The anniversary of the very start of Arsenal, and how we proved it happened.

Latest news:

Our companion website Untold Arsenal is developing its own video channel commenting on both contemporary and historic events.   It’s still at the experimental stage but you can get a feel here…

Untold Gooner News


And today is of course a very historic day, being the day on which in 1886 the first match was played by the side that eventually became Arsenal.   For this match, and this match alone, the team was called Dial Square, named after the factory within the Royal Arsenal complex that all the players worked in.  But such was the popularity of the move that men from other factories quickly asked to join in the venture, and so by the time the second game came along the club had opened itself up to all employees in the Woolwich armaments factories and renamed itself Royal Arsenal.

The event on this day 133 years ago also led to a typical piece of historic research.  At the time the Arsenal History Society was formed there was no direct evidence that we knew of, that shwoed the game really did take place on this day, in the location on the Isle of Dogs, against a team called Eastern Wanderers.  There was little to suggest Eastern Wanderers existed and on the face of it, it seemed unlikely that the workers at the Woolwich factory would travel across the Thames and a fair distance along the roadway to the Isle of Dogs, for their first match.

Everyone writing the history of the club accepted this event as true, but no one had collected the evidence to prove that it was not just a tale passed down through generations.  So we started from the premise that it was not true, and then searched for any evidence at all to disprove that notion.   And eventually some was found including not only a report of the match in a newspaper, but also an advert prior to this placed by Eastern Wanderers, searching for teams they could play.

So, indeed, nothing new was discovered, but the past was proven to have happened as we thought – and that is as much part of doing history as finding something new.

11 December 1886: Arsenal’s first game, under the name Dial Square, beating Eastern Wanderers 6-0.  When Arsenal History Society was formed there was no contemporary evidence to show this game actually took place, but our research found the missing newspaper evidence including the only contemporary report of the match – something which had been lost for 100 years.  After this match, membership of the club was expanded from those who worked in the Dial Square factory to everyone working for the Woolwich Arsenal.

11 December 1886: Fred Beardsley played for Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and thus did not play in the Eastern Wanderers game as suggested in some quarters.

11 December 1897 Arsenal 4 New Brompton 2, FA Cup qualifying round 5.  Arsenal thus qualified for the first round proper but as happened two years earlier Arsenal lost to Burnley in the next round.

11 December 1901: “Dave” Halliday was born in Dumfries and trained initially as a motor mechanic playing for the works team of car maker Arrol-Johnston.  He later moved to Sunderland where he became their all time record scorer, before finally moving to Arsenal.

11 December 1902: Dan Lewis was born in Maery, Glamorgan, and after playing for clubs in his area moved to Clapton Orient, before joining Arsenal in 1924,

11 December 1909: After 7 consecutive away defeats Arsenal’s upturn in away form continued, beating Preston 4-3 making it three wins in a row.  See here for the build up to the game    Arsenal’s centre forward problems revealedand also here

11 December 1911: Having initially rejected an offer Dick Roose signed for Woolwich Arsenal.  In 1927 Henry Norris admitted that he and Hall had put up half each to pay a player £200 to sign for Woolwich Arsenal.  Roose himself was called upon by the League at one point to explain his expenses, and his testimony made the League a laughing stock.

11 December 1920: British forces set fire to 20,000 square metres of land in the centre of Cork, including the City Hall, in reprisal for the killing of a British auxiliary in an ambush. On the same day 50,000 watched a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, in very poor weather. It was Arsenal’s 10th game unbeaten although it did mean an end to the run of four consecutive victories.

11 December 1925: Sir Henry Norris made a payment of £125 to Charlie Buchan as compensation for the loss of revenue from the sports shop in Sunderland that bore Buchan’s name.  Because the money came from Sir Henry personally and was not related to playing the payment did not break the rules of the FA or League..

11 December 1926: A goalless draw away to Birmingham hardly seems a noteworthy event but having won just two of their last six games before this match Birmingham were happy to get a draw.  Arsenal having sunk down the league table were undoubtedly relieved to have gone three without defeat.

11 December 1928: The FA confirmed that they would press ahead with their hearing concerning Sir Henry Norris at Arsenal.  It finally began in February 1929.

11 December 1929: H. B. Peel left Arsenal to go to Bradford City.  He was the only player to leave the club during the entire season.

11 December 1937: Arsenal 2 Preston 0.  Last game for John Milne who lost his place to “Boy” Bastin.  He went on to play for Middlesbrough and later went to Mexico City with Tom McKillop and Jimmy Hickie to train a team there.

11 December 1943: Jack Crayston’s last game in the Football League South (wartime league).  At the end of the war he joined the coaching staff at Highbury and in June 1947 was appointed assistant manager to Tom Whittaker

11 December 1960: John Lukic born.  He played first for Leeds as a schoolboy and then started with the first team in 1979 before transferring to Arsenal for £75,000 as a replacement for Pat Jennings.

11 December 1963: Nigel Winterburn born.  He was with Birmingham City and Oxford Utd until joining Wimbledon in 1983, from whom he was signed by George Graham as part of the most famous defensive unit in Football League history.

11 December 1972: Arsenal beat Coventry at home 2-0 in front of 28,599.  Within five minutes Radford got the first, heading in an Armstrong corner.  Then when Mortimer’s shirt pulling tactics for once failed to haul back McNab, he  passed to Armstrong whose shot was parried to Radford who had all the time in the world to tap it in.

11 December 1979: Swindon Town 4 Arsenal 3 – for the second time Swindon knocked Arsenal out of the league cup. Arsenal’s team was… Jennings, Devine, Walford, Talbot, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Hollins, Rix.

11 December 2012: Arsenal lost in league cup to Bradford on penalties.  It was 1-1 after extra time with Vermaelen scoring, but he then missed one of the penalties along with Cazorla and Chamakh in the shoot out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *