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How we discovered that Arsenal’s early history had been wrongly recorded

A lot of football history consists of one writer taking as gospel what a previous writer has said, rather than anyone either going back and checking facts, or asking “is that actually likely?”

These two approaches were used by the little group of us who formed the Arsenal History Society and the work has resulted in a complete re-write of the early days of Arsenal’s history.  It has also led to the overturning of the story of what happened in the years leading up to Herbert Chapman’s appointment, and a review of the work of Henry Norris, who rescued the club in 1910.

The day I think we realised that we were onto some serious re-writing was this day in 2010 when it became clear that official versions of Arsenal’s history were wildly amiss, as it was revealed that the story of Bobby Buist causing Arsenal to become professional could not possibly have happened.  After that it only took some solid digging to realise that even more dramatically the whole of the story of the 1919 election to the first division was false.

That story has now been put right in depth on this site in the “Henry Norris at the Arsenal” series, while a much shortened version appears in the “100 Years” series celebrating 100 years in the top division on the Untold Arsenal site.

Here are the anniversaries.

26 September 1891: Having turned professional Arsenal upped the number of games they played in a season to 57 including on this date Arsenal 1 WBA 1 in front of 6000.

26 September 1914: Arsenal beat Hull City 2-1, to make it won four, drawn one, lost one thus far in the league this season, with a very satisfactory crowd of 20,000 at the game.

26 September 1919: In an event of supreme importance in relation to what happened in the future, Leeds City were summoned to a meeting with the League and ordered to hand over their accounts, but refused to do so on the grounds that the Commission had no legal right to demand them.  The League then removed Leeds City from its membership, and banned five officials, for life, including Herbert Chapman.

26 September 1925: Arsenal 4 Leeds Utd 1 and WHU 1 Newcastle 0.  These scores are important in seeking to explain how Arsenal let in six goals against Newcastle in the first half of their next match – a match that supposedly led to the invention of WM.

26 September 1932: Debut for FR “Tiger” Hill in friendly v St Johnstone.  Aberdeen alleged that five of their players were involved in a betting scandal, but no charges were made either by the club or the authorities, although the players never played for the club again.  The match fixing scandals before the 1st world war had worked against Arsenal, but this one benefitted the club as Chapman moved quickly and signed Tiger Hill. See also here

26 September 1938: Ted Drake scored both goals as Arsenal won the FA Charity Shield v PNE, 2-1.  As was the tradition at the time, the game was played not at Wembley but at one of the participants’ ground: in this case Highbury

26 September 1952 George Wood was born in Douglas in Lanarkshire and played as a goal keeper for Arsenal between 1980 and 1983.

26 September 1958.  Kenny Sansom born.  He started playing for Crystal Palace youth teams while at school, and made his first team debut aged 16. He captained Crystal Palace to win the FA Youth Cup and the England Youth team playing 172 for Palace before joining Arsenal.

26 September 1970.  Stoke City 5 Arsenal 0.  League match 10 of the first Double season.  Arsenal were 4th, but the away record read won 1 drawn 2 lost 2, five goals for, 10 against.  Arsenal were unbeaten in the next 14. See also here.

26 September 1972: After losing their first ever league match Arsenal played against Norwich, Arsenal recovered  beating Birmingham 2-0 in front of 32,273 at Highbury (Storey and George scoring).

26 September 1979: John Devine’s first cap with Ireland, against Czechoslovakia.   The last cap was on 17 October 1984 against Norway.

26 September 1981: John Hawley debut for Arsenal in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Highbury.  He scored in his second game – a 1-2 away defeat to Notts County

26 September 1986: Albert Humpish died in Chester aged 84.   He was one of eight players to make his debut for Arsenal in the 1929/30 season, but only played three games and moved on to Bristol City in December 1930 for £450

26 September 1991: Joe Hulme died.  He worked in the second world war as a policeman, was manager of Tottenham from 1945 to 1949 and was the manager who founded the side that won the league in 1951.  He then moved into journalism where he became highly established and recognised as a writer.

26 September 1998: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Arsenal 0 – the champions’ first defeat of the season.  This was the game in which De Canio was sent off and then pushed the referee to the ground and was heavily criticised in the press for his lack of remorse.

26 September 2002: Arsenal beat Leeds away 4–1 to create the record for scoring in 47 consecutive games, and for 22 away league games without defeat.

26 September 2003: After consecutive draws Arsenal beat Newcastle 3-2 with two from Henry and one from Gilberto Silva.  The 7th league match of the unbeaten season.

26 September 2010: The day it became clear that there was something seriously wrong with the official versions of Arsenal’s history as it was revealed that the story of Bobby Buist causing Arsenal to become professional could not possibly have happened.   As the Arsenal History Society began unravelling the truth it also became clear that huge amounts of other information about Arsenal’s past was also wrong. So began the hunt for the truth which led to several books and ultimately these anniversary files.

26 September 2015: Leicester 2 Arsenal 5 was Leicester’s worst defeat and Arsenal’s best win of the season.  An Alexis hattrick plus goals from Walcott and Giroud gave Arsenal the win.

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