By Tony Attwood
For anyone who has not read Henry Norris at the Arsenal the notion that Norris was something of a wartime hero must seem strange as he is portrayed elsewhere as a self-centred incompetent. But not only was this quite untrue, he was an extremely important part of Britain’s war effort, rising from a man with no rank in the army to Lt Colonel by the end of the war, as in the War Office he reorganised recruitment and later conscription, and at the end of the war oversaw the decommissioning of the armed forces.
On this day in 1915 the first Footballer’s Battalion played a friendly against the Sporting Battalion. Although others have been credited with setting up the Footballers’ Battalion (including laughably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – laughably because he argued that football should be banned during the war years), it was Norris who saw the possibilities and set up the organisation that made it happen. Also because of the slowness of the authorities in recognising what he was doing, he personally paid the wages of the volunteer soldiers until they were assimilated into the Middlesex Regiment.
Henry Norris’ innovation and work in this area was recognised in 1917 when he was given a knighthood.
Here is the list of anniversaries for this day.
26 April 1893: Sevenoaks 0 Arsenal 11. This was part of the programme of building towards the launch of Arsenal’s league career starting in September, but as the score suggests, local teams were not really up to Arsenal’s strengths.
26 April 1899: Woolwich Arsenal 3 Woolwich League 0. This is one of those tantalising friendlies which exist in the results, but for which we have no information. Charlton (formed 1905) certainly played in the Woolwich League for a few years, and the League’s existence suggests a multiplicity of clubs in the area.
26 April 1910 With the original Woolwich Arsenal limited company dissolved on 25 April, a new company bearing the same name as the old one came into existence on this. This company still trades today and continues to carry out its business as Arsenal FC.
26 April 1912: Arsenal manager George Morrell took the job of manager at Leeds City who had just finished one place from bottom in Division II. Henry Norris and William Hall naturally met with their manager – and ultimately persuaded him to stay. The job at Leeds instead went to Herbert Chapman – something he would deeply come to regret.
26 April 1913: Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough 1; after a disastrous season Woolwich Arsenal played their last game at the Manor Ground as Arsenal were relegated for the only time in their history. Stonley scored the last Arsenal goal in Plumstead; it was his only goal in Plumstead. 3000 turned up for this final match. Also here It was Jo Shaw’s testimonial and the amount he was to be paid was enhanced by the directors, due to the smallness of the crowd.
26 April 1915: Following Henry Norris’ efforts and funding in setting up the first Footballer’s Battalion on this day the Footballers Battalion XI played the Sportsmen’s Battalion at Craven Cottage.
26 April 1917: Wartime league match attendances varied enormously. On this day 1000 turned up to see the postponed game against Brentford away. It ended goalless.
26 April 1919: In the aftermath of the huge fall out between Arsenal and Fulham, the Victory Cup Final was played at Highbury with 36000 present, Chelsea beating Fulham 3-0. The Islington Daily Gazette reported anti-Fulham feeling at the match, even in the press room. Meanwhile Arsenal played a friendly away to Brentford. It ended in a 3-3 draw in front of 3,000 and thus with a game between the top two the final London Combination season the London wartime league of the first world war was over.
26 April 1926: Arsenal 5 Hibernian 0. Last game for John Alex Mackie. He played 108 league games for the club, 119 overall, before moving to Portsmouth, and later Northampton, ending his career at the outbreak of war. See also here.
26 April 1930. Arsenal won the F.A. Cup for the first time, 2-0 v Huddersfield as Arsenal played Chapman’s previous employers. It was the final remembered for the Zepplin flying overhead, and because it involved Chapman’s present and past employers playing each other. It was also the first final in which the managers led their teams onto the pitch. See also here
26 April 1952: Manchester United 6 Arsenal 1. Last game for Reg Lewis. His career was hampered by injuries and he retired having played 176 games scoring 116 goals. He went on to run a pub and work in insurance.
26 April 1958: Last game for Mike Tiddy. Preston 3 Arsenal 0. His career was shortened by repeated injury, and eventually Arsenal brought in Joe Haverty as a replacement. Mike moved on to Brighton and Hove Albion.
26 April 1965: Man U 3 Arsenal 1 ended the season with Arsenal 13th after just two wins in the last 10. George Eastham scored a penalty for Arsenal.
26 April 1971: Leeds 1 Arsenal 0. Charlton was obviously offside as he took the ball and shot in injury time. The shot hit the post, ran along the line as Charlton ran into McNab and the ball went in. With Arsenal players outraged both by the off-side and the foul on McNab the police came onto the pitch and led the ref away. Arsenal were now one point behind Leeds.
26 April 1975: Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0. The only win in the last five as Arsenal ended the season in 16th. Kidd scored the goal (his 19th of the season) in a far from full Highbury. Arsenal lost the final match 0-1 to West Ham.
26 April 1980: Arsenal 1 WBA 1. Stapleton scored his 13th of the season. Better form could have given Arsenal 3rd instead of 4th at the end of the season, but Arsenal won just one of the last six, and scoring just five goals in those games, while letting in eight.
26 April 2008: Perry Groves was arrested in Colchester and issued with a fixed penalty notice for a Section 5 public order offence of using abusive and insulting words and behaviour, likely to cause harassment.