30 December 1893: Arsenal’s first ever away victory in the league!

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If you have read “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football,” (the book that AISA members wrote to unravel Arsenal’s work in bringing professional football to the south of England), you will know that Woolwich Arsenal FC became a professional club in 1891, but did not join the Football League until 1893.

Naturally, this meant that all these away games were played at grounds that were unfamiliar to the club and its players, and involved a fair bit of travelling.

And thus it was that although the club picked up some good home wins, away games were a problem. For although after four matches in this season Arsenal must have thought they were doing ok, and their fans seemed to be thinking of instant promotion, (the results were won 2, drawn 1 and lost 1) all was not as it might seem.

For the problem was that three of these games were at home – and the only defeat was away – at Notts County.

Slowly came the awakening.  Newcastle United, also elected to the league in the same year, beat Woolwich Arsenal 6-0 – the start of a three-match sequence in which we let in 15 and scored 1.  The away bit of this football league lark was a bit tougher than some had expected.

The first away point came on December 9 in a 2-2 draw with Northwich Victoria.   The first victory away was on this day: 30 December 1893, 1-0 against Ardwick.

Henderson got the goal in front of a crowd of 4,000.  Arsenal went on to win away twice more in the season, including a 3-6 win at Middlesbrough Ironopolis.

There is an Ardwick FC still with us today, but not the same club as we played in 1893.  That Ardwick was founded in 1880 as St. Mark’s (West Gorton), and they became Ardwick AFC in 1887 – but more on them in a moment.

Unfortunately, the win over Ardwick did not end the run of away defeats.  The next three league matches were all away and we lost all three.

What saved Arsenal from what was starting to look like a disastrous season was a run of four consecutive wins in February (including two away games).  Even though we lost the last three games, the club ended a respectable ninth, out of 15.

As for Ardwick, their tale is strange indeed, for they ended up 13th but just before the end of the season they changed their name to Manchester City.  Some versions of the league table show Ardwick having played 27 games and Man City one! (which Man City lost). Others give all 28 games to Ardwick.

Liverpool won the second division without losing a game – the second and last unbeaten season in the league until Arsenal came along and did it in the 21st century.  There was no automatic relegation from the second division, but there was constant movement with clubs coming and going.   Middlesbrough Ironopolis and Northwich Victoria both dropped out of the league at the end of the 1893/4 season.

As for Liverpool, having won the second division so easily they did go up, but the following season ended bottom of Division One and so went back down again.  One or two questions were asked about that 1893/4 performance, just as they were in the 1914/15 season and the years before. Liverpool, it seemed, were gathering a reputation which suggested something was not right.

But most importantly, Woolwich Arsenal, the club that brought professional football to the south, survived its first season, coming a creditable ninth, and could prepare themselves for their second season in the league.

You can read the list of the day’s anniversaries of Arsenal throughout its history on our home page and there are links to numerous series in the column on the right side, with some highlighted on that home page. The listing of today’s anniversaries along with links to articles related to this day in Arsenal’s past and a video of the highlights of a game played on this day in the past can be found here.



For details of the videos sorted by club, and videos in the order we published them, plus our 21 golden great videos please see here.

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.

100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.

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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