By Tony Attwood
In the previous episode covering September 1919 we noted the UK wide railway strike. This lasted a total of nine days and ended on 5 October with a complete victory for the two unions. Meanwhile the London police had their eyes on other issues, as Detective Chief Inspector Wensley organised 12 Scotland Yard detectives into the “Mobile Patrol Experiment” to perform surveillance and gather intelligence on known robbers and pickpockets, using a horse-drawn carriage with covert holes cut into the canvas. The Flying Squad was not exactly flying, but it was born.
And although the war had effectively been over for almost a year, there were still formal celebrations going on to commemorate the peace, and on 3 October Sir Henry and Lady Edith Norris, with Percy Shuter, Fulham’s Town Clerk throughout the war years and before, were amongst 1500 who attended a Corporation of the City of London ball at the Guildhall once more to celebrate peace.
The next day Sir Henry would have been at a less restrained event as Arsenal took on Blackburn at Highbury. 30,000 were present, but the disappointing 0-1 defeat left Arsenal 15th in the league. Disappointing because until this game Blackburn had not won away, and were prior to the match 17th in the league.
On the following Monday Arsenal were playing again, this time in the second round of the London FA County Cup, away to Fulham. Unlike in the first round against amateurs Dulwich Hamlet, Arsenal now put out more of a first team, and drew 0-0 with the second division club in front of 5,500.
Meanwhile on the political front, new elections were being held to replace the borough, district and county councils whose elections had been postponed due to the war. As a result of this decision not to hold elections in wartime Sir Henry Norris had continued as mayor of Fulham, being re-elected by the council, year after year., serving over ten years in all. Now as an MP and with Arsenal his major business concern, he was more than happy to step down.
It may be remembered that as a result of elections held before the war, on a very restricted franchise of men with property, the Conservatives had swept the board and Labour had been without any representation on the Council even though they sent a number of delegations to the council, putting forward their point of view on various matters. The Conservatives had chosen not to engage with the party on the grounds that they had no seats in the chamber.
The general election had been held in the immediate aftermath of the war, with a much expanded electorate including women, and the coalition which had run the country during the last two years of the war, won easily.
But since then there had been massive social unrest – we’ve particularly noted in these articles numerous strikes and racial tension along the start of the war of independence in Ireland. However it seems the Liberals and Conservatives (the latter now under the name the Municipal Reform Party) entered the election as if nothing had changed – the Liberals hardly seeming to note that they had been beaten into third place in Fulham by a Labour candidate with no party support, no funds, no organisation and who had been sued for libel (and lost the case) over his manifesto at the very start of the campaign.
Back with the football, on 11 October Arsenal played the first of two games against Everton (this was the only season, I think, in which teams played each other twice across two weekends, home and away, as a regular practice).
Everton were one place above Arsenal in the league before the match, separated by a superior goal average, but what was notable was that Everton’s strength was away from home. They had won only one, and lost the other three home games in the league so far – the worst record in the League.
And that record continued as Arsenal won 3-2. For this match Arsenal introduced two new players – Dunn was played instead of the injured Williamson in goal (in the new year Dunn got a much longer run of matches) and Joseph Toner made his league début at outside left, replacing FW Groves who moved to inside right. He got a run of 10 games at number 11 before losing his place to CH Lewis, The win took Arsenal up to 10th, just one point behind Sheffield United in fifth – the upper mid table now getting rather crowded.
But then before football could continue on the pitch, the biggest scandal of the season broke, for on 13 October Leeds City of the second division were expelled from the Football League.
In this series of articles I have considered in depth the alleged scandal of Arsenal being elected to the First Division and found (as did all the magazine and newspaper reports of the day) everything to be in order and above board. But this was most certainly not the case with the Leeds City affair, either now, or in the latter stages of the saga which continued to the start of the next season.
To take in the detail of the early part of the story we have to go back a little to 9 October when the FA who had been investigating Leeds City FC (previously managed by Herbert Chapman) stated that the club could not play its game against South Shields the following Saturday because of “irregularities”.
Herbert Chapman had managed Leeds prior to the war but like everyone else had taken up war work in local industry during the conflict. He had returned to Leeds City and resumed his work after the war, but before the League commenced in August 1919 he resigned, moved to Selby and apparently gave up football to become a superintendent at an oil and coke works. We have no explanation from him as to why he did this – and it is notable that this action occurred despite the fact that he had had some success with Leeds taking them towards promotion in his first two seasons, although slipping back in the highly disrupted 1914/15 season.
