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October 2020
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The man who piloted Arsenal from its most humble beginnings onto its first major triumphs

By Tony Attwood

If we had a complete sense of Arsenal history in our club, today would be marked as a solemn occasion, being as it is the anniversary of the passing of Jack Humble.

And if you have never heard the name you can be forgiven, because the club has seemingly forgotten him too.

But he was there at the very start of Royal Arsenal FC in 1897, became an active member of the committee that ran the club and which took the club into professionalism, was the first chairman of Woolwich Arsenal FC, retired from the service of the club but came back to work (successfully) on uniting Henry Norris and the active supporters who were unsure about having him as a new owner of the club.   He continued to work with Norris, and went on to become a director of the club, being removed only when the Hill-Wood entourage organised a coup which ousted Norris and his supporters from the board.

As far as I can tell he never received any word of thanks from the new directors that ran the club after the 1927 coup, but he did live long enough to witness Arsenal’s first ever major trophy – the FA Cup.    From Royal Arsenal to the FA Cup Jack Humble played a very significant part in the survival of Arsenal and the setting of it on the road to glory.  That he should now be forgotten is an absolute tragedy and I can only hope that one day the club will recognise his name and give him some sort of remembrance at the stadium.

Here are the anniversaries…

18 December 1897: On 22 September 1897 Woolwich Arsenal had been playing Loughborough in a United League game when the game was abandoned with 8½ minutes remaining – probably due to failing light.  It was agreed that the remaining minutes be played on 18 Dec following the Football League fixture between the two clubs. Ten of the eleven players that played in the first fixture played in the second fixture, with Paddy Farrell playing in place of Frank McAvoy thus making Farrell, Arsenal’s first substitute!

18 December 1909: After 3 wins in a row, in which they scored seven, Woolwich Arsenal started a run of three home games in a row but lost two and drew one.  This 1-2 home defeat to Notts C was the first of five without a win.

18 December 1914: Egypt became a British protectorate.

18 December 1920: Bradford City 3 Arsenal 1.  In this season both Bradford clubs were in the 1st division.  By 1927 both were in the Third Division North. Prior to the game Arsenal were showing in the tables as the sixth best performing team away from home while Bradford were 18th in effectiveness at home.  Everything pointed to an away win – or at least a draw. But you can’t trust form. See also here

18 December 1926: Arsenal 2 Tottenham 4 – the defeat that moved Chapman to ring the changes.  Arsenal lost the next game, but after that just one of the next eight as newly purchased players were slowly bedded into the team.  But the result meant Arsenal had beaten Tottenham just once in the last eight meetings.

18 December 1931: Jack Humble, one of the founding fathers and the first ever chairman of Woolwich Arsenal FC,  died after a lifetime of service to the club. He played for Royal Arsenal, and worked continuously to save the club in 1910, and remained a director of the club until 1927 when the Hill-Wood take over ejected him, seemingly without a word of thanks.  As such he was Arsenal’s last direct connection with those who took Royal Arsenal on the journey to professionalism. He lived long enough to see Arsenal win the FA Cup, and sadly died halfway through the first title winning season. His name is now all but forgotten, yet without him there would be no Arsenal.

18 December 1931: William Harper transferred to Plymouth.  He played 82 for Plymouth and was then given the honour of a testimonial match against Arsenal in 1972 and had the training ground of Argyle named after him: Harper’s Park.

18 December 1935: Samuel Hoare resigned as foreign secretary after his sell-out of Ethiopia which had been invaded by Italy.  It is said that when Eden had his audience with King George V, he remarked, “No more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris.”

18 December 1937: Final game for Joe Hulme – Liverpool 2 Arsenal 0.  He won three league champions’ medals and two FA Cup winners’ medals and was the only player to play in all of the first four Arsenal Cup Finals of the 1930s.

18 December 1954: Newcastle 5 Arsenal 1.  Arsenal then rebounded from this defeat by going unbeaten in the next five games.  

18 December 1969: David Hillier born.  He played schoolboy football for Blackheath before joining Arsenal in January 1984 as an associated schoolboy turning professional in February 1988.

18 December 1970: The death penalty was abolished in the UK

18 December 1971: Arsenal beat bottom of the league WBA 2-0 with a low crowd of 28,177.   John Roberts (having been dropped for Peter Simpson the week before) spoke of the special feeling for Don Howe that everyone at Arsenal had and proved it by scoring twice – a remarkable achievement having scored the only goal of the game when the sides met in the Midlands in early September.

18 December 1976: A 3-1 win over Manchester United with a crowd of 39,572 at Highbury.  Even the Sunday papers were in effusive mood and Tommy Docherty, Man U’s manager, was quoted as saying Arsenal were a “very good side” who would “make the top five for sure.”

18 December 2001: League match 17 of the third Double season.  Arsenal’s final defeat of the season.  Arsenal 1 Newcastle 3.  All three defeats were at home – the other two being to Leeds and Charlton.  Arsenal won 18 and drew three of the remaining games.

18 December 2005: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2.  Arsenal’s third consecutive defeat.  In the run, Arsenal had scored nil and let in five, being beaten also by Bolton and Newcastle.  10 years on, Bolton, came bottom of the Championship while Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League. 

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