The summer of 1910: Norris gets stuck in, but what about the squad?

The first effect that was noticed by Henry Norris’ takeover at Woolwich Arsenal in the summer of 1910 was that the manager who had taken just managed to avoid relegation was confirmed as manager for the following season.

This was probably because Norris had one view of Woolwich Arsenal – the losses had to be cut, and George Morrell had done a good job in the previous season at living on a minimal income.

Arsenal had ended the 1909/10 season with this team

McDonald H

Mcdonald D, Shaw,

Ducat, Thomson, McEachrane

Greenaway, Lewis, McGibbon, Lawrence, Heppinstall

Despite the huge number of players used in the season and the vast changes that took place it is remarkable to see that the only player in that side who was added during the course of the season was McGibbon – of whom I have written earlier.  (He was the guy who came in and scored three league goals in four games to earn us five valuable points and avoid relegation).

In fact seven of the players who played in the last game of the season, also played in the first.

So what was being prepared for next season?

This is the team that started the new season in September 1910…


Gray, Shaw

Ducat, Sands, McEachrane

Greenaway, Common, Rippon, Lewis, Heppinstall.

Five new players.

Today this would seem like a massive turnaround – and in many regards not unexpected given that Arsenal had only just escaped relegation.

Yet it was not unprecedented – as noted in the review of managers of Woolwich Arsenal, we had had a number of seasons in which the entire team had been replaced during the summer.

Partly this was because of the way football was structured at the time.  Although there was a maximum wage, there was wholesale avoidance of the issue by finding players and their families jobs.  This was harder for Woolwich Arsenal to do because of their location, and it is a fact that Norris was known to be an owner who liked to keep costs down.  But many clubs would find jobs for their players, and so a player might move to another club simply for the associated job.

Second, there were no transfer windows at all – buying and selling went on all the time.

Third, movement in the summer, was exacerbated by the habit of only paying the players half wages during the summer break.  That encouraged them to get up and go looking for work as life guards, PE instructors at military bases, cricketers or anything else that came to mind.

So it was not unknown for players to move on during the summer in search of non-football work, and then to be signed up by the club nearest to where the work had been found.

But despite the appearance of wholesale change of those who played in the final game of the season, Arsenal only said farewell to…

  • McDonald H (goal) – 36 appearances in 1909/10
  • McGibbon (centre forwad),- those four appearances with 3 goals
  • Lawrence (inside right)- 25 appearances, 5 goals

which was actually a small change.

In other words, having only just avoided relegation from the first division, Woolwich Arsenal were looking to move into a new season with a new owner but pretty much the same squad as in 1909/1910.  Worse, the one really exciting discovery of the year – the new centre forward McGibbon – was not staying.

I’ll take a look at what happened to those three in due course.

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