Arsenal in November 1924: transfer funds are found, recovery seems likely, rules are changed.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal entered November 1924 in 7th position, with their first match of the month away to Bolton who were sitting three points below Arsenal.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Birmingham City 12 7 2 3 11 11 1.000 16
2 Huddersfield Town 11 5 5 1 16 6 2.667 15
3 Notts County 12 6 3 3 13 7 1.857 15
4 West Bromwich Albion 12 6 3 3 14 9 1.556 15
5 Sunderland 11 6 2 3 21 11 1.909 14
6 Manchester City 12 6 2 4 27 19 1.421 14
7 Arsenal 12 6 2 4 12 11 1.091 14
8 Bury 12 4 6 2 18 18 1.000 14
9 Liverpool 11 5 3 3 19 14 1.357 13
10 Aston Villa 12 3 7 2 19 16 1.188 13
11 Blackburn Rovers 13 4 5 4 19 19 1.000 13
12 West Ham United 12 4 5 3 11 12 0.917 13
13 Newcastle United 13 2 8 3 18 16 1.125 12
14 Leeds United 12 4 4 4 14 14 1.000 12
15 Bolton Wanderers 11 3 5 3 18 16 1.125 11

Bolton had two wins and two draws in their last four games, and on this occasion kept up the run with a comfortable 4-1 win that seemed to suggest that Arsenal’s good run earlier in the season was now over.

Arsenal’s win and the draw at the end of October after the defeats to Bury and Huddersfield had steadied the ship a little but losing 1-4 away to Bolton on the 1st of the month did remind supporters of the four goals conceded against the champions in the second week of October.  Conceding four twice in five games suggested things were not right in defence especially as Bolton were 15th in the league.

Arsenal used exactly the same team as had played against Tottenham and they had exactly the same player score the only goal: Jimmy Brain playing at inside right.   But Bolton were in a rich vein of form as their unbeaten run extended on through this game and indeed reached nine games in total.  In fact apart from this 4-1 victory, the run included a 6-1 win over Preston and a 5-0 win over West Ham.  Their position in the league belied the new strength they had found.

Most worrying for Arsenal was that despite their earlier success, Arsenal now had a shocking away form with one win and one draw out of five, having scored four and conceded nine.  Their one hope had been to stop Bolton scoring and then keep them frustrated while Brain or Wood nipped in with a goal.  That last part happened as Brain got his second goal in two games, but the defence simply didn’t get to grips with the fact that although Bolton’s home form was not as good as Arsenal’s (in fact no one’s home form was as good as Arsenal) they had only been beaten once at home in the League, which made Arsenal’s task even more difficult.

And Arsenal sank into the bottom half of the table, with the knowledge that two of the teams immediately below them had games in hand.

The following day Sunday 2 November, the Sunday Express became the first newspaper in the world to publish a crossword.  Complete with instructions on what one had to do.  At least it might have proved a diversion from the football.

However beyond Arsenal’s parochial concerns more interest was focused on the fact that the league table now had new leaders in the shape of Notts County – the team Arsenal had to play next.  Founder members of the League, County had never won the 1st division but they had won the 2nd division three times, and the FA Cup once.  However they were existing on crowds of under half those of Arsenal (just 13,350) and indeed less than Millwall of the 3rd Division (South).  Only their neighbours Nottingham Forest had a lower average crowd in the first division.

Away from home County had won three, lost three and drawn one, having scored just six and conceded the same number.  In fact, although they had a very average attack they had the best defence in the league.

On the same day that Arsenal played County (8 November 1924) Robert Turnbull, Arsenal’s record scorer of the entire Knighton era (with 20 goals in 35 league games in 1922/3), was transferred to Charlton Athletic.  In all he played 59 league games and scored 26 goals.  But he had played 18 games in the previous season and scored just six goals and it was felt his time was past.  One can only hope that Knighton followed what Turnbull got up to subsequently and contemplated his own part in the player’s decline – and the number of goals he scored thereafter.

Meanwhile The Times column on the County game said it was “an unpleasant game to watch” and this comment reveals to us another part of County’s new found success: a combination of the offside trap plus pure thuggery.  They even had a player sent off in this match – Cock – a rarity in the 1920s, but even after that Arsenal could not battle through the ten man defence.  No one watching the game had much doubt why the crowds were so low.

Arsenal were now 14th in the league, just one point and one place above Tottenham, although six clear of Burnley in 21st.  What had looked for a brief moment like a great triumph of a season in the local derby now looked like the preface to another Knighton disaster season.

