Why we should celebrate the life of Sir Henry Norris, founder of the modern Arsenal.

Today we should remember the anniversary of the birth of Henry Norris – the man who ensured that Woolwich Arsenal survived in 1910 and ultimately became the “Bank of England club” in the 1930s.   That title, reflecting Arsenal’s supreme ability to operate in the transfer market in the 1930s, came about because of Norris’ understanding of how football worked.

He realised that it was not winning the league or FA Cup that brought in money to a club – although of course such things always helped – but rather having a large stadium situated near underground and overground rail lines, and surrounded by housing that was rented out to young workers in the City of London. These young men, he knew (for he had been one himself as a solicitor’s clerk) worked until lunchtime on Saturday, and then wanted something to do to celebrate the weekend.   A football match that they could get to with ease by tube or train, was thus more to them than supporting the team – it was part of the saturday ritual for groups of young men who would then go out on the streets for saturday night.

Thus Norris made sure that the location of the club’s new ground was right by the overground and underground lines, and right in the middle of the right sort of residental area.

And one further word – if you have come to this page wondering why we celebrate Norris when he was a crook – then you have been entrapped by the anti-Norris propaganda perpetrated by Leslie Knighton (the manager Norris sacked to make way for Chapman), the Hill-Wood family who took over the club from Norris, and many others who have simply repeated the earlier tales without checking any facts.   If you are interested you might care to look at “Henry Norris at the Arsenal” – the series on this site.

Here are the anniversaries.

23 July 1865: Henry Norris born.  Utterly maligned by Leslie Knighton’s libellous and inaccurate autobiography but praised by George Allison (who knew him from 1910 onwards) in his autobiography, Norris was the man who rescued Arsenal from bankruptcy, honoured all the club’s debts (not just the “football debts”) moved the club to north London, built Highbury, and ultimately brought Herbert Chapman to the club.

23 July 1893: Charles Ambler signed for Woolwich Arsenal having played five games for Royal Arsenal since 1891.  He left Woolwich Arsenal without playing a league game, but then returned on 22 November 1895 from Tottenham, and played his one and only league game on 30 November 1895

23 July 1920:  14 people died and over 100 were injured in continuing rioting and rebellion in Belfast.

23 July 1942: Andy Ducat, suffered a heart attack and passed away while at the crease at in a wartime match at Lords.  He played 175 times for Woolwich Arsenal and his transfer to Villa in 1912 signalled the financial desperation of the club.

23 July 1945: Jon Sammels born in Ipswich.  He supported Arsenal as a boy and joined the club as youth player, winning seven youth caps for England.

23 July 1956: Bill Dickson sold to Mansfield.  He had played 29 games between 1953 and 1956, having been signed from Chelsea.  In later life he was a joiner and a part-time scout for Arsenal.

23 July 1973: Liam Brady signed as a pro for Arsenal.  He went on to make 235 appearances scoring 43 goals.  Sadly he joined the team just as a serious decline set in, and left in 1980 for Juventus.  His one trophy with the club was the 1979 FA Cup.

23 July 1984: Viv Anderson signed from Nottingham Forest.  He had played 328 games for Forest, but he felt the need to move on as the club appeared to be in terminal decline. He displaced Colin Hill and played 120 times for Arsenal.

23 July 1988:  Arsenal beat Yeovil 5-0 in Alan Skirton’s Testimonial, with Steve Bould making his first start.

23 July 1996: Kevin Dennis was given a free transfer from Arsenal to Brentford.  He never played for Arsenal, and only played 17 times for Brentford before dropping into non-league football.

23 July 2001: Junichi Inamoto signed from Gamba Osaka for £3.5m. He played in the Carling Cup and Champions League, and despite a good 2002 World Cup he moved on to Fulham, before playing in Turkey, Germany and France.

23 July 2004: Ray Parlour sold to Middlesbrough. Few players are ever universally loved by fans, but Ray Parlour came closest, and Arsenal lost more than a player when he left.  He won the league three times and the cup four times with Arsenal under Wenger – the man who realised how to make maximum use of his talent.

23 July 2007: Freddie Ljungberg sold to West Ham for whom he played 25 games before moving onto Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Celtic and Shimizu S-Pulse.  He later returned to Arsenal first in charge of the under 23s, then as assistant first team coach.

23 July 2010: Arsenal History Society published the article “Where is the statue of Herbert Chapman at the Emirates?” which led to discussions with Ivan Gazidis and finally the erection of a series of statues around the ground.

23 July 2014: Thomas Eisfeld left Arsenal for Fulham after making just one first team appearance for Arsenal in the league.  He signed a two year contract with Fulham and later moved to VfL Bochum.

23 July 2011: Cologne 1 Arsenal 2 (Gervinho 2).  Arsenal went on to draw with Boca Juniors and New York Red Bulls before beating Benfica in the final pre-season game.

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