When Tottenham were rejected by the Football League, but Arsenal helped them out.

by Tony Attwood

As you can read from the entry for this day in 1905 below, Tottenham made a number of attempts in the early part of the Football League’s history to try to secure their place as the dominant team in the area.  They blocked Chelsea from the Southern League, tried to block Arsenal’s move to Islington, and attempted to gain a place in the first division in 1919 by applying for an extra place created in the league.

But there was another occasion where they cocked it up.  The following is an extract which comes from an article on this site describing the whole set of strange events.

In February 1908 Tottenham (along with QPR) resigned from the Southern League and made it known that they would apply to join the Football League.  QPR were justified in their application as they were runaway winners of the Southern League. Tottenham eventually finished 7th.

The Southern League was fed up with its members applying to join the Football League only to come back with their tails between their legs when they were unsuccessful and causing the Southern League administration problems such as re-arranging the fixture lists. So, at the 1908 AGM the members agreed that any team wishing to resign from the Southern League had to do so by December of the season that they wanted to resign. They then expelled Tottenham, something which came back to bite them in the backside

The Football League then held its AGM. Grimsby and Chesterfield were re-elected, and Bradford PA replaced Lincoln. Tottenham (now no longer in the Southern League) finished 5th in the vote (behind Lincoln) and were not elected into the Football League! To make it worse the Southern League didn’t want them back either.

That then left Tottenham without a league to play in as they had also resigned from the Western League (a regional league for London clubs, despite its name).

Towards the end of June 1908 Stoke told the Football League that they were in financial difficulties and resigned from the League. The Football League held a special meeting to find a replacement for Stoke. To confuse matters, Stoke then asked to be re-instated into the Football League. The 5 teams that applied for Stoke’s place were Stoke, Lincoln, Tottenham, Rotherham and Southport Central. Tottenham and Lincoln tied for first place so a second vote was held with just these two clubs in contention. Tottenham were very lucky here as the Management Committee could have taken the voting from the AGM as a yardstick and elected Lincoln into the League.

In the second vote they tied 20 votes each. It was then left to the Management Committee to decide and they voted 5-3 in Tottenham’s favour. Arsenal showed what gentlemen they were and supported Tottenham’s application throughout the whole debacle.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter. Following all of this rumours surfaced that Tottenham had offered Stoke financial inducements to resign from the Football League in the first place. Finding themselves with no League to play in they bribed another team to resign in the hope that they could take their place. Even then it took three votes to get them into the League.

Here are the anniversaries

10 March 1892: Royal Arsenal beat Casuals 3-1 in a friendly.  The crowd of 1000 was very much on the low side – as some games at the Invicta Stadium were seen by up towards ten times as many.

10 March 1894: Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough Ironopolis 0 – this was Arsenal’s only home game against the side, as they withdrew from the league at the end of the season.

10 March 1898: Thomas Mitchell, the club’s first professional manager, resigned after seven months of friction with the club Committee. As it turned out he was the fourth most successful manager of all time for the club, in terms of win percentage, although he managed only 26 games.  He later went on to win the FA Cup five times with Blackburn Rovers between 1884 and 1891.  See also here 

10 March 1904: David Neave signed from Arbroath.  He played three league games before going to Leyton but then returned to play 151 more league games.

10 March 1905: Chelsea FC were formed and immediately applied to play in the Southern League.  Tottenham objected, and had their objection upheld so Chelsea applied to join the Football League – which they did the following September, thus in one bound making them a much bigger club than Tottenham.  Tottenham’s tactical ineptitude in terms of trying to make themselves unique in London was repeated when they tried to stop Arsenal’s move to Highbury in 1913 and tried to prevent their own relegation in 1919. Each of these three major campaigns was, in its own way, a flop.

10 March 1906: Manchester United 2 Woolwich Arsenal 3.  Arsenal’s first ever appearance in the quarter final of the FA Cup.

10 March 1917: Arsenal were away to West Ham, and the huge improvement in their results continued further with a 3-2 victory in front of 6,500.  The following day there was news that British forces had captured Baghdad, the southern capital of the Ottoman Empire.

10 March 1919: At a Special General Meeting of the Football League plans were mapped out for post war football including Arsenal and Chelsea being elected to the first division.  The most detailed analysis of all the issues surrounding Arsenal’s election, and the myths that were circulated appear in a series of articles indexed here.

10 March 1922: Samson Haden joined from Castleford.  He went on to play 88 league games and five FA cup games.

10 March 1928: Arthur Milton born in Bristol.  He signed for Arsenal as an amateur in 1945, and played both cricket and football for England.

10 March 1934: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2.  Shaw’s team went on their second winning run – this lasting seven games as Arsenal moved towards their second successive championship – and showed they could cope with the tragedy of Chapman’s death.

10 March 1938: Arsenal brought in George Drury signing him from Sheffield Wednesday.  He went on to play 11 games in the remainder of the season, for the most part at inside left, with Jones playing inside right.

10 March 1951: Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1.  First game for Arthur Milton.  He went on to play 75 league games. Milton was the last man ever to play both football and cricket for England as a full international and won a League winners’ medal with Arsenal in 1953.

10 March 1964: John Barnwell sold to Nottingham Forest for £40,000 and played a major part in their becoming league runners’ up in 1967.  He played 138 games across seven seasons with Arsenal and later managed Wolverhampton with whom he won the league cup. He then became Chief Exec of the League Managers Assn.

10 March 1973: Ipswich 1 Arsenal 2.   Radford and Ball scored in a game that was part of a run of one defeat in 14.

10 March 1979: Arsenal 2 Bristol City 0: a return to form after two defeats.  Rix and Stapleton scored but the crowd of just 24,288 was disappointing given that  Arsenal were third in the league after this win. It was the first game for Brian McDermott

10 March 1992: 700th game for David O’Leary.  Arsenal 2 Oldham 1 – but only 22,096 turned up.  Merson and Wright scored.

10 March 1993: Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 2.  League cup semi final 2nd leg.  Cup match 13 of Arsenal’s cup double season.   Linighan and Wright scored, 28584 in attendance.

10 March 2001: Arsenal 3 Blackburn 0,  FA Cup 6th round.  Wiltord, Adams and Pires scored – all within the first 36 minutes.

10 March 2004: Arsenal 2 Celta Vigo 0 took Arsenal through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League having won the first leg 2-3.  Henry got both goals – as well as one of the goals in the first leg.

2 Replies to “When Tottenham were rejected by the Football League, but Arsenal helped them out.”

  1. I can imagine that you find it hard to believe THFC, but in the early 20th century, the two clubs had very different philosophies. Tottenham felt that new teams in London would reduce the crowds at WHL, and so opposed Chelsea’s application to join the Southern League, but Arsenal took the view that more London teams meant more local derbies and so more crowds, and so supported Tottenham’s application.

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