By Tony Attwood, AISA Arsenal History Society
21 October 1922: Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 1
1922/3 was Arsenal’s third season at Highbury, and their third season back in the first division after the league was expanded at the end of the first world war.
However under the management of Leslie Knighton the club was stuttering just above the two relegation places.
The table had a very crunched up look – for although Arsenal were three points off the bottom they were also three points off the top, something that was more likely to happen under the two points for a win, one for a draw system, with goal average not goal difference separating teams on the same number of points).
Meanwhile Arsenal’s chairman Sir Henry Norris, the man who had rescued the club from bankruptcy in 1910, and who had become an MP as well as rising from being a man with no connection with the army to the man who organised conscription, and who achieved the rank of Lt Colonel by the end of the war, seemed to be pulling away from matters that distracted him from Arsenal. He was known to be having disagreements with his local political party and now announced that he would not stand again for Parliament. It suggested he would have more time for Arsenal – and so it certainly turned out to be.
Indeed he needed time because he and the rest of the Arsenal board had just been summoned to the FA headquarters, to give evidence to an FA Commission of Inquiry into the game played at White Hart Lane on 23 September wherein disputes between players on the pitch were said to have reached a dangerous level.
Also in the build up to the match on 21 October Arsenal broke off league proceedings to play a friendly against Southend, something that was becoming a bit of a habit. Earlier games had been organised to help raise money for the local hospital, and I suspect this was the same, although I don’t have confirmation of this. Arsenal put out a mix of first team regulars and reserve players and won the game 1-0. No crowd figure is recorded.
Arsenal might have been looking forward to the return match on 14 October, and might have been rather concerned at half time to be 0-2 down, but they were not expecting a second half from hell which is what they got. Ultimately they lost 0-7. It was the second time in the first division Arsenal had conceded seven – the last being on 2 October 1909 to Blackburn Rovers – again when having won the previous game.
The result meant that Arsenal were not only back to 18th in the table, they now had the worst defence in the league, having conceded 28 goals.
The game saw injuries to Voysey and Young. Norseman writing in the local paper stated, “Someone will have to suffer for this, and the sooner the better”. I suspect he meant the manager, but he was not to get his wish – at least not for quite a while.
Only two players from that match were now kept on to play a friendly against Southampton (last season’s champions of the newly form 3rd Division South), on 16 October – Rutherford and White. And I suspect the manager and players must have been wondering what lay ahead when they went into the half time break 1-0 down. But both those regulars scored two goals in the second half as Arsenal ran out winners 5-3. The game also saw Bob John get a match, as he edged ever closer to the start of what was to be his magnificent first team career with Arsenal.
Meanwhile, in events away from football, on 17 October the first hunger march set out from Glasgow heading for London – which had a major impact on politicians who seriously feared a civil uprising. The following day on 18 October the BBC was formed, and on 19 October the coalition government resigned over the Chanak Crisis in relation to Turkey.
At the same time a political crisis was brewing. Following the cessation of the 1st World War in 1918, Britain and France still held military positions in the Dardanelles and war between the allies and Turkey over the division of land between Turkey and Greece always seemed possible. However Canada, France and Italy refused to back military action when Parliament pushed for it following a new Turkish advance, as did the most senior British military commander, and there was a clear feeling in Britain that there was no taste for war. On the other hand the Liberal PM David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, whose Liberal party were the minority party in a coalition government, called for war.
As Arsenal’s chairman, Sir Henry Norris, was leaving Parliament he had no involvement in the debates. Instead he fulfilled a promise to go to the Finsbury Empire (just along the road from Arsenal close to Finsbury Park Underground station), to attend, (with other well known local dignitaries) a performance in aid of the British Legion.
Elsewhere a number of Conservative members of the coalition cabinet resigned and Lloyd George was forced to go to Buckingham Palace to resign as Prime Minister, which would cause an immediate general election. King George V was forced to break away from social events at Sandringham (well over 100 miles from Buckingham Palace) to accept the resignation. When the king finally got there, the government fell, a general election was called and the king could get on his train and go back to Norfolk.
Arsenal went on to lose their last two games of the month and as October 1921 ended the Reds were two points away from the bottom two places but with a worse goal average than anyone else. Two clubs would be relegated at the end of the season. Here was table on 31 October 1921
|11||West Bromwich Albion||12||5||2||5||23||16||1.438||12|
|21||Preston North End||12||2||4||6||14||24||0.583||8|
You can see all today’s Arsenal anniversaries by clicking on the button on our home page and on the AISA Arsenal History Society site The anniversaries for the day are put on the site at around 9.30am London time, along with a video showing one of the memorable Arsenal games from this day.