Winning the league at WHL for the second time, and playing our most bitter local rivals

By Tony Attwood

Think “bitter local rivals” and you might think of Tottenham Hotspur, but in the 1890s Arsenal had a very different bitter set of rivals who were even more local, for they played in a ground across the road from Arsenal.

This was Royal Ordnance Factories FC, the club formed after splitting from Arsenal over the question of who should run the club.   The story is told in detail in the book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” – Please see here for more details about that book and how to get a copy.  But in summary, after the attempted coup, which involved a whole array of nasty tricks, Arsenal moved grounds, leaving the rump of rebels to form their own club on the ground opposite.

Meanwhile when Arsenal won the league at WHL in 2004, it was the second time Arsenal had won the league at WHL since Tottenham had last won the league anywhere – Tottenham’s two titles coming in 1951 and 1961.  By the time Tottenham won that second title Arsenal had already won the league seven times, and since then have won it six times more.

Here are the anniversaries

25 April 1891: Arsenal’s first substitute, in a friendly against Sunderland. Davy Howat was forced to leave the pitch with an injury after 20 minutes and at half time it was agreed that Henry Offer could take Howat’s place.  It finished Arsenal 1 Sunderland 3.  It was part of the programme of playing league clubs ahead of the first season in the league.

25 April 1895: Royal Ordnance Factories 0 Woolwich Arsenal 0.  In 1892/3 Arsenal was embroiled in a battle with their ground landlord and his supporters inside the club, which resulted ultimately in Woolwich Arsenal joining the Football League while the landlord and others formed a new club (ROF FC) and joining the Southern League.  They played on grounds opposite each other and this match showed they were at least talking to each other by this date.  Further matches followed.

25 April 1903: Arsenal ended their season beating Chesterfield Municipal 1-0 having beaten Chesterfield Town on 10 April 3-0.   Quite what the attraction was with Chesterfield at this time is not known.

25 April 1904: Arsenal 0 Port Vale 0.  This result gave Arsenal promotion, and left them undefeated at home all season with just two draws.  However a win would have given them the championship.   The crowd was 20,000

25 April 1908: First game for Matthew Thomson in a friendly away to Dundee.  Arsenal lost 1-2.   Thomson came from Maryhill for whom he played in the season 1902/03.  His first league game was in the 1-1 draw at home with Middlesbrough on March 17 1909

25 April 1908: Death of Harry Storer.  After leaving Arsenal he went to Liverpool and continued to play for them until 1899, staying on the books until 1901. Tragically he died just six years later in Derbyshire of tuberculosis aged 38.

25 April 1910: The limited company that was set up to run Woolwich Arsenal in 1893,  The Woolwich Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited, was dissolved.  A new company was set up on the following day: 26 April 1910

25 April 1914: Arsenal finished their first season after the move to Highbury, with a 2-0 win over Glossop North End in front of 25,000.  The club came third, missing promotion only on goal average.  Bradford and Notts County went up instead.

25 April 1916: The start of a dreadful period in the war as Germany launched a united air and sea attack on the east coast of England followed by a major gas attack at Hulluch in France in which the 16th (Irish) Division was wiped out.   Elsewhere British forces surrendered to the Ottoman Empire at Kut-al-Amara

25 April 1919:  The London Combination which had been the league for the capital during the first world war prepared to vote itself out of existence, to make way for the return of the Football League.  In the event it didn’t, and instead became the reserve league for London.

25 April 1921: Arsenal 2 Preston North End 1.  This made it seven without defeat as Arsenal challenged for their best position in the first division thus far, beating the 6th of 1909 – although it wasn’t to be.  Hopkins and McKinnon scored.

25 April 1931: “Arsenal Romance: How famous club was formed” by David Danskin appeared in Midland Daily Telegraph.  The article, although written over 40 years after the event has become a significant source for historians.

25 April 1932: Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 1.  Leslie Compton’s debut.  He was transferred from Hampstead Town and went on to play 253 league games for Arsenal in a 20 year career with the club.   He had just turned professional and was played at right back but then when George Male took that place, he moved back to the reserves before later moving to the centre of defence.

25 April 1936: Arsenal 1 Sheffield U 0.  FA Cup final.  This was Allison’s second trophy in his first two years of management.  Ted Drake scored.

25 April 1939: Archie Leitch died.  He is remembered as the prime architect of Highbury, but should also be remembered for his work on the Manor Ground in Plumstead.  Henry Norris also employed him to work at Fulham while he also worked on Stamford Bridge at the same time!

25 April 1953: Preston 2 Arsenal 0, leaving the teams on equal points at the top with one game to go.  Everything thus came down to the final game played on the evening before the cup final, on a mud pile of a Highbury pitch.

25 April 1961: Terry Neill international debut for N Ireland.  He went to manage Arsenal for 416 games – more than Herbert Chapman, but unlike Chapman left no lasting legacy at all.

25 April 1977: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0.  Last league game for Wilf Rostron.  He played only 17 times for Arsenal across four years, and went on to Sunderland, but he is best remembered at Watford for his 317 league games for them.

25 April 1979:  Nine days after beating Chelsea 5-2 Arsenal lost 1-5 to Villa.  In between we lost 0-2 to Derby.  In total Arsenal played nine games in 33 days ahead of the Man U cup final.

25 April 1981: Wolverhampton 1 Arsenal 2, which made it six wins and two draws in the last eight games as Arsenal headed for a final position of 3rd – the club’s best since 1972. Stapleton scored, the other goal was an own goal.

25 April 1987: Man City 3 Arsenal 0. Arsenal had just beaten Leicester 4-1 and with Man City bottom of the league, this had looked like a certain victory with Arsenal fourth, but it was most certainly not to be.

25 April 1998:  Barnsley 0 Arsenal 2.  Arsenal moved closer to the championship, and received a standing ovation from the home crowd.  34th league game of the 2nd Double season.  Bergkamp scored his 16th and final league goal of the season to end as top scorer.  The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

25 April 2004. Arsenal won the League, at White Hart Lane, for the second time since Tottenham last won the league.  The score was Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2 and this was the 34th league game of the unbeaten season.  Lehmann (having conceded a penalty in the 94th minute) failed to return to the pitch to celebrate afterwards.  Vieira and Pires got the goals.

25 April 2007: Death of Alan Ball aged 61.  After his playing days he became a manager, having eight different stints with clubs the length and breadth of England.  He was never a success in the job however, and retired aged 54.

25 April 2007: Death of Arthur Shaw.  It is reported that after finishing playing football he became a successful professional gambler, later meeting Malcolm Allison with whom he formed a successful gambling partnership.

25 April 2007: Death of Arthur Milton.  Only twelve men played football and cricket for England in full internationals and test matches – Arsenal player Arthur Milton was the last of that remarkable group.

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