However Leeds had been reported by some former players of paying “guest” players who had appeared for them in war time friendlies – something that was clearly not allowed under the war time rules.
But the evidence that Leeds had been breaking the rules was largely hearsay, coming particularly from Charlie Copeland who had been with Leeds City since 1912 but had fallen out with the club over the issue of a pay rise.
Leeds City were summoned to a meeting on 26 September 1919, and ordered to hand over their books, but they refused to do so on the grounds that the Commission had no legal right to demand them.
And so in the arbitrary way that it often deals with these things, the Football League removed Leeds City from its membership, and banned five officials, for life, including Herbert Chapman, although there was no evidence that he had colluded in the payment of players and he was not called to any of the meetings or hearings. Chapman however was no longer with Leeds City, nor any other club, and it is not at all clear that he attended any meeting or had a chance to give evidence.
The fixtures of Leeds for the season were taken over by Port Vale, who bizarrely were able to count the eight games Leeds City had played (four wins two draws and two defeats) as their own! Leeds City was wound up, the players sold, and then subsequently, perhaps miraculously, a new club with the same directors owning the same ground and called Leeds United, was set up. They were admitted to the league for the 1920/21 season. Grimsby were ejected from the league to make room.
This seems to have been on no concern for Herbert Chapman and he continued with his job, but in the economic turmoil that existed post-war, his fortune took a downturn when in late December 1920 he was laid off from his job at the coke works.
Things looked rather bleak, but Chapman was then approached by Huddersfield Town to be assistant to Ambrose Langley, who had played with Herbert Chapman’s brother Harry at The Wednesday (where Harry had made over 200 appearances).
Working with the support of Huddersfield, Herbert then appealed against his life ban, using the most obvious of evidence that since he had been helping the nation’s war effort during much of the war, and had not been involved with the club, and since the League had no idea when any illicit activity had taken place (since it hadn’t seen the records) they couldn’t possibly know that there was a case against him. He strongly denied that he had been involved in, or knew about, any payment to guest players.
Even a five year old child could see that the case against Herbert Chapman obviously had no basis, and eventually the League concurred, and so after just over a month’s unemployment he became an employee of Huddersfield Town on 1 February 1921, soon replacing the incumbent manager.
Now to return to our chronology, on the evening of 15 October 1919 Sir Henry Norris chaired the last meeting of the London Borough of Fulham before the local elections. Lady Edith Norris made a presentation to Town Clerk Percy Shuter from herself and Sir Henry personally to thank him for all the help he had given them during their years in office. Indeed he had earned the thanks and presentation, not least for effectively keeping the council running during Henry Norris’ time sorting out recruitment issues on the south coast, and during his subsequent period of employment in the War Office.
Next on 16 October 1919 Frederick Pagnam signed from Liverpool. He was the one player who had stood out against the match fixing activities of his colleagues in 1915, which had resulted in the issue of the election of Chelsea and Arsenal to the first division this year and the scandals that besieged Liverpool and Man U. The transfer was also one of many episodes that disproved the “Knighton Thesis” that Sir Henry had the club’s scouting networks wound up as a way of saving money.
On the same day Sir Henry and Lady Edith held their last reception as mayor and mayoress of Fulham, at the Fulham Town Hall for all those who had helped keep the council together during the war years, and for some new friends from the House of Commons.
As his record both in local council elections and the general election shows, Sir Henry was a powerhouse in administration, and as his record at Fulham, at Arsenal and as a house builder shows, he was a powerhouse in bringing projects to fruition. He had seen off the opposition to the club’s move, the club was in its new home of Highbury, had become the third best supported club in the league, and his genius for administration and organisation had been recognised by the state both during the war, and in the aftermath with the resettlement of the soldiers returning from serving their country.
If we now look at what was happening to the Municipal Reform party in Fulham however, we can see just how much he had carried the party with his genius for administration. With the election about the happen, Sally Davis points out that by 17 October there was no list of candidates, no notices telling people who the candidates were, no propaganda posters, and no meetings. It may seem silly that the party could not have got this sort of basic arrangement together, but the fact is that it needs an administrator of quality to arrange such matters, and without such a person, organisations quickly fall apart. This party was indeed just doing that: rapidly falling apart.
