What happened in terms of reserve football 100 years ago?
The notion of a club playing in several leagues at once was well established, but did the notion of having a reserve team playing football in their own league also exist in 1909?
The edition of Arsenal A Complete Record which I have includes a record of Woolwich Arsenal playing in the United League, the Southern District Combination, and the London League Premier Division. They played their last game in the latter competition on April 30th 1904, and that’s it.
From that point on it seems to be that the Football League is the only league Arsenal played in. There were still various cups being played for, but in fact Woolwich Arsenal played their regular first team players in both those early alternative leagues, and in the cup competitions.
However the Wapedia web site says that “Arsenal have had a reserve team since their early days based in Plumstead as Royal Arsenal FC, with the reserve side initially set up in 1887.”
The site goes on to mention that “in 1903 the team moved to the South Eastern League and played in it until 1914-15. Although the site indicates that it has a link to the South Eastern League the link does not work, and Google comes up with nothing relevant to English football when one searches on that title.
“Concurrent to this period, the reserves were also entered in the London League First Division. There is a link on Wapedia to this league, but the information contained is very patchy, and doesn’t give any indication that Arsenal were involved.
In fact the evidence from 1909 suggests Arsenal did not have a reserve team in 1909. If one looks at the players who turned out for the first team what one finds is an endless coming and going of men who get a handful of games and then are never seen again. A player might get one or two games, and then be transferred.
Likewise if one investigates the transfers further one finds that they not only continued all through the year (the notion of transfer windows was a much more recent event) but they also were regular. A player was as likely to change club each year as he was to do three or four years for a single club.
So, I am stumped. If you have any clear indication that there was a reserve league in which Woolwich Arsenal played, beyond the evidence I cite above, and most particularly if you can let me know your sources, I would be eternally grateful.
You can write via the site, or to me personally at Tony @ Hamilton-House.com
- Arsenal’s Christmas and New Year in 2009 covered each day on www.blog.emiratesstadium.info
- Making the Arsenal – read all about the best book about the Arsenal which is set in 1910 and has a hero with the surname starting with J.
- Read what Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn said about “Making the Arsenal”