The end, the very end, of Woolwich Arsenal FC

By Tony Attwood

I am in the process of writing a book on the early Arsenal, correcting the mistakes of earlier publications, filling in the gaps, and hopefully revealing much more than previous volumes about the daily lives of the players and the supporters of the club.

In this venture I am being increasingly assisted by supporters of Arsenal who have contacted me through this site, and who are in effect becoming co-authors with me.

It is through their efforts that I have become aware that we have two fundamental problems with this book.  One is the issue of when and more particularly where the club (under the Dial Square name) started, and the other is when Woolwich Arsenal finished.

My article the other day about the 1886 game on the Isle of Dogs caused a bit of a stir in itself, and I was fortunate enough to be contacted directly by Peter Harvey who has himself been researching this game in enormous depth.   His conclusions are different from mine, but I’ll be doing my best to give his views equal coverage in a forthcoming article.

Meanwhile following terrific research by Andy Kelly we were able to report that the club spent most of its first year at Highbury with the name Woolwich Arsenal. The name was changed to The Arsenal at some time between 20 and 23 April 1914.  The difference is shown in the matchday programmes.

So this makes the last match played by Woolwich Arsenal as 18 April 1914 against Clapton Orient at Highbury.  It was a 2-2 draw in front of a very healthy crowd of 35,000.  This was not bad for the second division, and something of a response to any questions about moving.   On 26 April 1913 the club had played its last match in Kent in the first division in front of 3,000.

That means that the first game played by The Arsenal was also at home, played on April 23rd, 1914 against Grimsby Town.  A 2-0 win in front of 25,000.   The one remaining game of the season was on April 25th, a further 2-0 win, this against Glossop North End away.  The crowd this time, just 4000.

It seems strange to end the Woolwich Arsenal story with two more games to go in 1914, but that is what the records show happened, and so I am now going to focus on what was in effect the curtain call for Woolwich Arsenal FC: April 18th 1914 against Clapton Orient.

I am going to present a series of articles on this match as has been done before on this site, looking at the players and anything I (or more likely Andy, if you are willing!) can find out about this final game.  Indeed what better way to finish than with a local derby.

In one sense the game was momentous. Woolwich Arsenal were in contention for promotion right up to the last, and had we won this game rather than drawn it, Woolwich Arsenal would have gone straight back into the first division at the first attempt.  As it was Woolwich Arsenal / The Arsenal ended their last and first season in third place, on exactly the same number of points as Bradford (that’s the club we often call Bradford PA, rather than Bradford City, who were already in the first division).  Bradford had the better goal difference and so went up with Notts County.

But at the moment of this last game, Arsenal had the chance of promotion, so unlike the final game at the Manor Ground there was no experimentation with unknowns, nor any run-out for a reserve.  This was deadly serious, and the best available team was put out.

The team (with links to articles already in place on this site) was…

1: J Lievesley

2: Right back: J Shaw

3: R W Benson

4: Right Half: GM Grant

5: Centre half – P R Sands The first captain of The Arsenal at Highbury

6: A Graham

7: J Rutherford

8: J Flanagan

9: S J Stonley

10: D Slade

11: Outside Right: C H Lewis

I will be working my way through the rest of the team, so that we have some information on the very first and very last league team playing officially under the name Woolwich Arsenal FC.

I do hope you find this interesting, and of course if you have information you would like to share, please do get in touch.

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5 Replies to “The end, the very end, of Woolwich Arsenal FC”

  1. I hate being pedantic but I really really can’t stop myself. We finished third on goal average (i.e. goals scored divided by goals conceded). Goal difference wasn’t brought in until 1975.

  2. Please do be pedantic Andy – because either you are correcting errors that I didn’t know about, or else you are correcting my stupid mistakes – and both are vital. In this case it was a stupid mistake – I know about goal average because I once spent several hours analysing just why there was a debate about Arsenal being fifth or sixth in 1915 based on this point.

    But it is a good reminder not to write blogs at 10pm after having been out the night before at a Halloween party.

  3. hi i am a long time reader but this will be my first comment… after playing fifa 11 i have been very curious into the controversial circumstances that gained Arsenal promotion into the top division just after the 1st world war but i cant find any information anwhere. could you tell me the brief facts please?

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