Back at Highbury on 18 October Arsenal played the return game with Everton with Burgess gaining his third match of the season at left back. 30,000 were in the ground to see the 1-1 draw which reflected Everton’s better performances away from Goodison than at home. Arsenal remained 10th.
This was also the first match for Stephen Dunn. He was a goalkeeper who went on also to play for the first team as a full back after he had injured his wrist and the club was running short of players.
Sir Henry Norris along with Arsenal directors Charles Crisp, George Davis and William Hall were at the match and witnessed a dispute as to whether Arsenal’s goal had crossed the line. No goal line technology in 1919 of course; digital was not even imagined.
On 20 October the nominations for the local elections had to be declared and it became clear that not only was Sir Henry not standing, as I suspect everyone had anticipated (for if he had been standing there would have been electoral addresses and meetings held by now) but also 13 other incumbent members from the ruling party who had selflessly given up their time during the war years to keep the machinery of local government running, were also not standing. And there was now only two days left before the list of candidates had to be handed in to the returning officer.
Also on 20 October the replay of the London FA Cup 2nd round match took place following the goalless draw at Craven Cottage. This time Fulham ran out winners 3-1.
Sally Davis reports that in his match report for the Islington Daily Gazette, Arthur Bourke, writing as Norseman, bemoaned Arsenal’s lack of “firing power”. Arsenal had only scored 16 league goals so far – not ideal, but there were six clubs in the league which had scored less.
However what probably got Norseman’s ire was the fact that he only watched home games, and Arsenal had scored twice as many goals away from home as at home. Indeed they were not alone in this for tt seemed that home teams were intimidated by the level of expectation from their own supporters.
Meanwhile back with local politics there had still been no meetings for the conservatives to put forward their case although by 24 October the Chronicle did finally publish a list of campaign meetings – the prime events in the days before broadcasting, through which politicians could declare their policies and intentions.
The following day, 25 October 1919, Arsenal played their next game losing 1-2 to Bradford City.
Bradford City were two places below Arsenal in the league having already played one more game. Plus they had only won one away go thus far, and so Arsenal must have thought they had a good chance in the game. This was also the League debut for Fred Pagnam, the man who refused to be corrupted by Liverpool’s match fixing exploits. There was a great sense of justice that this man who had stood out against the corruption should come to Arsenal.
On 27 October 1919: Tom Whittaker joined Arsenal direct from the army. He played 64 first team games for Arsenal, and went on the FA’s tour of Australia (in which he sustained an injury that ended his career). After that he was the club trainer under Chapman, trainer of the England squad, Arsenal coach and ultimately equalled Chapman and Allison’s trophy record of two league titles and the FA Cup.
The following day saw Sir Henry Norris at one of the Municipal Reform party’s campaign meetings, in his own ex-constituency. Sally Davis tells an interesting anecdote at this point stating that Sir Henry arrived late at the meeting and stood at the back, whereupon he overheard someone sitting in the hall criticising the workmanship of Fulham’s houses.
This was of course a direct attack on the building firm of Allen and Norris, who had turned Fulham from a small village into a suburb. When he was making his speech a while later, Norris engaged with the anonymous critic, telling him that Allen and Norris’ houses had all been built by employees were all trade union members and therefore were, according to the man’s argument, workers of integrity.
Here are the games for October
The league position relates to the position after the games for the day were concluded. Here is the league table at the end of the month.
|1||West Bromwich Albion||11||9||0||2||36||14||2.571||18|
|11||Bradford Park Avenue||11||5||1||5||15||14||1.071||11|
|19||Preston North End||11||3||2||6||18||29||0.621||8|
The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.
- Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.
- Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere
- Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens
- Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.
- Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.
- Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years
- Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season
- Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.
Section 2 – 1911
Section 3 – 1912
- 11: 1912 and Arsenal plan to move away from Plumstead
- 12: How Henry Norris chose Highbury as Arsenal’s new ground
- 13: Amid protests from the locals Arsenal’s future is secured
- 14: Arsenal relegated amidst allegations of match fixing
Section 4 – 1913
- How Henry Norris secured Highbury for Arsenal in 1913.
