Arsenal’s five forgotten wartime trophies

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Today’s feature….

As we live through a time of worldwide crisis over Covid 19 we can see this is the third time since the start of the Football League that matters relating to football have been turned upside down.  The previous two periods were, of course, the two world wars.

With the first world war, there was such a certainty that it would “all be over by Christmas” that the League carried through the 1914/15 season – despite constant protests from some newspapers who felt football would distract from the war effort (although they were most keen to see horse racing continue).

The league did reach its conclusion that season, and was then replaced by war time leagues which were re-arranged for each of the next three seasons.

The situation in the second world war was completely different, and after three games the football league was abandoned and then new regional leagues were set up for the duration.  In both the wars clubs were allowed to play guest players from other clubs but no players were allowed to be paid.

It was because of allegations that some players from Leeds City were paid during the war that Herbert Chapman was banned from football for life (later rescinded) and Leeds were ejected from the football league.

Arsenal’s one triumph in the wartime leagues was that of winning the League South “A” Division in 1939/40, the London League in 1941/2, and the Football League South in 1942/3 – a season in which they also won the Football League Cup.  Finally in 1944/5 Arsenal won the Football League Cup South.

Here are the anniversaries.

16 July 1917:  The London Combination announced how it would run its wartime league for clubs in the capital in the season to come. The league was reduced to 10 clubs from the 14 of the previous season, removing the four non-London clubs: Watford, Luton, Southampton and Portsmouth, with them now having to fend for themselves.

16 July 1945: The first atomic bomb explosion took place in New Mexico

16 July 1936: The nation’s collective heartbeat stopped as George McMahon tried to shoot King Edward VIII at the Trooping of the Colour.

16 July 1946: John Hollins born in Guildford into a family in which both father and grandfather played football, as well as his three brothers.  

16 July 1954: Jimmy Bloomfield signed.  He played initially for Hayes and moved on to play for Brentford in 1952, but when the club were relegated from Division II into Division III South in 1954 he moved to Arsenal for £8000.

16 July 1962 Joe Baker was Billy Wright’s first marquee signing and Arsenal’s record signing at the time.  He had been Hibernian’s  top scorer for four years getting 102 goals in just 117 league games before moving to Torino.   

16 July 1963: Bob Wilson signed as an amateur, having been playing reserve games for Wolverhampton while studying at Loughborough College (now Loughborough University) to train as a teacher.

16 July 1977: Singapore 1 Arsenal 5 (Macdonald 3, Stapleton, Brady).  This was the second match of a four game tour also taking in Yugoslavia and Australia.

16 July 1996: Valur Gíslason transferred from Fram Reykjavík.  He never played a league match for Arsenal, and in 1999 moved to Strømsgodset in Norway, before then returning to Fram.  

16 July 2005: Barnet 1 Arsenal 4 (Hleb, Henry, Bergkamp, Hoyte).  This was the start of the first pre-season series of the modern era in which Arsenal won each of six games, scoring 20 goals along the way.

16 July 2008: Alexander Hleb signed for FC Barcelona from Arsenal for around €15 million plus €2 million if Barcelona won the La Liga.  The club duly came first in 2008–09 which took his transfer deal to €17 million – just about what Arsenal paid for him.  Hleb described the move as the biggest mistake of his life.

16 July 2011: Hangzhou Greentown (China) 1 Arsenal 1 (Vela).  Match two of a six game pre-season series, after beating Malaysia 4-0 three days earlier.

16 July 2013: Seb Squillaci moved to Bastia on a free transfer.  Although only given a one year contract this was extended and he played over 50 games for the club.

16 July 2013: The tale of Arsenal’s running man begins in the Far East.  He ran alongside the team bus for so far that he was invited on board, and later came to a match at the Emirates Stadium.

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