The first match at Highbury; but those maroon shirts were a myth

The final year at Highbury was a good thing for the club to celebrate of course, and the idea of playing in a kit that was the same as worn for the first league match at Highbury, played on this day in 1913, was a good idea too.

Except that the picture that the club used to “prove” that this was the kit played in for the first match simply can’t be right, since some of the players pictured there, were not playing in that game.

There is other evidence to throw considerable doubt on the provenance of the idea of the maroon kit and how often it was used.  Some authorities suggest that the picture itself was a fake with the shirts being coloured in after the picture was taken – possibly by an artist at the time, wanting to sell a colour picture in an era when coloured pictures were rare.

We can’t say definitively Arsenal did not ever wear that kit in that colour, but we can say the proof is seriously lacking.  And most certainly that picture did not come from the first game of the season.

Here are the annivesaries.


6 September 1890: Royal Arsenal played their first match at the Invicta ground – a friendly against the 3rd Highlanders, and drew 1-1 in front of a crowd of 7,000.

6 September 1902: League debut for Tim Coleman against Preston North End.  He had joined after periods with Kettering and Northampton Town.

6 September 1905: Morris Bates died from TB aged 41.  He was the captain when Royal Arsenal won their first two trophies and played 73 first team games for Royal Arsenal between 1896 and 1890.

6 September 1913 First match at Highbury.  Arsenal beat Leicester Fosse 2-1 in what was the first opening day victory since 1906.  20,000 present.  George Jobey scored the first Arsenal goal at the ground but was later taken off injured.  See also George Jobey,  The Day it Began and Season Ticket Prices.

6 September 1913: Arsenal released a picture of the players in maroon shirts as their justification for the shirt colour change for the final season at Highbury, saying it was taken on this date, but at least three players in the picture were not at the club on 6 September 1913.  In fact the club did not play in those colours through the first Highbury season and the research suggests this was probably in an away game.  What is odd is why the club didn’t bother to check the picture – or at least ask the Arsenal History Society to check it for them.  Maybe they didn’t want the facts to get in the way of a good money making tale

6 September 1919: Newcastle beat Arsenal for a second time 3-1 in front of 45,000.  Curiously, after three games not one team had a 100% record, and only one of the teams that had played their first two games at home had won both of them (Sheffield United).  Everyone, it seemed, was having trouble settling down in this first post-war season.

6 September 1923:  Jock Rutherford returned from being manager of Stoke for a few weeks and to get fit turned out for Arsenal reserves who were the reigning Football combination champions.  Arsenal reserves however lost against Brighton and Hove Albion.

6 September 1924: Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0, Woods getting both goals in front of 45,000.    This was the first time in the club’s history that they had won the opening three league games of a season in the first division and they had done it without conceding a goal!

6 September 1926: Bolton 2 Arsenal 2.   As Chapman got into his second season he responded to a 0-4 defeat to Sheffield United in the third game of the season by giving debuts for Wally Hardinge, Joe Lievesley. Jack Lambert and Jack Lee

6 September 1933:  Arsenal played their third game – home to WBA.   West Brom had come fourth last season, but in their openers this time had won one and lost one, and Arsenal seemed to have little difficulty brushing them aside, 3-1.

6 September 1934: The BBC’s most powerful long-wave transmitter, Droitwich Transmitting Station, started transmitting at 200 kilohertz (1500m).  This transmitter took over the National Programme on which Saturday afternoon football commentaries were broadcast – and which until this season had often featured George Allison as commentator.  Allison however was now otherwise engaged having been made Arsenal manager.

6 September 1958.  Arsenal beat Everton 6-1 away.  Looking back it seemed like a freak result, (until 15 August 2009 when it happened again).  Herd scored four, Groves and Bloomfield the others. Amazingly three days later Arsenal beat Bolton by the same score – the only time this has happened in Arsenal’s history.

6 September 1969: Eddie Kelly made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday. Eddie said at an AISA meeting that he had a nightmare game but was told by Bertie Mee that he would play the next ten games to see how things went.

6 September 1975: Arsenal had another home game ending Arsenal 1 Leicester City 1.  The attendance was again poor; just 22,005. Stapleton played his second game for the club, in the place of the injured Radford, and showed great promise.  But aside from that Arsenal had little coherence and looked like a club in transition.

6 September 1986: Last game for Stewart Robson before moving on to West Ham and then Coventry City.  In five years he played 150 times for Arsenal in the league scoring 16 goals.+

One Reply to “The first match at Highbury; but those maroon shirts were a myth”

  1. The story of the maroon shirts reminds me of the newspaper Reynolds News from years ago who used to publish team photos in colour. They were so artificial that often the colour wasn’t even being printed fully on the shirt, being offset. The rest of the picture was black and white, except the socks. If I remember properly the red did resemble maroon so I have never been convinced that Arsenal ever played in that colour, apart from the last season at Highbury.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *