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Arsenal in March 1925: The run of consecutive defeats ends, but recovery is slight

This is part of our series on Henry Norris at the Arsenal.  Details of the series are given at the end of the article.

The previous article in the series was Experimenting with the offside law as Arsenal lose 6 in a row, scoring just 2.


 By Tony Attwood

Arsenal entered March 1925 having lost six games in a row during which they had scored two, and conceded 14.  As a result the table now looked like this…

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Huddersfield Town 31 16 10 5 54 22 2.455 42
2 West Bromwich Albion 30 19 4 7 48 26 1.846 42
3 Bolton Wanderers 31 16 8 7 57 29 1.966 40
4 Newcastle United 33 12 15 6 48 30 1.600 39
5 Liverpool 30 15 7 8 51 41 1.244 37
6 Sunderland 32 16 4 12 49 41 1.195 36
7 Bury 30 12 12 6 41 39 1.051 36
8 Birmingham City 31 13 7 11 33 36 0.917 33
9 Manchester City 32 11 9 12 61 56 1.089 31
10 Notts County 29 10 10 9 26 21 1.238 30
11 Tottenham Hotspur 30 10 10 10 40 33 1.212 30
12 Cardiff City 31 11 8 12 43 40 1.075 30
13 Sheffield United 31 9 11 11 36 44 0.818 29
14 West Ham United 29 11 6 12 43 44 0.977 28
15 Burnley 31 10 8 13 41 54 0.759 28
16 Blackburn Rovers 30 9 9 12 38 45 0.844 27
17 Aston Villa 29 8 11 10 42 52 0.808 27
18 Leeds United 30 7 10 13 33 40 0.825 24
19 Arsenal 29 10 4 15 32 39 0.821 24
20 Everton 31 8 8 15 31 48 0.646 24
21 Nottingham Forest 30 5 7 18 23 54 0.426 17
22 Preston North End 30 7 2 21 25 61 0.410 16

With this decline in their form Arsenal had fallen down the table, but no serious thought was given to the notion that Arsenal would be in danger of relegation, not least because Forest had not won in their last seven games, and their case looked terminal.

In an attempt to rectify the situation, on Wednesday 4 March 1925 Arsenal bought Notts County’s Don Cock, the man who had scored against them and then been sent off in the Notts County v Arsenal game earlier in the season.  He had previously played for Brentford and Fulham.

However the transfer was not a success – Knighton only used the player twice this season, (although to be fair he was injured in his second match) and Chapman gave him but one game in 1925/6 before moving him on to Clapton Orient in October 1925.

But one can understand the need for the transfer.  Arsenal’s problem was that Woods, Ramsey and Toner who had played number 9, 10, and 11 through so much of the season were now all missing.  Indeed of the forward line the only man with any experience in the Arsenal team was Brain and since getting his four goals against Leeds he had not scored a single goal.

Against Bolton Arsenal thus now put out an experimental forward line of Hoar, Brain, Cock, Blyth and Haden.  Cock was thus playing his first match, Haden his third of the season and Blyth his second at inside left.  And yet amazingly it worked as Arsenal won 1-0 with Blyth getting his first of the season.

What made the win all the more pleasing was the fact that Bolton were third at the time.   While Bolton’s away form was only modest (having won 3 and drawn 6 out of the 15 away games) Arsenal’s form overall had been so poor that they were given little hope.

Except for one factor, for Bolton’s last five games had provided a very interesting set of results…  At home they had won their last three scoring 12 and conceding just two, but away, they had lost both games 1-0, the second of these to bottom of the league Preston.

Date Game Res Score
07 Feb 1925 Bolton Wanderers v Cardiff City W 3-0
11 Feb 1925 Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers L 1-0
14 Feb 1925 Preston North End v Bolton Wanderers L 1-0
21 Feb 1925 Bolton Wanderers v Burnley W 5-0
28 Feb 1925 Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City W 4-2

So maybe the scoreline was not such a great achievement after all.  But the result was nonetheless very welcome.

Knighton followed up the purchase of Cock with Joe Hughes from Guildford United on 10 March and he made his debut on that same day.  That was in fact his only game for Arsenal, but perhaps this was not a case of Knighton being at fault, as the records show that Hughes retired from football in the summer due to a serious illness.  He did however recover and became a school teacher.

In the second match of the month, on 14 March, Arsenal played Notts County away, and not surprisingly the manager put out the team that had won the week before. County had slipped considerably of late and far from being top of the table were now 10th.

Arsenal were now 18th, eight points ahead of Forest with a game in hand and there was still no worry about relegation.  County also were in a bad run having not won in the last four, so there was hope, but it was not to be as County won 2-1, although there was consolation as at last Brain got another goal.  Arsenal remained at before, in 18th, now eight points above both Preston and Nottingham Forest.

Meanwhile on the building front, once again we find that the Kinnaird building company had put in and were granted an application to build another single house.  It really was a case of just keeping the company ticking over.

Next on 21 March Arsenal welcomed Everton, complete with Dixie Dean in the team – the first appearance of Dean at Arsenal.

