Much of the following article is taken from the volume, Woolwich Arsenal FC 1893-1915: the club that changed football, by Attwood, Kelly and Andrews. There’s a link to the book at the foot of the article.
Woolwich Arsenal’s league campaign – 1893-94. 28 games, final position 9th in Division II.
Unusually, there were an odd number of teams in the Second Division for Woolwich Arsenal’s first season. This was due to the late resignation of Bootle due to financial difficulties.
Arsenal opened with a 10,000 crowd for the home draw with Newcastle on 2nd September, a figure repeated on Christmas Day for the home game with Burslem Port Vale, and beaten with a reported 13,000 attending the Easter game against Notts County.
Crowds away from Plumstead were lower throughout the season – the Middlesbrough Ironopolis game on 24 February being reported as having a crowd of only 500; Arsenal’s lowest home crowd being 2,000.
There were significant defeats with Newcastle and Burton Swifts scoring six against Arsenal, while the Reds hit six twice in games against Northwich Victoria and Middlesbrough Ironopolis. Six wins and two draws in eight games through February and March gave hope of a higher position, but the club lost its last three matches to leave Woolwich ninth out of 13.
The effects of travelling long distances could clearly be seen in Woolwich Arsenal’s home and away form. Of the 28 points gained, 19 were won at home and 9 away.
Interestingly, the directors sometimes tried to take advantage of the opportunity of re-arranging fixtures – of the first nine games for example, six were played at home. This allowed the club to build up their bank balance by playing as many home games during better months and to recover early on some of the costs of the move to the Manor Ground in the summer of 1893.
Liverpool won the division and were promoted with Small Heath; Middlesbrough Ironopolis (who came fifth from bottom) dissolved at the end of the season and Northwich Victoria resigned from the Football League to play regional football.
The match on October 28 1893 which ended Woolwich Arsenal 0 Liverpool 5 was the second time Arsenal let in five or more in the league. The first large defeat was on September 30 1893: Newcastle 6 Arsenal 0.
In fact this Liverpool game was the third heavy defeat in a row
- 30 September: lost 0-6 to Newcastle
- 21 October: lost 1-4 to Small Heath
- 28 October: lost 0-5 to Liverpool.
Here is the league table after this third consecutive defeats. You’ll notice how variable is the number of games played at this point – a result of the negotiation by clubs as to when they might play. Woolwich Arsenal’s position therefore was not quite as bad as 13th might suggest as they were just one point between Walsall TS in ninth, but with two games in hand.
|9||Walsall Town Swifts||9||3||0||6||12||23||0.52||6|
* Goal Average through which goals scored were divided by goals against. Thus for Woolwich Arsenal 12 is to be divided by 21 resulting in 0.57. The system had the advantage of rarely giving identical answers for two clubs, but had the disadvantage of being complex to calculate without computers – and errors did occur, as for example at the end of the 1914/15 season with regards to Arsenal.
However back in the opening league season, despite the three heavy defeats all was not total doom and gloom. On October 14 Woolwich Arsenal played their first FA Cup match and beat Ashford United 12-0 at the Manor Ground. The next game after the Liverpool defeat was also an FA Cup game. Arsenal beat Clapton 6-2.