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In a new feature on the site, I thought it would be entertaining to everyday delve deep into the history books and discover the anniversary of an event in the club’s past. I find that as football progresses and clubs become richer and more globalised, everyone involved forgets the important origins of the club. As a relatively young fan, who was born in the first year of the Premier League, I find it strange that I am completely ignorant of the successes and tribulations of the decades before my birth, which would have been experienced by a vast number of the fans that I sit with at the Emirates.
So, lest we forget where the club has come from and what it has been through to get where it is today, join me in my mission to keep this brilliant club’s history fresh in the minds of all who love it.
Just two days after arriving at Highbury from Crystal Palace, Ian Wright made the perfect start to his career; netting in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Filbert Street against Leicester City. He was only getting started though: Another two days on from this Wright would score a hatrick in his Premier League debut against Southampton – His first two matches were certainly indicative of his career to come.
September 23rd 1991 marked one of the most important days in Arsenal’s modern history – the purchase of the promising Crystal Palace talent Ian Wright. Wright had become disillusioned by his chairman’s comments about the quality of black players. After Wright signaled his intention to leave, a mini bidding war was set in motion between the biggest clubs in the country, all vying for the signature of the most promising English prospect in the country. It was George Graham that managed to prise him away from Selhurst Park to join a pretty effective front line of Paul Merson, Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell. Wright’s return in his first season was astonishing – scoring 24 times in 30 matches. Wright’s dynamism was a breath of fresh air in Graham’s over-pragmatic team and excelled to go on and score 84 times under George Graham. Wright would go on to score 100 more for the Gunners before seeing his record broken by Thierry Henry. George Graham may have left Arsenal with his reputation sullied, but one positive aspect of his tenure as Arsenal boss is the acquisition of one of the club’s greatest ever players.
Arsenal kicked off their campaign to retain the League Cup with an outstanding victory at Division 1 side Huddersfield. On the day, Ian Wright scored three of Arsenal’s five to walk away with the match ball. This fine first leg victory ensured that the second leg was a simple affair, as Arsenal rested many stars for a 1-1 draw.
In the next round, Arsenal faced Norwich and, after another 1-1 draw at Highbury, a far stronger side trounced the Canaries 3-0 at Carrow Road in the replay. This was, unfortunately, as far as Arsenal got though as they went out in the fourth round, losing 1-0 to eventual winners Aston Villa.
Freddie Ljungberg, the ‘Super Swede’ is undoubtedly one of the best players of the Wenger generation. Nobody at Highbury thought that would be the case, as he arrived in 1998 as a virtual unknown from Halmstads for £3 million. There were concerns that Ljungberg wouldn’t be able to cope physically in the Premier League, but Arsene Wenger, who had sanctioned the transfer himself, assured fans that he would be a star.
Ljungberg didn’t take long to prove himself to the Highbury faithful, netting on his debut in a 3-0 victory at home to Manchester United – arguably the perfect start. Since I couldn’t find any footage of the goal, enjoy this compilation of Freddie’s strutting his stuff for Arsenal:
To many, David Seaman will go down in history as Arsenal’s best ever goalkeeper. A gifted shot-stopper whose resilience was second to none in the incredibly successful team in which he played, Seaman is rightly one of the most respected goalkeepers in historyand was awarded an MBE for his services to English sport in 1997.
Though he played for many clubs throughout England, Seaman will of course be remebered for his time with the Gunners. At Arsenal, he won a number of trophies including 3 titles (1991, 1998, 2002), 4 F.A Cups (1993, 1998, 2002, 2003), the League Cup in 1993 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. In this incredibly successful spell, Seaman cemented his place as the top keeper in the country. Particularly impressive were his performances in the 1996 European Championships with England and the 2003 F.A Cup run, in which he made what many call the best save of all time, denying Paul Peschisolido in the semi-final. His outstanding reflex save can be seen below:
Sol Campbell, who will go down in history as one of English football’s best defenders, has the rare trait of being a legend at both north London clubs, despite half the Tottenham support’s disgusting abuse after his move across the city.
Campbell was born in Plaistow, East London to Jamaican parents and was one of twelve children, 9 of whom were boys. Campbell has claimed that it was both living in such a cramped home and the strictness of his parents that kept him away from crime and allowed him to express himself through football.
Having started his youth career at West Ham, playing as a striker, Campbell made his dream move to Tottenham in 1992. He staked his claim for a place in the first XI straight away, scoring on his debut against Chelsea. However, he would have to wait around 2 years before he finally became a regular in the first team, making the most of and ageing and injury-prone Gary Madbutt. The highlight of his Spurs career came as he captained Spurs to the 1999 League Cup, beating Leicester in the final.
