By Tony Attwood
My thought in this new series is not to find the 10 greatest moments (3 cup and league doubles and that sort of thing) but rather the moments that defined Arsenal as a club, and set out the way things would go in the future.
It is fairly obvious that in such a series one has to start with the beginning – the foundation of Royal Arsenal on 1 December 1886.
Prior to that date it is possible that the group of men who founded the Royal Arsenal club on 1 December did play a game in October. That might be the case because there is a record in the press in 1887 of Arsenal beating Eastern Wanderers “again”, combined with the fact that in that inaugural season Arsenal played four clubs home and away, and one club (Eastern Wanderers) at home. That Eastern Wanderers away game would add to the symmetry.
But we don’t know when the game was played, if it was. I won’t go into all the details here of why some dates are ruled in and others out, but if there was such a game (as Elijah Watkins reported) it was almost certainly either played in on a saturday in early October 1886, or during the Christmas closure of the factories in Woolwich between Christmas and New Year.
However to return to the defining moment in 1886. For me that was the moment when, after the club was set up as a sub-section of Dial Square Cricket Club the decision was taken to throw open membership to anyone in Woolwich Arsenal and the surrounding area who was interested in football.
Had this not happened there is every chance that the club would have remained a tiny non-entity, and could well have gone the way of Eastern Wanderers and Woolwich United into utter obscurity.
That simple decision to open the club to all-comers (to be fair, combined with the decision to call the club by the incredibly powerful and iconic name “Royal Arsenal FC”) in a moment created the club that could rise to pre-eminence in Kent and south London.
So, that’s my first iconic moment. Next up, the battle with Royal Ordnance Factories FC.