Average crowd of under 27000 and a defeat to Rotherham. When was that?

Because the start of the 1970s was such a good time for Arsenal, with three major trophies in two seasons, it is easy to forget what happened thereafter.   For what happened was that the club sank lower and lower and lower as indeed did the crowds.

From an average league crowd of 43,776 in 1971 it sank to 26945 by 1976, (almost halving the crowd in just five seasons) and just to be clear, the stadium was still the same.  All that was different was the team.  Arsenal came 17th that year, having come 16th the year before, but throughout that time, the manager Bertie Mee, blamed everyone but himself for the collapse in the club.

His remedies too were as frightening as his analyses.  He wanted to wind up the academy totally, and have just 18 members of the first team squad, the reserve side made up of the rest of the senior players, who would play alongside trialists and youngsters.

On this day in 1978 Arsenal put out its entire first team for a league cup game against Rotherham, and lost.  That’s how it was in those days.

Here are the anniversaries…


29 August 1920: Rioting in Northern Ireland continued with 11 dead and many more injured in street battles in Belfast.  Meanwhile Great Britain played its one and only game in the football tournament of the Olympics in Antwerp.  GB lost and thus were immediately knocked out of the tournament.  The attendance was 5,000, compared with 50,000 at the Arsenal game the previous day.

29 August 1921: Dan Burgess (generally known as Dick) played his final game: a 2-3 away defeat to Preston.  He then moved on to West Ham followed by Aberdare Athletic, QPR and Sittingbourne.

29 August 1925: Herbert Chapman’s first match as Arsenal manager, against Tottenham, in the first league match under the new offside rule.  Arsenal lost 0-1.  The outgoing manager Leslie Knighton alleged some 20 years later that he was promised the gate money from the game as a benefit payment, but no evidence of such an agreement was ever produced and almost all of Knighton’s anti-Norris statements were subsequently proven to be untrue.  And why would a man who had only just avoided relegation two years running get a benefit?

29 August 1925: Charlie Buchan’s debut after signing for Arsenal for a second time. Part of his transfer arrangement was that Arsenal would pay a fee of £100 for every goal he scored in the season.  He scored 20.   Buchan’s first signing for Arsenal is here.

29 August 1931: As champions Arsenal slipped back, losing 0-1 to WBA at home on the opening day and failing to win any of the first four games.

29 August 1936: Arsenal beat Everton 3-2 with Alex James as captain; James, Bowden and Hapgood scored.   Everton’s fall from grace had been dramatic and from having won the league in 1932 and the Cup in 1933  they had subsequently endured seasons with them ending in 14th, 8th and 16th. See also here.

29 August 1938: Rangers 0 Arsenal 1 – part of the Chapman inspired annual series of friendlies between the two sides.

29 August 1942: In a wartime game against Charlton Leslie Compton played in goal and Drake scored two.  Bernard Joy writes of a game in which Drake played in goal but there’s no record of such a match, and he may have been (not for the first time) confused.

29 August 1944: George Armstrong born in County Durham, having previously been an apprentice electrician.  Between 1962 and 1977 he played 490 league games, plus 10 appearances as sub, plus 58 (2) in the FA Cup, 35 in the League cup and 24 (2) in European games.

29 August 1949: Jack Kelsey joined from Winch Wen of the Swansea and District League.  Arsenal was his only senior club and he played 327 games for the club before being injured playing for Wales, and being forced out of the game.

29 August 1951: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1.  Final game for Lawrie Scott.   He won league winners’ and cup winners’ medals with Arsenal, playing 115 games for Arsenal before moving on to Crystal Palace.

29 August 1956: Viv Anderson born.  He came to the attention of the football world playing for Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough with whom he won promotion and then the League.

29 August 1959: Dennis Evans had his leg broken in a 3-3 draw with Wolverhampton – the team that turned him down before he came to Arsenal.

29 August 1959: John Milne died. He won the League with Arsenal in 1937/8 and played twice for Scotland.  He left Arsenal for Middlesbrough in 1937.

29 August 1964: Johnny MacLeod’s 101st and last league game for Arsenal.  He moved on to Aston Villa, before moving on to KV Mechelen in the Netherlands.  He played over 100 league games for each of his first four clubs: Hibs, Arsenal, Villa, Mechelen.

29 August 1970: Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Chelsea – the first defeat of the 1st Double season in game 5 in front of 53,722 spectators.

29 August 1978: Arsenal lost 1-3 to Rotherham in the Football League cup, despite putting out the regular first team.  The defeat came on top of two draws and a defeat in the opening matches in the league season.

29 August 1979:  Arsenal were drawn in the League Cup against their cultural enemy, Leeds.  It ended 1-1, 23,421 present.

29 August 1987: Kevin Richardson’s league debut with Arsenal after joining from Watford.  He went on to play 96 times in the league – including in the championship winning game at Liverpool in 1989.

29 August 1987: Alan Smith scored three – his first goals for Arsenal as Arsenal beat Portsmouth 6-0 having failed to win any of the first three games of the season, the team scoring just one goal in them.

29 August 1997: The movie The Full Monty was released in the UK – the film refers to the Arsenal famous back fours’ offside tactics, as the men in the movie rehearse their dance routine.

29 August 2009: Uefa gave in to media pressure and that from Celtic FC as Eduardo retrospectively was charged with diving in the Arsenal v Celtic match. Eduardo should be banned, says SFA chief  the Telegraph had screamed on 27 August, and so Uefa did what they were told.  It was of course all nonsense and he was cleared at a hearing.

29 August 2013: Flamini arrived at Arsenal for the second time.  He played 102 league games for Arsenal between 2004 and 2008, and then 97 in the next five years with Milan.


4 Replies to “Average crowd of under 27000 and a defeat to Rotherham. When was that?”

  1. I have a vague recollection of the Rotherham game back in 1960. FA Cup. Went to replays and we lost in the end. My father went to one of the games and I remember him telling me about it. Tommy Docherty was playing for us back in those days.

  2. Recall Brady scoring single goal v Sheff Utd to take Arsenal off the bottom of league.

  3. Result: Arsenal 1 Sheff U 0
    Competition:League Division One
    Venue: Highbury
    Attendance: 14,477

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