Just over a year later, though, Campbell would go from hero to villain for the Spurs fans as he joined Arsenal on a free transfer in 2001, having run down his contract. Campbell achieved immediate success at Arsenal, winning both the Premier League and F.A Cup in his first season. A year later he was part of the Arsenal side that got to the F.A Cup final, but missed the match against Southampton after a controversial red card against Man. Utd in the semis ruled him out. The next season, he re-discovered some of the best form of his career as he formed a wonderful partnershipwith Kolo Toure. That season, of course, Arsenal would go on to win the league without losing a single game – a testament to Arsenal’s defensive quality.
Campbell’s last season at the top of his game coincided with Arsenal’s last trophy. The low point of his 2004/05 season came as he was involved in the peanlty decision at Old Trafford that all but ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run – though video replays did confrim that Rooney dived. Continuing his partnership with Toure all season, he also helped Arsenal to the F.A Cup final, but was an unused subsititute as Arsenal edged past Man. Utd on penalties.
Campbell’s last season at Arsenal was defined by two contrasting moments. First, he made it seem like his Arsenal career was all but over when he went AWOL after gifting West Ham two goals at Highbury. Robert Pires after the match also claimed that Campbell had some issues with his personal life. Campbell, always a strong character, returned and would go on to do what any player dreams of doing – scoring in the Champions League final. Campbell’s bullet header at the Parc des Princes looked for a while like it had given Arsenal the biggest jewel in their crown. A late Barcelona surge though ensured that Campbell’s game, and as it turned out, his Arsenal career, ended on a low note.
During his career at White Hart Lane and Highbury, though particularly at the latter, Campbell had cemented his ‘legend’ status and was adored for his commitment and no-nonsense attitude. He had wonderful timing and was deceptively quick in a short sprint. Campbell went on in the latter stages of his career lived a nomadic existance. He joined the Notts County revolution in 2009, but would go on to play just once for the failed project. Before his playing days were up he would go on to represent the Gunners 11 more times in an emotional return during the 2009/10 season, scoring once against Porto and surprising many with the quality of his performances. After a short spell at Newcastle, the curtain finally came down on a glittering career.
Arsenal demolished a hapless Newcastle at Highbury on a cold autumnal afternoon to create the high point in what turned out to be a dismal season. Arsenal would go on to finish 11th, conceding 86 league goals along the way. That day, though, it was all about scoring them rather than letting them in. David Herd, who was the one bright spark that season, scoring 29 goals, bagged a hatrick and there were also goals for Strong and Clapton. The 5-0 victory still stands as Arsenal’s biggest over the Magpies.
There have been many television related football firsts – from the first Match of the Day in 1964 to the first Premier League game to be televised on Sky in 1992. However, the origin of all these firsts comes on 16th September 1937 with the first ever televised game – aired on the BBC just twelve years after its foundation.
You would think that the first ever televised football game would be a big event, an F.A Cup final or something similar. However, not only was it not a final, the match wasn’t even competitive. The BBC had arranged a friendly game between Arsenal and its reserve team. Due to the match not being a competitive fixture, there is little information on the result of the game, nor indeed on the viewing figures. However, since the number of television sets in Britain in 1939 was only 10,000, we can assume it was far less than that.
Regardless of the result, the match paved the way for modern televised football, and it is a testament to the importance of Arsenal Football Club that they were chosen for this major moment in sporting history.
Having won their first European Trophy, the Fairs Cup, the season previous Arsenal were given their shot at the European big time as they qualified for their first European Cup campaign. They were given a seemingly tough draw against Norwegian double winners Strømgodset IF. Despite the grandeur of the event, excitement for the fixture was low in England and as such the away support was thin at best. This didn’t seem to faze the players though, as the Gunners got off to the perfect start. Within 20 minutes they were two up, with goals from Peter Simpson and and own goal from Per Wolner. After the hosts grabbed a goal back just after the break, Arsenal strengthened their hold on the tie with a late Edward Kelly header and ensured that the pressure was off the home leg, and the fans’ interest for it was piqued.
Both this tie and Arsenal’s Champions League campaign went extremely well. Having made easy work of the Norwegian champions at Highbury, goals from Kennedy, Armstrong and a brace from Radford ensured a 4-0 victory, Arsenal were drawn against Grasshoppers in the Second Round. The Gunners eased passed the Swiss champions 5-0 on aggregate – 2-0 in Switzerland, thanks to goals from Raymond Kennedy and George Graham, and 3-0 back at Highbury, with Kennedy on the score sheet again, along with Charlie George and John Radford. Arsenal had now qualified for the quarter finals and hope was quickly turning to expectation that Arsenal would lift consecutive European trophies. The quarter finals was, though, as far as Arsenal got, as they were knocked out by eventual winners Ajax. Gerrie Murhen was the hero for the Dutch side in a close first leg, scoring both Ajax’s goals in a 2-1 victory. A George Graham own goal at Highbury was a sour way to end a great competition,
Today marks the birthday of Arsenal legend Alex James, who was one of the stars of Arsenal’s incredibly successful period in the 1930s, under the stewardship of Herbert Chapman. James played as a left sided inside forward, supporting the main strikers and it was his quality distribution and ability to pop up on the edge of the box at just the right time that made him such an impressive player.
