Herbert Chapman Season 4: flirting with relegation and the signing of Charlie Jones

By Tony Attwood

Three seasons gone and the man brought in to bring trophies to Arsenal had delivered a couple of near misses but no actual trophies.  In the league we had been 2nd, 11th and 10th – far better than under the previous management.  In the cup we had lost in a final, lost in a semi-final and lost in the 6th round.  The final had been highest ever achievement for the club.

The fourth Chapman season was 1928-9 and Arsenal’s opening side was…


Parker Butler Cope

Baker John

Hulme Blythe Brain Thompson Jones

One year before Chapman had started his season with


Parker Butler Kennedy

Baker John

Hulme Buchan Brain Blyth Peel

and he had ended the season with


Parker Butler John

Baker Blyth

Hulme Buchan Shaw  Brain Peel

The new men therefore were

  • Cope – had actually played 24 games in the previous season at left back
  • Thompson – had played five games last season
  • Charlie Jones – who was new to the club.  He went on to play 31 league games this season, and had a total of 195 starts for the club.

Jones’ early career was not a promising one.  He left Cardiff City after one game, and moved into the Third Division with Stockport.  When he got back to the first division with Oldham they were relegated, and after a couple of seasons he moved to Nottingham Forest also in the second division and started playing for Wales.

Jones signed for Arsenal in 1928 and as we have seen went straight into the first team for the first game.  We might pause to wonder what the regulars at Highbury made of this.  A man who had played in the lower leagues was the second major signing by Chapman.  Was this the man to revolutionise the team and deliver the promised trophies?

Arsenal once again started the season poorly, losing the first two games to Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, although Charlie Jones did score in the first game.  Although Arsenal then beat Bolton with a rearranged team matters were still not right and by mid October Arsenal had a record of two wins, two draws and six defeats.

By 3 November 1928 things were not looking good.  On that day Arsenal drew 1-1 with Cardiff City and Jones scored his fifth of the season.  But this was match 13 and Arsenal had only won three of those 13.

Here is the bottom of the table after that match with Cardiff:

    Pld W D L F A GD Pts
15 Portsmouth 13 6 0 7 20 31 0.65 12
16 Bolton Wanderers 13 4 3 6 20 25 0.80 11
17 Cardiff City 13 3 4 6 20 16 1.25 10
18 Huddersfield Town 13 4 2 7 22 24 0.92 10
19 Arsenal 13 3 4 6 20 24 0.83 10
20 Sheffield United 13 5 0 8 19 32 0.59 10
21 Newcastle United 14 4 2 8 21 37 0.57 10
22 Bury 12 3 0 9 12 34 0.35 6

Two clubs were to be relegated; it was two points for a win, and clubs on the same points were divided by goal average, not goal difference.  In short it was only the awful defences of Sheffield Utd and Newcastle Utd that was keeping Arsenal out of the bottom two.

As the season progressed the team changed somewhat.  Peel came back for another run of games, and Roberts came in at centre half, Jack played first at number 8 then at centre forward, Hapgood turned up at left back.

Of course you’ll know these names.  Eddie Hapgood came from Kettering and went on to captain England and played 393 games for the club.  David Jack joined in October 1928 for a record fee of £10,890 – and this for a 29 year old.  Although not joining us until October he still got 31 games that season and scored 25 goals.

Herbie Roberts had joined in 1926 but didn’t start making an impression until 1928.  He played on until 1937 and made 335 appearances.

But in the season in question it made little difference.  We ended up in 9th position and went out of the cup in the sixth round.  Hardly a major improvement.  The one great sign was Jack – who played 31 games and scored 25.  The thought must have been at the end of the season, if only Jack had come earlier.

So promise for the future, but what we have to recognise is this was the fourth season of the great man, and still we were not getting there.  We were seven points off the winners (only 2 points for a win) but we only let in 72 goals, which was mid to upper table performance.  The Wednesday won the league with Leicester second.  Bury and Cardiff went down.

Norris would have been unhappy.  The last two home games only got 11,000 and 21,000 in attendance.

But in retrospect we can see, although Arsenal flirted with relegation, this was the last season before the triumphs began.    Arsenal ended this season 9th and went out in the sixth round of the FA Cup.

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2 Replies to “Herbert Chapman Season 4: flirting with relegation and the signing of Charlie Jones”

  1. This is the man that Dennis Hill-Wood (or so his son Peter has said) said should be Prime Minister? If he had been, his government would have collapsed and Stanley Baldwin would have been back in Number 10 in a hurry.

  2. Norris may have been unhappy but he had no voice at the club. He was kicked out during the summer of 1927.

    When Chapman joined he said it would take 5 years to win a trophy. Quite a long time when you consider the relatively quick success he had at Northampton and Huddersfield.

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