Arsenal in October 1932: The ride to the stars

By Tony Attwood

By the end of September the League was starting to take shape, Arsenal having had four wins and a draw in the last five.  Only unbeaten Villa looked to be a challenge at this stage.

Arsenal started the month with an away game with Blackpool who were lying 20th, with just two wins so far – both at home. and the worst defensive record in the league having conceded 20 in the first seven games.  An Arsenal win was expected, and duly arrived: 2-1.  Frank Moss missed the game and was replaced in goal by Preedy who had a runs of ten or so games in each of the previous two seasons.  Roberts was back at centre half after missing five games, replacing Haynes and Parker continued at right back.

Bastin and Coleman got the goals, which meant Coleman had now played six and scored six, including a goal in each of the last three.  There was talk of another challenge on Jack’s nine consecutive games in which he scored last season.

Villa beat Chelsea 3-1 to retain their position at the top, while Newcastle the third place challengers  suffered a surprise 0-4 home defeat to Huddersfield.  The results left Derby in third position – and indeed next up on 8 October 1932 Arsenal played Derby County drawing 3-3.  

It was notable as the final appearance of Tom Parker – the club’s first trophy winning captain.  Tom had joined Southampton after the war and played 246 games for them, before moving to Arsenal as one of Chapman’s first signings in 1926. This was his 258th and last league game (scoring 17 goals).  

Having played 38 games the previous season, and 41 in the championship winning season the notion of him not being in the team was a shock, but he was now 34, and Chapman was never a sentimentalist when it came to team selection.   At the end of the last season and the start of this, Leslie Compton had been tried out, but it was now George Male who had come up through the ranks (joining in 1929) playing occasional games at right half, left half over the last couple of years, who stepped up.  

Male went on to spend half his life with Arsenal, a life of football which also included two spells managing Norwich (leading them to league victory in 1933/4), and another period with Southampton.

In the game Coleman continued his run of scoring, getting two of the goals, Hulme getting the other.  So that was eight goals in seven and four consecutive matches in which Coleman had scored.  But with Villa drawing 0-0 away to Huddersfield, the results meant the top three stayed the same with Huddersfield one point behind in fourth.

The third match of the month was an away fixture with Blackburn who were 17th having won only one home match thus far.  But the chopping and changing of the team carried on, this time Jones, who had come in at right half after the first two games, making way for Frank Hill for his debut following his transfer from Aberdeen the previous May.

“Tiger” Hill went on to hold the position as his own through the rest of the season, except for a period out through injury, ending up with 26 league appearances.

Thus 15 October 1932 was also George Male’s first appearance as a right back v Blackburn.  The story is that Male didn’t believe he could play right back but a chat with Chapman convinced him he “was the best right back in the country”.  It turned out to be true.

In the 3-2 win Bastin, Jack and … Coleman got the goals.  Coleman had now played eight games and scored in seven of them.  Aston Villa beat Sheffield Utd 3-0, but Huddersfield could only draw, and the feeling grew that as two years ago, this was going to be a Villa vs Arsenal season.

League match 11 was an away match with Liverpool who were sitting mid table with two wins, two defeats and a draw thus far.  The result was another 3-2 win, and another goal for Coleman; Bastin getting the other two.  Aston Villa won the Birmingham derby match to keep up their position, although Huddersfield’s 0-3 home defeat to Blackburn suggested their short challenge was over.

And still the team changes continued.  After two years in which it seemed Chapman could put out the same team week on week, now Roberts was out through injury and Haynes replaced him for his fifth game of the season.

At this point there was a pause as on 26 October, a day on which international matches were played (Alex James playing his final international of eight appearances for Scotland – scoring four goals for his country in those games) Arsenal played Islington Corinthians – a team that had been formed earlier in the year to raise money for local charities.

This was not the only time Islington Corinthians played at Highbury for they also played later in the London Professional Mid Week League in which Arsenal also took part.   

Also in 1936 the Islington Corinthians played the Chinese Olympic team in a friendly at Highbury which itself was the precursor to a tour which took the Corinthians to the  Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt, India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore,Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Japan, Hawaii, the United States and Canada during 1937/8.  The team at times included Bernard Joy, who also played for Arsenal.

Arsenal played most of their first team for this game, except that Parkin came in for Hill, Arsenal running out as winners by 9-2.  The goals were from John, Hulme, Jack, Bastin and the remaining five from Coleman.    9,493 turned up with all the money going to the Corinthians charities.

Away from football however life in England was most certainly not running smoothly as the hunger marchers began to arrive in London, and there was considerable unrest on the streets.

Football was of course seen as a great distraction from clashes between police and protesters, and the papers were clearly ordered to cover the games not the civil unrest, and in this regard Arsenal duly obliged with the final league match of the month then followed – as did the goal scoring spree, as Arsenal beat Leicester City 8-2 at Highbury on 29 October, and for the first time hit the top of the league.  Leicester were 20th having won only once so far in the season, having conceded 26.   Arsenal were scoring as regularly as Villa (Arsenal having knocked in 28 against Villa’s 25 before this match) but Villa had a far superior goal difference due to a much tighter defence.

And it all went absolutely Arsenal’s way, for while Highbury had its goal fest Villa went down 3-1 away to West Bromwich Albion.  For the first time in the season Arsenal hit the top of the league having gone ten without defeat in the league, eight of those games being victories.

This time there was only one change in the team – Roberts was back at centre half. Hulme 3, Bastin 2, Coleman 2, Jack got the goals in front of 36714.   Indeed it turned out to be quite a day for high scores in the first division as Sunderland also beat Bolton 7-4.

Although this was the end of the league action for the month it was not quite the end of the football for Arsenal, for having played Corinthians in the previous mid-week, Arsenal now flew to Paris for the first of two Armistice Day commemorative matches against Racing club de Paris on 31 October 1932.  It finished Racing club de Paris 2 Arsenal 5.  Haynes replaced Roberts and Parkin replaced John, while Lambert replaced Coleman, but otherwise it was the same team that had just beaten Leicester.   Four goals from Cliff Bastin and (of course) one from Lambert, completed the scoring in front of a crowd of 30,000.

Here’s the regular table of results etc with a guide to the abbreviations below

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
01.10.32 Blackpool 20 A W2-1 2 13 30,218 16,324
08.10.32 Derby County 3 H D3-3 2 14 32,055 41,948
15.10.32 Blackburn Rovers 17 A W3-2 2 16 28,799 12,944
22.10.32 Liverpool 12 A W3-2 2 18 38,548 23,382
26.10.32 Islington Corinthians H W9-2 9,493
29.10.32 Leicester City 20 H W8-2 1 20 36,714 41,948
31.10.32 Racing Club de Paris A W5-2 20,000
  • 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 (in the previous column) and the norm expected by the home side.

As we can see Arsenal were under-achieving this month in terms of home crowds – possibly due in part to the social situation in the capital mentioned above.  But other clubs were responding to the awareness of what Arsenal had become, all three away teams far exceeding their normal gate, and Blackburn more than doubling their average home crowd, Blackpool nearly so.

The league table at the end of the month looked like this…

Finally a word about Tottenham.  Having only managed two wins in the first eight games their form now improved with four wins and a draw in October, a run which saw them go 12 games undefeated in Division 2, scoring 23 goals in five games.  Having started the month in 16th they concluded October in fourth.   Their crowds were starting to rise too.  Not to Arsenal’s level of course, for Arsenal were the best supported club in the land, but they certainly started getting bigger crowds.

 The story so far





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