Islington council accused of trying to crush Arsenal out of existence

Arsenal’s move from Plumstead to Highbury was not universally liked, and many local residents and shop keepers in Islington objected strongly, even forming a “Defence Committee” and demanding that the local council stop the move.

It was a rather futile approach since the power of the local authority to stop the development of the unwanted lands near Highbury Hill into a football ground were strictly limited.  The mere fact that some people didn’t like the idea was not enough.

Henry Norris, himself a property developer, knew this perfectly well, and so pressed ahead with the operation, and once matches began in 1913, everyone saw that the crowds only built up around 30 minutes before a match, and everyone had moved on within 20 minutes of the final whistle.

However the memory of the defeat of the local activists, and their inability to stop Arsenal moving into the area lingered, and despite the money that Arsenal matches brought to local traders and pubs (the club was not allowed to sell alcohol in the ground, as part of the arrangements within the lease) the council would not let go of the battle.

Evidence of this arises on this day in 1920 when the Arsenal programme notes informed readers that the club was fighting an attempt by the council to “crush the club out of existence” by bringing in massive rates rises.

Here are the anniversaries.

25 September 1893: John Storrs made his debut in the 4th match of the season – a 3-1 win against Grimsby, taking over from Jeffrey at left back (Jeffrey moving to playing in goal following the injury to Williams) and continued until the return match with Grimsby on Boxing Day.

25 September 1909: Arsenal’s keeper Hugh MacDonald was injured in 3-2 victory over Chelsea.  Despite the fact that the injury left him seriously immobile he played in the next game and conceded 7.  Both this and the event on this day in 1893 show that the club at Plumstead did not have a full-time backup keeper.  See also here.

25 September 1915: British forces took the French town of Loos using poison gas for the first time.  Back home Arsenal lost to Fulham away 3-4, in front of 9000 fans.

25 September 1920: Arsenal drew with Middlesbrough 2-2.  The programme announced that Arsenal was appealing against its rating assessment accusing the Borough of Islington of trying to “crush us out of existence.”  The row went back to 1913 when the council had worked with the Highbury Defence Committee to stop Arsenal moving to the area.

25 September 1929: Joey Williams made his Arsenal debut in the 5–2 defeat by Aston Villa.   He left Arsenal in March 1932 having played 26 league games for Arsenal, scoring five goals, and signed for Middlesbrough for whom he played for four seasons, finally putting in one season with Carlisle Utd.

25 September 1935: Bernard Joy’s first game in a friendly against Rangers.  He played throughout his career as an amateur, and played his first league game in April 1936.  See also here

25 September 1963: Arsenal beat Staevnet 7-1 in Fairs Cup. Joe Baker and Geoff Strong each scoring three.  It was Arsenal’s first competitive away game in Europe.

25 September 1971: Arsenal 3 Leicester City 0.  The crowd was 40,201 but there was little style in evidence here, and little sign of insightful tactics.  Arsenal won simply because Leicester were awful.

25 September 1979: Arsenal had a 2-1 win over Southampton in the league cup due to the genius of Liam Brady who collected a throw in from Rice, by-passed a defender, swivelled, and sent in a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.  Not only did the “One Liam Brady” chant go up, it continued and could be heard in the streets as everyone queued for the tube.

25 September 1991: Ian Wright’s first game: Leicester 1 Arsenal 1 in the league cup.  He scored, naturally.  Arsenal won the second leg 2-0, with Wright scoring again.

25 September 1995: Dave Bowen died.  After managing Wales he re-joined Northampton between 1969 and 1972 as general manager, and later secretary, while also working in journalism (as a reporter for the People) and bookmaking, before finally retiring.  A stand at the Sixfields Stadium was named after him.

25 September 2004:  The 0-1 away defeat of Man City made it 6 wins and 1 draw in the league. Cole scored the goal.  This was also the final match of the longest unbeaten away sequence in league football: 27 games from 5 April 2003.

25 September 2008: Untold Arsenal predicted that Arsenal would sign a midfielder for £40m.  On 2 September 2013 Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil. We were just ahead of the times.  By five years.

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