The Christmas gift for the fan with (almost) everything
By Tony Attwood
Today it is seen as an undeniable truth that the barest minimum for Arsenal to achieve each year is 4th position in the Premier League. No matter that other teams have far more money than we do, it is seen as our inalienable right to be at the top.
Except it wasn’t in those days. So what went wrong?
My interest has always been to fill in the missing bits in Arsenal’s history – and since most historians record in detail what happened in the successful years, that often means poking around in the less successful times. Like this era…
|Position in league
|Round out of FA cup
In fact the table could be made to look even worse, if we record all the years since Arsenal won a trophy (1952/3). Tom Whittaker, who managed us to that win, was replaced by Jack Crayston during the 1956/7 and George Swindin came in, in 1958/9 taking us to third in the league. But after that it was downhill all the way.
Actually the bare facts above hide some even worse issues, such as the fact that not only did we go out in the cup in the 3rd round in 1960 we went out to Rotherham United. Here’s how they describe the situation on their official web site…
In 1959-60 they were involved in some epic FA Cup battles with mighty Arsenal. The teams drew at Millmoor in a third round tie and against the odds they drew in the replay at Highbury in front of a crowd of 57,598, the highest ever for a Rotherham game. The Millers won the toss to stage the second replay, which was staged at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground, where they pulled off a memorable 2-0 win.
So what on earth was going on?
Arsenal’s team became quite a mess that season with numerous changes of line up and position. Len Wills played games at right back, left back, left half and right half. Tommy Docherty played at left half, right half and centre half, Mel Charles turned up at right half, centre half and centre forward, Vic Groves played at inside right, left half, right half, centre forward and inside left, David Herd played at centre forward, outside right, inside right, and inside left in different games, John Barnwell was used at inside left, inside right, left half and right half. There was in fact by January no way on knowing what the manager might do next.
His team for the first Rotherham game was
Docherty Dodgin Wills
Henderson Barnwell Julians Bloomfield Haverty
In these team layouts I use the convention of the period, although in fact the team would have lined up more like this…
Magill Dodgin Evans
Henderson Julians Haverty
Only three players managed to play all three games against Rotherham in the same position, although only 15 players were used across the three games.
But it wasn’t just the cup matches that resulted in poor results. In the league we lost 0-3 at home to Preston, 2-4 at home to WBA, 1-5 away to Sheffield W, 0-3 at home to Luton Town, 0-3 away to Tottenham, 1-4 at home to Chelsea.
There were some good bits in between, such as a 5-2 home victory over Manchester United in the last home game of the season, but mostly it was gloom and doom.
I’ll take a look at the manager and some of the players in subsequent articles.
Last series: Arsenal after the first world war
Players covered in earlier articles who played in the opening game of 1919/20