By Tony Attwood
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1925/6 was Herbert Chapman’s first season at Arsenal, having left Huddersfield Town as champions the previous season. Thus as 1925/6 drew to a close there was a lot of interest in just how far Chapman had taken Arsenal (who in recent seasons had been strugglers at the foot of the 1st Division – although always avoiding relegation).
In fact, he did rather well – although the first trophies for Arsenal were still a few years away. But this interest grew as 17 April approached – the day of Arsenal v Huddersfield Town.
The month leading up to the game was not without its interest. On 20 March 1926 Jack Rutherford played his final game for Arsenal (against Manchester City) aged 41 years 159 days – the oldest player to play a league match in the history of Arsenal. Arsenal won 1-0.
Then on 2 April 1926, as part of the Easter programme of three games in four days, Clem Voysey also played his last game for the club, although this was in the reserves. He was one of the most controversial figures in Arsenal’s history but quite what happened is forever shrouded in mystery. However that was not Chapman’s problem – he simply didn’t see a future for the player, and so moved him on.
2 April saw a 3-0 away defeat to Aston Villa which resulted in Bill Harper being dropped. He was the third keeper Chapman had tried out in the season, and clearly the boss was still not satisfied, although Harper did come back for another 23 league games in the following season.
And the historic moments kept on coming, as on 3 April Tom Parker played his first game. It was the start of a record breaking continuous 172 game unbroken sequence for Parker, the score being Arsenal 4 Blackburn 2. Baker, Blyth, Lawson and Buchan got the goals, and if there is any one moment in which we might say the birth of the new Arsenal occurred it was this. Parker was the rock at right back on which the new team was secured.
Thus the mark of Arsenal’s rise in terms of power and tactical ability was noted by all commentators on 17 April 1926 with the score Arsenal 3 Huddersfield 1. Huddersfield still went on to win the league but Chapman was edging Arsenal towards the unthinkable: second in the league.
A friendly match on 26 April 1926 saw Arsenal beat Hibernian 5-0. It was the last game for John Alex Mackie. He played 108 league games for the club, 119 overall, before moving to Portsmouth, and later Northampton, concluding his career at the outbreak of war.
And so, on 1 May 1926 Herbert Chapman ended his first season with Arsenal 3 Birmingham 0 and Arsenal and the achievement of that unprecedented 2nd place in the league, after just missing relegation one year earlier. Jimmy Brain scored two to make it 34 goals in 41 games, beating the previous record of Harry King (26 in 37 games in 1914/5).
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