The falsification of Arsenal’s history by repeating what the last guy said

by Tony Attwood

One of the most fascinating results of studying Arsenal’s history is just how commonly held views about the club’s past turn out to be utterly untrue.

For example, it is reported in many histories of the club that after Arsenal turned professional in 1893, one way or another all the local clubs in London and Kent  either refused to play Woolwich Arsenal, or were ordered by the regional football association not to do this.   As a result (as one of the club’s own historical summaries put it in the club’s annual year book) Arsenal faced severe financial pressure through a lack of games.

In fact this was utterly untrue.   Arsenal did point out to both the Kent FA and London FA (it was members of both at the time) that it had started to pay its players, and very honourably and dutifully offered to resign.

But both FAs considered the issue and their members rejected Arsenal’s resignation not least because they got their biggest crowds and thus most income from Arsenal matches.  Indeed one such game took place on this day in 1894 – with Arsenal now very much a fully professional club.

Now I admit that finding the records of AGMs of the Kent and London FA in the 19th century does require a bit of digging, and I was grateful that it was my co-writers on “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football” who did the work.  But there was another clue to the fact that this notion of Arsenal having no one to play, was wrong.   The fixtures of Arsenal throughout the period have been well recorded, and all one has to do is look at who Arsenal played in the year before professionalism and who they played in the year after.

And the list is the same.

These things are not too hard to find – and thankfully there are people around like Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews who have done this sort of work.   The tragedy is that Arsenal themselves have never come out and apologised for misrepresenting the past (in places such as their annual handbook which carried a history of the club).   But then a serious look back at the history of Arsenal would of course mean starting to consider the Hill-Wood clan who took over the club and turned it away from being a club moving towards the objective of being one owned by its supporters into their private fiefdom after they forced out Henry Norris.

But then, that’s another story.

Here are the anniversaries…

4 October 1894: Woolwich Arsenal beat Casuals 8-0 in a friendly.  This is one of the matches that shows that the old story that Arsenal were banned by the regional FA from playing local amateur clubs after turning professional in 1893 was completely untrue.

4 October 1913: The first league defeat at Highbury.  Arsenal 0 Bury 1.  The two previous games at the new stadium had been a win and a draw. The next 8 games at Highbury were all home wins – the only other home defeat came against Huddersfield in February.

4 October 1936: The nation was appalled to receive the news of the Battle of Cable Street between Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists who dressed in uniforms that were based on those of the Blackshirts, and anti-fascist demonstrators.

4 October 1942: Terry Mancini born.  He made little progress at first as a player but after a period in South Africa, returned to England to push his way up through the leagues with Orient and finally QPR before joining Arsenal.

4 October 1952: Arsenal 3 Blackpool 1.  66,682 turned up for the game despite Arsenal’s modest form at the time (only four of the first 10 games had been won).  Roper got two and Logie the third.

4 October 1958: One day after signing, Jackie Henderson made his Arsenal debut v WBA where he scored twice as Arsenal won 4–3 at Highbury.

4 October 1961: Death of Horace Cope.   After retiring from football he moved back to Treeton where his family had worked in the colliery, running Treeton Working Man’s Club, Rotherham, before running a Public House in Nottingham,

4 October 1969: Arsenal 0 Coventry City 1.  Geoff Barnett and John Roberts made their league debut.  The game came in a run of eight games without a victory.  The crowd was 28,877.

4 October 1972: Jeff Blockley signed from Coventry City for £200,000.  As Arsenal tried to maintain the momentum of the first European success and the first Double, he was signed by the club as a replacement for Frank McLintock.

4 October 1973: Wilf Rostron signed a professional contract with Arsenal and played 17 games with the club between this date and 1977, when he moved to Sunderland.  He later played in Watford’s successful side in 1982.

4 October 1974: A month after sacking Brian Clough, Leeds United finally appointed Jimmy Armfield of Bolton Wanderers as their new manager.   The following day Leeds celebrated by beating Arsenal.

4 October 1975 Arsenal lost at home 2-3 to  Manchester City. It left Arsenal with just one home win in the first five games at Highbury in the season.  In the face of such a record it made 24,928 seem a fairly decent crowd.

4 October 1977: Despite endlessly being lauded as the greatest team of all time Liverpool had in reality developed an approach of mass defensiveness away from home.  The result on this day of Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0 in front of 47,110 consisted largely of the keepers kicking the ball to each other down the length of the pitch.

4 October 1986: The start of an 18 match unbeaten run which ended on 24 January 1987.  Arsenal then went through a ten match run without winning a game including six consecutive games without scoring.

4 October 1997: Ian Wright’s last goal at Highbury in a 5-0 win over Barnsley as Arsenal remained unbeaten with a third of the season gone, and with Bergkamp was in his pomp and glory.  10th league game of the 2nd Double Season    The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

4 October 1998: Bergkamp scored his first league goal of the season in the defeat of Newcastle at the start of a six match unbeaten run.

4 October 2003: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2.  The 8th league match of the unbeaten season including an utterly sensational goal from Pires.

4 October 2009: Having started the season so well, but then faltered, Arsenal recovered beating Blackburn 6-2.  Each goal was scored by a different player: Vermaelen, Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas, Walcott, Bendtner.

4 October 2015: Arsenal 3 Manchester Utd 0.  Arsenal scored their goals in the first 19 minutes through Alexis (2) and Ozil.

4 October 2018: FK Qarabağ Agdam 0 Arsenal 3.   Mkhitaryan did not go to the match because of the political tensions, and Uefa were made aware of this situation – a relevant point given that the final was to be held in the same country.  Uefa assured Arsenal that all steps would be taken to overcome the problem should Arsenal play in the final. Arsenal did make the final but the assurances were mere words and Mkhitaryan did not travel.

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