By Tony Attwood
Quite often the significance of an event in Arsenal’s history does not become apparent until many years later, although quite clearly today’s return of the Premier League after 100 days’ absence is going to be written into our anniversary files for this day from now on.
And it is interesting from an Arsenal point of view that the return of football today coincides with the anniversary of the day 110 years ago in which Henry Norris, annoyed by the harping and criticism of what he was doing among some supporters, stated that he was perfectly willing to step away from the club if anyone was happy to take over the responsibilities of running the club from him.
By this day he had already made it clear that he was clearing all of Arsenal’s debts personally, and then was willing to sell his shares in the club to supporters so that they could be part-owners.
Gradually Henry Norris did divest himself of his shares, but anyone who did hold onto a share or two and passed the shares on through their family would have made a fortune in the 21st century, when Kroenke bought them. The average price Kroenke paid for Arsenal shares was around £16,500 for each £1 share – and remember the shares that Kroenke owns are still the original shares in Woolwich Arsenal FC which were created by Henry Norris in 1910.
But they no longer trade for £1. Some of the shares at the end of the recent compulsory purchase cost Kroenke up to £26,000 for each £1 share. So it would have been quite a nice gift for anyone in Plumstead in 1910 to leave to those who came along after.
There cannot be the slightest doubt that without Henry Norris the club would have died in 1910. Instead Norris rescued it using his own money, and the club share values – those very same shares that Norris was trying to sell without much luck 110 years ago – are now worth 20,000 times each what he was selling them for.
It really is an absolute truth: without Henry Norris there would have been no Arsenal for Kroenke to take over in the 21 century and no Arsenal engagement in the restart of football today.
Here are the anniversaries…
17 June 1910: Henry Norris made it clear that he thought Arsenal deserved more support, and suggested that although he and Hall had done their bit, there was nothing more they could do. He stated that if people thought he was not the right person to take the club forward, all they had to do was to indicate by 17 June 1910 that they wanted to take over from his efforts, and he would leave. No one did; he continued..
17 June 1911: One year on from Norris’ offer to step aside the AGM of Woolwich Arsenal FC was seemingly a cautiously optimistic meeting. The club, far from being relegated, which had been looking on the cards the previous season, had ended up in 10th position in the league,
17 June 1919: Tommy Rudkin born. He joined Wolverhampton just before the second world war started, and played primarily for Peterborough during the war, and then joined Arsenal. But only for a short while…
17 June 1919: Canadian troops, who had been getting restless after their return to their homeland had been repeatedly delayed, now became angry at the arrest of two of their number, attacked Epsom police station and killed a police officer. All told about 400 soldiers were involved and a lot of property in Epsom was destroyed.
17 June 1952: Gerry Ward signed as an amateur. He turned pro the next season but then had to do his national service, and so lost a lot of football time to square bashing. But he finally went on to play 81 times for the club.
17 June 1953: Ray Daniel sold to Sunderland. Ray played 87 league games, taking over at centre half from Leslie Compton and played every match save one in the 1953 league triumph.
17 June 1997: Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, and Alberto Mendez were signed in one day! For their first game together see here. Mendez was discovered playing for German non-league side 1 SC Feucht but only played four times for Arsenal.
17 June 2010: Kyle Ebecilio signed from Feyenoord on a free transfer as a youth player. He never played for Arsenal, and despite being offered a new contract in 2013 he chose to move on to FC Twente. In 2019 he signed for Den Haag.
17 June 2013: Geoff Strong died. He retired from football in the summer of 1972 and ran a hotel-furnishing company and co-owned a pub. In later life he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but continued to be seen at Anfield, where he played after leaving Arsenal. However he maintained no connection with Arsenal.