With Cock now injured Woods came back at centre forward, and it was noted, Everton had only won a single game away all season.   They had drawn six, that was true, but it was felt a couple of goals should do it.  Mind you Arsenal hadn’t scored a couple of goals in eight games, so that was a tall order.  But Arsenal were 2-0 up at half time, Everton submitted and it ended Arsenal 3 Everton 1.  Woods, anxious to show that he was not going to be usurped by any newcomer got two and Baker got the other – his first of the season.  It was also the first time Arsenal had scored three since December.

On the following Monday Arsenal were back at Highbury with the league game against West Ham – the club that had so exercised Knighton in terms of the FA Cup match, in his autobiography, if not in reality.   But having picked up two wins in the last three games, the run was not to continue.   Arsenal lost 1-2 but the score was not the key issue of the day – only 10,000 turned up at Highbury – their lowest in the first division since returning to the top division in 1919.  It was of course a Monday late afternoon game, but even so there had been other midweek games with much higher crowd figures than this; it was an exceptionally low turnout.

This was the last game for Tom Whittaker; his only game of this season.  He had played just 64 games for the club but his impact behind the scenes, returning the following season as assistant trainer was much, much greater, and he went on to be a major force in the club as manager winning two League titles and the FA Cup as manger before his untimely death in 1953.

The final game of the month saw Arsenal lose 2-0 away to Sunderland.  In the Sunderland team was Charlie Buchan.  One suspects that this was the moment that Sir Henry Norris decided that Buchan, or a player very much like him, was what Arsenal needed.  And indeed following the 10,000 crowd for the West Ham game, maybe it was also the moment that he knew that Knighton most certainly had to go.  Although of course it is possible that discussions with Chapman had started at the game against Huddersfield on 14 February.

The Sunderland game was the end of the League football for the month, but on Monday 30 March there was another game at Highbury in which the proposed new offside law was tried out once more.  The game was Amateurs of the South v Professionals of the South and was in aid of the FA Benevolent Fund.  Unfortunately I can’t find a report of the game nor even the score, but I suspect there were a number of other games of this type held to allow managers to consider what they were going to do in relation to the new rule.

However discussion was not just of the off-side rule, for elsewhere at this time there was also a growing conversation ensuing about water shortages as what turned out to be the driest six months of the 20th century continued to deliver no sign of rain.

Here’s the table for the end of the month

Pos Team P W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 West Bromwich Albion 35 20 7 8 53 31 1.710 47
2 Huddersfield Town 34 17 12 5 57 24 2.375 46
3 Newcastle United 37 15 16 6 59 34 1.735 46
4 Bury 35 15 14 6 49 42 1.167 44
5 Bolton Wanderers 34 17 9 8 61 30 2.033 43
6 Sunderland 36 18 6 12 56 44 1.273 42
7 Liverpool 34 17 7 10 56 49 1.143 41
8 Tottenham Hotspur 36 13 12 11 48 38 1.263 38
9 Birmingham City 35 13 10 12 38 42 0.905 36
10 West Ham United 34 13 9 12 49 48 1.021 35
11 Notts County 33 11 11 11 29 25 1.160 33
12 Manchester City 34 12 9 13 64 60 1.067 33
13 Cardiff City 34 12 8 14 46 46 1.000 32
14 Sheffield United 35 10 12 13 42 51 0.824 32
15 Blackburn Rovers 33 9 11 13 40 48 0.833 29
16 Burnley 34 10 9 15 42 60 0.700 29
17 Leeds United 35 8 12 15 40 48 0.833 28
18 Arsenal 34 12 4 18 38 46 0.826 28
19 Aston Villa 33 8 12 13 42 59 0.712 28
20 Everton 35 10 8 17 35 52 0.673 28
21 Preston North End 34 9 3 22 32 65 0.492 21
22 Nottingham Forest 34 5 9 20 24 58 0.414 19

There were still eight games to go, meaning Preston could repeat their escape act and end up on 37 points.   Arsenal therefore did need to win a few more games.   And it is also, at this point, worth noting Arsenal’s away form this season.  Only the two clubs heading for relegation had done worse on the road.  Here’s the away form table…

Pos Club P W D L F A G.Av Pts
17 Everton 16 1 6 9 12 29 0.414 8
18 Leeds United 14 2 3 9 13 26 0.500 7
19 West Ham United 15 2 2 11 19 38 0.500 6
20 Arsenal 14 2 2 10 12 26 0.462 6
21 Nottingham Forest 14 1 2 11 11 36 0.306 4
22 Preston North End 14 1 2 11 5 32 0.156 4

And here is the usual summary of the month’s game.

Game Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
30 07/03/1925 Bolton H W 1-0 35,000
31 14/03/1925 Notts County A D 1-2 12,000
32 21/03/1925 Everton H W 3-1 20,000
33 23/03/1925 West Ham H L 1-2 10,000
34 28/03/1925 Sunderland A L 0-2 18,000

The series continues


Henry Norris at the Arsenal

We are currently evolving a complete series on Henry Norris at the Arsenal.  The full index to the articles that cover the period from 1910 to this point are given in 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.  Therefore we have separated that story out below.  It raises in part the question of the validity of the chief critic of Henry Norris: the Arsenal manager from 1919 to 1925 who Norris sacked.  Thus in the selection below we include articles which consider the question as to the validity of Knighton’s testimony.

For the complete index on Norris at the Arsenal please see the link above.

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

The Eighth Strange Story

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