Woolwich Arsenal in the cup 1903/4. Arsenal and Norris meet for the first time.

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Final Supplementary round.  Dec 12.   Bristol Rovers (away).  Drew 1-1  Crowd 14,000

By this season what I am calling the Final Supplementary Round was called in some quarters the sixth round.  The teams entering at this stage were Manchester United, Bristol City, Preston North End, Woolwich Arsenal, Barnsley and Grimsby Town from the Second Division plus Reading, Bristol Rovers and New Brompton.

And thus it turned out that in four times in their last five years in the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup Arsenal drew their opening match.  In 1899 they had five games with New Brompton (before losing) in 1901 it was two against Luton.  In 1902 it was two against Brentford, and in 1903 it was three against Bristol Rovers.  It is almost tempting to think that the FA excused Woolwich Arsenal from further involvement in the preliminary rounds in order to save the crowds from further draws.

Final Supplementary round.  Dec 15.   Bristol Rovers (home).  Drew 1-1  Crowd 12,000

Bristol Rovers was formed earlier than Arsenal – in 1883, taking the name  Black Arabs F.C., later becoming Eastville Rovers.  In 1892 they joined a local league (a precursor of the Western League).

They started playing in the FA Cup in 1895 (Arsenal having by now overtaken their progression, starting in 1889) and in 1899 became Bristol Rovers, joining the Southern League the next season.  In that year they played Sheppy United that included Herbert Chapman.  (Woolwich Arsenal had played Sheppey United United on Nov 20 1898 but I have no information at the moment as to weather Chapman was in that side.  I’ll sort that later!

Final Supplementary round.  Dec 21.   Bristol Rovers (at Tottenham).  Won 1-0  Crowd 10,000

1904-05 Southern League winning team

By 1903-4 they were becoming a significant team in the Southern League coming third that year behind Southampton and Tottenham.  In the following year for the first team a Rovers player was called up for an international (Jack Lewis playing for Wales) as Bristol R won the Southern League.

1st round proper.  Feb 6.  Fulham (home).  Won 1-0  Crowd 15,000

Fuham turned pro in December 1898 and joined the newly formed London Section of the Southern League for the 1898/9 season.  According to Wikipedia “They adopted a kit very similar to modern Arsenal colours in this period,” which is interesting when you consider the links that formed between Henry Norris, Fulham and Arsenal in 1910, and the fact that it is said that Chapman changed the clubs colours to the white sleeves later.  Did Norris remember the sleeves from this period of Fulham’s history.

For 1902/3 the Southern League went through all sorts of ruptions, with the Western Division breaking away, and a rump of just six clubs left playing in the second division.  Fulham won this little league and so got promoted to the first division in 1903, changing their kit to all white.

Now what is really interesting is that Henry Norris joined Fulham Football Club as a director in 1903 and on Saturday 6 June 1903 at the meeting which created Fulham Football and Athletic Club Company Limited, Henry Norris was elected the company’s first chairman.

And that season they drew Arsenal in the Cup while playing in the colours that were later to become the Arsenal colours.  Coincidence?  No, I don’t believe it.

2nd round proper.  Feb 20.  Manchester City (home).  Lost 0-2.  Crowd 30,000

Man City had joined the league in 1892, moving up to the first division in 1899.  But they had been relegated in 1902 after coming bottom of the league.  In 1902/3 however they came back up, winning the league with 54 points.  Birmingham were second with 51pts and Woolwich Arsenal were third on 48 points.

(It is interesting that when we played them in the league that season we beat them 1-0 but in front of only 12,000 – a sign of the importance of the FA Cup at this time.)

Manchester City beat Middlesbrough in the third round, and beat The Wednesday in the semis.   Bolton beat Derby in the other semi final.  Man City beat Bolton in the final 1-0 in front of 61,000.

Know your history: was Arsenal really the first pro team in the south?  The ongoing review of Arsenal in the FA Cup raises some questions.

There’s told told’s, told untold’s, untold told’s and untold untold’s

2 Replies to “Woolwich Arsenal in the cup 1903/4. Arsenal and Norris meet for the first time.”

  1. Here is the Fulham kit of that era:


    Also, something else that we have seen before. Although Fulham won the Southern League 2nd Division in 1903, there was no automatic promotion / relegation between the two divisions.

    It was expected that Watford would be elected to the top division but after Henry Norris’s intervention Fulham were elected.

    It seems that by 1919 he had become something of an expert at this sort of thing!

    And just to prove that it wasn’t beyond others, at the end of 1902/03 when Arsenal finished third in Division 2 the board put forward a motion at the Football League’s AGM that they change the rules so that it was 3 up and 3 down. History tells us that this was rejected.

  2. I did some digging around on the 1903 promotion of Fulham when writing Making the Arsenal. From what I could find it seems that Fulham lost the play offs, but then when it went to the vote Norris made a speech, and all hell broke lose. There was even talk of fisticuffs in the meeting. Unfortunately I can’t lay my hands on my notes at this moment, and in writing it up in “Making the Arsenal” I may have spiced it a little.

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