The death of Hotspur, birth of the saviour, match fixing, the signing of Brady

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.

I’ve not read a definitive account of where the name “Hotspur” comes from, or how it came to be attached to the name of our local rivals (although of course lots of people have clear opinions, but without too much solid evidence) so suggesting it is linked to Sir Henry Percy is as good a guess as any.  He was born on this day in 1403 – hence his mention in our anniversary files.

As such he shares a birthday with Sir Henry Norris, whose astonishing work in the War Office in the first world war, was a major contributory factor to Britain’s victory in 1918.  As we’ve noted so often, it is impossible to find a man associated with Arsenal whose reputation has been more unfairly dragged through the mud than Henry Norris, who was in fact not just a great hero in the war, but also the saviour of Arsenal and a man of great distinction and honour.   His misfortune was to hire Leslie Knighton as manager.  21 years after being sacked, and after Sir Henry had passed away, Knighton wrote the most outrageous pack of lies about Norris in his autobiography.   His motive was undoubtedly money, as at the time Knighton was reported to be living in very reduced circumstances, and a Sunday newspaper offered considerable sums for the rights to the fictional account of the man’s time at Highbury.

In addition to our detailed account of Sir Henry’s time as Arsenal owner we have separated out the articles that deal with 1919 affair, in which it was alleged that Arsenal somehow bribed or otherwise fixed their way into the first division.   This allegation is completely untrue, and the full story of what actually happened is contained in the articles on The 1919 Affair.  Details of other series covered on this site are available here.

Sadly however stories continue to be invented, the latest being a recent Sunday Mirror assertion that Arsenal were involved in match fixing during Norris’ time at the club.  No evidence was given by the Mirror, and indeed none could be given, for what happened was that Norris was the first man to report match fixing at a game involving Liverpool.  He was reprimanded by the League and told that if he said anything more about match fixing he would be banned from football.

Four years later both Liverpool and Manchester United were found guilty of match fixing after a series of further allegations had been made by others.

Here are today’s anniversaries.


23 July 1403: Sir Henry Percy, known as Hotspur, killed in battle. He fought in several campaigns against the Scots in the northern border and against the French during the Hundred Years’ War. The nickname “Hotspur” was given to him by the Scots as a tribute to his speed in advance and readiness to attack.

23 July 1865: Henry Norris born.  Utterly maligned by Leslie Knighton’s libellous and inaccurate autobiography but praised unstintingly by George Allison (who knew him from 1910 onwards) in his autobiography, Norris was the man who rescued Arsenal from bankruptcy, honoured all the club’s debts (not just the “football debts”) moved the club to north London, built Highbury, and ultimately brought Herbert Chapman to the club.  He was also a war hero rising from no rank to Lt Colonel and being awarded a knighthood for his services to the country.

23 July 1893: Charles Ambler signed for Woolwich Arsenal having played five games for Royal Arsenal since 1891.  He left Woolwich Arsenal without playing a league game, but then returned on 22 November 1895 from Tottenham, and played his one and only league game on 30 November 1895

23 July 1920:  14 people died and over 100 were injured in continuing rioting and rebellion in Belfast. 

23 July 1942: Andy Ducat, suffered a heart attack and passed away while at the crease at in a wartime match at Lords.  He played 175 times for Woolwich Arsenal and his transfer to Villa in 1912 signalled the financial desperation of the club.

23 July 1945: Jon Sammels born in Ipswich.  He supported Arsenal as a boy and joined the club as youth player, winning seven youth caps for England.

23 July 1956: Bill Dickson sold to Mansfield.  He had played 29 games between 1953 and 1956, having been signed from Chelsea.  In later life he was a joiner and a part-time scout for Arsenal.

23 July 1966: England beat Argentina 1-0.  Rattin was sent off for violence of the tongue, even though the German ref spoke no Spanish and Rattin no German.  Alf Ramsey the England manager called the Argentine team “animals” (although England committed more fouls than Argentina) and refused to let his players exchange shirts.  The newspapers the next day railed against the lack of respect for authority in South America.

23 July 1973: Liam Brady signed as a pro for Arsenal.  He went on to make 235 appearances scoring 43 goals.  Sadly he joined the team just as a serious decline set in, and left in 1980 for Juventus.  His one trophy with the club was the 1979 FA Cup.

23 July 1984: Viv Anderson signed from Nottingham Forest.  He had played 328 games for Forest, but he felt the need to move on as the club appeared to be in terminal decline. He displaced Colin Hill and played 120 times for Arsenal.

23 July 1988:  Arsenal beat Yeovil 5-0 in Alan Skirton’s Testimonial, with Steve Bould making his first start.

23 July 1996: Kevin Dennis was given a free transfer from Arsenal to Brentford.  He never played for Arsenal, and only played 17 times for Brentford before dropping into non-league football.

23 July 2001: Junichi Inamoto signed from Gamba Osaka for £3.5m. He played in the Carling Cup and Champions League, and despite a good 2002 World Cup he moved on to Fulham, before playing in Turkey, Germany and France.  

23 July 2004: Ray Parlour sold to Middlesbrough. Few players are ever universally loved by fans, but Ray Parlour came closest, and Arsenal lost more than a player when he left.  He won the league three times and the cup four times with Arsenal under Wenger – the manager who realised how to make maximum use of his talent.

23 July 2007: Freddie Ljungberg sold to West Ham for whom he played 25 games before moving onto Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Celtic and Shimizu S-Pulse.  He later returned to Arsenal first in charge of the under 23s, then as assistant first team coach, taking over the first team for a short while after Unai Emery was fired.

23 July 2010: Arsenal History Society published the article “Where is the statue of Herbert Chapman at the Emirates?” which led to discussions with Ivan Gazidis and finally the erection of a series of statues around the ground.

23 July 2014: Thomas Eisfeld left Arsenal for Fulham after making just one first
team appearance for Arsenal in the league.  He signed a two year contract with
Fulham and later moved to VfL Bochum.

23 July 2011: Cologne 1 Arsenal 2 (Gervinho 2).  Arsenal went on to draw with Boca Juniors and New York Red Bulls before beating Benfica in the final pre-season game.

23 July 2019: Arsenal played Real Madrid in the final International Champions Cup match of the campaign, and drew 2-2 having gone 2-0 up with goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal lost on penalties but ended the tournament in 3rd place.



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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