100 years ago we were desperate to get out of relegation trouble. The club had looked doomed in March 1910, but then a victory away at Chelsea on Bank Holiday Monday, and a draw at Bristol City (two other clubs near the bottom) made it possible for us to get out.
Next up was Bury.
Most football clubs of the time were founded in pubs and hotel bars, and Bury were no exception. But the point about them was that they were founded in the Swan and Cemetery Hotel – surely one of the best names ever to be associated with a club’s foundation.
The meeting was between the Bury Wesleyans and Bury Unitarians Football Clubs. They formed one year before Woolwich Arsenal, and played at their one and only ground, Gigg Lane, against Wigan, that year.
It is reported that they played a floodlight game on 5 November 1889, when a crowd of 7,000 turned up. Quite how good these lights were is anyone’s guess, and there were lights at some friendly games (gas lights not electric) but they certainly would have done little other than lift the gloom.
They joined the second division in 1894, and went up to the first division a year later, where they stayed, and thus were there to meet Arsenal in 1910.
(Switching to the present day they now have the longest continuous membership of the league after Notts County and Preston who were both in the original set up.)
They won the FA Cup in 1900 and in 1903 – the latter without conceding a goal and winning the final 6-0 – a record that still stands.
By April 1910 however their prowess was much lessened and the forthcoming match at Woolwich on the 9th was one that looked a possible victory for Arsenal, and a further chance to ensure they stayed up. Here’s the foot of the table, with two clubs to go down (two points for a win).
Bury Played 33 Points: 28
Middlesbrough Played 33 Points: 26
Bristol City Played 33 Points: 26
Woolwich Arsenal Played 34 Points: 26
Tottenham Hotspur Played 33 Points: 25
Chelsea Played 34 Points: 25
Bolton Wanderers Played 34 Points: 20
Bury had a reputation – having won the cup twice – but they were not doing well that year. There was a certain level of anticipation in the air, and that away victory at Chelsea had not been forgotten.