Having helped the club lift the title in 1931, Alex James’ battle with injuries began. He ended up missing out on both the title run in and the F.A Cup final the next season and although he recovered in time to help the Gunners win the title in 1933, in which they scored a club record 118 goals, his best playing days were over – indeed, James never managed more than half a season again, unfortunately missing out on the majority of Arsenal’s success that decade. Despite his impressive club form, James was only called up 8 times by Scotland, although he did score 4 goals – 2 of which came in the 5-1 thrashing of England at Wembley as part of the Wembley Wizards team.Eventually, injuries took their toll and James was forced to retire in 1937. After serving in World War 2, he became a sports journalist and, after catching the club’s eye, was invited back to the club in 1949 to coach the youth team. James, however, would unfortunately die after a short battle with cancer just four years later aged just 51. Alex James was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 for his contribution to the English game.
In one of those ‘I was there’ moments Ian Wright became Arsenal’s greatest ever marksman on a gloriously sunny afternoon at Highbury. Going into the match, the effervescent striker was just one goal short of Cliff Bastin’s record of 178 goals. On the day, Wright was sensational and didn’t give the Bolton defence a moment’s rest in the first half.
In a moment of comedy gold, Ian Wright celebrated his first goal of the day by revealing a vest underneath his shirt reading ‘Just done it’ (above), referring to his breaking the record – cue an awkward reminder from his team-mates that he might just want to put his shirt back down. It didn’t take long for Wright to be able to reveal that vest once again, though this time his name was well and truly in the record books. The record breaking goal can be seen below. Both these goals coming before half time created a party atmosphere among both the fans and, presumably, among the players in the dressing room.
This quick movement and intelligent reading of the game saw Wright finish his Arsenal career that season with 185 goals. In time, he would see his record smashed by Thierry Henry, but regardless will go down in history as a true Arsenal legend.
Arsenal’s 1953/54 away campaign got off to the worst possible start with a 7-1 drubbing at Roker Park. Having also suffered deafeat in their first game at Highbury, it became obvious after this game that Arsenal were infor a difficult season.
The ultra-successful 1930s were now adistant memory and the fans were now used to commiserating rather thean celebrating. Arsenal would go on to finish 12th that season, 6 places above Sunderland, whose season only went downhill from this victory, 10 points above the relegation spots.
In what turned out to be one of the most important days in Arsenal’s modern history, Cesc Fabregas joined from Barcelona’s youth academy. Like many who wear the famous red and blue of Barcelona, Fabregas had the club ingrained into him from a young age, having attended his first mtch aged just 9 months old. He was signed up to the renouned La Macia academy aged 10 and played alongside Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi. Despite racking up around 30 goals a season from his defensive midfield berth, Fabregas never made a first team appearance at the Nou Camp and moved to to Arsenal, sensing his opportunities were limited.
From his first game, you could tell Fabregas was special. In his first season he broke the records for youngest player and youngest goalscorer and sewed the seeds for his inclusion in the first team a year later, aged just 17.
Eventually, Fabregas turned out to be one of Arsene Wenger’s shrewdest aquisitions and will go down in the history books as one of the club’s greatest ever players. In 303 appearances Fabregas provided a century of assists and scored 57 goals. Unfortunately, the end of his Arsenal career was marred by both his and Barcelona’s disappointing actions in bringing Fabregas back to the Nou Camp. After reports of strikes from Fabregas and clear tappingup from Barcelona, he eventually re-joined his boyhood club 15th August 2011. After helping Arsenal win the 2004/05 FA Cup and the 2004 Community Shield, and reaching the Final of the Champions League in 2005/06, Fabregas left for his childhood club for the fee of £29 million.
Woolwich Arsenal played their first home match in the First Division at Manor Ground in Plumstead. It was a bold move by the club to make its home in the geographically isolated, relatively underpopulated area of London. However, you could argue that the club was saved by this move, as the 22,000 capacity stadium was well attended, bringing significant income into a club teetering on the brink of insolvency.
Despite the grandeur of the occassion, the match was a drab affair. Much fancied Preston North End, who ended up finishing as runners-up to Liverpool that season, were the visitors and bossed the majority of the game. Woolwich Arsenal, however, absorbed the pressure and managed to gain a credible draw.
The season was difficult for Woolwich Arsenal, as they flirted with insolvency and relegation all year. Survival was only assured on the final day, and in the following months the club were forced to sell theiir best players to bring some much needed money into the club.
