By Tony Attwood
On this day in 1995 the European Court ruled the system of clubs retaining the right to play a player until they released him was illegal under EC rules. As a result when Mr Wenger came to Arsenal the following year he was able to bring in players from across the EU who were at the end of their contract without their old club receiving a fee. What’s more players were now able to agree a pre-contract arrangement with another club for a free transfer if the players’ contract with their existing club has six months or less remaining.
While most managers in England spent their time looking at English players, Mr Wenger’s wide knowledge of footballers across Europe allowed him to spot players who were very happy to come to England, and who possessed styles and approaches to playing which could confound English defenders who had little experience of playing against foreign styles and approaches.
It worked, as we quickly found at, an absolute treat.
Here are the anniversaries…
15 December 1890, Luton offered five shillings (25p) per week payment to 3 players leading to the suggestion they pre-dated Arsenal as the first southern professional club. Arsenal however was the first club in the south to go fully professional – and the first to pay salaries that a man could live on!
15 December 1917: Sir Henry Norris and Sir William Joynson-Hicks launched the Footballers’ Battalion at Fulham Town Hall with Norris funding the scheme. Men from Fulham, Arsenal, Clapton Orient, Croydon Common, Brighton, Chelsea, Watford, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Luton Town all signed up at this first meeting. Tragically in the course of the war the battalion lost 900 men.
15 December 1919: The hated rationing of meat ended, although it appears many butchers did not have enough supplies to meet demand on that day.
15 December 1926: Harold Peel, a stop gap signing by Chapman, arrived at Arsenal from Bradford PA. He played for the first time on 1 January 1927, and went on to play nine times that season at either number 10 or 11. See also here
15 December 1934: Arsenal 8 Leicester 0. This game included Drake’s 6th hat trick of the season. Arsenal thus far had scored eight twice and seven once in 19 league games. Hulme also got a hattrick, and Bastin the remaining two. For a review of Dec 1934 see here.
15 December 1966: Arsenal 4 Cardiff 2. A fund raising game on behalf of the Aberfan Disaster Fund. Tragically the fund was seized by the government and parents of the children killed received £500 each from the NCB and had to ‘prove’ that they were ‘close’ to their children before any payment for mental suffering were made. Most government action involved covering up the incompetence of senior NCB officials.
15 December 1973: After six unbeaten, Arsenal lost 1-2 away to Burnley with 13,200 in the ground and the match played in ludicrous conditions. Chasing a ball Radford slid off the mud pitch and hit a concrete wall, injuring himself in the process. There was no floodlighting and the light was so bad the last goal was not seen by those at the opposite end of the ground.
15 December 1976: For a game against Derby Terry Neill adopted a new approach for Arsenal: “let’s kick Derek Hales on his debut”. It gained Arsenal a point, but whether it was quite the way Arsenal should play was another matter. Luckily only Storey, Macdonald and Nelson were booked for the offences and no one was sent off.
15 December 1979: West Brom 2 Arsenal 2 in front of just 18,280. The main news was that Brady was leaving and Arsenal’s fans seriously wanted signs that this was not going to be another period of slippage. But that is very much how it felt.
15 December 1995: The European Court ruled the 19th century retain and transfer system found legal in a court case involving Woolwich Arsenal in 1893, was prohibited by Article 39(1) of the EC Treaty. “Bosman” (as it was known after the plaintiff in the case) had arrived and the football world would never be the same again – at least until the UK left the EU.
15 December 2000: Paolo Vernazza was sold to Watford for £350,000 after just four league games for Arsenal. He played 96 times for Watford before moving onto Rotherham, and then later played non-league football, before retiring in 2011.
15 December 2000: Christopher Wreh sold to Al-Hilal. Although he kept Ian Wright out of the FA Cup Final, after playing for Arsenal he is reported to have been to seven clubs, but played rarely. However the player has himself denied the many strange stories that have circulated about his life after Arsenal.
15 December 2001: West Ham 1 Arsenal 1. League match 16 of the third Double season. The result left Arsenal second, three points behind Liverpool, and having played a game more.