Is football real or is it all made up?

Here’s a story related to today’s game of Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers which you might not believe straight off…

In the summer of 1967, Wolverhampton W. played in the United Soccer Association – a league of 12 clubs in Canada and the USA.

Each club was a club from elsewhere in the world, rebranded with a new name, aiming to get a bit of publicity of “soccer”.  They had a name that mixed the locality with the club.  Wolverhampton Wanderers transmuted themselves into the Lost Angeles Wolves and actually won the league, beating Washtington Whips (that’s Aberdeen FC to you and me) in the play off final.

I mention that because we are playing Wolverhampton today, but also because it is just plain weird.  Weirder than game 39 in fact.

Which makes me think – isn’t it odd that no one mentioned this when game 39 was being debated?

When I started planning MAKING THE ARSENAL (my new book of which I have already bored you to death) I planned it as a straight history book – the story of Arsenal in 1910 – the club going bust, the buying of Arsenal by Fulham, and the attempt to merge the two clubs.

But the more I wrote the more weird it all became.  What was Norris doing trying to merge the clubs?  He already owned two clubs (Fulham in Division II and Croydon Common, who were in the Southern League) – why did he want a third.

And there were hints, just hints nothing more, that Tottenham were trying to buy shares in Arsenal, and that the Woolwich Arsenal armaments factory was actually the centre of a spy scandal.  The newly formed MI5 (known then as MO5) was involved in investigating the situation but made a total balls up of the job.  Even Winston Churchill (the Home Secretary) was involved.

The trouble with carrying on writing the book as a straight book of history was

a) Too much information is missing – there are tantalizing hints which can’t be resolved

b) Much of this is utterly unbelievable. Winston Churchill getting involved in Woolwich Arsenal?  No, I didn’t believe it either.

Yes I know, it seems utterly unlikely.   But then, so does Wolverhampton W trotting off to the USA, being renamed and playing a summer season in an American League.

So I turned it into a novel – the story of Arsenal in 1910 as seen through the eyes of a journalist covering the events.   There’s details on the MAKING THE ARSENAL page.

Meanwhile what of Wolverhampton? 100 years ago we didn’t play them.  They had won the FA Cup in 1908, while in the second division, but failed to make it up to the first, and eventually slipped into the Third Division North.  Woolwich Arsenal were in the first – although bottom of the league.

In fact after some ups and down Wolverhampton declined to the Fourth Division by the 1980s, bankrupt and with half the ground condemned as unsafe for human habitation (or some such).    One of the last games I saw with my father (who was totally responsible for my love of Arsenal and my devotion to football) was Torquay United vs Wolverhampton in the fourth division – my parents having retired to Torquay.  Torquay have been my “second team” ever since.

So, back to where I started, is it real or made up? Actually I don’t think you could make some of this up.   Wolverhampton winning the American league, and ultimately falling into the 4th division.   MI5 getting involved in a possible attempt to overthrow the whole state, based around the events at Woolwich Arsenal?

But yes, it’s fact.  Wolverhampton doesn’t figure in MAKING THE ARSENAL but the MI5/Winston Churchill bit does.   Hope you enjoy it

You can order Making the Arsenal direct from the publishers at

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

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