The centre of evil, 100 years ago.

In the 1909/1910 season which we celebrate here (100 years ago, in case I didn’t make that quite clear), Arsenal didn’t play the centre of all evil (Birmingham City FC) because they (Evil Birmingham) were in Division II.


In fact Birmingham were so bad that year that then ended up bottom of Division II.  They won eight, drew seven, and lost 23.


However despite coming bottom of the league Birmingham did not get relegated, although Grimsby, who finished one point above the Evil Empire, did get thrown out of the league to be replaced by Huddersfield Town.


But despite this lack of Arsenal / Birmingham contact, Birmingham City do get a mention in “Making the Arsenal” – the forthcoming book about Arsenal in 1910.


Here’s the diary entry of Jacko Jones (football reporter for the Chronicle) on 29th January 1910.  In this extract Jacko reports on the match he and his photographer Edward cover.  Photography was a novelty at the time – particularly photography at football matches. 


At the time Henry Norris had shown an interest in Woolwich Arsenal, but had move no move.  Woolwich Arsenal were however heading towards liquidation.


* * * *


In the afternoon we dutifully did Fulham against Birmingham – and would you believe it, there were no goals.  The biggest centre of attention was Edward who dressed in a flared double-breasted sack coat with silk-faced lapels, looking either as if he was going to climb a mountain, or enter a night club in Pall Mall.  He surrounded himself with his equipment behind one goal and when a wayward shot hit his tripod the crowd roared. 


At half time I told him to stop taking photographs of the game and instead take them of the crowd.  The crowd cheered their approval and waved at him.  (Waved is the polite word).   I wrote Edward into my match report, pointing out that never again would the matches at the Cottage be dull because we now had the King of Photography working the games.


In fact, the match was so totally awful that when I wasn’t watching Edward’s antics I was able to spend quite a bit of time watching Norris’.  Interestingly he left well before the end of the game – but not before Edward had a photograph of his back. Highly symbolic.   


Woolwich beat Bolton two to nothing.  Maybe they are on the way up and won’t need a Norris story after all.


* * * *


So, one hundred years on, apart from having a reputation for unfathomable evil, Birmingham City seem not to have changed.


“Making the Arsenal” is published on October 30th, price £12.99.  Details of how you can get the book through ordering on line will be published here shortly.  There’s more on Arsenal vs Birmingham City this weekend on


© Tony Attwood 2009

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