Arsenal in the 30s: August & September 1934. Allison as manager

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal opened their season as successive champions, and George Allison opened his managerial career, with an away game against Portsmouth on 25 August.  The team was


Male Roberts John

Hill Copping

Hulme Bowden Drake James Bastin

Arsenal had only won one of the last three openers, and the trend continued with a 3-3 draw in front of 37,910.  Bowden, Drake and Bastin got the goals.  Arsenal were 3-2 ahead at half time, which suggested Mr Allison needed to hone his half time pep talk skills.

This was Wilf Copping’s first game and although this wasn’t the opening win Allison would have hoped for the performance suggested that Arsenal might well have just built themselves another league winning team.

Elsewhere, the result that raised eyebrows was Sunderland 4 Huddersfield 1.  It suggested that Huddersfield, last season’s runners’ up might need to do some sorting out if they were once again going to be Arsenal’s main challengers once.  Derby who beat Chelsea 3-0 were top of the league at the end of August… after one game.

On Monday 27 August there was a suggestion that this might be another high scoring season with the result Stoke City 8 Leeds United 1, while Tottenham who had challenged for a while last season lost at home to Preston 1-2.

As for Arsenal, for their second game, on 1 September, they were at home to Liverpool who had finished last season in 18th but who had comfortably beaten Blackburn 2-0 in their opening game of this season.  However on Wednesday 29th Liverpool had lost away 3-1 to Man City and had not looked at all secure.

Allison made three changes for this second game.  Hapgood who had been injured for the first game returned to his normal position at left back while the second of the summer big name signings, Jack Crayston made his debut coming in at number 4 replacing Hill.  Beasley came in at outside right replacing Hulme.

This match on 1 September 1934 was of course the first home match for George Allison.  At half time it all seemed quite satisfactory at 2-0, which didn’t prepare any of the 54,062 crowd for the final score which was Arsenal 8 Liverpool 1.  Ted Drake and Ray Bowden each scored hattricks Bastin and Crayston got the other two.   Amazingly it wasn’t Arsenal’s biggest win of the season!

Next up on 5 September it was Blackburn, again at home.   After only playing two games before meeting Arsenal they were bottom of the league, having lost the aforementioned opener to Liverpool and drawn with Leeds.

Once again Arsenal were 2-0 up at half time, but this time only managed two more in the second half to win 4-0.  Drake got another two, Bowden and Bastin the others.  It meant that in three games Arsenal had scored 15 goals including six for Drake, and five for Bowden.  Bastin was probably feeling rather left out of things just having got just two.

On the same day Derby beat Huddersfield 4-1 to confirm, if confirmation were needed, that Huddersfield were certainly not the team that they had been last season.

Away from the football, but destined to be closely linked to the game in years to come, on 6 September the BBC’s most powerful long-wave transmitter, Droitwich Transmitting Station, started transmitting at 200 kilohertz (1500m).  This transmitter took over the National Programme on which Saturday afternoon football commentaries were broadcast – and which until this season had often featured George Allison as commentator.  (As mentioned before Herbert Chapman had eventually banned the BBC – and its commentator George Allison – from the ground and so Arsenal were only heard of in away games).

On 8 September Arsenal were away to Leeds who had already suffered two defeats, and gained a draw and one win.   The game ended 1-1 with Drake getting the goal.   The result left the league with a top four of  Sunderland, Sheffield W, Preston  and Arsenal.

Overall, as can be seen from the reports so far, this was a busy month, with Arsenal having seven league games in 30 days.   But despite this Arsenal also played two friendlies – the first of which was the annual game set up by Herbert Chapman, against Rangers.

The Rangers game on 12 September was the third in the series and the 1-1 draw was an improvement, for the previous two friendlies had been lost by Arsenal.  The team was pretty much the first team but with Sidey, Marshall, Dunne and Dougall (all of whom made appearances in the league during the season) getting an outing.  Bastin got the goal in front of 53,000, showing just how intrigued the fans had become with such games.

On 15 September Arsenal were back playing in the league – this time against West Brom who in the previous five games had gained three wins, one draw and one defeat.  The result was a 4-3 win to Arsenal, and with Sheffield Wednesday losing and Preston and Sunderland both drawing the win helped Arsenal edge up the table.

