-1 Lambert  –
11.10.1930 Derby Cty away L 2-4 Bastin, Roberts Jack Brain
18.10.1930 Man Utd away W 2-1 Williams, Lambert Williams, Brain Hulme, Jack
25.10.1930 WHU home D 1-1 Bastin

By the end of the month the goals had come from

  • Lambert 15
  • Bastin 7
  • Hulme 4
  • Jack 3
  • Johnstone 1
  • Roberts 1
  • Williams 1

The ever present players thus far were Keyser, Parker, Hapgood, Roberts, John, Lambert, Bastin.  In all 15 players had been used across the opening 12 games.

Here are the results for the month.

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
04.10.1930 Sheffield Utd 9 home D1-1 1 16  47,113  37,106
08.10.1930 Sheffield Wed C/S neutral W2-1 25,000
11.10.1930 Derby County 3 away L2-4 2 16 29,783  15,040
18.10.1930 Man Utd 22 away W2-1 1 18  23,406  11,685
25.10.1930 West Ham Utd 9 home D1-1 1 19 51,918  37,106
  • Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game
  • Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
  • AC is the average crowd for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day and and the norm expected by the home side.

What particularly aided Arsenal’s cause is that while they had a few slip ups in October (one win, two draws and a defeat) their nearest rival, Aston Villa, was also making heavy weather of the situation:

Date Aston Villa vs… venue Result Lge pos Pts
8 27.09.1930 Middlesbrough away L1-3 2 13
9 04.10.1930 Huddersfield Town home W6-1 2 15
10 11.10.1930 Sunderland away D1-1 1 16
11 18.10.1930 Birmingham City home D1-1 2 17
12 25.10.1930 Leicester City away L1-4 2 17

The 3-1 away defeat to Middlesbrough came as a surprise as before that point Villa had won six and drawn one and as the league table below shows, Villa were close to matching Arsenal both in terms of goal scoring and defensive meanness.

Manchester Utd had been mid to lower table for several years but were not quite prepared for such a start to the season, losing 12 games in a row.  Among some disastrous performances they managed, in the space of seven days in September, a 6-2 away defeat to Chelsea, a 0-6 home defeat to Huddersfield, and a 4-7 home defeat to Newcastle.

Indeed this was to be Man U’s last season in the first division for a few years, and through the decade they only managed two more seasons in the first.

Thus October ended with Arsenal still top of the league.  Up next was a match against Chapman’s old club – Huddersfield Town.   We’ll come to that in the next article which takes in November 1930.

The Arsenal in the 30s series…

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Joseph Szabo, his visit to Arsenal, and the way it changed SC Braga’s history.



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