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Why two clubs in a neighbourhood is better than one – and the anniversaries

By Tony Attwood

There were many reasons why Woolwich Arsenal moved from Plumstead to north London in 1913, including the low attendances at matches (which seemed hard to overcome for a club based near the river and thus with no fans to the north).  But the fact that despite all the fuss made by supposed fans in the local press, few of them would support their club by buying a share in Arsenal, was also one of the major factors.

What Henry Norris had realised when he helped to rescue the club from bankruptcy in 1910 was that it was not so much the success of the club that increased numbers in the stadium, but the location of the stadium itself.  The prime evidence for this came from Chelsea who regularly hopped between Division I and Division II, but who, because of the ease of access to the ground, and the size of the ground, would regularly get far larger crowds than Arsenal.

Further, Norris realised, the ideal situation for any club is to have another team close by, so that there could be real local rivalry.   Arsenal had had this with Millwall to a degree, and to an extent with Chelsea themselves, but Chelsea benefitted much more because of the size of their stadium – they could hold 60,000 at Stamford Bridge at the time.

What’s more, with two clubs close together (as Fulham and Chelsea were, for example) the local newspapers always had some football news to discuss and that too heightened interest.  With just one club there was less news, and much of it was focussed on negative issues.   Fans were less likely to complain about their own club if the newspaper also covered their local rivals.

It was considerations such as these that led Norris to believe that Islington was an ideal place for Arsenal.  And while Tottenham protested about the move, saying it would harm the crowds of both clubs, Norris believed that the move would actually enhance the crowds of both clubs.  And he was right.  Indeed even Orient’s crowds went up when Arsenal moved north.

Here are the anniversaries…

10 June 1910: Local press reports in SE London confirmed that Henry Norris was willing to sell his Woolwich Arsenal shares to local people.   But it was also confirmed that the last share issue itself had failed because local people were not taking up the offer.  This failure to buy was a major cause of the decision to move Arsenal to north London.

10 June 1919: Dr Kevin O’Flanagan born – he played for Arsenal in 1946/7.  He also played for Ireland at both football and rugby, was also a sprint champion, and later played football for both N Ireland and the Irish Free State.

10 June 1921: The UK reached crisis point with 2.2 million unemployed, 2 million involved in wage disputes and in the midst of it all, 100 days of drought.

10 June 1925: Having returned early from Huddersfield’s European tour Herbert Chapman met with directors of Huddersfield prior to agreeing to manage Arsenal.

10 June 1936: Arsenal released Frank Hill and Ehud Rogers.  Hill moved on to Blackpool after playing 76 league games.  Rogers had signed for Arsenal in 1934, making 16 league appearances and scoring 5 goals and moved on to Newcastle.

10 June 1945: Tommy Baldwin born.  Some sources quote 1946.  He played first for Wrekenton Juniors before joining Arsenal. He turned professional in 1962, and made his league debut in the 3–0 defeat of Birmingham City in April 1965.

10 June 1966: David Platt born. He was an apprentice at Man U before moving on to Crewe and then Aston Villa.  After that he played in Italy before joining Arsenal from Sampdoria.

10 June 1984: Almost unimaginably, given the state of their relative teams, England beat Brazil 2-0 in Rio, with Sansom and Woodcock in the side.

10 June 1985: Brian Talbot sold to Watford after 254 league games and 40 league goals for Arsenal.  After that he moved on to Stoke, WBA, Fulham and Aldershot before playing finally for Sudbury Town, and then moving into management.  He became chief scout and assistant director of football operations at Fulham in February 2017.

10 June 1985: Park Chu-Young was born in Korea.  His transfer to Arsenal on 30 August 2011 was one of the strangest transfers of all time and he never showed any promise at all at Arsenal.

10 June 1993: Archie Macauley died.  After a playing career which earned him numerous plaudits he had a very successful managerial career with Norwich, WBA and Brighton, but then, aged 50, having just taken Brighton up, he gave it all up and is said to have become a traffic warden.

10 June 2009: George Eastham finally presented with his World Cup medal.  As a squad member who did not play in the 1966 World Cup Final he had not been granted a medal – but finally got one 43 years later.

10 June 2013: On this birthday (see above) Park Chu Young, on loan to Celta Vigo, was fined for failing to turn up at a match.  He then went on loan to Watford, for whom he played two games, before being sold to Al Shabab. He was last heard of winning the Korean League for FC Seoul in 2016.

10 June 2015: Josh Vickers’ released by Arsenal.  Two months later he signed for Swansea City.   He was released by Swansea at the end of the 2016–17 season and then joined Lincoln City on a two year deal.


Publications

“Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” and “Making the Arsenal” are both available in paperback, as well as on Kindle. Please see here for more details.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

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