Just about the longest journey that there was in football took place 100 years ago today, as Woolwich Arsenal set out from Kent, into London, across London, and then on the train to Newcastle.
Arsenal v Newcastle in the FA Cup semi final 1906
Newcastle United started out in 1881, as a spin off of a local cricket club, just five years ahead of Woolwich Arsenal, and by the following year were called East End FC. Then they merged with Rosewood FC but another cricket club (West End) emerged as the dominant force in local football – playing at St James Park.
In 1888 East End FC had a change of approach and started signing Scottish players – which is exactly what Arsenal had started doing two years earlier – Arsenal of course getting their players from the armaments factory where Scotsmen outnumbered the English.
East End turned professional in 1889 and became the dominant club, beating West End five times in a year. West End were failing but audaciously attempted a takeover of East End. However what in fact what happened was that most of the West End staff simply walked into East End and the clubs united – leading to the current name.
Newcastle built their success on transfers – continuing the theme of getting men from the north. It worked for a while, and it was said that Newcastle could beat England, but how that can square with their ability to lose to Sunderland 1-9 at home in 1908 I am not sure.
But overall the first ten years of the 20th century was a top time for the club and they were the team everyone wanted to beat. Their game even gave football the phrase “possession football” and according to the press of the era, everyone loved it.
Coming into this match with Arsenal they had won the League in 1905, 1907 and 1909. They had been in the Cup Final in 1905, 1906 and 1909. Woolwich Arsenal had had some London based triumphs but their greatest success had been two cup semi-finals, and now they were going into administration, and going down.
Facing Newcastle United on Good Friday, 25th March 1910, did not look a promising day out.
You can read the whole story of Arsenal’s decline and rise again in 1910 in Making the Arsenal – the novel.
Daily news about Arsenal in modern times is on Untold Arsenal
If you would like to write an article about any aspect of Arsenal’s early history please do drop a line to Tony @ hamilton-house.com