The day the club played its first match at Highbury – but we don’t know the score!

By Tony Attwood

As you will see before for the anniversary of this day in 1913, Arsenal played at Highbury for the first time in a practice match.

Although officially it was behind “closed doors” as the comment below says, the reality is that the ground was far from secure right up to the first match, and it is more than likely that local fans would have gone along to the ground and simply walked in, because the gates and turnstiles were not all in place.

The lease for the new Arsenal ground was signed sometime in February 1913 at just under £1000 a year.   Obviously at this moment the ground had no name and the programme for the first match (at which time the club kept the name Woolwich Arsenal FC) invited suggestions for a name.  Clearly none that were thought suitable were forthcoming as when Henry Norris did sign the papers to buy the ground in 1925 the ground was known simply as The Arsenal Football Ground.

Here are the anniversaries…

30 August 1913: The first ever match played at the Gillespie Road ground, later renamed Highbury.  It was the third training match of the pre-season, with the previous two being played at Fulham and Millwall as the pitch was not ready.  This game was played behind closed doors, and was probably between the first team and the reserves although no exact details are available.

30 August 1918: There was a  strike of 20,000 London policemen with demands of increased pay and union recognition.  With the country still at war, and the government feverishly aware that the return of the conscripted soldiers to a civilian life could prove the catalyst for uprising, there was a considerable amount of angst among political leaders.

30 August 1919: Arsenal started the longest run in the top division in the history of English football, by coincidence playing the same team that they played in their first league game.  The match was lost 0-1 to Newcastle.  It was also the first match as manager for Leslie Knighton plus the first appearance of Alfred Baker, Henry White and Ernie Williamson.  Although Arsenal’s rise to the 1st Division is often told as being corrupt, it actually came about in part through revelation by Arsenal’s chairman of the match fixing of other teams and his demand for the corruption to be resolved.

30 August 1920: Arsenal played their first home game of the season and beat Manchester United 2-0, using the same XI as played in the first match.  25,000 were at Highbury – not too bad for a Monday early evening.  Pagnam and Smith got the goals.

30 August 1924: At the start of his last season, ironically Leslie Knighton started with a winning sequence of three games – his best start ever with Arsenal – with the result  Nottingham Forest 0 Arsenal 2.  Ramsay and Woods scored in front of a 20,000 crowd.  The process of clubs playing each other twice in consecutive games was abandoned.

30 August 1930: Gerrit Keyser (sometimes spelled Keizer) debut in a 4-1 away win at Blackpool.  Despite only playing in one defeat in the first 12 games of the season, he was dropped and never played for the club again.  This game was the first of five consecutive wins and a nine game unbeaten sequence.  See also here.

30 August 1930: The new Arsenal handbook for the season helpfully sets out the kick off times of matches confirming that until October 11 games would kick off at 3.30pm.  After that they started earlier to accommodate the reduced hours of daylight.

30 August 1939 – Arsenal were officially sanctioned to wear numbered shirts for the first time in a league match:  Arsenal 1 Blackburn 0 in front of a 17137 crowd.  After one more match the season was abandoned.  The club had worn numbered shirts on 25 August 1928 but had been ordered to stop by the League.  See also here.

30 August  1975. Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Arsenal 0 in front of another poor crowd, of 18,144.

30 August 1977: Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2 in the League Cup 2nd round, with 36,171 in Highbury.

30 August 1997: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 0.  Arsenal were fifth in the table in the 5th league match of the 2nd Double season, and still undefeated.   The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

30 August 2002:  Rami Shaaban transferred to Arsenal from Djurgårdens.  He played just five league games for Arsenal before moving on to Brighton and Hove Albion.

30 August 2011: Armand Traoré joined Queens Park Rangers for £1.5m.  He had played 13 games for Arsenal, and had loan spells with Portsmouth and Juventus. After a spell at Nottingham Forest and on loan to Cardiff he joined Çaykur Rizespor in Turkey.

30 August 2011: Park Chu-Young joined Arsenal from Monaco for £1.8m.  He only played one league game and was soon moved onto Celta Vigo on loan.

30 August 2011:  On 23 January 2007, Nic Anelka said that he would leave Bolton for Arsenal.  But on 30 August 2011 he signed another contract with Bolton.

30 August 2016: Lucas Pérez signed from Deportivo La Coruña for around £17m..

30 August 2016:  Shkodran Mustafi signed from Valencia for £35m – making him the club’s joint second most expensive player, with him commanding the same fee as Sánchez three seasons before. However 3 years later the new manager is said to have told Mustafi he could leave.

30 August 2016: Calum Chambers given a season long loan with Middlesbrough, who were eventually relegated.  After a loan to Fulham in 2018/9 he rejoined the first team squad at Arsenal.


One Reply to “The day the club played its first match at Highbury – but we don’t know the score!”

  1. Was the Gillespie Road ground ever officially named Highbury? I’ve always been under the impression that the official name was The Arsenal Stadium.

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