The Wednesday, whom Woolwich Arsenal played on Easter Saturday, 1910, came out of The Wednesday Cricket Club – a club which, as we can all guess, played cricket on a Wednesday. They turned to football to have something to do in the winter.
They predated the Arsenal by 19 years – although they started out by playing not football as we know it, but game known as “Sheffield Rules” which was obviously a benefit to teams from, well, Sheffield.
There were the inevitable allegations of professionalism against members of the team and by 1882 – still four years before the first Arsenal club was born, they were in the FA Cup semi final. But in 1886 they failed to enter the FA Cup, forgetting where they had put the entry form, and in protest some of their best players left to set up a professional team called Sheffield Rovers. The club backed down to the demands of the players and the Rovers players went back to The Wednesday.
When the Football League turned their application for a place down, they joined the newly formed Football Alliance. This is an important issue for Arsenal fans to remember, because it reveals the volatility of the leagues in these early days – something that Henry Norris went on to exploit in his negotiations with the League in 1919 when he threatened to set up a new league against the corrupt Football League in that year.
But by the end of the century they were in the League, and they had won the Cup.
The 20th century looked good too, as they won the league in 1903 and 1904 and the Cup in 1907… but that was that. Although obviously by 1910 no one would know it, but they had entered 20 years without a trophy.
By 1910 the official name of the club was still The Wednesday, but the club was regularly called Sheffield Wednesday, and had that name painted on its stand. However the official change in name didn’t come until 1929.
After the Good Friday matches in 1910 The Wednesday were 13th in the league with 28 points, while Woolwich Arsenal were 18th with 23. (20 clubs in the league, 2 points for a win, bottom two relegated).
What gave Woolwich hope as the match approached was The Wednesday’s away record, which was fairly awful…
Won 2, Drawn 5, Lost 9. 14 goals for, 31 goals against.
Woolwich Arsenal at home were recording
Won 5, Drawn 4, Lost 6, 15 goals for, 15 goals against.
Hardly a spectacular position for Woolwich, but there was hope.
Tony Attwood is the author of “Making the Arsenal” which tells the story of the club in 1910 through the eyes of a Fleet Street football reporter. There are reviews and extracts from the book on the book’s site. You can buy the book there, or from Amazon.co.uk
There’s more about Arsenal in the present day on www.blog.emiratesstadium.info