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October 2020
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Why every scrap of evidence is vital for the football historian.

Football anniversaries are few and far between in July, but even so we have still found two transfers, an appointment of an ex-Arsenal player as manager of Derby County and the date on which Henry Norris made a speech.

The latter point, while seemingly of little interest to anyone, is one of those bits of information historians sometimes need in order to piece together what a figure of historical interest was up to at a certain time.

In this case it is Henry Norris who we tracked.  He rescued Arsenal from extinction in 1910, when it was unable to pay its creditors and its players, and during the first world war worked for the War Office.  But all the War Office records from the first world war were lost in a fire caused by a German raid in the second world war, and so finding the record of a speech he made (a speech of no particular interest in relation to his work with Arsenal) helps us see that he was back in London.   Tracing his movements is helpful because we can then see how rapidly he was promoted in the army, from having no rank at all, to becoming Lt Colonel in 1917 when he moved into full time work as the head of recruitment and then conscription during the rest of  the war.

Indeed it was Norris’ genius for administration which not only made him a successful businessman but also allowed him to reorganise the recruitment of troops during the first world  war.  And of course it also enabled him to rescue Arsenal from administration, move them to Highbury and turn them into a successful first division club.

Here are the anniversaries.

6 July 1916: During the 1st world war Arsenal’s chair, Henry Norris, undertook work for the War Office.  The records of this work were later destroyed so piecing together his work is difficult but we know he worked in Worthing for the WO sorting out recruitment before this date, but was back in London by this date as he made a speech at a Chamber of Commerce event in Fulham. Such is the way the story is recovered – by joining the dots from the information we do have.

6 July. 1959:  David Bowen sold to Northampton Town for £5,000.  He had previously been purchased from Northampton, and now went on to play 22 times for them in the 1959/60 season before retiring for playing, but staying as manager of the club.  He took Northampton from the 4th to the 1st division in five seasons. He was also manager of Wales (1964/74) and remained on the board of Northampton until retirement. He died in 1995 and the north stand of the Northampton stadium is named in his honour as is a street where he lived. 

6 July 1980: Colin Addison became Derby County’s manager.  He played 28 games for Arsenal in 1966-7 before moving onto Sheffield United.  As a manager he was in charge or assistant at 22 different clubs in England, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East mostly staying for one season.  He remained at Derby until 1982.

6 July 1995: Jimmy Carter left on a free transfer for Portsmouth.  Having come from an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool he played just 25 times in four years for Arsenal and had had two loan spells at Oxford.   After leaving Arsenal he played almost 100 more league games for Portsmouth and Millwall.

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