Dec 1925: Arsenal’s winning run comes to an end but they stay top of the League.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal approached December 1925 in high spirits, and not just from the traditional drinking.  The club had five games to play and were top of the league.   Recent results had suggested that many clubs had managed to make sense of the new offside law both in terms of attack and defence, and the number of high scoring matches was declining somewhat, although Christmas was always a time for a few unexpected results.

Also Arsenal were now free to play at home on Christmas Day, having bought their ground rather than leased it, and they could (if they found the space) sell alcohol in the ground too.

For Sir Henry Norris the month started with a positive: the planning application from his property development company which Bromley had turned down, was now passed.

In the world of politics on 3 December the question of the Irish boarder was finally settled with the British government, with the British government acquiescing on the issue of Irish contributions to pensions, and the Irish accepting the existing border as permanent.

Then on 5 December Arsenal played the champions: Huddersfield Town away.  Last season Arsenal had lost 4-0 in Yorkshire and 5-0 in London, so there was much ground to be made up historically if not contemporarily.  Huddersfield were fifth, four points behind Arsenal but with two games in hand.  The result was a 2-2 draw. Arsenal kept the same as had beaten Sunderland and secured a 2-2 draw.  Neil and Buchan scored and the result meant that Arsenal had played the current top team and last season’s champions and gained three out of four points.   Norseman was full of praise.

Continuing to note high scores we find just one on this day just one: Manchester City 5 Leicester 1.

On 8 December John (“Jack”) Butler made his  only appearance for England (against Belgium), despite him being born in Ceylon.  After retiring from playing football he managed the Belgium national team for four years.

On 11 December Sir Henry Norris made the first of a series of payments to Charlie Buchan (of £125) as compensation for the loss of revenue from the sports shop in Sunderland that Buchan had put his name to.  This sort of activity was very common; players undertook all sorts of “work” or were given shares in organisations to have their name associated with a shop or store, with the club being involved in the payment as a way of getting around the maximum pay regulations.

By the time of the 12 December game Arsenal had won five and drawn one of the last six, and the run continued on that day with a 1-0 win over West Brom.  Blyth playing left half (Brain now firmly ensconced at left back) scored his second of the season.  The team was the same for the third match running.

There were two high scoring matches on this day: Leeds United 3 Manchester City 4, and a second game of the season that caused readers to believe the score in their newspaper was simply a misprint: Bolton Wanderers 6 Huddersfield Town 1.  (Bolton were 7th, Huddersfield 4th).   It was Huddersfield’s equivalent of Arsenal’s Newcastle event from October 3.   Such was the shock of that score that many readers hardly took in an even higher scoring batch with Bury 8 Burnley 1.  Bury were 20th, Burnley 22nd with one point between them prior to the match with Bury having scored just one goal more.

These scores suggest to me that while Arsenal had now settled down into a system for playing the new offside rule, both with defence and attack, other clubs had not.  They might get it right playing against one alternative system, but then find their system didn’t work against another team using a different approach.

However although Arsenal were avoiding defeats by big scores they were not always avoiding defeat, and another came along – the first in eight – away to Birmingham City 0-1, Arsenal once more playing their standard line up.  Birmingham were a resolutely mid-table team who had won two of their last six.  On the same day West Brom beat Manchester United 5-1.

Next Arsenal played their first Christmas Day match at home since 1912 – when coincidentally the opponents were the same side – Notts County.  That match in Arsenal’s relegation season had been a goalless draw.  This time Arsenal got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory, Neil, Buchan and Hoar getting the goals.

For the Boxing Day return match away to County, Arsenal had to change their team, as the press reports spoke of “hefty challenges” in the Christmas Day game.  Brain, Blyth and Mackie were mentioned but only Mackie had to drop out for the return along with Buchan who was taken ill.  They and were replaced by Woods and Young, Young making his first appearance of the season at inside right.  Arsenal lost 1-4 and Baker got the goal.  It was something of a shock.

And we may take it that these changes that had been made were not a success as both players were immediately dropped, and indeed it was Harry Woods’ last game for the club.  He was transferred to Luton Town on 6 August 1926 having played 68 league games for Knighton, but just two for Chapman.

Christmas games, coming close upon one another always produced a good number of goals and this year, with clubs still coming to terms with the new law, was certainly no exception.  On Christmas Day we had Bury 6 Manchester City 5, West Ham 5 Aston Villa 2 and Liverpool 6 Newcastle United 3

But maybe sides were learning, for on Boxing Day however there was just one jamboree of this nature: Burnley 6 Leeds United 3.  Here are the Arsenal results for  the month.

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
05/12/1925 Huddersfield Town A D 2-2 22,115
12/12/1925 West Bromwich Albion H W 1-0 34,178
19/12/1925 Birmingham City A L 0-1 26,843
25/12/1925 Notts County H W 3-0 33,398
26/12/1925 Notts County A L 1-4 32,045

And the table for the end of the year…

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Arsenal 23 13 4 6 52 36 1.444 30
2 Sunderland 23 12 5 6 54 40 1.350 29
3 Huddersfield Town 21 10 8 3 43 33 1.303 28
4 Manchester United 22 11 4 7 39 31 1.258 26
5 Tottenham Hotspur 23 11 4 8 45 47 0.957 26
6 West Bromwich Albion 22 10 5 7 50 37 1.351 25
7 Aston Villa 22 9 7 6 51 40 1.275 25
8 Sheffield United 23 10 4 9 56 49 1.143 24
9 Bury 22 11 2 9 51 49 1.041 24
10 Birmingham City 24 10 4 10 39 40 0.975 24
11 Newcastle United 22 8 7 7 44 43 1.023 23
12 Everton 23 7 9 7 48 48 1.000 23
13 Bolton Wanderers 22 9 4 9 43 37 1.162 22
14 Liverpool 21 7 6 8 33 30 1.100 20
15 Notts County 23 8 4 11 35 39 0.897 20
16 Cardiff City 23 9 2 12 33 42 0.786 20
17 West Ham United 23 9 2 12 33 49 0.673 20
18 Blackburn Rovers 23 6 7 10 46 46 1.000 19
19 Leicester City 23 6 6 11 42 51 0.824 18
20 Burnley 23 6 6 11 41 68 0.603 18
21 Manchester City 23 5 6 12 54 67 0.806 16
22 Leeds United 22 6 4 12 36 46 0.783 16

Henry Norris at the Arsenal – the series.

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

The Eighth Level – wild fantasies and desperate stories.

The final round of misinformation and unsupported statements

Knighton’s notoriously inaccurate autobiography reports his departure from Arsenal with a whole raft of statements which a review of the historical facts shows to be untrue, ranging from his “building a new team” in 1919, to the notion that he would have got Buchan at a much lower cost.  He complains also about not getting a benefit match and claims Sir Henry Norris left him £100 in his will, stating that sacking Knighton was his biggest mistake.  There is no evidence for any of this and with so many other statements in this section of his autobiography being plainly wrong, we may wonder about these.

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