Arsenal in the London Challenge Cup

By Tony Attwood

The London Challenge Cup was a competition that Woolwich Arsenal FC entered from 1908/9 season (when the competition was first formed) onwards.

In its early years the competition ran through four rounds with the semi-final and final being played on neutral grounds.  This changed in 1933 when all rounds were played on the ground of one of the participating teams (the home team being the first drawn from the hat, as in the conventional style).

From the start, the competition attracted both Football League and Southern League teams plus leading amateur teams – Arsenal for example playing Bromley in 1909 and Tufnell Park in 1914.

There was an unofficial change in the early 1930s when the first division clubs moved over to playing their reserve teams.  This change was similar to that which Arsène Wenger introduced with the League Cup many years later – the selection of the players was entirely a matter for the clubs and not a formal matter of policy by the London FA who organised the competition.

However change was afoot, and by 1966/7 it was compulsory for all league clubs to enter the Football League Cup (until that date some clubs, including Arsenal, refusing to take part).  The London Challenge Cup was thus of even less significance than before, and it finally ceased with the 1973/4 competition.

It was revived in 1990 for non-league teams, before being discontinued once again ten years later.

Arsenal’s first ever match in the competition was on September 28 1908 –a 1-0 away victory over Fulham.  The club’s final match was on November 12 1973 in the semi-final, played away to Tottenham in which Arsenal lost 0-3.   The team on that final occasion is worth recording as it includes a few famous names:

Barnett, Rixon, Nelson, Powling, Tones, Matthews, Chambers, Hornsby, Ritchie, Price, Brady.

Arsenal reached the final on 16 occasions, winning the competition eleven times.

Date Opponent Score
December 7 1914 Millwall 1-2
May 8 1922 Crystal Palace 1-0
December 10 1923 Charlton Athletic 3-1
November 9 1925 West Ham United 1-2
May 5 1931 Tottenham Hotspur 2-1
May 7 1934 Tottenham Hotspur 4-0
May 4 1936 Brentford 4-2
May 3 1937 Tottenham Hotspur 0-1
March 29 1954 Chelsea 3-2
March 7 1955 West Ham United 2-1
March 17 1958 West Ham United 3-1
December 5 1960 Chelsea 1-3
December 4 1961 Millwall 3-1
December 3 1962 Chelsea 4-1
May 10 1966 QPR 0-4
November 17 1969 Wimbledon 2-1


The books…

4 Replies to “Arsenal in the London Challenge Cup”

  1. Hmm. FA Cup. 16 finals won 10. A parallel .
    BTW does this article mean you are back in harness?

  2. Let’s bring back the London Challenge Cup.
    As with the League Cup, Under 21/Fringe players could be used.
    32 clubs [2 Rounds, Q-F, S-F & F] from Premier League to Isthmian League [The sort of clubs we already send a reserve team to Pre-Season].
    Being drawn away to a lower league club would be a good toughening-up process for young players. A chance of a giant killing. A good crowd and revenue for Football League/Conference clubs.
    Very good PR for all concerned.
    Being drawn at home means a chance for the youngsters to play at the Emirates. Have cheap admission for kids/families who can’t afford first team games and maybe play on a Friday night.
    The atmosphere and buzz at home League Cup matches is definitely enjoyable and this is another avenue to attract the next generation of support.
    Lots of local derbies for clubs who may not often get to play one another.
    Bragging rights to be fought over ending with a final and a trophy.

  3. The randomness of the draw, as with the FA cup, could make this a very enjoyable competition.

    We could be drawn against anyone from Spurs, West Ham or Chelsea…to Brentford, Charlton or Millwall… to Barnet, Dulwich Hamlet or Tooting & Mitcham… Home or Away…

    A chance to visit grounds we would never normally go to, pay at the gate, have some atmosphere without having too far to travel.

    Could be better than the Capital One Cup!!

  4. I agree.

    32 teams. 14 from Premier & Football League. 18 from National League/National League South/Ryman League.

    Bigger clubs would obviously be using squad/U21/Youth players.

    Cheap tickets-cash at the turnstyles, Standing at the smaller grounds = atmosphere.
    Good for those of us outside the more upmarket revenue stream [Pensioners, kids, students] and less travelling in midweek.

    It could run in the either in the first half of the season [1st Round; Aug. 2nd; Sept. Q-F; Oct. S-F; Nov. F; Dec] or the second [1st; Jan. 2nd; Feb. Q-F; Mar. S-F; Apr. F; May]
    without disrupting existing competitions for any cub at whatever level.

    I know similar cups exist around the country and don’t exactly draw in the crowds, but the sheer population of Greater London and all the club rivalries could add excitement.

    What better way is there for big clubs to show support for grass roots/community football and nuture the next generation of supporter?

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