When Arsenal had four title winning managers one straight after the other

by Tony Attwood

Although every Arsenal supporter must know about Herbert Chapman (not least because of the statue of Chapman that the Arsenal History Society persuaded Arsenal FC to erect at the new stadium, “looking up at the stadium as if to say ‘I did that’,”) not everyone knows of the Chapman team, and how they continued his work after Chapman’s sudden death.

In particular there was Joe Shaw, who ran the reserve side, and who took over the first team immediately after Chapman’s death, and guided Arsenal to their second successive title.  Joe returned to the reserves at the end of that season, and the management was taken over by George Allison, who then immediately won a third title in a row.

Allison eventually won the FA Cup and two league titles exactly as Chapman did, and was looking to retire when war broke out in 1939.  Arsenal were unable to play at Highbury during the war, and so ground shared with Tottenham, Allison overseeing the squad.

He even stayed on for the first post-war season, but then retired, much to his delight, and wrote an interesting autobiography published at the same time as Knighton’s vigorously anti-Arsenal work.  All the evidence shows that much of Knighton’s book was a work of fiction, while Allison, who had access  to Arsenal’s archives, and was a highly acclaimed journalist in his own right, gave a much more accurate account of Arsenal’s past.   Sadly, the media chose to believe Knighton, and so the anti-Arsenal anti-Norris myths were born.

Allison was replaced by Tom Whittaker, whose birthday we remember today.  Whittaker had joined Arsenal as a player after the first world war, and after being injured playing for England “B” in Australia, became Arsenal’s physio and ultimately effective deputy to Chapman and Allison.

Whittaker, like Chapman and Allison before him, won two league titles and the FA Cup, but like Chapman died while in office.  His death marked the end of the era Chapman created, with the club having collected seven league titles and three FA Cups.


21 July 1898: Tom Whittaker born in Aldershot.   His prime interest in his early days was in being a marine engineer, but he was spotted playing football while serving his country, and in 1919 signed for Arsenal.  As Arsenal manager after the second world war, he won the league twice and the Cup once, as did Allison and Chapman before him.

21 July 1969: Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon

21 July 1953: Brian Talbot born in Ipswich.  He started his career with Ipswich Town in 1968 before graduating to the first team in 1972 playing 177 games for the club.

21 July 1969: Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon

21 July 1987: Alan Smith’s first appearance for Arsenal, in the Barrie Vassallo Testimonial.  He had transferred from Leicester City where he had played alongside Gary Lineker, but was immediately loaned back to the club until the summer of 1987.

21 July 2000: Tommy Black and Julian Gray released to Crystal Palace.  Black played in the Youth League winning side of 1998 and both players won promotion with Palace in 2004.

21 July 2005: Samir Nasri fractured his right fibula during a training session while playing for Marseilles. 

21 July 2005: Patrick Vieira moved to Juventus.  He only stayed one year before moving to Inter Milan for four years and then Manchester City for one year.

21 July 2014: Wellington Silva loaned to Almeria until June 2015. He was then able to obtain a Spanish passport through length of residence meaning he could play anywhere in the EU. 

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

Below you will find today’s feature, and the list of anniversaries for today.  But first…

We currently have two books available.

“Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” is the definitive history of Arsenal from its inception, and “Making the Arsenal” is a novel which tells the story of Arsenal in 1910.

Both books are now available on Kindle and in print.    Please see here for more details.   

On this site we have hundreds of series of articles on Arsenal history and a full list of the various series of articles on Arsenal’s history can be found here.    Three particular highlights are…

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.


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