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When Arsenal hired entertainers as part of the team

by Tony Attwood

One of the central factors in Sir Henry Norris’ tenure as chairman of Arsenal was making the club break even.  When he took it over, it was massively in debt – a debt which Sir Henry himself cleared.  From that point on, making a profit was his key aim, for his belief was that only when the club made a profit could it then proceed to dominate the league by signing the best players.

However although today some owners do look to make a profit, they tend to do this through cost cutting, and this was never Sir Henry’s approach.   His aim was to boost crowds, and he looked at every possible way of doing this.

His ultimate triumph was the moving of the club to Highbury, the stadium which was largely financed through loans from or guaranteed by Sir Henry.  His logic here was that a large ground, near both tube and overground rail stations, and set in the centre of housing of the type that people who liked football would live in, would do the business.

But both before the move north, and indeed after that, he needed to keep Arsenal afloat financially and among other things he did this by the signing of celebrity players.  One of these was Dicky Roose, who was killed in action on this day in 1916, perhaps the most amazingly eccentric player of the age.  Another was Harold Walden, signed on this day in 1920.  He was a fine goalscorer but nearing the end of his career.  However he was already establishing himself as a music hall performer, and thus able to give a big boost to Arsenal from the stage.

These, and the other anniversaries of 7 October, are recounted below.

The story of Henry Norris at the Arsenal is told in our now completed series here.

7 October 1908: Debut of Angus McKinnon in a game against Rest of Kent.  (Woolwich Arsenal won 3-0).  Having signed from Petershill he went on to play 211 league games for Arsenal.

7 October 1909: Having lost the previous game 7-1 with the injured McDonald in goal, Fisher took over, but despite being fit was little improvement as Arsenal lost 5-1 to mid-table Notts County.

7 October 1916: Dicky Roose, Arsenal goalkeeper, and one of the most flamboyant players of the era was tragically killed in action in the Battle of the Somme serving his country in the first world war.  See also here.

7 October 1920: Knighton purchased Harold Walden – Bradford City’s top scorer in their 1911/12 campaign.  In many ways this was a publicity stunt as the man was also famous as a music hall entertainer.  It’s a fascinating but rarely told story and (in my opinion) well worth following the link to read the detail.

7 October 1922: The Prince of Wales was the first member of the royal family to do a radio broadcast.  Meanwhile Arsenal beat West Bromwich Albion, 3-1 which lifted the club from 20th to 16th.

7 October 1931: Arsenal beat WBA to win the Charity Shield at Villa Park.

7 October 1933: Final match for Alf Haynes.  He moved to Crystal Palace two months later, where he played for three seasons before suffering a very serious injury.

7 October 1947: Birth of Patrick Howard near Barnsley.  He played for Barnsley and Newcastle before being brought in as an emergency central defender for Arsenal by Terry Neill, during Neill’s first season as manager.

7 October 1972: Debut for Jeff Blockley in Sheffield United 1 Arsenal 0.  He came in as a replacement to Simpson and Roberts who had been alternating at playing at 6.  However later in the season he did move across to the number 5 shirt. See also here

7 October 1976: Gilberto Silva born.  He started as a footballer in 1997 with a tiny local team, and by 2002 he was playing all of Brazil’s games in the World Cup finals.  It was quite a rise to success in five years.

7 October 1986: Arsenal drew 1-1 away with Huddersfield in league cup, Martin Hayes scoring.  However Arsenal had already won the first leg 2-0 and so went through.

7 October 1992: Arsenal drew with Millwall in the league cup but went through on penalties, Campbell scoring the goal in open play.  It was cup match 2 of Arsenal’s Cup Double season

7 October 2014: Brian McDermott returned to Arsenal as a scout and eventually became chief scout having managed Reading and Leeds Utd.

7 October 2018: Arsenal beat Fulham away 1-5.  It was considered just about Arsenal’s most dominant game of the season, and was the only league game in which they got five during the campaign.

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