12 Dec: Obtaining the proof of Arsenal’s first ever match


By Tony Attwood

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The First Match

Arsenal’s first match was on 11 December 1886 played under the name of Dial Square.   And we know this actually happened because there was a report the following day in “The Referee” magazine.  Without that confirmation, the issue of 11 December would always have been “probable but unproven.

Here are the anniversaries…

12 December 1886: The report of the score of Arsenal’s first match against Eastern Wanderers appeared in The Referee magazine – the first contemporary confirmation that the game actually took place.  This was discovered by Arsenal History Society researchers. Prior to this there were only commentaries made many years later.

12 December 1886: According to Fred Beardsley this was the date of the meeting to set up a Royal Arsenal FC committee; just after the first game against Eastern Wanderers.

12 December 1892: Royal Arsenal 3 FG Armitage’s XI 1.  We have no record of who FG Armitage was and why he had a team – but it may be that he was a referee, as referee’s teams were becoming common at the time.

12 December 1896: Arsenal 5 Leyton 2 in FA Cup.  In 1905 Leyton joined Southern League II and in 2002 won a High Court action to show they were a continuation of the original team of this name, making it the second oldest existing club in Greater London, after Cray Wanderers.   On the same day  Arsenal lost 0-8 to Loughborough in the league.   See also Patrick Boylan

12 December 1896:  Billy Heath played his last game for Arsenal in the match against Leyton (see above).   Heath was one of five players whose only first team match (either league or cup) of the season was the Leyton match although he was the only one of the group who never played for Arsenal again.

12 December 1899: Charlie Jones born.  Jones’ early career was not a promising one.  He left Cardiff City after one game, and moved into the Third Division with Stockport.  When he got back to the first division with Oldham they were relegated, and after a couple of seasons he moved to Nottingham Forest also in the second division and started playing for Wales.

12 December 1908: 7 months after his move to Arsenal Angus McKinnon played his first game.  It ended Arsenal 1 Newcastle 2.

12 December 1921: Reg Boreham’s first game – in a match against Bolton which was abandoned due to fog.  He went on to play 51 league games before his contract was cancelled upon the departure of Leslie Knighton.

12 December 1925: The 1st division had had over 3 months to get used to the new offside law and yet the topsy turvy results continued on this day with Leeds United 3 Manchester City 4, and Bolton 6 Huddersfield 1.  Not to mention Bury 8 Burnley 1.

12 December 1943: Arsenal 6 Millwall 0 in the Football League South.  This was part of a run of six consecutive victories in the wartime league in which Arsenal scored 26 goals.

12 December 1946: Ronnie Rooke signed for Arsenal aged 35 from Fulham.  Before signing for Arsenal he had never played in the top division of English football and remains the oldest player to make his Arsenal first team debut.  David Nelson and Cyril Grant went to Fulham as part of the deal.

12 December 1970: Arsenal 2 Wolverhampton W 1, making it seven games in the last eight that Radford had scored in.    League match 12 of the first Double season.

12 December 1977: For reasons that now escape me Arsenal went off to Kuwait to play Qadsia in a friendly that ended 1-1, Stapleton scoring.

12 December 1991: Mickey Thomas sold to Liverpool (exact date varies in reports.  See 16 December).  It was one of the most ironic transfers of all time, given that he had scored the last minute goal at Anfield in 1989 to win Arsenal the league.

12 December 2014: Francis Coquelin recalled from his loan at Charlton and came on as a sub in the next three games, before taking over as Arsenal’s first choice defensive midfielder.

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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