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Which season or time was the most significant in Arsenal’s history? What was the most significant season or period in Arsenal’s history? I will go through many seasons which had huge implications for Arsenal and finally plump for the one I feel was the most important. I will also say which one was the most crucial for me in my time as a Gooner but probably regular readers will guess that answer. There are lots to consider and it is truly very difficult to choose. I will go through them by date so that you can see the progression and maybe work out in advance which one I will eventually go for. I should say this is not about our best season but the most important or significant one, one that meant we had the possibility to become the Arsenal of today. The marble halls - a symbol of the Arsenal And so I have to start with Dial Square in 1886. As the foundation it has to be a candidate and we began with a 6-0 thrashing of Eastern Wanderers In December so we started well. We changed our name to Royal Arsenal at Christmas reportedly and that surely was significant or what would we be calling ourselves now? The Diallers? The Squares? Oh, no! I certainly couldn’t go through life being a Square. Now we are professional In 1891 we became the first London professional club as we were worried about northern clubs poaching our best players. It meant that we had very little games to compete in as we were banned by the London Football Association who didn’t want professionals. If that had continued it would have been very significant as we could have gone out of existence. What would we be now? We would have had no team to support. We could have ended up Spuds and living a truly miserable life. Harry Bradshaw - made us into a good team Ah, but 1893 soon came up and we were allowed in the Football League, the first southern club to do so. We were put in the second division but were not too good, a midtable side. We remained that way until we got Harry Bradshaw as manager in 1899. That was a vital move and gave us our first taste of the big time as we got promoted to the first division in 1903-04. We were now, almost 20 years after forming, among the big boys. The dark dealings of Henry Norris But the next significant season was the following year as Bradshaw moved to Fulham and we didn’t do well in the top flight, getting relegated in 1913. Problems with grounds and with ownership increased our struggles but Henry Norris took over after we struggled with voluntary liquidation in 1910. First he wanted us to merge with Fulham, which he also owned. Luckily that didn’t go through as we could have been called Arseham, or worse again, Hamarse. Oh, the indignity! Henry Norris who certainly didn't look like a nefarious godfather But he did engineer the move to Highbury and North London after the relegation in 1913 to a much bigger and better ground so that Arsenal could have the possibility of getting back among the big boys. He also got rid of the Woolwich name and the “the” to become plain Arsenal but the supporters and myself have never fully approved the latter. Down into the abyss Ah, but then came the kicker. Henry Norris was a bad boy, known for dodgy financial dealings but he used them for the benefit of Arsenal. In 1919, after the war, the first division was expanded to 22 teams. There was a controversy about where the extra two teams were to come from as logically it should have been Chelsea and the Spuds as they were about to be relegated. It was decided that Chelsea would stay and the Spuds go down thanks to the strong belief that Norris had engineered the promotion to sixth placed Arsenal in the second division by egregious backhanders and dark dealing. Surely that would have been impossible in the modern day? The thing is that without it, maybe we would not have got promoted at all, ever. We certainly didn’t set the first division alight at all. If Norris hadn’t done what he did, we could even have dropped down divisions or gone out altogether. We at ASCB could be supporting a team playing out of a field in North London in front of 50 people. The ASCB might only consist of Georgi Stoyanov and me. Highbury being reconstructed in 1927 If we had stayed in the second division until 1925, then surely Norris would not have been able to attract Herbert Chapman, the man who had made Huddersfield invincible and the equivalent of getting, say, Pep Guardiola today? And it was Chapman who made us great. A great chap, our Chapman And so to the Chapman era. He changed everything about what a top club should be. Marble halls, floodlights, the W formation, physiotherapy, elite training practices, new roles for players, numbered jerseys, and even getting the