When criticising the FA was not off limits


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Can you imagine Arsenal openly criticising the FA in its match day programme?  Indeed can you imagine any newspaper, TV programme or radio show openly criticising the FA?  It does happen but rarely.

But the notion of bending the knee and bowing down to the FA, while acquiescing in all matters is of fairly recent design – in the past people in football took a less namby-pamby attitude.

Thus it was that on this day in 1926 the Arsenal programme published an attack on the FA for its handling of the Tom Whittaker affair.   Whittaker had gone on what today we would call a “B” tour of England to Australia, which involved many of the players playing a game each and every day as they travelled the continent, advertising the concept of football.

Whittaker was injured on that tour and his career came to an end.  Arsenal felt the player should have compensation, but the FA seemed to treat injuries while having the honour of playing for one’s country, as one of the risks of the trade.  They made an offer of a one off payment which was by any standard derisory, and Sir Henry Norris took up the cause.

Here are the anniversaries…

4 December 1909: Arsenal beat Tottenham 1-0 in the club’s first ever league encounter.  Lawrence scored in front of 18,000.  It came as part of a five match undefeated run – the best run of form in the 1909/10 season which almost saw Arsenal relegated.  Although it was only game 16 of the season Arsenal had already used their 6th different centre forwards.

4 December 1914: George Swindin born in Yorkshire.  He played as an amateur for various clubs, including Rotherham United, before turning professional in 1934 with Bradford City.  He was with Arsenal as a player from 1936 to 1954 making 297 appearances as a goalkeeper. 

4 December 1920: King George V (President of the FA) attended the game between Arsenal and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and was presented to both teams.  His Majesty was by all accounts a keen watcher of matches, and was regularly to be found at games. In this game Pagnam scored two goals making it seven goals in the last four games as Arsenal won 2-1.

4 December 1924: Alexander Graham sold to Brentford.  Alex went to Scotland during the war and returned in 1919 to take up the number five shirt at Highbury, and was a regular player for three seasons.  He won one cap for Scotland, in 1920, in a 2-0 win against Ireland. See also here.

4 December 1926: In the match day programme for this day Sir Henry Norris threw down the gauntlet to the FA in public over the way it had treated Tom Whittaker who had suffered a career ending injury while playing for England in Australia.  The game was a 1-0 win over Bury, but the big interest was in what the FA would do against such a public challenge.

4 December 1933: On this day Arsenal made their second attempt to introduce numbered shirts (despite opposition from League and FA) using them in a friendly against F.C Vienna, which Arsenal won 4-2.

4 December 1952: Bill Dodgin signed from Fulham.  Fulham were managed by Bill’s father (also called Bill Dodgin) and Bill junior left when Fulham were relegated to the second division.

4 December 1956: John Barnwell’s first game in the Southern Floodlight Cup.  After playing as an amateur for Bishop Auckland he had moved to Arsenal in 1955, turned pro in 1956 and started playing for the first team in 1957.

4 December 1959: Terry Neill signed from Bangor City for £2500.  He played 241 league games for Arsenal before playing for Hull – and later went on to manage both teams.

4 December 1961: Arsenal beat Millwall 3-1 to win the London Challenge Cup.  It was Arsenal’s 13th appearance in the final.

4 December 1962: Kevin Richardson born in Newcastle.  He played for Everton with whom he won the league and cup, then moved to Watford before becoming part of the 1989 league winning team – playing in the final game against Liverpool.

4 December 1968: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1 in the second leg of the league cup semi-final having won the first leg 1-0.  Once again Radford scored for Arsenal to win 2-1 overall and go on and face Swindon Town in the final.

4 December 1973: For the first time since the days of Wright, fewer than 20,000 turned up at Highbury for a first team match.   The result was Arsenal 2 Wolves 2; the crowd was 13,482. The match was played at 2.15 on a Tuesday because of the government restrictions on the use of electricity. Arsenal were also fined £2000 on this day for making illegal approaches to two Phil Parkes and Gerry Francis of QPR.  

4 December 1974: Alex Cropley transferred from Hibernian to Arsenal for £150,000.  He had played 118 times for Hibs but broke his leg twice playing for Arsenal, and never made the impact hoped for.

4 December 1976: Alan Ball’s final Arsenal game; a 5-3 win over Newcastle.  Macdonald got a hatrick, Ross and Stapleton the others. See also here.

4 December 1979: Arsenal played their nemesis of 1969: Swindon Town.  It ended 1-1, with a very encouraging crowd of 38,024, showing how seriously the League Cup was now being taken.

4 December 1991 Cliff Bastin died in Exeter aged 79.  He had been one of the very greatest Arsenal players of all time; perhaps the greatest.  After retiring from playing football after the war, he ran a cafe, wrote for the Sunday Pictorial and went on to be a publican.  With Arsenal, Bastin won the FA Cup twice, and the First Division title five times.  Indeed by the age of nineteen Bastin had won a League title, FA Cup and been capped for England

4 December 2004: Arsenal 3 Birmingham 0; starting a month of four wins and a draw.  It was also Almunia’s first Premier League game.  He went on to play 109 league games for Arsenal.

4 December 2010 Arsenal beat Fulham 2-1 to go top of the league.  It was the only moment the club were top of the league during the season, losing the next game to Man U and dropping to second.

Latest news:

We are developing our own video channel.   It’s still at the experimental stage but you can get a feel here…

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