Having made a remarkably mixed start to the 1958/59 season, in which they had lost to Preston and Burnley in their first four games, every fan in Highbury was desperate for their team to finally click into gear.
This happened in the finest possible fashion over 3 marvelous days. Having first destroyed Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park, a weary Arsenal returned to London to play host to high-flying Bolton just two days later.
Despite the significant effort put in at Goodison, virtually the same side was fielded. The decision seemed to be a foolish one, with Bolton taking an early lead against a clearly weary Arsenal. However, the home side rallied and 80 minutes later Highbury was rocking, celebrating Arsenal’s second 6-1 victory on the bounce – the only time Arsenal have scored 6 on consecutive occasions.
These victories set the tone for Arsenal’s season, and they finished with 88 goals in 42 matches. In a fine season, Arsenal finished 3rd – remember it was 2 points for a victory – behind Wolves and Manchester United
In a mammoth encounter at Highbury, Arsenal defeated Liverpool 3-1 on 8th September 1984. It was a gutsy performance from Arsenal, and the victory put the Gunners top of Division One for the first time since 1972, giving Arsenal fans hope that a their turbulent run was over.
Liverpool, who had become famous for their steely performances and tough tackling lived up to their expectations, with Sammy Lee, among others, being booked early. Having ridden out a difficult half, Arsenal took the lead in stoppage time. It was Brian Talbot who gave the Gunners the lead, curling the ball brilliantly past Bruce Grobbelaar and into the top corner.
The goal coming at such a crucial time clearly did a great deal of good for the Gunners, who waited just 3 minutes in the second half to double their lead. Tony Woodcock grabbed the goal, though Liverpool, it has to be said rightly, felt aggrieved – as Viv Anderson clearly handled in the build-up.
It got even sweeter later in the half for Arsenal, when Brian Talbot headed home his second of the game. Viv Anderson was again involved, providing the cross for Talbot’s bullet header.
After Arsenal so nearly made it 4-0 after a moment of madness from the eccentric Grobbelaar, the visitors grabbed a concelation with just a couple of minuted remaining. It was Alan Kennedy who grabbed the goal, playing a nice one-two with Paul Walsh before slotting home with his unfavoured right foot.
Peter Storey joined Arsenal at the age of 16 as an apprentice. Storey made his debut 4 years later and immediately cemented his place in the team. A tough-tackling, two-footed right back, Storey was known for his no nonsense displays and would go on to make 501 appearances for the club in a career that spanned 12 years at Highbury, making him the eight most capped player in the club’s history.
In the latter years of his Arsenal career, Storey switched positions and became the anchorman of a well drilled Arsenal side. These years were his most successful in an Arsenal shirt, finishing with two League Cup runners up medals in 1968 and 1969, before lifting the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970. He also played a starring role in the double winning side of the 1970-71 season. Undoubtedly his most important performance came in that season, scoring twice in the F.A Cup semi final against Stoke to rescue a seemingly lost tie from 2-0 down. Arsenal would go on to win the replay 2-0 and the final against Liverpool.
With the appointment of Terry Neill as Arsenal boss in 1977, Storey lost his place in the Arsenal side and was eventually sold to Fulham for £10,000. He played at Craven Cottage for just one season, making 17 appearances, before retiring from the game for good. During his playing years, Storey had made a reputation for his fearless play and tough tackles, and the media often referred to him as ‘one Storey that belonged in the horror section’.
Storey’s impressive performances warranted a call up to the England side, for whom he made 19 appearances in the 1970s, replacing the retiring Nobby Stiles. Despite England playing well during his time in the side, defeats in vital games meant Storey unfortunately never appeared in a major tournament for his country.
Having endured a turbulent start to life since its foundation as Dial Square in 1886, the newly named Woolwich Arsenal were desperate in their search for a professional status and entrance into the Football League. Having managed to gain both these accolades, they needed a proper stadium, as opposed to their slightly makeshift homes Manor Ground and Plumstead.
Due to its position on the edge of urban London, attendances, and hence income, at Plumstead were low. Therefore, there was some trepidation over the financial commitments required to build a new stadium. There was, however, no option to move, as continually falling attendances would have meant the end of the club.
Now legendary chairman Sir Henry Norris had looked at other sites before settling for Highbury and even after the location had been chosen, he faced major opposition from both the council and the nearby residents. Eventually, though, the ground was ready for the 1913 Division 1 season. Despite the fact that the ground itself wasn’t finished – indeed the pitch had a visible slope – Arsenal welcomed Leicester Fosse on September 6th 1913 in front of 20,000 fans. The visitors took the lead through Tommy Benfield but Woolwich Arsenal, as they would do many times at Highbury in years to come, turned the tie around with goals from George Jobey, who when injured was taken to the dressing room on a milk cart, and Archie Devine.