Arsenal players 1936/7, Arsenal crowds in the 30s, and comparisons with earlier years

Previous titles in this series

1936-37 season statistics,

Player Position 1936/7 Games 1936/37 Goals 1935/6 games
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 37 8 38
Pat Beasley Wing half 7 1 30
Arthur Biggs Inside forward 1
Frank Boulton Goalkeeper 25
Ray Bowden Inside right 30 6 29
Sidney Cartwright Half back 2 5
Denis Compton Outside Left 14 4
Les Compton Centre half 17 12
Wilf Copping Left half 42 40
Jack Crayston Right half 32 2 43
Robert Davidson Inside forward 30 11 14
Ted Drake Centre forward 29 27 29
EddieHapgood Left back 34 1 40
Joe Hulme Outside right 3 28
Alex James Inside left 23 1 23
Bob John Half Back 5 6
Bernard Joy Centre half 6 2
Alfred Kirchen Winger 37 22 6
George Male Full back 41 42
John Vance Milne Winger 22 9 14
David Nelson Wing half 8 3
Herbie Roberts Centre half 34 1 31
Norman Sidey Centre half 6 13
George Swindin Goalkeeper 19
Alex Wilson Goalkeeper 2 42

Data from 11v11.

Five players were new to the side in 1936/7 -Biggs, Boulton, Compton, Nelson, and Swindin.  Of these Biggs can be discounted as he only played one game.  So this was the team as per the season before with a few new options.

But some of the old warhorses were coming to an end: Alex James, Bob John and Pat Beasley being the most obvious.

In the last analysis we noted the club had 12 “senior pros” who would be expected to hold the team together and play whenever possible in the forthcoming season.  So asking the same question again, who were now the senior pros who might be expected to continue and lead the club to another trophy in the coming season?   Here’s the basic list.

Player Position Games Goals 1935/6 games
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 37 8 38
Frank Boulton Goalkeeper 25
Ray Bowden Inside right 30 6 29*
Les Compton Centre half 17 12
Wilf Copping Left half 42 40*
Jack Crayston Right half 32 2 43*
Robert Davidson Inside forward 30 11 14
Ted Drake Centre forward 29 27 29*
Eddie Hapgood Left back 34 1 40*
Alex James Inside left 23 1 23
Alfred John Kirchen Winger 37 22 6*
George Male Right back 41 42*
John Vance Milne Winger 22 9 14*
Herbie Roberts Centre half 34 1 31
George Swindin Goalkeeper 19
Alex Wilson Goalkeeper 2 42*

* I have placed the star alongside the players who started the first game of 1937/38

There are 16 players in this list, including three goal keepers, all of whom had significant experience in the league.  Last season we counted 12 such players including one keeper, so we can say the squad was stronger.   As we shall see in the next season, Allison also made some signings.  Additionally Bernard Joy finally got his chance to take over from Herbie Roberts.

As for the crowds Arsenal at Highbury had the top crowd numbers through this whole period and we can see that virtually every year the crowds grew.

1934/35 was of course an extraordinary year as Arsenal completed the third triumph in a row, and the average figure of over 46,000 for a club was unprecedented.  The highest average crowd attendance recorded for a season before this run by Arsenal was 42,615 achieved by Chelsea in 1919/20 – the season football returned after the first world war.

Arsenal were thus pushing the boundaries in an era where crowds were generally growing as the division 1 average column below shows.  I have also included the division 2 averages to show that the gap between the two leagues was nowhere near as great as it became in modern times.

Season AFC average crowd Div 1 Average Div 2 average
1929/30 35.537 22.647 13.651
1930/31 37.106 20.462 13.168
1931/32 40.547 21.529 12.213
1932/33 41.958 20.175 13.343
1933/34 40.750 22.596 12.531
1934/35 46.252 23.386 13.190
1935/36 41.960 24.624 14.958
1936/37 43.353 24.605 17.313

These figures were important to clubs because the gate money was the prime source of money.  The only other income would come from player sales, and modest sums from programmes and refreshments.