- Norris at the Arsenal: 1913 and the opening weeks at Highbury
- When Highbury opened, and “Victoria Concordia Crescit” was introduced
- The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth and Arsenal’s games in October 1913.
- The rebirth of Arsenal after the move to Highbury: November 1913.
- December 1913, the alleged redcurrent shirts, and Chapman comes to Highbury for the first time
Section 5 – 1914
- Arsenal’s first ever FA Cup match at Highbury and a challenge for promotion: Jan 1914
- Arsenal February and March 1914; the wall falls down, the team slips up.
- The end of Woolwich Arsenal and of the first season at Highbury.
- Arsenal at the end of the world: May to August 1914.
- The newly named The Arsenal start their first season and go top of the League
- As the death toll mounts Arsenal keep playing: October 1914
- November 1914: The Times journalist goes to a reserve match without realising it.
- December 1914: The Footballers’ Battalion formed by Arsenal chairman and others
Section 6 – 1915
- January 1915: Arsenal players start to leave their club for their country
- Arsenal in February and March 1915: the abandonment of football is announced and the result is… curious
- April 1915: New revelations concerning perhaps the most important month in Arsenal’s history
- Norris promoted, the League loses interest but football pulls itself back together.
- Arsenal move into the London Combination in September 1915
- Arsenal in wartime: Norris’ genius for administration comes to the fore but reduces Arsenal’s playing staff.
- November / December 1915: the match fixing scandal comes to the fore: Norris is armed
Section 7: – 1916
- Arsenal in wartime: January 1916. The end of the first wartime league.
- Arsenal, February 1916: the 2nd league and a terrible tragedy on the pitch
- Arsenal: March – May 1916. The team in decline, entry to football taxed for the first time.
- Arsenal wartime league tables and player appearances: 1915/16
- Arsenal at war; Tottenham move out of WHL, Arsenal hit rock bottom. June to Sept 1916.
- Arsenal Oct 1916: a tragic death, a slow recovery
- Arsenal in wartime: November and December 1916
Section 8: 1917
- January 1917: Arsenal’s upturn continues, gang culture in London, turmoil in Russia.
- Arsenal in February 1917: Arsenal on the up, George Allison’s contribution.
- Arsenal – March 1917. Measles, price rises, women start to serve.
- Arsenal in April and May 1917. Norris goes missing, Arsenal continue winning.
- Norris at the Arsenal: Arsenal Players in the wartime league, 1916/17
- Henry Norris is knighted for setting up the Footballers’ Battalion. June 1917
- Sir Henry Norris promoted to Lt Colonel in recognition of his work in the War Office
- September 1917: Arsenal’s form definitely on the up.
- October 1917: Arsenal slip into sharp decline; Norris gains a new appointment
- Arsenal at the end of 1917. Crowds collapse, results poor, the war drags on.
Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war
- Arsenal in 1918: Chapman’s downfall, votes for women, schooling for all, Arsenal erratic
- Norris at the Arsenal: March 1918, crowds drop, rationing, the war turns
- April 1918: the third wartime league ends; Ireland rebels against conscription.
- The 1917/18 season; Arsenal’s players and the final league table
- Autumn 1918: Arsenal winning, the war grinds to an end, crowds return
- November 1918: war ends, FA / League quarrel, Henry Norris is called on (again).
- Norris at the Arsenal. 1-10 December 1918; allegations of corruption heard in court.
- Arsenal, 11 – 31 December 1918. A 9-2 victory, the chairman becomes an MP, footballers unionise.
Section 10: 1919, the reform of football
- The first suggestion that Arsenal could be elected to the 1st division.
- Arsenal in January 1919: rioting in the streets and the question of promotion
- What the media said about the election of Arsenal to the 1st division in 1919
- Arsenal prepare for the vote on who should be promoted to the First Division
- March 1919: The vote to extend the league and what the media said
- Why did the clubs vote for Arsenal rather than Tottenham in March 1919?
- Arsenal in March 1919: the London Victory Cup and its consequences
- April 1919: the end of wartime football (at least for 20 years)
- May 1919: war football ends and the wonderful Alf Baker is signed
- Summer of 1919. Widespread rioting as Arsenal prepare for division 1.
- August 1919: Arsenal return to the First Division for the next 99 years
- Arsenal establish themselves in the Division 1 amidst scandal, profiteering and strikes.