Actually in that headline the bit that is most unlikely is the Passion. By 1909 the once Invincibles had declined and were in a backwater of football, where crowds of between 3,000 to 7,000 were commonplace.
Preston North End had wonthe first league (1888/9) without losing a game – impressive, but not too hard when only 22 games were played. They won the next season as well, and then went on a run of 3 finishes in the runner’s up spot.
But then fortune declined and by 1901 they were relegated and so met Arsenal for the first time in the second division in 1901/2.
In 1904 Preston finished top of division 2, and Woolwich Arsenal came second, so both moved up and settled down to regular mid-table lives with Preston NE getting one more runners-up spot in 1906.
Blackpool, their big local rivals, were currently six years into a 30 year run in division 2.
So Woolwich Arsenal prepared for the long trip north on the train with some hope. The worrying factor was that Preston were proving hard to beat at home, but were quite useless away from home. At home they were getting nigh on two goals a game, and the thought of Arsenal scoring three was remote. They had only done that once this season – against bottom of the league Chelsea.
The Preston defence at home had the best record in the league, and not surprisingly with all these facts, their most common score was 1-0 to the PNE – with an occasional flurry of more goals – which took the average up.
So what gave Woolwich Arsenal hope for this game? First, their own form which had been a disaster but had improved to the extent of the last four games yielding two wins and two draws, and taking them off the foot of the table.
Second, the linchpin of the Preston side Richard (Dickie) Bond, who played outside right had left the club, had moved on, and they were short of star turns.
So there was hope – if only Arsenal could sort out their centre forward problems.
William Elijah Buckenham had joined the club a few weeks before from 86th Battallion Royal Artillery and had looked promising for a couple of games before getting an injury and missing the Tottenham game. He had actually scored in his first ever outing for Woolwich in the 2-2 draw with Bristol City.
Woolwich Arsenal was his only League club – when he left he went on to Southampton who at the time were in the Southern League. He was born in Woolwich in 1888 and died in 1954, and beyond this we know nothing.
So, the team was prepared (although in those days there were no tactics as such), and (a rarity this season) virtually all the players who travelled had actually played for the club before in the position they were going to play in.
Everyone got ready to go.
The details of the match against Preston North End on 11 December 1909 will appear here shortly. In the meantime, if you have not yet read it, do take a look at www.emiratesstadium.info where you can find details of the book MAKING THE ARSENAL which covers the whole of 1910 not just from an Arsenal point of view, but also from a social point of view.
You can also find the book on amazon.co.uk where there are some reviews too.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009