29 August: Chapman’s first game as manager of Arsenal




29 August 1925…

Herbert Chapman’s first match as Arsenal manager was against Tottenham.  And not only was it Chapman’s first game with Arsenal, it was the first league match under the new offside rule in which only two defenders other than the keeper needed to be behind the ball when it was kicked. 

Chapman entered Highbury as the man who had just won the league twice with unfancied Huddersfield, and his prestige could not have been higher.  As were the hopes, with Arsenal having finished the previous season 20th out of 22, missing relegation by one place.

Arsenal lost this game 0-1.  The outgoing manager Leslie Knighton alleged some 20 years later that he was promised the gate money from the game as a benefit payment, but no evidence of such any agreement was ever produced and almost all of Knighton’s anti-Norris statements were subsequently proven to be untrue. Norris had passed away by the time Knighton made the allegation, and given how many other allegations he made which have proven to be unfounded it would seem very unlikely that Norris, who had absolutely no record of being a man who did not keep his promises, would do such a thing on this occasion.

Knighton had been at Arsenal since 1919, and had never got close to winning either of the main trophies on offer, and only a few of his transfers had been successful.  Indeed at the time, benefit matches for managers who went on to work elsewhere were unheard of.

So why would a man who had only just avoided relegation two years running get a benefit?   And why wait until a Sunday newspaper asked for a story 20 years later – long after the Norris and Chapman had both passed on – before making such an allegation?

Also on this day we saw Charlie Buchan’s debut after signing for Arsenal for a second time. Part of his transfer arrangement was that Arsenal would pay a fee of £100 for every goal he scored in the season.  He scored 20.   The money was paid personally by Sir Henry Norris and didn’t come out of club funds.

The club’s early history in photographs

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