How we discovered when Dial Square FC died and Royal Arsenal was born.

By Tony Attwood

In the past it has often been suggested that Arsenal played a number of games as Dial Square FC before becoming Royal Arsenal FC.  In fact this wasn’t true – there was just one match – against Eastern Wanderers.

We discovered the truth of this by asking obvious questions such as “Who was Eastern Wanderers?” given that there are no records of them entering the FA Cup, or playing in any league.  And why Dial Square go to all the trouble of travelling across the Thames in order to play on the Isle of Dogs for their first game, when there were (obviously) no cars, and (I suggested!) no ferries.

In fact there was a ferry – proven by the discovery of a rate card for transport across the Thames, and the Eastern Wanderers- Dial Square’s one and only opposition – were recorded as advertising for opponents to play in the “Referee” a magazine of the day which was used by clubs for this very purpose.  It also carried a report of the score in the following week’s edition.

We next heard of Dial Square FC on 2 January 1887 via an advert that appeared in the self-same magazine, “The Referee”.  The advert announced Dial Square F.C. were seeking matches – proof that the club did not become Royal Arsenal on Christmas Day 1886 as is stated in many histories of the club.

But were they still Dial Square by the time of the second match?   As you can see below, on 7 January 1887 there was a newspaper report showing that the club had opened itself up to players from across the Royal Arsenal factories and henceforth changed its name.

This is how history is done – by speculating and then searching out of details and the telling of the tale (hopefully in as lively and informative way as possible.   But the key point here is that the earlier speculation (often proven to be wrong) is an essential part of this.  If one does not speculate and ask the questions, one never discovers the right answers.

Here are the anniversaries.

5 January 1887: The Woolwich Gazette reported on 7 January 1887 that sometime between 1 December 1886 and 5 January 1887 a meeting was held to widen the club to everyone in the area, and this club effectively broke away from the Dial Square Cricket Club and became Royal Arsenal Association Football Club.

5 January 1901.   Darwen 0 Arsenal 2. As a result of this victory Arsenal reached the first round proper of FA Cup; the significance being that this was the first season ever that Arsenal went on beyond the first round proper.

5 January 1907: Middlesbrough 5 Woolwich Arsenal 3.  Arsenal had just gone five games without defeat since losing 5-1 to Birmingham. Indeed during this winter period Arsenal were either unbeaten, or let in five!

5 January 1916: The Military Service Bill started its journey through Parliament – this being the bill that enforced conscription into the armed forces of young single men. In Fulham the authorities asked Henry Norris to operate the scheme, a request that led to his employment in the War Office and his ultimate rise from no military rank to the position by the end of the war of Lt Colonel – a position that placed him in charge of demobilisation.

5 January 1917: Arsenal had ended 1916 with 3 wins and a draw in their last four games – a significant upturn on performances earlier in the season, and the improvement continued with an away game against Luton on this day which resulted in a 4-1 win, in front of 3000 fans.

5 January 1918: As the war progressed through its fourth year, the new year’s football began on 5 January with a home game against Millwall Athletic.  Only 4000 made it to Highbury to see Arsenal win 1-0.

5 January 1939  Ted Platt, the man who became our wartime keeper, signed for Arsenal, aged 17.  Arsenal had an obvious regular first choice goalkeeper in George Swindin, and a reserve in Alex Wilson who had joined the club in 1933.  Ted Platt was one for the future, but of course the future of football was postponed.

5 January 1946: Joe Wade debut in the FA Cup which this season was played on home/away there was no national football league.  Arsenal lost 6-0 to WHU in first leg. Joe only played irregularly but was part of the championship winning season the following year.

5 January 1952: Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1.  Start of ten match unbeaten run. Roper got both goals, and indeed scored five in five.  The push up the table however was not enough and eventually Arsenal finished third. 53,540 attended the game.

5 January 1958: Steve Walford, born in Highgate.  He started out with Tottenham in 1974 but he only played twice for them before Terry Neill, who of course himself had been at Tottenham, signed him for Arsenal for £25,000 on 1 August 1977.

5 January 1961: John Butler, the first centre half to play in the revolutionary WM formation, died aged 66.  After playing 267 times for the club he was sold to Torquay United for £1,000 after which he became the coach of Royal Daring, in Belgium, and coach of the Belgian national side in the 1938 World Cup.  After the war he managed Torquay United, Crystal Palace and Colchester Utd, before retiring from football in 1955.

5 January 1970: Death of David Halliday.  He is said to be the only man in the top division in England to score 30+ goals in four consecutive seasons, and was bought by Chapman for Arsenal, but only got 15 games, scoring eight goals.

5 January 1974: Christopher Buckley – the Arsenal player who later became Aston Villa chairman, died.  He had played for Villa until 1914 when he joined Arsenal. Because of the war he only played 56 times for Arsenal before retiring from playing in 1921.

5 January 1980:  Terry Anderson drowned (or 24 January – reports quote different dates).  Terry joined the Arsenal ground staff at the age of 15 in 1959. The following year the football apprenticeship scheme was inaugurated and Terry was offered an apprenticeship which he accepted. Among his fellow apprentices were David Court, Gordon Ferry and Rodney Smithson who all went on to play for the first team.

5 January 1991: David O’Leary scored an own goal against Sunderland in a style that was to be copied by Lee Dixon on 7 September in the same year.  However this time Arsenal won 2-1.

5 January 2002.  Watford 2 Arsenal 4: FA Cup 3rd round, the start of the FA Cup victory in the 3rd double season.   Henry, Ljungberg, Kanu and Bergkamp scored, but it was Henry who was the star, scoring the first, setting up the second.

5 January 2009: Jack Wilshere signed professional forms.  He joined Arsenal aged nine, and went on to be an England international and an integral part of the club although his career was beset by injuries in 2014 and 2015. For 2016/17 he was loaned to Bournemouth and later signed for West Ham.

5 January 2013: Johan Djourou loaned to Hannover.  After a further loan with Hamburg his signed for that club and left Arsenal.  In all he played 86 league games and scored one goal for Arsenal.

5 January 2015: Lukas Podolski loaned to Inter Milan until the end of the season.  It was suggested the manager was upset by his unwillingness to track back, but during his loan Podolski suggested he would certainly return to Arsenal in the summer; but he didn’t.

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