Feb 1926: Injuries, shock team selections, Arsenal slip up

By Tony Attwood

By the start of February 1926 the league table showed a very tight situation at the top

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv GD Pts
1 Arsenal 26 14 5 7 56 42 1.333 14 33
2 Sunderland 28 14 5 9 65 50 1.300 15 33
3 Huddersfield Town 25 12 9 4 52 41 1.268 11 33
4 Bury 26 14 2 10 60 55 1.091 5 30
5 Sheffield United 27 12 5 10 73 57 1.281 16 29

Arsenal opened the month on 3 February playing Burnley at Highbury, and having lost the last league match of January 3-0 away to Liverpool there was anxiety that the club would get back on a winning track.

Chapman was clearly unhappy with his outside right because for this game he played his fifth number seven of the season: Herbert Lawson.  He had been signed from Luton Clarence as an amateur on 17 October 1924 by Knighton and had turned professional on 26 November 1924, and this match on 3 February was his Arsenal debut.  Chapman was clearly working his way through every player on the club’s books as he tried to find a replacement for Sid Hoar, whose injuries at the end of the year had stopped his progression.

In fact Hoar did come back and played in the next three seasons, but Lawson, although getting further games at outside left and outside right, only lasted this season before moving on to Brentford.

So for the 3 February match against Burnley we had the regular team with Lawson at outside right.  But it was a bad day for Arsenal for not only did Arsenal lose 1-2 (Buchan getting the goal) but also Sammy Haden broke his leg.  It was his 25th and last game of the season, and indeed he did not return as a regular in the side for almost a year.   He did however play on with Arsenal after that, and his final game was a friendly against Corinthians on 21 September 1927.

What made the defeat against Burnley particularly hard to take however was that Burnley were next  to bottom of the league.  It was not a good omen

And wrapping up this day’s affairs by continuing our view of high scores we had a fine victory for one of Arsenal’s rivals at the top of the league, Manchester City, the score being Man City 1 Huddersfield Town 5.  In the Midlands derby it was WBA 5 Birmingham 1.

Chapman was now focussed on one key issue, for he knew he had to how sort out his wingman problem, and on 5 February he signed Joe Hulme from Blackburn.  Hulme (whom the press called the fastest man in English football) was indeed one of Chapman’s masterstroke signings who went on to play 333 league games across a 13 year spell; a 1930’s version of Thierry Henry; an absolute master at counter-attacking at pace.  The price was £3500.

Now at this point in her review of Henry Norris Sally Davis comments that these transfer negotiations were exactly the things that Sir Henry would have been doing in previous years, but it seems, “he wasn’t doing it now.” This I think, we can take as another indicator that Sir Henry was most deliberately pulling back from affairs – particularly in the winter.  He had clearly put Chapman in charge of all team matters and the rest of the board were undoubtedly signing off Chapman’s desires.   The club of course had another round of debt – the money owing to the previous owners of the site on which Highbury Stadium was built – but with Chapman at the helm the crowds were up on last season, and the club was making a profit.

Indeed it is worth considering the matter of Arsenal’s crowds since the war, for it is most certainly an issue that Sir Henry would have been acutely aware of, as gate money was by far and away the main source of income for the club.

All clubs had received a massive rise in crowds in the first two post-war seasons, quite naturally.  The league had restarted and the soldiers and sailors had returned from the war, and crowds reached levels never previously experienced by clubs.  But then after the peak in 1920/1, crowd levels quickly fell back to just a little above the 1913/14 levels – at about 77% of their 1920/1 peak.

This caused a lot of difficult for many clubs for in football there has often been the assumption that the money earned last year would be repeated this year – and for most clubs this was not the case.  Arsenal too suffered a decline, but by this season of 1925/6 they were running at just under 10% down on their peak year of 1920/21, and the average crowd was still rising.  With this consistency of income, and a growth in crowds where other clubs were still hovering around pre-war levels, the board would have been assured that the debt undertaken with the purchase of the ground could be serviced and repaid.

