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Ball hits Brain, knocks player out, goes in net. You couldn’t make it up.

By Tony Attwood

This was the day in 1924 when the ball hit Arsenal centre forward Jimmy Brain on the head and knocked him out, as it made its way into the goal.  I doubt that such an event has ever happened again – (as in brain, head, goal) and for the sake of player safety I most certainly hope not.

There was also an interesting piece in the Times on this day in 1926 in which it was suggested that the introduction of the new off side law at the start of the previous season had not made the game more exciting as the law-makers had hoped, but more defensive.

The article makes no mention of either Arsenal manager Chapman or captain Buchan, despite Buchan’s extensive claims subsequently (which have been oft repeated elsewhere) that the two men sat down after Arsenal’s heavy defeat to Sunderland the year before and worked out the new defensive system.

Buchan’s claim to have been at the heart of a tactical revolution is almost certainly false; he did after all become a journalist and magazine editor after retiring from playing, so had every reason to up his own involvement.   But the Times claim also looks strange in the light of some of the extraordinarily high scores that occured over the two seasons after the rule change.

I’ve picked out a number of these as the weeks go by in the series Henry Norris at the Arsenal, as we deal with the final years of Norris’ reign at the club.   There’s a year by year index to the whole series here.

Here are the anniversaries…

25 October 1919: Arsenal 1 Bradford C 2.  League debut for Fred Pagnam, the man who refused to be corrupted by Liverpool’s match fixing exploits.  Arsenal then went the next six games unbeaten.

25 October 1924: Debut for Jimmy Brain v Tottenham  in front of 51,000 at Highbury.  He scored when the ball hit his head and knocked him out. He later became a player and coach at Tottenham but eventually ended up as an Arsenal scout.  This was the first post-war game in which Arsenal beat Tottenham.

25 October 1926: Denying the “WM” thesis that Charlie Buchan claimed he and Chapman invented in 1925, the Times looked back on the first year of the new offside rule and concluded it had brought about a “greater looseness in the constructive art of the game,” arguing that “all the fresh formations which were tried last season were unnecessary.”  As a result “today every team is far more apprehensive in the matter of defence than used to be the case [with] a tendency to concentrate on defence by half backs and this has meant a weakening in attack.”

25 October 1930: Arsenal 1 West Ham 1 in Arsenal’s first title winning season. It was one of only two games all season at Highbury that kicked off at 3pm, thus giving the lie to the notion of 3pm being  the traditional time for Saturday football.

25 October 1952: Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0.  The crowd of 63,744 meant that 186,104 paying fans had seen Arsenal’s three home games in October.  Of the 8 goals scored in the month Roper got five, Logie two and Lishman one.

25 October 1958: Mike Tiddy transferred to Brighton.  It was at Brighton that he became known as a Methodist lay-preacher and apparently because of his role as a preacher, he never played Christmas and Easter fixtures.

25 October 1969: Sammy Nelson debut in a 0-0 draw with Ipswich.  He went on to play 245 league games for the club plus 10 appearances as a sub, and scored 10 league goals

25 October 1975: Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-1 with just 23,591 in the crowd.  The press called the visitors’ approach “organisation” – resulting in “a game so dull that it made potato picking seem like profound rapture.”  18 year old Stapleton however brought much needed relief.

25 October 1977: The third round of the League Cup and a surprising attendance of 40,749 witnessing Arsenal beat Southampton 2-0.  Southampton used the 10 man defence tactic which worked until after 75 minutes of tedium Rix floated in a cross, Holmes handled in the penalty area for no reason at all, and Brady took the penalty.

25 October 1980: Pat Rice’s last game in a 1-1 away draw with Sunderland.  In his time at Arsenal as a player he won the league and two FA Cups, plus further honours as subsequently he became assistant to Arsene Wenger.

25 October 1999: Bergkamp is reported as saying of Kanu, “The skills he has got, the moves he makes, are something you like to watch and learn from. I watch him in training and it is a joy.”

25 October 2011: Arshavin and Park scored in the 2-1 league cup win over Bolton.  Muamba scored for Bolton. Arsenal lost in the next round to Manchester City.

25 October 2015: A surprisingly large crowd of 59,865 saw Arsenal beat Reading in the League Cup 4th round 2-0 with both goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Up and coming players in the line up included Jenkinson, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Elneny, Perez, Iwobi and Reine Adelaide. Willock and Zelalem came off the bench.

25 October 2018: Sporting Clube Portugal 0 Arsenal 1 in the Europa League.  It was Arsenal’s 11th consecutive win in the League, League Cup and Europa League.

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