The man who did more to disrupt Arsenal than anyone else – ever

That man is Leslie Knighton, Arsenal manager from 1919 to 1925.   Knighton was a modest manager for the first three years of his reign, but only just avoided relegation in the final two years.  However what has soured his reputation considerably is a reconsideration of Knighton’s autobiography in which he launched a series of attacks on Arsenal’s chairman, Sir Henry Norris.   This book has since then been taken as a factual account of Arsenal during this period, but a simple check of the facts show that the autobiography is packed with what at best are mistakes and exaggerations, at worst downright lies.  To give but one example, Knighton claimed at one point he was restricted a maximum transfer fee of £1000, while later boasting that he offered £3500 for Buchan – more than Arsenal actually paid for him the following summer, after Knighton had been sacked.

Knighton took control of Arsenal on this day in 1919 and died on his day in 1959.   The full story of his time at Arsenal is reported for the first time in our series Henry Norris at the Arsenal.

Here are the anniversaries…

10 May 1890: Millwall Athletic 3 Arsenal 3.  A crowd of 800 turned up to see the local derby – the first since Millwall added “athletic” to their name.

10 May 1899: James Jackson signed.  He made his debut at full back alongside Duncan McNichol and the pair became a renowned full back partnership.  Jackson played until 1905, making 204 appearances and scoring 1 goal.

10 May 1908 David Greenaway signed.  He was an outside right who between 1908 and 1920 played 161 league games and scored 13 goals.

10 May 1910: The sale period of shares Arsenal finally came to an end and it was clear that not nearly enough had been sold to make the offer valid.  The club remained in the financial mire as local people refused to support the club.

10 May 1915: The board of directors at Arsenal formally approved the change of the name of the club (which had already happened the month before) to The Arsenal at a meeting on this day.  

10 May 1919.  Leslie Knighton took charge of his first Arsenal match at Highbury as Arsenal beat West Ham 3-2 with 8000 in the ground.  

10 May 1922: Andrew Kennedy, signed one day before, played in his first match – a friendly against Southend.

10 May 1923: Boldklubben Frem (Copenhagen) 2 Arsenal 4.  First appearance of  Samson Haden.

10 May 1932: Northampton 2 Arsenal 3.  The last of the Northampton/Arsenal friendlies which supported a local hospital and which may have also helped Chapman’s old club repair their ground after it had been destroyed by fire.

10 May 1959: Death of Leslie Knighton, the first manager of Arsenal in north London.  He and George Allison published their autobiographies within weeks of each other in 1948, and Knighton’s book has regularly been used as a source of information concerning Arsenal and Henry Norris, but subsequent investigation has shown most of his allegations (although still oft repeated today) are utterly without foundation.  Allison’s volume, written immediately after his retirement, paints a totally different picture of Norris and the club, but is mostly ignored.

10 May1962: Danny Clapton’s last senior game.  He moved to Luton Town in September 1962 before playing for Corinthians of Sydney.   By 1970 he was running a pub in Hackney.

10 May 1966: Charlie George, who had been discovered by George Male, signed apprentice forms.  He played 133 league games before moving to Derby.

10 May 1969: Dennis Bergkamp born in Amsterdam, the son of an electrician.  He joined Ajax aged 12, and stayed there for 12 years before moving to Inter.  After two miserable years there where he was insulted by the media on a weekly basis, he moved to Arsenal.

10 May 1980: Arsenal lost the FA Cup final to West Ham.  It was Arsenal’s 3rd successive FA Cup final, and the last until the Cup Double season of 1993.

10 May 1995: Arsenal lost 1-2 to Real Zaragoza in injury time in the Cup Winners Cup final as Nayim spotted Seaman off his line and lobbed him from 50 yards out.

10 May 1997: Matthew Upson transferred to Arsenal from Luton for £1.2m.  (Also reported as 16 May in some quarters.) He had played just once for Luton and went on to play 35 times for Arsenal before moving on to Birmingham City.

10 May 1998: With the league won on 3 May, Arsenal took life easy in the 38th and final match of the second Double season losing 1-0 to Aston Villa, knowing that the Cup Final was still to come. The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

10 May 2009: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4; Bendtner scored in what was the worst defeat thus far at the Emirates.  In the following home game two weeks later Arsenal defeated Stoke 4-1.

10 May 2012: Steve Bould, having been youth team coach, and head of the under 18s, stepped up to become Arsene Wenger’s assistant upon the retirement of Pat Rice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *