21 November 1914: The Times reports the Arsenal game that never was

By Tony Attwood

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1914/15 was of course a season played during wartime – the fact that the League decided to continue playing was undoubtedly in part influenced by the general view that the war would “all be over by Christmas”.

However, although the FA had made the ruling for football to continue, on Thursday 19 November the Association issued its second appeal to encourage players and fans to volunteer for the forces.

At this time, many of the strongly middle-class right-wing newspapers were still openly hostile to football as a distraction for working men from their duty towards their country, and it was as part of this campaign that the Times ordered one of its junior reporters to go along to the next Arsenal match, and write a critical report on the occasion.

It seems however that the cub reporter was no expert on football, for instead of going to a regular first division game, what he went to was a reserve game at Highbury on 21 November.  On this day while the first team were playing at Huddersfield, who like Derby, were making a serious challenge for the promotion places, as always happened, Arsenal reserves were playing at Highbury.

His rampant, raging piece said that the crowd was tiny, suggesting he clearly didn’t know he was not watching the Arsenal first team, and he said very few in the crowd volunteered.  He failed to mention the opposition who were in fact Chelsea reserves.  Arsenal reserves lost 1-2.  The whole report shows the perfidious nature of newspaper reporting when it comes to football which we see today, goes back over 100 years.

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