local Tube station renamed to the Arsenal. But it took him 5 years to get our first ever significant trophy, the FA Cup in 1930, and that heralded the start of Arsenal becoming the top team in England in the 1930’s. Titles came our way as we became the juggernaut of English football. Herbert Chapman - it is hard to believe what he achieved The strong foundations that Chapman laid meant that even after he died suddenly in 1934, George Allison took over seamlessly and continued to dominate English football. We got 5 titles and 2 FA cups in the 1930’s. We also had 7 Arsenal players on the field for England against Italy in 1934, a record that stands to this day. We were now the best, and improvements to the ground and the interior meant we also had probably the best ground in England. We were the Kings of England, not just London. Now we had a team to support, one that would lead, years later, to a bunch of Arsenal fans in Bulgaria in 2004 setting up the best fan club in the Arsenal universe. George Allison continued Chapman's great work We climb Everest The war years were next, with football more or less closed, although some matches kept the game alive. Highbury was requisitioned for the war effort so we had to play at White Hart Lane. We could have been contaminated by Spursyness but we didn’t as we took our sixth title under Tom Whittaker in 1948, the FA Cup in 1950 and our seventh title in 1953 which made us the top team ever in English football. We were Arsenal, simply the best. Tom Whittaker moved us the the top of the mountain Next week, we will continue, we will look at the later post-war years, the doldrums of the 60’s, and the miraculous double of 1971 among many significant events.
Moyes Ghost I am Arsenal. All Arsenal from early days to now. I am walking to my normal entrance in the Emirates on Christmas eve. It is dark, it is cold, but I need to make sure that we are ready for West Ham on the 26th. I can feel, all around me, a grim chill enveloping me. There are murky shadows everywhere. But I dismiss such foolishness from my head as I apply my key card to the door. Suddenly, it pours red blood down its white facade, and a head that seems familiar to me then forms from the blood and screams at me. It looks like David Moyes. The door opens and it all goes calm. I am shaken but I feel my imagination is running away from me. I go inside to my office but there is a distinct frost in the air. The heating mustn’t be working I say to myself. Anyway, I have work to do so I set about my tasks. I do have an electric heater that looks like a real fire so I put that on and pour myself a nice drop of rum. The world starts looking like a better place. It is Arsenal and I am home. Was it him??????? I am not sure how long after that the real strangeness happened but I seemed to be asleep with the drowsiness induced by the dark liquid. I heard loud knocking coming from all sides and the room started shaking. The door flung open and it was Harry Bradshaw, our first successful manager, but he looked like a zombie. “Harry, is it you?” Harry Bradshaw 1899 - 1904 “Of course it’s me. I need you to understand what it is to be Arsenal. You must listen to me. Tonight, you will be visited by 3 spectres, the first at midnight, and then at one and then two. You must take strong note of what they show you, and finally, you must take action to bring us back to being Arsenal, the most feared team in the land.” The First of the 3 spectres Then he disappeared. I looked at the empty bottle of rum on the ground and laughed. Look at the damage you have caused me, giving me nightmares. 3 spectres, indeed. I retired to my bed up high near the boardroom to get the rest I need. Sleep came quick. Slumber was delicious until my grandfather clock tolled way louder than ever before, a noise like being inside a huge church bell. Herbert Chapman, smiling, came out of the FA cup of 1930. He looked like he used to, dapper, but with those intense eyes which commanded respect. I immediately embraced him for I always loved him. He made Arsenal great. “You have something to show me, Herbert? You are the spectre?” “Yes, I have many things to remind you of. Let us away.” Herbert Chapman 1925 - 1934 He took me by the hand as we flew through the air. I recognised where we were going. Upton Park. It was surely in his time as all the crowd were wearing cloth caps and virtually everyone was standing. We sat down in the dugout. The match started. I was getting a dreadful sense of déjà vu. It was confirmed when James Ruffell scored for West Ham. I will never forget this game. And now it was played out horribly again in front of me. Goal after goal were fired in including a hattrick from Victor Watson and two own goals from us. 7-0, to West Ham, of all teams. 