When the Arsenal team all took drugs, according to their manager

In terms of his historic legacy, Leslie Knighton might best be described as a menace, for he was the manager who some 20 years after he left Arsenal, wrote an autobiography which accused Sir Henry Norris, his boss, of the most awful nefarious deeds, many of which have passed into the mythology of Arsenal, not least thanks to their propogation by lazy journalists and some Tottenham supporters.

To give but one example of Knighton’s weirdness, he wrote in his book that when Arsenal were drawn against West Ham in the cup in 1924 he was so frightened of the legendary power and prowess of the team that he decided the only way he could take on the Hammers was by giving his own players performance enhancing drugs which a doctor (who suddenly appeared one day at the stadium) offered him!

There are many problems with the story which bring it into doubt, but the one I am reminded of on this day in Arsenal’s history occured in 1923 when Arsenal hammered West Ham (if you will excuse the pun) 4-1.   Yet the alleged drug incident took place just one year later – so why would the Arsenal manager be so frightened of the unbeatable amazing incredible WHU after his own Arsenal team had so easily trounced them one year before?

It makes no sense – but then nor does much of his autobiography.  If you ever do come across anything about Knighton and Arsenal, it is probably taken from his book, which was written when he was eeking out a living as a golf club secretary in Bournemouth, and in urgent need of cash.  And it is probably either total fantasy or gross exaggeration.

Here are the anniversaries.

10 September 1894:  First match for Patrick O’Brien in the second match of the second league season, Patrick playing inside left – it was a 1-3 home defeat to Grimsby, meaning Arsenal had lost both opening games.

10 September 1904: Arsenal’s first home match in the First Division.  Arsenal 0 Preston North End 0. It took Arsenal four games to get a win, but ultimately they finished a creditable 10th out of 18 in the top league.

10 September 1910: Woolwich Arsenal 0 Sheffield United 0.  The crowd was 14,000 and the result left Arsenal with two draws and a defeat from the first three games.  At least having already lost three key players in the first two games there were no more injuries. Arsenal were 12th out of 20, and just one point above the bottom placed club. See also here.

10 September 1921:  Arsenal was, for the first time in the season able to field the same XI for two games running in the match v Manchester City.  It didn’t help matters much however as Arsenal lost 0-2 to the club that Knighton claimed had offered him the job as manager prior to the start of the season.

10 September 1923: Arsenal 4 West Ham 1.  The game is significant because Arsenal’s manager Knighton wrote in his autobiography that he gave drugs to his players one year later when facing West Ham because they were such a fearsome, frightening team.  He obviously forgot he had “hammered” them just one year before!

10 September 1930: The Daily Mirror published its picture of the clock with a 45 minute face, installed at the Laundry End of Highbury, a picture which thus helped Arsenal History Society correct an error in the long-told but erroneous story about the origins of the Arsenal clock.  See also here.

10 September 1931: Jimmy Brain sold to Tottenham for £2,500.  He had scored 125 goals in 204 league games but with his form failing and Jack Lambert, David Jack and Dave Halliday in the squad he was given a transfer.  He played 45 times for Tottenham in the league and scored 10.

10 September 1932: Manchester City 2 Arsenal 3 which took Arsenal up to 5th.   But the best news was the team was now settled – the line up was exactly the same as for the previous game, and Chapman teams were at their best when settled.  Jack got the first goal, Coleman the other two.

10 September 1938: Everton were top of the league having won all three of their opening fixtures.  They had won the league in 1932, but for the last three seasons ended each season below half way.  Now however they were looking like their old selves, and with Arsenal looking increasingly uncertain Everton won 1-2 at Highbury.  It was the last game for Eddie Carr.

10 September 1947.  Arsenal beat Bolton 2-0 to complete six straight wins at the start of the season for the first time ever.  Arsenal were not beaten until game 18 on November 29.

10 September 1958.  David Jack died, aged 60.  After retiring from playing, he became manager of Southend United, Middlesbrough and Shelbourne Utd, retiring from football in 1955.

10 September 1962: David Court league debut in Aston Villa 3 Arsenal 1.  Joe Baker scored. The result left Arsenal with five defeats and a draw in the last six games.

10 September 1968: Pat Rice’s international debut.  Between 1968 and 1979 he played 49 times for Northern Ireland.

10 September 1974: In 1973 Arsenal had lost in the League Cup to Tranmere.  This season it was Arsenal 1 Leicester City 1 (Kidd scored) but we lost the replay 1-2.

10 September 1980: Graham Rix full international debut.  He had played seven times for England’s under 21s and went on to play 17 times for the first team but without scoring.  See also here

10 September 1988: Tottenham 2 Arsenal 3.  The press called it a “surreal free for all” as all five goals came in 12 minutes in the first half.

10 September 1994: Second consecutive 0-0 for Arsenal, and fourth goalless game in a row,  It was part of a run in which Arsenal won only two in the first eight games of the season.

10 September 1995: Last appearance of Eddie McGoldrick.  Man City 0 Arsenal 1. After five games Rioch got his first win as Arsenal manager with Wright’s third goal of the season.

10 September 2002: Arsenal 2 Manchester City 1.  Arsenal went top after this 5th game unbeaten. It was also the first of five consecutive wins.  Wiltord and Henry scored.

10 September 2005: Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Middlesbrough, a team we were used to beating easily.  Previously Chelsea beat Arsenal for the first time in the league for just on 10 years.

10 September 2008: Theo Walcott became the youngest player to score hat-trick for England in a 4-1 win over Croatia played in Zagreb.

10 September 2011: After a strange transfer deadline day, plus two defeats and a goalless draw, Arsenal got their first win of the season, 1-0 against Swansea with Arshavin scoring.

10 September 2016: Following one win, one draw and one defeat Arsenal beat Southampton with a goal from Cazorla in the fourth minute of added time.  Southampton had five players booked, four of them in the last eight minutes of the match.

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