Sir Chips Keswick replaced Denis Hill-Wood as chairman on this day in 2014, ending the Hill-Wood domination of the club, which started with the coup which threw Sir Henry Norris off the board in 1927.
Denis Hill-Wood was the third generation of his family to serve as chairman of Arsenal going back to his grandfather, Samuel Hill-Wood who ousted Sir Henry Norris in the infamous 1927 takeover of the club.
In 1961 Arsenal had appointed Denis Hill-Wood as chairman and he opened his tenure by replacing ex-Arsenal player George Swindin who had taken Arsenal down into the lower parts of the league. It certainly looked as if Swindin needed to go but replacing him with Billy Wright who was just as bad and quite often even worse as a manager was a disaster.
Wright’s one success was the signing of Joe Baker who was the top scorer in three of his four seasons, but the fact that in the last of those three top scoring seasons Baker scored but 13 goals shows how far the club had sunk.
After that season Wright was sacked and Bertie Mee was given the job which brought three trophies in two seasons, and rescued Denis Hill-Wood’s football reputation (as long as one forgets about the awful decline in the club that happened in Mee’s last four years.)
After Dennis Hill-Wood passed on, his son Peter was appointed but as with his forebears, again sacking the manager became the order of the day and seemingly the only measure the board could think of, when the supporters got a bit uppity.
However, it could be said that at least at this time the board and the Hill-Wood family had one good idea. For having themselves appointed only a couple of managers who could win the league, they issued 1100 new shares and sold them to David Dein. And Dein showed himself to be the man who did what the Hill-Woods could not do. He brought in a man who could win Arsenal the league: Arsene Wenger.
Following a heart attack in 2012 Hill-Wood retired from the board. There was much written about the 90 years of Hill-Woods at the club, and about Peter Hill-Wood being the longest-serving director and chairman, but nothing about the way the family’s coup had forced Sir Henry Norris, the man who saved Arsenal in 1910, moved the club to Highbury, and brought in Herbert Chapman, off the board and out of the club.
As in every battle, history is written by the victors, and is not always written well. Or accurately.
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.
100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division
Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal