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November 2020
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100 years have gone by and we are still beating Bolton by two goals to nil

And so, just as we did twice this year, 100 years ago we beat Bolton 2-0.  Not the exact self-same scores of course, because this was the score at the Manor Ground, and we lost the game in Bolton (when Bolton actually did play in Bolton – unlike today) 0-3 back in September.  But it is a curious coincidence that 100 years has gone by and we are still beating Bolton by two goals to nil

But it was a win, and much welcome, firstly because it lifted Arsenal up the league, and secondly because it kept Bolton at the bottom.

Interestingly it is one of only two games in the season when Arsenal’s crowd figure was not officially recorded.

Crowds were recorded in round numbers 100 years ago, being rounded to the nearest thousand.  But for this home game with Bolton as well as the home game with Nottingham Forest earlier in the season, no crowd was listed.  We might guess it was fairly low – maybe as low as 5,000.

Back in their first league season (1893/4) Woolwich Arsenal had crowds of between 2,000 for the final game of the season against Burton Swifts, and  13,000 at home to Notts County in March 1894 – just three weeks before.

Despite the reputation of the FA Cup as a crowd puller, things were not always must better there – ranging from 3,000 (for a Cup match against Ashford United which we won 12-0) to 20,000 for the local derby against Millwall Athletic in the third qualifying round in September.

Over the years crowds gradually rose, but there were regularly crowds of under 1000 in the early years – indeed only 700 turned up for the home game against Bolton in 1896.  However this was a midweek match, and since we were still many decades away from floodlighting, it would have kicked off at 2.30pm.

Thus some games had no crowd totals at all, and a few were recorded by the general comment of “poor”, “fair”, or “large”.   One wonders what Inland Revenue made of financial assessments based on that.

As one might expect the promotion year of 1903 saw a rise in crowds – 28,000 for a home game against Preston as we headed for promotion, and 30,000 for the second round cup game against Manchester City.

But as the quality of football declined and the league position declined Arsenal’s crowds declined, and that took the club towards insolvency in 1910.

But this was a win – and after five games without a win we had won two in a row – although these wins were against utterly lowly clubs.

Next up: Round two of the FA Cup with a game against Everton away.  But in the meanwhile Henry Norris was getting involved in the action.

You can read the whole story of Henry Norris and his takeover in 1910 in “Making the Arsenal” – the diary of Jacko Jones.   Details on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

(c) Tony Attwood 2010

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