March 1926: The title slips away from Arsenal but second place looks a real possibility.

by Tony Attwood

March 1926 opened with the champions of the last two years at the top of the league.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Huddersfield Town 30 15 10 5 65 46 1.413 40
2 Sunderland 31 16 6 9 74 55 1.345 38
3 Arsenal 30 15 6 9 62 48 1.292 36
4 Bury 31 17 2 12 72 64 1.125 36
5 Sheffield United 32 14 6 12 81 66 1.227 34

It was of course a huge change from last year when Arsenal were struggling to avoid relegation, and highly exciting for Arsenal who had never been this high up the league at this time of year.  But the reality was that Huddersfield had the experience of being in this position, and they were four points clear of Arsenal with a better goal average.  Arsenal needed a very strong March if they were going to stay in contention.

Chapman was still actively strengthening his squad.  Having signed Joe Hulme in February on 2 March the manager another epoch-making bit of business, signing Tom Parker from Southern League Southampton FC; the man Chapman saw as being the perfect answer to the right back element of the offside law conundrum (which although now producing fewer freak results was still having an effect at times).   Indeed once in the side Parker played 155 consecutive league matches for Arsenal (172 in all competitions), captaining the FA Cup winning side of 1930 and the first championship winning side of 1931.

Unfortunately the left back side of the equation was still unresolved – and would remain so until Eddie Hapgood was ready to step up in 1929.

At first Southampton resisted Arsenal’s offer for Parker, but the club had need on finance in order to do what Arsenal had done the previous summer: buy their own ground, so eventually they accepted an offer of £3,250.

However although Chapman was working hard to improve the squad, results did not immediately go his was, as could be witnessed on 6 March 1926 with Swansea Town 2 Arsenal 1 in the FA Cup sixth round.  Swansea were a division 2 side having gained promotion the season before from the 3rd division (south).  Although clearly a lower league team they did have a slight cup advantage playing in the Welsh Cup as well as the FA Cup.  They had been runners’ up and beaten semi-finalists in the last two years.

Nevertheless after all the promise of the season it was something of an ignominious exit for a club near the top of the 1st division, and all the while Huddersfield Town were drawing away at the top of Division One.  But it was the first time Arsenal had progressed this far in the cup since 1922 and it gave hope for the future.  (Meanwhile also in the cup, just along the road across the border into east London Clapton Orient lost 1-6 to Manchester City).

6 March was also the final game for Dr Paterson.  Having been brought back into the team to help out with the wing problem, the man dismissed in his memoirs by Leslie Knighton as merely the brother in law of the club’s physio who he was forced to play because Sir Henry would not allow him to buy, had played 77 league and cup games for Arsenal.

Meanwhile, and probably not a matter of central concern to most Arsenal supporters at the time,  on the same day, The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford upon Avon was destroyed by fire.  It was a momentous event in the art life of the country and caused much debate as to how serious the country was about its heritage in this post-war era.

The following weekend it was time for Arsenal to let a player go – two years to the day after signing for Arsenal 13 March, Andrew Neil was sold back to Brighton from whence he had come.  He had played 57 times for Arsenal.

Arsenal’s next game was on 13 March, and with just one win in the last five league matches the result Everton 2 Arsenal 3 was welcome relief.  Jimmy Brain – who seemed to have been liberated more than any other Arsenal player by Chapman’s arrival – scored another hat-trick.  Meanwhile having tried Voysey and Dr Paterson as wingers Chapman was now back with Lawson and Hulme, and indeed for the rest of the season these two players made up the outside forward partnership, although interestingly in April they swapped sides.  But for now it was Hulme on the right and Lawson on the left.

In a way the result was not unexpected – Everton were no great shakes at home, but Arsenal were the favourites for the game.  Indeed Arsenal were becoming a decent side away from home while Everton had only won two home games all season.  Meanwhile Blackburn Rovers beat Burnley 6-3 – a result which looks particularly surprising when compared with the following week’s games in which Burnley then beat high flying Sunderland, the masters of the new off side law, 5-2.  There were ever fewer such high scoring games, but clearly experimentation with the new off side law could still throw up a few surprises.

Arsenal’s game at Highbury on 17 March was against 5th placed Sheffield United, who were just two points behind Arsenal.  The emphatic 4-0 victory with two from Brain, plus goals from Buchan and Blyth was a very welcome return to form.  Ramsey, having returned from an injury sustained in the first match of the campaign, in mid-February, was now fully back in his stride.

20 March saw another home game – this against Manchester City, and it was the third victory in a row, by 1-0 with Blyth scoring.  This also marked Jack Rutherford’s  final game for Arsenal aged 41 years 159 days – the oldest player to play a league match in the history of the club – Rutherford replacing Lawson for his last appearance.

Elsewhere the occasional high scoring match still popped up, although this weekend’s result was hardly a surprise, seeing Huddersfield Town beat Aston Villa 5-1.

The month for Arsenal ended with a 2-2 away draw with Bury, who themselves had been on a fine run earlier in the season but had been slipping of late.  Brain and Hulme got the goals for Arsenal meaning that Brain had scored six in the last four games.  Indeed Arsenal were in the lead at half time but were unable to hold on to the advantage.

The top of the league now showed Huddersfield as running away with the title, having just won six games in a row, scoring 19 en route, but Arsenal were in a strong position to capture the runners’ up spot – not bad for a club that had just missed relegation for the previous two seasons.  If they could hold that position it would be their best result for years.  And it looked like being on course for their highest ever goal scoring achievement thus far in the First Division.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Huddersfield Town 35 20 10 5 81 49 1.653 50
2 Arsenal 34 18 7 9 72 52 1.385 43
3 Sunderland 36 18 6 12 84 67 1.254 42
4 Bury 35 17 4 14 75 73 1.027 38
5 Sheffield United 35 15 7 13 86 72 1.194 37

Here are the games for the month

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
06/03/1926 Swansea Town (FAC) A L 1-2 25,198
13/03/1926 Everton A L 3-2 30,515
17/03/1926 Sheffield United H W 4-0 15,609
20/03/1926 Manchester City H W 1-0 34,974
27/03/1926 Bury A D 2-2 18,078



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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