But there was an issue.   So far in the era the trophy haul was

  • Chapman: 2 league titles, 1 FA Cup
  • Shaw: 1 league title
  • Allison: 1 league title 1 FA Cup

However if Allison was ever going to shake off the notion that he was the “luckiest manager in football” (having inherited Chapman’s team) he needed to win another title, at the very least to equal Chapman’s achievements.

But even so, he would be haunted by the comment to the end, for of the players listed above who played significantly for Allison in 1936/7, Bastin, Beasley, Bowden, Hapgood, Hulme, James, John, Male, Roberts and Sidey had all played under Chapman.  And while Drake had not been at Arsenal in the Chapman era, it was Chapman who had spotted his talent and started the process of bringing him to Arsenal.

In many ways that list of players who survived from the Chapman era through the Allison era was extraordinary.  But in approaching 1937/8 the number was reducing.  Beasley, Hulme, James, and John had now all played their last games, and Sidey was very much an occasional.  There was still half a team left who had known what it was like to have been coached by Chapman, and so the taunt would still remain, but many are the managers who have inherited a team and not been able to keep up the record.  It was not just a case of putting the team out and letting them get on with it.

Thus, as I suggested, one more title win for Allison, with a team in which most of the time most of the players were ones this manager (rather than the last manager) had brought through or had signed, was what was needed.

The stadium was there, the crowds were there, and as the phrase “the Bank of England” club showed, the money was there.  The club could bring in new players whenever they wanted .  The question was, could they win the league yet again?

Finally, here is a review of Arsenal’s record season by season thus far during this era:

Year P W D L F A Pts Pos FAC CS Scorer Gls
1929–30 42 14 11 17 78 66 39 14 W Lambert 23
1930–31 42 28 10 4 127 59 66 1 R4 W Lambert 39
1931–32 42 22 10 10 90 48 54 2 F W Lambert 26
1932–33 42 25 8 9 118 61 58 1 R3 Bastin 33
1933–34 42 25 9 8 75 47 59 1 R6 W Bastin 15
1934–35 42 23 12 7 115 46 58 1 R6 W Drake 44
1935–36 42 15 15 12 78 48 45 6 W Drake 27
1936–37 42 18 16 8 80 49 52 3 R6 RU Drake 27

For two years running (1935/6 and 1936/7) Arsenal had now failed to win the league, so the question was, what had gone wrong?  Goals were down from the peak of the Chapman years, but still a little higher than 1933/4 when Arsenal had won the league.  Goals conceded were at a consistent low compared with the Chapman years.

Drake had not maintained his amazing first season, but then he had been injured – and besides very few players could maintain that level – not even the brilliant Jack Lambert.

There was however one obvious reason for Arsenal’s comparative decline – in the last two years Arsenal had simply not won enough games – but instead had drawn more than ever before.

But even in this most obvious point there was a quirk to be noted.

In 1935/6 Arsenal were sixth, 11 points behind Sunderland, the title winners.  The teams above them were Sunderland (obviously), Derby, Huddersfield, Stoke, and Brentford.

In 1936/7 Arsenal were five points behind the winners, Man City.  The other team above them was Charlton.

In other words, the teams challenging ahead of Arsenal in 1935/6 had all slipped back.  In 1936/7 Sunderland were 8th, Derby 4th, Hudderfield 15th, Stoke 10th, Brentford 6th.

No team had anything remotely like the consistency of Arsenal through the earlier part of the 1930s, and as we have noted, many who had challenged for the title quickly faded away.  Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday were now in the second division while Everton and Sunderland had slipped towards mid-table.

So in spite of 1936/7 being the first season in the era in which Arsenal neither won nor came second in either of the major trophies, Arsenal were still challenging – something that no other club had come near doing during the decade.  That in itself, along with the finances that were pouring in from the crowd attendances for league matches and the regular decent runs in the FA Cup, made the future still look promising.

The question was, would Manchester City who had just won the league for the first time, now slip away, as the other interlopers into Arsenal’s decade had done, or would they be able to maintain the challenge?

As I am sure you will know they slipped away, but even knowing that, what actually happened may come as a surprise.

Next: Arsenal in the summer – the European tour, and the first sightings of the amazing Reg Lewis and Laurie Scott, plus Alex James’ final farewell

Arsenal in the 30s… the series.


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