The 1917/18 season; Arsenal’s players and the final league table

By Tony Attwood

Through the work of Andy Kelly of TheArsenalHistory we have a list of players who played for Arsenal during the 1917/18 season of wartime football – the third such season.

Looking at the players there are some whose names continued all the way through the wartime campaigns, such a Bradshaw, Chipperfield, Ducat (once of Arsenal, now of Villa but regularly playing for Arsenal, presumably because his wartime work had drawn him to London), Grant, FW Groves, Lewis, Liddell, McKinnon, Rutherford, Shaw, Stapley, Tyler, and Williamson.

These would be men whose war work would have been either working in the munitions plants or other such essential work based in London.

Arsenal also used a number of loan players as the table below shows. The figures are for 1917/18 in the London Combination and the rather mysterious four match cup competition played at the end of the season to which we have alluded previously.

    League Cup
Player Guest’s Club Apps Gls Apps Gls
WE Baker 1
WN Blyth 1
F Bradshaw 32 4 4 5
W Brien 1
MA Broderick 3
G Brown 1
JJ Chipperfield 32 9 3 1
HL Cockerill 8
J Cook Middlesbrough 2 2
E Cooper Newcastle United 1
GH Douglas Leicester Fosse 7 4
A Ducat Aston Villa 7 1
A Emery 6 2
J Eyles 1
   Gisling 1
GM Grant 18 1 1
VF Gregory Watford 4
FW Groves 34 10 4 3
HG Groves 6 2
HTW Hardinge 7 5
J Hunt 3
AV Hutchins 31 4
J Ison 1
J Johnson Brentford 1
CH Lewis 24 5 1
E Liddell 18 1 1
A McKinnon 5
F Pagnam Liverpool 20 14
DJ Plumb 5
W Rayner 8 4 2
W Reid 1
A Relfe 1
A Robinson 1
F Rooney (on field) 3 2
F Rooney (in goal) 1
J Rutherford 27 13 3
W Sanders 1
JE Shaw 9 4
AW Simmons 2
WJ Stapley Glossop 18 3
FA Tyler 10 1
A Webber 1
EC Williamson Croydon Common 35 4 5
H Wood 2
Own Goals 1


As we can see we only had 12 players who played 10+ games in the season – thus revealing an ever chopping and changing side.  It would be good to know how this compares with other clubs in the Combination at this time, but I have not been able to locate their records.

In 1915/16 Arsenal had come third in the first wartime league and 11th in the shorter “supplementary” competition that kept football going until the end of April.   Chelsea had won both leagues, West Ham being runners up in the first, and Millwall in the second competition.

In 1916/17 the same three teams dominated.  This time, in a league that ran all through the season West Ham won the title, Millwall came second and Chelsea third.  Arsenal were fifth.  In this, the third season Chelsea and West Ham once again occupied the top two spots, but this time Fulham came in third.  Millwall were ninth, Arsenal fifth again.

I have already published the league table in an earlier page, but to put everything together in one file here it is again.

 Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Chelsea 36 21 8 7 82 39 50
2 West Ham United 36 20 9 7 103 51 49
3 Fulham 36 20 7 9 75 60 47
4 Tottenham Hotspur 36 22 2 12 86 56 46
5 Arsenal 36 16 5 15 76 57 37
6 Brentford 36 16 3 17 81 94 35
7 Crystal Palace 36 13 4 19 54 83 30
8 Queen’s Park Rangers 36 14 2 20 48 73 30
9 Millwall 36 12 4 20 52 74 28
10 Clapton Orient 36 2 4 30 34 104 8

Why some teams flourished more than others I can’t really say because I can’t find access to all the results and the events surrounding each team.  Perhaps Arsenal suffered by having more players than most sign up for service in the army overseas, because of Henry Norris’ initiation of the Footballers’ Battalion.  Perhaps some moved back to Plumstead to work at the Woolwich Arsenal and simply didn’t want to make the journey across the river for matches.  Indeed maybe Millwall themselves benefited from their proximity to the factories on the southern reaches of the Thames.

Maybe Arsenal also suffered by not having its foremost decision maker taking much interest in the club, with Sir Henry being engaged with the War Office.  Indeed as we have seen, the number of games that he attended was very small.   Punch McEwan always seems to come across as a thoroughly likeable man, but he was certainly not a man who wanted to be manager, and yet by and large he seems to have run the club along with a few of the regular players.

Chelsea certainly seemed to get large crowds in the early parts of the war seasons, and maybe that attracted players to them.  There is an interesting article on Chelsea in the first world war here.

The West Ham success is particularly interesting because there was a West Ham Battalion formed on the model of Henry Norris’ Footballers’ Battalion which became part of the Middlesex Regiment, but I wonder if part of the club’s success at this time was perhaps down its origins as a club formed by a company for its employees, and thus it was able to retain the services of many of its employees during the war years – and therefore they were able to play for the club.

That is speculation of course.  There are some articles around, but many of them make assertions without giving a sense of any detail or the sources of information, and thus may not be 100% accurate if they are (as sometimes appears to be the case) retelling stories told across the generations.

Next we shall move on to the final wartime season, and of course the victory of the Allied Forces in 1918.


If you are interested in Sir Henry Norris and the promotion of Arsenal in 1919, plus the allegations of scandal surrounding this, we have already written up several articles on this.  You will find details in Henry Norris at the Arsenal.

Below is the index to articles concerning Henry Norris in sequence.  The series continues.

The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915

Section 7: – 1916

Section 8: 1917

Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war

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