The Arsenal History web site (which is where you are) sponsored by AISA, is currently inviting all Arsenal supporters to write in with details of their first time of seeing the Arsenal play. If you would like to write for this series, there are details at the foot of this article.
Aged 16, I saw my first Arsenal game on the 31st May,1941 at Ewood Park, Blackburn. Attendance 45,000 Ticket 7d Programme 1d
It was the replay of the 1941 Football League War Cup Final, after Arsenal had drawn 1-1 with Preston North End at Wembley, thanks to a late equalizer from Denis Compton (he of cricketing fame).
In the 9 months leading up to the Final, no less than 127 large-scale German air-raids had taken place, with London being a regular target on 71 occasions.
Nevertheless, this did not stop 60,000 fans turning up to watch the Wembley game. The replay was moved away from London to Blackburn and among the Arsenal team were regulars like Eddie Hapgood (Arsenal and England Captain), Ted Drake, Cliff Bastin, Jack Crayston and Denis Compton.
The big centre-half was Bernard Joy, a schoolmaster and an amateur. Arsenal lost the game to the better side on the day, 2-1, in which the great Tom Finney starred.
One incident during the game stands out in my memory to this day. At one stage, Arsenal had a corner from the right. Our centre-forward, Ted Drake, and the Preston goalie stood side by side at the far post. As Alf Kirchen ran in to take the corner, Drake thrust out his left arm and grasped the upright in front of the goalie thus preventing him from advancing to meet the corner. The incident went unnoticed by the referee and it was my introduction to professional gamesmanship.
As a postscript, I wish I’d kept my programme. A copy is now being touted at £2400!
RJ Nicolle, Guernsey.
If you would like to contribute to this series please email Tony.Attwood@aisa.org with your story, ideally written as a word file (if not then in the text of the email). I also need your address and phone number, although these will not be published. In writing for this series you are giving us to right to publish the piece on this site, and in other formats (we are working on a book etc, but nothing is completely fixed at the minute.)