It was the most unlikely result.
There certainly was gambling on football 100 years ago, but I don’t know if anyone gambled on actual scores. If they did , they would never have picked this result in a million goes.
Woolwich Arsenal went into the match just about crawling out of the relegation zone. Preston were slipping from their mid-table position but were still hard to beat at home, having lost only two games at home so far this season.
Arsenal’s away form thus far in the season was a catastrophe. The record away from the Manor Ground prior to the Preston game on 11 December 1909 was
Lost to Aston Villa 1-5
Lost to Middlesbrough 2-5
Lost to Bolton 0-1
Lost to Blackburn 0-7
Lost to Notts County 1-5
Lost to Sunderland 2-6
Lost to Manchester United 0-1
Drew with The Wednesday 1-1
Beat Bury 2-1
So yes, there had been an upturn in those last two away games and indeed Arsenal were unbeaten in the last four, including the win one week back in the first ever game against Tottenham Hotspur.
But Preston looked like being a different matter. Apart from anything else it was a long way to go -not least including the difficult and tedious trip into London to get the train north.
6.000 showed up – an average figure for Preston who had slipped away from their time as masters of the footballing universe. And they were rewarded with Preston scoring three goals.
But utterly unlikely as it seems, Woolwich Arsenal got four. Two for Buckenham and two for Neave.
How come? What happened? One win and one draw in nine away games, play a team who simply were rarely beaten at home and the boys got four.
Sadly I have found no record of this game. But the league table after the game has survived…
- 15th Woolwich Arsenal played 17, 13 points
- 16th Middlesbrough played 16, 12 points
- 17th Preston North End, played 17, 12 points
- 18th Chelsea played 17, 12 points
- 19th Tottenham played 16, 11 points
- 20th Bolton played 17, 8 points
So the little revival had worked – three wins and two draws in the last five and Woolwich Arsenal were on the march back up the table. Only two clubs went down at this time, and it was only two points for a win, so even a couple of points above the club in 19th was worth having.
The only question was would it last? Next up Notts County at home.
Finally, you’ll know if you have read this column before that I have been ending with an advert for the book MAKING THE ARSENAL. A new review of the book has just gone up on the Online Gooner site. It’s at http://www.onlinegooner.com/exclusive/index.php?id=1429
You can buy the book via amazon.co.uk or direct from the publishers (with a request for the author to sign if you like) at www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk
Tony Attwood 2009