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6 January: commemorating the passing of the man remembered in the Emirates statue

By Tony Attwood

To read about the free Arsenal video collection and about the new Arsenal Day by Day series, please see the note at the foot of this article.

Today we commemorate the passing of Herbert Chapman on this day in 1934

In our own way, the AISA Arsenal History society can say we’ve done something to continue the recognition of the contribution that Herbert Chapman made to Arsenal. For it was AISA that persuaded Arsenal FC to erect a statue of Herbert Chapman at the stadium. Our instructions were, “Have him looking up at the stadium as if he’s saying, ‘I built this’.”

Getting Herbert Chapman to come to Arsenal in 1925 was the final part of Sir Henry Norris’ great plan for the club which had begun with his rescue of the bankrupt club in 1910.

Quite how Norris did it we’ll never know, but he persuaded the most famous manager in the country to leave Huddersfield where he had performed miracles and where he was on track to perform another, and come to Arsenal, the club that had never won anything and had been dallying with relegation in the last few years

Indeed Huddersfield had finished third in the 1st Division in 1923, and then won their first league title in 1924, and again in 1925, both under Chapman.  That 1924/5 season was also the first time a title-winning side had gone through a season without conceding more than two goals in any match.

So why did Chapman leave Huddersfield?  The answer is most likely the crowds – and since crowds were the clubs’ only source of income other than selling players, the ultimate reason had to be, the finance.

Huddersfield’s ground could pack in 60,000+ crowds, but in 1925 when they won the league they actually had a crowd average of only 17,670.  And that as we have noted was in their second successive championship winning season.  In 1924/5 Arsenal, under Leslie Knighton’s management were once against battling against relegation, but still had the largest average attendance of any club in the country: just under 30,000

The following season under Chapman the Arsenal crowd went up by 6%.  By 1929/30 as Arsenal approached their first ever trophy (the FA Cup) the league crowd average had reached a record high of 35,500, and then leaped up against to over 37,000 the following season.

Thus around an extra 168,000 clicks on the turnstile in the course of the season.  He certainly paid his way.

To reiterate the point, clubs only had two forms of income in these days, other than money donated by directors: gate receipts and player sales.   Arsenal as a buying club did not make money on their player sales, so they needed the crowds – and that is what Norris gave the club through a large ground with good public transport facilities, and Chapman gave them by winning the Cup and the League (twice).

By 1932 the average crowd at Highbury for league games was over 40,000, and by 1934/5 the average attendance had risen to 46,252.  The second highest average attendance was achieved by Manchester City at 34.824, and just behind them was Tottenham on 34,389. Arsenal were way ahead.

This was the achievement of Henry Norris and Herbert Chapman: to give Arsenal an income second to none.   Of course, the club was often known as the Bank of England club because of the high transfer fees that the club paid.  But this was entirely achieved through these record attendances which Henry Norris had predicted could be gained as a result of the move from Plumstead to Highbury. This is what Herbert Chapman had delivered – and indeed what was maintained after his passing on this day in 1934.

We’ve published a wide range of articles on Herbert Chapman on the Arsenal History Society website and you can find an index to some of these here.

We also have a complete history of Arsenal in the 1930s, continuing the story of Chapman’s heritage up to the outbreak of war

I do hope you find them of interest.

Tony Attwood


ARSENAL HISTORY SOCIETY FREE VIDEO COLLECTION

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.

ARSENAL DAY BY DAY: THE STORIES

Just as the videos have been put in date order so we are now doing a day-by-day series of Arsenal events, looking to find one good story a day throughout the year.   This project started on 1 December, and we are adding to it each day.   The index is 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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