Arsenal in the summer: 1933 – champions and water shortages

By Tony Attwood

This is part of an occasional series in which we look at what happened between the end of one season and the start of the next.  Around 50 seasons have been covered so far, and more are added from time to time.

1914 and 1938 – both dates on the eve of a world war, and both times Arsenal played a pre-season friendly.  Both matches were against Tottenham, both were the only pre-season friendly that is recorded in each of those pre-seasons.  And curiously there are no other pre-season friendlies recorded at all between 22 August 1914 and 20 August 1938.

For the record the results were

  • 22 August 1914: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 5.  Attendance: 13,564.
  • 20 August 1938: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 2.  Attendance: 41,997

The first of these two games was of particular note because it marked the resumption of positive relationships between the two clubs following the sometimes difficult debates concerning Arsenal’s move to north London 1913, which Tottenham had objected to, but on which they were overruled by the League and the FA.

So each time I write about Arsenal in the summer between those two dates I find myself repeating the mantra – there were no pre-season games. Yet I was told by my father, an avid supporter, that a pre-season game between the first team and reserves, open to the public and played at Highbury, was the norm.  And yet as can be noted, I have no record of such games.  Maybe they just never made the record books or maybe they started after the second world war.

As recorded in the articles concerning 1933, there was one friendly just before the end of the season – against Cliftonville on 3 May.  Arsenal had already won the league and had one league match left to play.   I imagine this was organised after Arsenal had secured the league title in the away match at Chelsea as I can’t believe Chapman would have added an extra match before the final game of the season if the title was still up for grabs.   But the championship was settled, and Arsenal put out a strong team and won 4-0.

The day before this there was one item that will ring a bell for many today – for 2 May 1933 saw the first modern day report of the Loch Ness Monster.  It has been “seen” many times since.

But that was the one bit of lightheartedness in an otherwise awful situation as the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald returned to Britain after talking with President Roosevelt about the catastrophic global economic situation.   Meanwhile the Irish Free State, Dáil Éireann, abolished the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown – an act which as it turned out allowed Ireland to be neutral in the second world war.

For those going to and from football matches in London there was a hope of some improvement in what was often a patchy bus, tram and tube service, as the London Passenger Transport Board (“London Transport”) announced it would begin operating as the unified supplier of transport in the capital – replacing multiple individual services on 1 July.

There was even hope of a more consistent more widespread electricity supply as Battersea Power Station started up on 26 July.

Back with football, slowly the FA were recognising that the best players in the land were at Arsenal as on 13 May 1933 Eddie Hapgood made his international début.  In all he played 30 times for England.  (See also here).    However on 25 May 1933 Charlie Jones played last game for Wales in a 1-1 draw with France.  He played for his country four times in all and played one more season for Arsenal before retiring and becoming manager of Notts County.

There was one transfer to Arsenal at the end of the season as on 27 May 1933 Alex Wilson was purchased from Greenock Morton for £600. He made his league debut the following January for Arsenal and went on to play 89 league and cup games for the club.

The other major topic of the moment was the weather:  June was sunny and rather warm, but then suddenly in July the temperatures went right up, and although June had had above average rainfall it was not enough to ease a growing water shortage.  July and August’s weather resulted in severe water shortages and a declaration of drought across southern Britain.

Back with the football, on 3 July 1933 Horace Cope was sold to Bristol Rovers for £1500, having been signed by Chapman, and having played 65 games for Arsenal.  Rovers was his final club, and sadly we know nothing more of him after that, save for the fact that he died on 4 October 1961

Thus it was that in very high temperatures on a bone hard pitch on 26 August 1933, Arsenal started as Champions for the second time.  Having wiped all before them in April to win the title with games in hand, Arsenal, as the year before, opened tentatively, with a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham with David Jack scoring.  Indeed it got worse as Arsenal only won two of the first seven.

The full story of the season will be told in the coming episodes of Arsenal in the 30s.  The full index to that series can be found on the home page of the site.

But before that, the next article will be on David Herd, the first of a trio of Arsenal star number 9s to be lured to Old Trafford.


Here are the other articles so far relating to Arsenal in the summer – the tales from the Pre-Season files. 


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