When the northern clubs used their muscle to make life difficult for those in the south

In the years following the end of the first world war there was a long period of industrial action, as employers and employees fought it out to see who had the real control over British industry and commerce.

The rail strike of 1921 was thus one of many, but it took on an extra dimension because by then the football league had resumed, after being shut down for four years because of the war, and rail was the main way in which clubs moved across the country to get to away games.

We might think today that clubs could have gone by road, but in 1921 the road transport network was still very rough and ready and many roads were little more than tracks.   What’s more although there were cars and motor coaches on the roads there were not that many, and progress was often slow.  Maps were incomplete, road closures were common, and potholes were a regular occurance leading to punctures and long delays.

In such circumstances the football league clubs in the south, who were a tiny minority (for south of the midlands there were only three first division league clubs – Tottenham, Chelsea and of course Arsenal) appealed for help with the occasional postponement of games.

Indeed it was totally obvious that these teams were going to struggle to get to games, and would in fact have to leave one day before a game, and allow a lot of extra time.  Burnley v Arsenal was scheduled on this day in 1921 – a distance of over 250 miles, and it was estimated it would take around 14 hours by coach.  Each way.   Meaning players would be spending over a day travelling there are back, and have nowhere to practice or prepare for away games.

But the northern league did not want to help these upstart southerners so they forced through a ruling in the League that matches could not be postponed because of difficulties in getting to a ground due to the rail strike.  Anything, it seems to get an advantage.

15 April 1894: Patrick O’Brien, having travelled from Glasgow, signed for Woolwich Arsenal.   He made his debut on 10 September 1894 in the second match of the second league season playing inside left – it was a 1-3 home defeat to Grimsby.

15 April 1899: Jack Robson born.  At 5 feet 8 inches he was Arsenal’s smallest ever keeper, and was signed by Arsenal from Innerleithen in 1921 to be third choice keeper, for reputedly just £5.  But he was a success, for in 1923/4 he was an ever present for the club.

15 April 1905: Last game for Thomas Briercliffe.  He had been a vital part of the promotion winning team, but after 28 games in his fourth season he was sold on to Plymouth in the Southern League.

15 April 1910:  George Leavey the Arsenal chairman went to see Archibald Leitch, the architect who oversaw the development of the Manor Ground around the turn of the century.  It is most likely that the reason for the visit was that Leitch had not been paid for that work. (He was eventually paid, by Henry Norris.)

15 April 1911: Leslie Calder played his one and only game for Arsenal at centre forward away to Middlesbrough.  There are few details of the player and in the days when Arsenal.com had a listing of supposedly all Arsenal players, he was not included.

15 April 1912:  George Leavey resigned from the board of Woolwich Arsenal after 14 years with the club.  Quite where his wealth came from (he ran a gentleman’s outfitters shop in Plumstead) has never been clear, but he was a major force in Arsenal’s survival until the arrival of Henry Norris.

15 April 1916: Despite Arsenal having moved north and despite this being the wartime league over 9000 still turned up at Highbury for Arsenal v Millwall.

15 April 1921: With national mining strikes called it was anticipated that trains would not run.  The northern clubs which dominated the League pushed through a regulations saying that matches could not be postponed because of travel difficulties, leaving the London clubs with problems.  Arsenal set off for Burnley by coach a day early.

15 April 1934: David Herd born. He was one of the players along with Jimmy Bloomfield, Jo Haverty, and Danny Clapton who came in to rebuild the side after the championship team of 1953 slipped badly in 1954.   

15 April 1938: Top of the league Arsenal were on a roll and Drake and Bastin were back in the team for the “home banker” with Brentford.  But Arsenal were beaten at home for only the second time in the season, 0-2. Wolverhampton in 3rd beat Leicester 10-1 at the same time.

15 April 1939: Arsenal beat a Man U team who were currently 19th in the league and had gone nine without a win, 2-1.  Crayston and Drake scored.

15 April 1950: Arsenal 4 Newcastle 2.  103rd and last League game for Archie Macaulay.  He later became a successful manager at Norwich (replacing Tom Parker) taking them to a promotion and an FA Cup semi-final.

15 April 1953: Arsenal 4 Bolton 1, as Arsenal headed for the title.  Bill Dodgin’s first game for Arsenal. Bill had been signed by his father both at Southampton and Fulham and joined Arsenal in  December 1952.

15 April 1970: Arsenal lost to Ajax 0-1 in the second leg of the Fairs Cup semi-final but having won the first match at Highbury 3-0 reached their first Euro final.  In the other semi-final Anderlecht beat Internazionale 2-1 on aggregate having lost 0-1 at home in the first leg.

15 April 1972: Arsenal drew 1-1 with Stoke in the FA Cup Semi-Final with Radford taking over in goal replacing the injured Bob Wilson.  Armstrong scored the goal.

15 April 1978: Arsenal were 5th in the league but with no chance of catching Nottingham Forest at the top.  Thus only 33,353 turned up for Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 1. Steve Walford played his first game

15 April 2006: The match nominated as “Bergkamp Day”.  Bergkamp himself was a sub. The score was Arsenal 3 WBA 1.  Hleb got the first, Bergkamp set up Pirès for the second and the third was scored by… Dennis Bergkamp on 89 minutes

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