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May 2022
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28 February 1959: Beating Man U to go top of the league

By Tony Attwood

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The result on this day was Arsenal 3 Man U 2, Arsenal making it six wins and two draws in eight.  The result left Arsenal one point clear at the top of the table, with Manchester United in third, but the teams below had games in hand.  Barnwell (2) and Herd got the goals.

But it is the programme for this day that attracts my attention for it runs the headline “Injury problems as great as those ever faced by an Arsenal manager.”

The programme is shown as being Volume XL number 20 (ah those were the days when they actually kept count) and as always it started with the Voice of Arsenal.

And this is how it went.  (I would add that in those days they didn’t use paragraphs, which makes it quite hard to focus on the text, so I’ve added a couple, but the text is the same).

——————

Three times fighting against odds.  That sums up the three matches.

At Sheffield we lost Jack Kelsey [he broke his arm] and with the loss went out Cup hopes for 1959.   We then finished the League match against West Bromwich Albion with Henderson and Groves limping passengers, but still with a valuable point.

The problems which confronted our Manager before the Leeds game on Tuesday were probably as great as any faced by an Arsenal Manager when picking a team for one match.  The following players were unavailable for selection:-

Kelsey, Standen (who had played so well at The Hawthorns), Clapton, Groves, Julians, Bloomfield, Henderson, Ward, Nutt and Skirton.

———-—

Arsenal had in fact brought in two newcomers – Peter Goy and Roy Goulden for their first league matches in the previous game – a 1-0 victory over Leeds on 24 February 1959.  Goy (the replacement keeper) played two matches that season – the rest of the time Arsenal used Standen.

Roy Gouldon played just this one match at inside right – it was his first and last game for Arsenal.  He showed great promise early on (he played for England schoolboys) and turned professional with Arsenal in September 1954 helping Arsenal win the South East Counties Double in 1956 and the Metropolitan League Treble in 1961.  Despite being the son of the England player Len Goulden, Roy never made it.

After he returned from National Service in the RAF his skill seemed to have gone, and he played in this one game in February 1959.

Moving to Southend United in May 1961, he played just nine games for them, before signing for Ipswich, for whom he did not play a single first-team game.  He dropped into non-league football playing for Stevenage, Gravesend and Northfleet and Dunstable and then left England for Australia.

So the positions were shared around until eventually, Vic Groves returned in March, but by then the team was hopelessly unsettled.  It also showed the problem Arsenal had with its strength in depth.

But this particular match against Man U saw Arsenal top of the league at the time, despite the injuries – a game played just over a year after the Munich air crash.  The game one year before which ended 4-5 to Man U was the last game most of the Man U players played.  Five of the players who had played against Arsenal lost their lives a few days later.

As a result of the emergency purchases that Man U made following the crash they obtained Albert Quixall who became the most expensive player in football (£45,000 paid to Sheffield W) – and who played in the game on 28 February 1959.

Elsewhere in the programme there was the “Jottings by Spectator” which also focussed on the injury to Jack Kelsey, and came under the headline “Substitutes wanted for goalkeepers injured in Cup Games”

The article goes on to speak of a Wales / England international fifty years before – ie 1909, in which Dick Roose  is described in the Arsenal programme as “that adventurous Welsh goalkeeper”- with no mention of the fact that he subsequently went on to play for Woolwich Arsenal), was, “so badly hurt that he had to leave the pitch.  Goals began to pile up against his deputy, and the officials of the two countries decided that if a qualified substitute goalkeeper could be found among the spectators he could take the place between the posts.

“In response to the SOS Dai Davies then with Bolton Wanderers turned up in the dressing room and duly turned out for Wales in the second half.  The substitute agreement caused a lot of talk at the time and at intervals since then the case for substitutes from off the field for injured goalkeepers has been discussed.”

Also in the programme, and just under that two page spread from “Spectator” there is a box headed “Ticket Touts”.  Touting was not illegal near a ground at this time but Arsenal clearly didn’t like it.  The message reads, “If you have bought a ticket for today’s match from a tout, pleased send the counterfoil to us so that we can trace the source of supply.”  I wonder if anyone did.

And the interesting bits go on within the programme, for on the quiz on page 11 there is this question:

Which ranks as the longest post-war sequence of consecutive Football League matches for which a team has been unbeaten?

The answer was Man U with 26 consecutive first division games without defeat – ending on 20 October 1956.   Not any more though!

Elsewhere the reserves meanwhile were fourth in the Football Combination Division 1, the A team top of the Metropolitan League and the B team second in the South East Counties League.   Tucked away in the A team was one Geoff Strong, who had thus far played 12 and scored 15.  But it is hard to find any other names of highly promising talent.

Arsenal won this game 3-2 against Man U but ultimately the injuries and the lack of obvious reserves to come through immediately meant the club slipped away.  A defeat away from home to Wolverhampton 1-6 at the start of March was also the start of seven games without a win.  Arsenal won their last three games, and ended up third in the table, five points behind Man U and 11 behind Wolverhampton.

For thoughts on Arsenal today please see Untold Arsenal


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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