Arsenal’s darkest hour

Arsenal’s darkest hour indeed.  For in tracing the history of Arsenal FC 100 years ago we are now at the lowest point.

Of course from this moment in history we know that Arsenal very much did survive, although not without a relegation first.  But 100 years ago to the day, there was no certainty in that.

In fact there was growing doubt if professional football in London might survive at all, as Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea lingered at the bottom of the 1st Division.  Maybe, it was argued in the papers, London clubs should go back to the Southern League (where teams like West Ham, Brentford and others played) and leave the Football League to the northern clubs.

On 7th March Arsenal had played Everton away, having already been hammered by them in the cup.  The result was fractionally better than expected but still awful: we lost 1-0.   Three defeats and one draw in the last four league matches, now firmly in the bottom two (the two that would be relegated) and equally firmly out of the FA Cup.

Football seemed to be passing us by.  While Manchester United had opened a new stadium that could house 70,000 people, and Chelsea boasted they could do much the same (if only the terraces didn’t keep cracking up), Arsenal were stuck in their smaller ground tucked away in a small town in Kent.

Worse, the working population of the area was in decline, and worst of all, the club had severe money troubles.   The owner had already stated that the club was in dire straits, and a fundraising committee had been formed – but it was having little success.

Henry Norris had put his head around the door and made noises, but then said he thought that Woolwich Arsenal might have to close shop once and for all.

When we remember the wonderful times since, and the fact that as I write this on 8th March 2010 we are in with a fighting chance of winning the league, and we are the only club in the top division that is independently financially  stable we could perhaps pause for a moment and just think…

If things had gone slightly differently in March 1910, there would have been no Arsenal at all.


You can read the whole story of Arsenal in 1910 seen through the eyes of a Fleet Street reporter, in “Making the Arsenal”   Available through or via the publisher. If you want a signed copy – order via the publisher.


And elsewhere




  • The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)
  • Charlie Buchan’s first appearance for Arsenal.

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