On 10 November Arsenal played in the second round of the London FA Charity Cup, this time away to  West Ham.  As always Arsenal played predominantly their first team although Tom Whittaker got a game. 0-2 down at half time Arsenal lost 1-4.  G. Colin also got a game – his only first team match.  Mackie got the goal – a penalty.

But then things turned round once again for on 15 November Arsenal played Everton in Liverpool and won 2-3.  Everton started the day two points and three places below Arsenal, and Arsenal as we have noted had a poor away record. But most of all Everton were extraordinarily erratic.

In September and October they had gone eight league games without a win, including four straight defeats.   Then they reversed the trend and went four without defeat.  But this loss to Arsenal was the first of four straight defeats!

Add to this the fact that Everton’s home form was poor – they had only won two games out of six before the Arsenal match, and there was a chance of anything turning up.  Here’s the Daily Mirror report, retrieved by Andy Kelly which takes us onto another issue.

Curious Incident in Game with Everton at Goodison Park

“Few people expected the Arsenal to win at Goodison Park. Everton pressed in the first half, but could not beat a fine defence, and just on the interval Ramsay scored for the Arsenal.

“Everton made all the pace at the start of the second half. Irvine soon equalised, and Hargreaves gave Everton the lead. In a dingdong finish Young equalised and then Ramsay scored the winning goal

“There was a curious incident in the game. The F.A., in changing the corner kick rule, did not say that the ball should not be played twice in succession by the same player. Chedgzoy, in taking a corner, hit the ball ten yards, and, following-up, sent in shot before another player had touched it. The referee obviously agreed with Chedgzoy’s idea of the rule for he waved for the play to proceed.”

So what was going on?

In an Fifa commentary on the change of rules to allow goals to be scored direct from corners it is suggested that this Everton v Arsenal game was the first in which this mistake in the rule change was exploited.  The Fifa commentary is erratic, but it gives us enough to confirm the Daily Mirror report.

Here’s what they say…

“Way back in June 1924, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) modified article 11 of the Laws of the Game to allow goals to be scored directly from a corner kick for the first time. Upon reading about said change, a sports journalist from Liverpool called Ernest Edwards found a loophole in the new edict, which he shared with the powers-that-be at Everton: “There’s nothing in the book as it stands to prevent you dribbling the ball right into the middle instead of kicking it from the corner. Why not try it out and see what happens?”

“Edwards had an ideal accomplice for his experiment in the shape of Everton’s then forward and usual corner-taker Sam Chedgzoy. Following Edwards’ suggestion in a game against Woolwich Arsenal, Chedgzoy placed the ball for a corner kick before calmly dribbling it goalwards, while everyone present looked on in amazement. When the referee began to reprimand him, the winger simply asked him, “What’s in the rules to stop me doing it?”

Of course there was no Woolwich Arsenal FC in that season but as we have seen above Arsenal certainly did play Everton in that season.

But now the story gets odd, because elsewhere in the article it says that following the event there was “an emergency meeting of the IFAB, who amended the rules in early August 1924. The first goal struck after the rule change was scored by Billy Alston later that month in Scottish second-division action, although the first to be dubbed a gol olímpico would not come until October.”

That would suggest the rule was modified in June 1924, and supposedly Everton played Woolwich Arsenal and then the rule was changed again in August 1924.  Which makes no sense.  But Andy’s finding of the Mirror report confirms it was in this match away to Everton that it all took place – Fifa simply have the dates wrong, and the name of Arsenal.

Ramsay got two of the goals – his first goals since the opening game of the season, while Young, returning to the centre forward role he had occupied in the previous season off and on, scored the other.

But I want to stay for a moment longer with the corner kick rule, since as we have already seen, this is the season at the end of which the rules were changed in relation to the offside law.  Two things are to be learned here: one that the writing of the rules was sloppy and not properly checked, and the other that even Fifa don’t have proper records of proceedings.

This is important when we come to discuss the offside law – which as we have seen was causing concern on the basis that it was reducing the entertainment level and thus reducing crowds.

But will come later.  For now we move on to 22 November as Arsenal returned to Highbury and played a goalless draw with Sunderland.  Sunderland were second in the league before the game, equal on points with Notts County who were still topping the table.  And Sunderland’s away form was  good – they had won four and drawn one of their eight away games thus far, so the goalless draw was another step on the road to recovery for Arsenal, if not very entertaining for the fans.