7th March 1927 will always be etched on my memory. A ghoulish day at this place “Why, Herbert, why are you showing me this?” And then a terrible fear caught hold. “Is this going to happen on the 26th? Oh sweet Jesus, not that.” The second of the 3 spectres I started shaking uncontrollably. My mind was spinning. Then the whole world started whirling. Suddenly, I was back in my bed. It was a dream. I must stop drinking rum. Sleep came with ease, though, as I settled down under the duvet. For how long? Not long as at one it sounded like I was inside the grandfather clock again. Clanging so hard I thought I would go crazy. Then it stopped. George Allison popped out of the 1936 FA Cup. Now, George was a great manager, totally underrated. 2 league triumphs and an FA Cup. But this time I was afraid. What could he show me? George Allison 1934 - 1947 He took me across London again. I remember this day. It was the Fa Cup on the 5th January 1946. The cloth capped men on the terraces. The memory of the war still fresh in everyone’s minds. I inwardly screamed as all of West Ham’s six goals went in without reply. I can never forget that day. “West Ham! West Ham are the demons that are going to derail our title dream. Please tell me, George, tell me that’s not the case?” But he just smiled and turned away, as my mind was spinning again. I fell into a vortex, out of control, until I landed in my bed. Bad news on my doorstep again. I am being warned. 2 of our great managers got hammered by the Hammers. Arteta must be warned. This is a big match. But then I realised that there was still one more spectre to go. But surely I know the message? West Ham gave 2 of our worst defeats to 2 of our greatest managers. What more do I need to see? I couldn’t sleep, and was tossing and turning but somehow I dozed only to be thrown back inside the insidious bells of the grandfather clock. The noise was frightening, all encompassing, ethereal. Then it all stopped. The last of the 3 spectres A scary ride to Highbury Arsene Wenger climbed out of the 1998 FA Cup. I was never so glad to see anyone. Arsene knows. That’s all I can say. He made us into the modern day club we are. He was a mentor to Mikel Arteta. He will show me what to say to Mikel to stop this nonsense. I gladly took his hand as we flew. It wasn’t very far. To my beloved Highbury, in fact. It was West Ham again. I could remember this day, too, 1st Feb 2006. Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora rifled in 2 goals before Thierry Henry got one back. Matthew Etherington made it 3-1 and then Robert Pires got another towards the end. 3-2. A horrendous day. Ok, I get it, West Ham can still be dangerous at home. We must prepare. But Wenger wasn’t done. He then brought me to Upton Park again. It was the next time we played the Hammers. Nov 5th. Another bad day as they scored a very late goal by Marlon Harewood and 1-0 it finished. But it still wasn’t over. He took me back across London to our shiny new Emirates stadium. It was our next match against the bubble blowing Irons on the 7th April 2007. Arsène Wenger 1996-2018 Bobby Zamora scored on 45 to make it a miserable day for us. We couldn’t score. 3 times in a row Arsene Wenger was beaten by them. I had almost forgotten that, an indignity that even the best teams couldn’t manage. I was in despair. Surely this meant that it is all about to go wrong. I gladly threw myself into the vortex knowing that I would get back to my bed. West Ham are the harbingers of doom! My great dream of getting back to being Arsenal is over. No more sending teams home crying. Woe is me, I sobbed. The end of it Things were no better in the morning. Desperation was etched in my face as I looked at my mirror. What are we going to do? I could hear a noise coming from outside so I looked out my window. It was Mikel Arteta going towards the entrance. He was smiling, in huge contrast to my black tear stained eyes and the wretched look upon my face. “Hey, big boss Arsenal, what’s up? You look terrible.” “I have a bad feeling about this game. West Ham have done terrible things to our managers in the past.” Mikel looked serious for a second. But he had a confident look on his face. “I have done all the preparation. The players know what to expect. I know exactly how David Moyes brain works. I have worked out how to get the tactics right. We are ready. We will continue our fight towards the title. Don’t worry, Arsenal, this Christmas West Ham will be good to us. “ After we Hammer the Hammers “And we will give you the money you need, Mikel. We may have have been stingy in the past but buy the best. We have loads of money. No words have ever made me happier. I hope to Dickens he is right. And God bless us one and all.