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Manchester United’s ground: “a toxic waste dump”


Manchester United’s ground described as “a toxic waste dump”

The season 1909/10 which we chart here (that being 100 years ago of course) was the last season that Manchester U played away from Old Trafford – to which they moved in 1910.

But as Woolwich Arsenal prepared for their away game on October 30th 1909 they were heading to the Bank Street ground in Clayton, where Manchester U were jogging along in fifth place in their third season in the first division.

The ground was, what shall we say… “unpleasant” is perhaps a good word – being between the railway line (steam trains remember) and Albion Chemicals – not the nicest place in the world. It was properly known as the Bradford and Clayton Athletic Ground and was not owned by the club.

Manchester U had moved there in June 1893 having been evicted from their previous ground and had clearly got used to their new home in the 15 or so years, as that season they only lost three at home, and drew two. Crowds ranged between 5,000 and 30,000, but the atmosphere was limited by the running track around the pitch – although this was removed by the 1909/10 season.

But just like Woolwich Arsenal the club had financial troubles, and was given a winding up order in 1902 and just as with Arsenal in 1910 they were saved by local worthies, and the stadium was expanded to hold 50,000.

Manchester U won the first division in 1908 and the FA Cup in 1909. The final game at the old site had just 5000 in the crowd on 22 January 1910 – against Tottenham H.

But by the time Arsenal played their last game at the ground in October 1909 the place was in a bad way, and several of the stands were looking decidedly unsafe – in fact one fell down shortly after the Tottenham game in 1910. However in spite of the totally unsafe ground (the roof of one stand blew off and landed on houses in the street behind) the club continued to play reserve games there.

Thus Woolwich Arsenal’s trip to Manchester for this weekend’s match would have brought mixed thoughts. Arsenal were having a tough time, and they were going to play the FA Cup holders, who had been Champions the year before. And they were going to play them on a chemical dump where the stands were clearly unsafe.

Quite a thought.

MAKING THE ARSENAL – the novel which covers Arsenal in 1910 is available direct from the publishers. Full details on www.emiratesstadium.info

 


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