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100 years ago: next up Newcastle at home on Christmas Day

Christmas Day at Woolwich Arsenal in 1909 – Arsenal play Newcastle.  Nice and easy for Woolwich, being at home, but one hell of a long journey for the visitors.   And remember this was not just a rail trip to London.  100 years ago Woolwich was a a small town in remote Kent, with only an occasional tram service connecting Plumstead with the big city.

Newcastle  had won the league three times between 1905 and 1909, and thus were the current champions having won the league by seven points in the previous April – remembering that this was the era of two points for a win.  In fact over this period they had an unusual record

  • 1904: 4th
  • 1905: 1st
  • 1906: 4th
  • 1907: 1st
  • 1908: 4th
  • 1909: 1st (won FA Charity Shield)
  • 1910: 4th (won the FA Cup)

So far in the 1909/1910 season Newcastle were 8th and their away record was decent, having won four, drawn one and last five, 19 goals for, 22 goals against.

Arsenal were 16th, nine points behind.

So there was some room for hope. Newcastle had been strong in the previous season but that had that crazy record of alternating between 1st and 4th (and anyone who looked at these records would know this should be a “4th” year for them.  They were not invincible away from home.  And the journey from Newcastle to Woolwich Arsenal was just about the longest and most uncomfortable in football.

True, we’d lost to Notts County in the previous game, bringing the great revival to an end, but there was a chance the northerners would all get drunk on the train heading south.   They’d have an overnight stay, but the hotels of Woolwich were themselves basically pubs with rooms, so they wouldn’t get much sleep.

There was a chance. After all we had only lost 1-2 at home to them last year – and that season they won the league.

Background notes…

Making the Arsenal – the book

Making the Arsenal – the blog

Making the Arsenal – review of the book by A Cultured Left Foot

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