On 6 February Arsenal (who as a result of the recent defeats had slipped to second in the league) were away to Leeds United who were 19th.    As the shock of the day it ended Leeds United 4 Arsenal 2 in the game in which Joe Hulme made his debut, with a most unlikely player at outside left: Clem Voysey!  It was the last game for Clem Voysey who is best remembered for having his transfer to Arsenal investigated by the FA twice, once in 1925 and again in 1927 but with no charge ever brought against the player, the club or Sir Henry Norris.  

Also back in the team, playing at inside left was Ramsey, who had last been seen in the first team on the opening day of the season.

What is particularly noticeable here is that the score was 0-4 at half time.  Not quite as bad as the infamous Newcastle match, but a reminder that Buchan’s assertion that he and Chapman sorted the issue of the defence out in the aftermath of that game, was not right.  In this game it looks as if Chapman repositioned the players after half time, and they did manage to sneak two back.

Arsenal were now third, two points behind Sunderland and Huddersfield, and with a slightly worse goal average than those two clubs.  The Reds needed to start winning again.

The next game, on 13 February, was home to Newcastle and Chapman was now having to swap his team around more than at any time thus far.  Bob John had been injured in the expected rough and tumble at Leeds and was replaced by Young, whose other games this season were at inside right and right half!

Ramsey continued at inside left, Hulme played inside right and to everyone’s surprise at outside left was none other than Dr Paterson who had retired from football in February 1924!  This, you may recall, was the man that Knighton claimed he was reduced to playing because no one else was available – the Scottish league winner who was described in a derisory manner as the “brother-in-law of the club’s physio.”

The result was Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 with Buchan, Blyth and again amazingly, Paterson, getting the goals.  Elsewhere on this day Sunderland beat Manchester City 5-3, and West Ham beat Bolton 6-0. The number of high scoring games was dropping, but they were still happening.

20 February was FA Cup 5th round day and Arsenal were drawn away to Aston Villa.  This time Jock Rutherford played on the right wing with Dr Patterson continuing on the left.  55,400 were at Villa Park and  Buchan, the press reported, was the man of the match.

The replay as always at this time, was played the following week, and on the Wednesday afternoon many of the 71,446 people in attendance would have stayed off work (it was a 2.15pm kick off) to see the replay.  The team was exactly the same as in the first match and Arsenal won 2-0, with Patterson (who else?) scoring the first after 3 minutes and Brain getting the second.  It was said in the papers that another 25,000 were locked outside the ground.  Buchan, they reported, was the man of the match, but he was also injured.

This match also coincided with a Scottish international for which Harper was selected in goal.  Neil came back in for this game and Lewis took over in goal. Lawson and Hulme took over on the wings, and indeed they stayed there for the rest of  the season, although Hulme being cup tied couldn’t play in the next round of the cup.

The final game of the month was against Cardiff City and was a 0-0 draw leaving Arsenal still third in the league and with Huddersfield now stretching out ahead.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GAvg GD Pts
1 Huddersfield Town 30 15 10 5 65 46 1.413 19 40
2 Sunderland 31 16 6 9 74 55 1.345 19 38
3 Arsenal 30 15 6 9 62 48 1.292 14 36
4 Bury 31 17 2 12 72 64 1.125 8 36
5 Sheffield United 31 14 6 11 80 63 1.270 17 34

Here are the games for the month.

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
03/02/1926 Burnley H L 1-2 14,800
06/02/1926 Leeds United A L 2-4 26,239
13/02/1926 Newcastle United H W 3-0 48,346
20/02/1926 Aston Villa (FAC5) A D 1-1 55,400
24/02/1926 Aston Villa (FAC5R) H W 2-0 71,446
27/02/1926 Cardiff City A D 0-0 21,684

Henry Norris at the Arsenal – the series.

This series of articles takes us from 1910 to Henry Norris’ departure from Arsenal.  There is an index to all the articles thus far on the Henry Norris at the Arsenal page on this site.

However because the most popular element in the Norris story is that of Arsenal’s promotion to the first division in 1919, and because it is the one that many people seek information upon,  I set out below the articles that cover that aspect of the club’s history.

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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