On this day in 1949 – Arsenal players start the second half with a fag!

by Andy Kelly

On the 22nd of October 1949 Arsenal’s reserves journeyed to South Wales to play Cardiff City in a Football Combination game. Arsenal’s team included youngsters Jack Kelsey, John Chenhall, Joe Wade, Ray Daniel, Arthur Shaw and Arthur Milton, who would all go on to win honours at the club, along with veteran Denis Compton.

Arsenal won the game 1-0 with a goal from Billy Duffy who would not be as lucky as the others as his career was ended prematurely through injury.

There was nothing significant about the game until a report in Cardiff’s local paper, the South Wales Football Echo and Express, was printed a few days later. The reporter claimed that the Arsenal players came out for the second half smoking cigarettes!

The Arsenal management were furious with the newspaper, claiming that the report was totally false. So much so that they took legal action against the newspaper. Arsenal reported this in the programme for the reserves’ game against Reading on 12th November:

Also on that day the South Wales Football Echo and Express printed an explanation of the events and an apology – well, as best an apology as you are likely to get from a newspaper.

Just so that the Arsenal fans were aware of what was going on, the explanation was re-printed in the Arsenal programme against Wolves on 3rd December.

What is surprising in this day and age is the final comment – that three of the players actually were smokers. It wasn’t that uncommon in the 1940s and 1950s for players to smoke as can be seen in the following picture of Walley Barnes and Archie Macaulay from the players’ brochure commemorating the 1947-48 title win. Archie did say, though, that he limits himself to just 8 smokes a day!

Many thanks to my good friend Richard Lerman for the picture from the Reading programme.

6 Replies to “On this day in 1949 – Arsenal players start the second half with a fag!”

  1. I can’t talk about smoking but I well recall having a chat with an old chum during one summer in the late 40’s who was a pro for Spurs. By the look of him he had drunk a few breweries dry. When I commented on his flushed countenance,increased weight, etc, he replied that he would report back a few weeks early for a concentrated bit of training and healthy living, which would get him fit for the start of the new season!

  2. Putting aside the difference in the meaning of “fag” between our respective countries… In the 1950s, American cigarette companies were having doctors smoke in their TV commercials, saying that smoking their brand improved circulation and relaxed you. Doctors. In the Fifties. The health dangers of tobacco were not exactly secret at the time.

    Considering how much smoking was going on at the time, it’s a wonder that ANY World War II veterans are still alive.

    Cigarette ads were not banned from our TV until 1971. A good year for a few reasons, some of them Arsenal-related.

  3. I’m sure I can recall the Daily Mail copying the trick in the 1970s, but with the Arsenal first team. No report – just a photo of the players coming out of the tunnel, captioned “Arsenal smoke King Size”.

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