For the third league match running the team was the same and for the fifth match running (which is to say, in all five league games played thus far) Drake scored.  Bowden, James and Bastin got the other goals.

Next came the match on 17 September away to Blackburn, the only league game played on this day.   Blackburn had won just one match up to this point, and scored just five goals and Arsenal had already beaten them 4-0 in the third match of the season.  It looked like an away banker but Arsenal lost 0-2.

The reason was simple – following the previous match just two days before Arsenal had to reshuffle the team to cope with injuries sustained in that match.  Sidey came in at centre half and John was left half while Marshall replaced Alex James at inside left.  It was a reshuffling that simply couldn’t cope.

This result left Manchester City, Preston, Sunderland and Everton in the top four positions, with Sheffield Wednesday slipping down to 8th having drawn and lost their last two games.

Then on 22 September, with Arsenal playing the aforementioned Sheffield Wednesday, the news came through of the Gresford Disaster.  A gas explosion in the Gresford Colliery in Wrexham cause the death of 266 miners and rescuers – one of the worst tragedies in UK mining history.

But of course despite the news being carried to the public on the radio, and through special editions of the papers, football continued, and Arsenal travelled to Sheffield for their match against Wednesday who were currently lying eighth in the league.

Amazingly, the team that had earlier in the month been unable to stop scoring goals, now failed to score for the second match running – the result was a goalless draw.

Having suffered these two setbacks the fact that Arsenal now had to travel to Scotland might well have come as something of a relief, and the club set off to Perth to play St Johnstone on the following Monday.  Why the match was arranged I am not sure but I think it might have been related to the signing of Bobby Davidson on 1 February 1935.  The team for the game is listed in the review of the match.   But Arsenal had also played St Johnstone on 26 September 1932, and so it is possible that this was part of a more prolonged arrangement set up by Chapman.  Sidey and Marshall once again got games as they had in the earlier friendly, but otherwise this was once again predominantly the first team.  Arsenal won 3-0, Drake getting two and Bastin the third.

Back in London Arsenal had one more game of the month on the 29th as they took on Birmingham City at Highbury.  Birmingham had won two, lost three and and drawn two so far in the season and were sitting in 9th.  Marshall retained his place from the friendly, playing at inside right instead of Bowden.  John came in at left back to replace Eddie Hapgood who was playing for England.  Also playing for England and making his debut was a certain Stanley Matthews, who scored in the 0-4 victory over Wales.

The lack of Hapgood and Bowden however did not seem to worry Arsenal at all as they won 5-1, with four goals by Drake and one from Bastin.  It meant that in the first eight league games Drake had scored 12.

Here is the usual summary of the games of the month.

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
25.08.1934 Portsmouth 10 * A D 3-3 8 1 39,710  17,995
01.09.1934 Liverpool 10 H W 8-1 11 3 54,062 46,252
05.09.1934 Blackburn R 22 H W 4-0 4 5 39,654 46,252
08.09.1934 Leeds United 18 A D 1-1 5 6 29,477 14,927
12.09.1934 Rangers H D 1-1 53,000
15.09.1934 West Bromwich 11 H W 4-3 4 8 40,016 46,252
17.09.1934 Blackburn R 19 A L 0-2 4 8 25,472 13,166
22.09.1934 Sheffield Wed  8 A D 0-0 5 9 24,751 18,568
24.09.1934 St Johnstone A W 3-0 12,000
29.09.1934 Birmingham C  9 H W 5-1 3 11 47,868  46,252
  • Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game – * indicates that this was Portsmouth’s position at the end of last season.
  • 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.

Thus ended the first complete month of the season, and in a great contrast to the approach of Chapman, Arsenal had not won away, but had a perfect set up at home with four straight wins.

Looking at last season’s challengers it is interesting to note that Huddersfield, who had run Arsenal so close for much of the run in, ended the first month bottom of the league with just one win and one draw in eight, while Tottenham were 18th, with two wins, two draws and four defeats.

Arsenal in the 30s

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