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Beware the stories told by an ex-Arsenal manager!

by Tony Attwood

Just after the second world war, two Arsenal managers published their autobiographies.   One came from Leslie Knighton who managed Arsenal from 1919 to 1925, and the other from George Allison who was manager from 1934 to 1947.

The difference between the two men can be seen from that fact that Knighton never won anything, and in his last two seasons at the club Arsenal only just escaped relegation, while Allison as manager won the league twice and the FA Cup once, and also performed sterling work during the war, running Arsenal virtually on his own, while the club was forced to play its home games at White Hart Lane.

Knighton’s autobiography is little more than a set of wild tales and excuses for failure, most of which have been proven by a look at the evidence to be totally untrue.   Allison’s autobiography is much more modest, but notes some of his success in his early career as a journalist and the first regular radio commentator on football.  

And of course it is Knighton’s crazy allegations which have come to be part of Arsenal’s history, even though there is not a shred of evidence to support them.

I mention Knighton today because on this day in 1920 Arsenal signed one its star players of the era – James Paterson, who before the war had played for Rangers in Scotland.  So good was Paterson that after he retired, and with Knighton sacked, Herbert Chapman persuaded Paterson to come out of retirement and play again for Arsenal.

But Knighton, in his autobiography, dismisses Paterson, saying that Henry Norris was so tight with his money he was “reduced to playing the brother-in-law of the club’s physio.” And he couldn’t even get the accusation right – Paterson was the brother in law of the club’s doctor – and that is why he chose to play for Arsenal in the first place.

16 August 1912.  Ted Drake born.  He started at Winchester City, and then went on to Southampton, Herbert Chapman quickly spotted him, but at first could not convince him to move.  Drake was eventually signed in March 1934 for a fee of £6,500.

16 August 1920: Athletic News reported that several clubs within London were seeking to register the ex Rangers player who won the league with them and played for the Scottish League, Dr James Paterson.  He chose Arsenal, as his brother-in-law worked there.  Later Leslie Knighton, Arsenal’s manager, stated he was “reduced to playing the brother-in-law of the club’s physio,” even though Paterson was the club’s star player!

16 August 1925: Arsenal FC finally bought Highbury Stadium – which until that point had been leased.  It meant that Sir Henry Norris was no longer under an obligation to return the ground to its previous state at the end of the lease.

16 August 1927: First reported use of numbers on players backs, over a year before Arsenal tried it out.  Arsenal worked hard to popularise numbering, but, it seems, didn’t invent it.

16 August 1936: The end of the Berlin Olympics in which Britain entered an amateur football team including among its players, Bernard Joy, the Arsenal player.

16 August 1975: David O’Leary made his league debut for Arsenal – he went on to play 558 league games for the club.

16 August 1975: The awful decline of Mee’s ability as a manager was plain to see as Arsenal opened a new season with a 0-0 away to Burnley and went on to achieve just one win in the first ten league games.

16 August 1978: John Matthews sold to Sheffield United.  He had played 43 league games for Arsenal but went on to over 100 games for Sheffield Utd before moving on to Mansfield.

16 August 1980.  Kenny Sampson played for the first time for Arsenal v WBA and went on to play every game that season.  Arsenal won 1-0 with Stapleton scoring.

16 August 1981: Steve Gatting played his last game for the first team v Olympiacos in a friendly.  He moved to Brighton for whom he played over 300 league games before finishing his playing career at Charlton.

16 August 2008: Justin Hoyte signed for Middlesbrough from Arsenal.  He had played 68 league games for Arsenal and went on to play 142 times for Middlesbrough before moving on to Millwall.

16 August 2008: Arsenal started the season with 1-0 win over West Brom, with Nasri getting the first goal of the new season on his debut.

16 August 2011: Emmanuel Eboué joined Galatasaray for a fee of £4m.  He had played 132 league games for Arsenal before leaving, having previously played 70 games for Beveren.  In December 2017, Eboué was offered a job coaching the under-14 team at Galatasaray, when their manager was made aware of Eboué’s financial problems

16 August 2012: Jack Wilshere was given the number 10 shirt and said “Getting the No. 10 shirt again at the club means so much to me…It has a special place for all attacking or creative players. I feel proud to wear it now after some real club legends have worn it, such as Dennis Bergkamp.”

16 August 2012: Kyle Bartley sold to Swansea for £1m.  In July 2014 he was given a further three year contract.  In 2018 he moved onto West Brom.

16 August 2013: Wellington Silva loaned to Real Murcia for the season.  He played 38 games for them and scored 3 goals, before moving on to Almería for 2014/15. In 2016 he joined Fluminense.

16 August 2018: Krystian Bielik loaned to Charlton for the season.  Charlton gained promotion in 2019 to the Championship and Bielik was strongly praised for his contribution. In 2019 he joined Derby County.

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