Woolwich in the Cup: 1909-10: decline and fall.


If you know your Arsenal history you’ll know this is the season when Arsenal went bust, and were ultimately rescued in the summer of 1910 by Henry Norris – the man instrumental in building the modern club.

What I am trying to do here is show the context of the club-defining events from 1909/10 onwards in terms of the FA Cup – and of course pick up some history snippets on the way.

I believe the context is clear.  For 1905/6 and 1906/7 Arsenal had the double bonus of an improving position in the first division, and consecutive semi-finals with all the extra money that this entailed.  (I will endeavour to do a financial analysis later – its a bit complex).

1907/8 was a real set back going out in the first round and being 14th in the league.  There was something of a decline in home crowds for league games, but a real drop in the Cup revenue.

The following season we were back up in the league – finishing sixth – and crowds grew again.  In the cup there was another second round exit, but with both ties going to replays and both being local derbies the club played to over 80,000 people in the FA Cup alone.   Not as good as 120,000 in the second FA Cup season, but still enough to keep the money rolling along.

My supposition is that the rise up the league and the runs to the semi finals meant that Arsenal’s budgeting was increasingly based on success.  The decline was masked just a little by the four cup matches, but the debts from 1907/8 were being carried forwards, and by 1909/10 they were getting out of hand.  Cost cutting measures were in place all season, and the early cup exit did not help at all.

1st round.  Jan 15th.  Watford (home).  Won 3-0  Crowd 8,668

We last played Watford in 1905/6.  They were formed before us (in 1881) when the Earl of Essex graciously allowed boys to play football in Cassiobury Park.   I don’t have background on this, but I think it is a sign of the times.  Football was considered to be good healthy activities for working class boys (the toffs being rugger men) and it is interesting to note that apparently the agreement excluded organised competitive games.  It all had to be for fun and exercise.

By 1886–87 Watford Rovers as they were called were in the FA Cup for the first time.  In 1891 there is a record of them playing Watford St Mary’s – the team with whom they merged.  A subsequent merger in 1898 with West Hertfordshire who had joined the Southern League in 1896 – formed the new club.

1st round.  February 5th.  Everton (away).  Lost 0-5  Crowd 30,000

The first Everton match was in 1879, with the club moving to Anfield in 1884 and in 1888 being a founder member of the football league.  There is an interesting story told concerning the 1890/1 season which says that by mid-January 1891, Everton had played 21 of their 22 games and were 11 points ahead of their nearest rivals who had seven games left.  Quite a strange way to run the league!    The second team (Preston) gradually caught up leaving everything to play for until the last game in March, at which time both clubs managed to lose their final match, leaving Everton champions.

In 1885 there was a very interesting situation, which reveals to us that arguments between clubs and landlords are not new.  The landlord was increasing the club’s rent massively, and the previous owner of the land attempted to build a road through the main stand to some land that he still owned, next to the pitch (as you do!) in order to force the club to buy his land.  The club’s committee blamed the landlord, and told him to sort it out.

The landlord refused so the landlord registered a new firm, Everton F.C. and Athletic Grounds, Ltd.in March 1892, claimed they were the real Everton and demanded of the league that they should play the remaining Everton fixtures (and people paint Norris in a bad light!)  The League said no, so the landlord changed the name of the new club to Liverpool F.C. and Athletic Grounds Ltd and created Liverpool FC.  Everton left Anfield in 1892 and went to Goodison.

Everton played in cup finals in 1893, 1897, 1906 and 1907, winning just one – 1906.

Everton then reached their second successive final on 20 April 1907, however, finished in a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.

Arsenal’s 5-0 defeat in the second round was not the only high score of the cup that day.  There was also Southampton 0 Manchester City 5, Aston Villa 6 Derby County 1, and Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 West Ham United 5.

In the third and fourth rounds Everton beat first Sunderland and then Coventry City, before losing to Barnsley 3-0 in a semi-final replay.  Barnsley and Newcastle drew the final, and Newcastle won the replay 2-0 at… Everton.

Making the Arsenal: the third edition is now out.

Woolwich Arsenal: the index

Untold Arsenal

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