On the same day Sidney Hoar was purchased from Luton for £3000 (and remember we were still in the era of “no transfer over £1000 according to Knighton, and closer than ever to Knighton to the writing his memories.  He really ought to have remembered that purchase.

Although he had played on both wings for Luton, Hoar played more often on the right than the left for Arsenal under Knighton – in fact all his 19 goals in this season were on the right wing with first Toner and then Haden sharing duties on the left.   Even the arrival of Chapman as manager in 1925, and the transfer in of Joe Hulme in 1926 did not stop Hoar playing an important part in the team.  It is said in some reports that Joe Hulme, who cost much the same as Syd Hoar, and was a tremendous success forced Hoar out out of the team, but this was not the case.

Indeed it was Hoar’s ability to play on the left and right wings that helped him force himself back in the side later in his career.  He played at outside left all the way through the 1927 cup run, including the final, and played his last game for the club on 2 March 1929.

He then left Arsenal in September 1929 for Clapton Orient for a fee of £1,000 having played 117 matches for Arsenal and scored 18 goals.    Hoar played at Orient for one season before retiring in the summer of 1930 at the age of 35.

Thus I think on occasion Knighton deserves credit for some of his transfers.  He lacked the skill of Chapman to meld a team, and his reputation is forever soured by the lies he made up for his autobiography, but his network of scouts (who were not wound up by Sir Henry we might note although that is also what he claimed) served him well.

Back with the football the month ended with another good result for the club against with Cardiff City.  Arsenal were sitting 12th in the league and Everton five points behind in 18th.

Thus Arsenal were not at the dizzy heights of earlier in the campaign, but their free fall down the table with six defeats in ten games between 17 September and 8 November seemed to have come to an end.  Indeed although the 1-1 away draw with Cardiff was hardly a stunning victory it did suggest more stability.  After all the club had not lost in three.

Young played his third game as centre forward and got his first goal, and Brain returned after missing two games through injury.  But it was Lewis in goal whom the press made star of the show.   There was talk that he could go on to great things, as could Brain.

Here is the top of the league table at the end of November 1924…

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Notts County 17 8 6 3 16 7 2.286 22
2 Sunderland 17 9 4 4 30 19 1.579 22
3 Birmingham City 17 9 4 4 19 19 1.000 22
4 West Bromwich Albion 17 9 3 5 21 13 1.615 21
5 Huddersfield Town 17 7 6 4 22 12 1.833 20
6 Bolton Wanderers 16 7 6 3 32 19 1.684 20
7 Aston Villa 17 5 10 2 28 21 1.333 20
8 Newcastle United 18 5 9 4 27 19 1.421 19
9 Manchester City 18 7 5 6 37 31 1.194 19
10 Tottenham Hotspur 18 6 6 6 25 18 1.389 18
11 Arsenal 17 7 4 6 17 19 0.895 18

And here is a list of the games for the month

Rnd Date Opposition H/A Comp Res Score Crowd
13 01/11/1924 Bolton Wanderers A FL L 1-4 18,000
14 08/11/1924 Notts County H FL L 0-1 35,000
2 10/11/1924 West Ham United A LFACC L 1-4 10,000
15 15/11/1924 Everton A FL W 3-2 20,000
16 22/11/1924 Sunderland H FL D 0-0 35,000
17 29/11/1924 Cardiff City A FL D 1-1 20,000


We are currently evolving a complete series on Henry Norris at the Arsenal.

Perhaps the most popular element in the Norris story is that of Arsenal’s promotion to the first division in 1919.  The most complete review of this, which puts right the numerous misunderstandings of the events of that year appears, and most importantly cites contemporary articles and reports, such as the minutes of the FA meeting where the promotion was confirmed, and the reports in local papers thereafter, is set out below in these articles.

After that there is a complete index of all the articles in the series in chronological order.

The preliminaries

The voting and the comments before and after the election

The Second Libel

The Third Allegation

The Fourth Allegation

Did Henry Norris really beg Leslie Knighton to stay and offer him the hugest bonus ever?  And if so, why were there no new players?

The Fifth Story:

The Sixth Allegation

The Seventh Allegation

Here’s the year by year account.  We’re adding two or three new articles a week.

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

Section 10: 1919, the reform of football, the promotion of The Arsenal

Section 11: 1920 – the second half of the first post-war season and onwards.

Section 12: 1921

Section 13: 1922

Section 14: 1923

Section 15: 1924


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