By Tony Attwood
Of course there was a time when Arsenal were regularly knocked out of the FA Cup by teams from lower leagues: Chapman’s league champions were knocked out by Wallsall, in 1933. Later the club was undone by Northampton Town in 1958, Sheffield Utd in 1959, Rotherham Utd in 1960, Sunderland in 1961, Peterborough in 1965, Birmingham in 1967, Birmingham again in 1968.
After that we got away with it for a while until York in 1985 and Wrexham in 1992. Clubs like Wrexham still mark the event as one of the greatest moments in their club’s history. It happens.
And as we all now know, because lots of people looked it up, Lincoln are the first non-league club to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup since Queens Park Rangers in 1914.
I don’t think many went beyond that point however to ask, for example, what the FA Cup was like in 1913/14. Or come to that what professional football was like, but it is an interesting diversion. If you don’t like diversions, do look away now.
In essence when QPR did what Lincoln have done and what Sutton aim to do, there were two full time professional leagues – the first and second divisions of the Football League. Beyond that was the still powerful semi-pro Southern League – a league that had gained a lot of quality players in the previous few years by standing outside of the pernicious “retain and transfer” rules established after Royal Arsenal won a landmark court case against one of its players – George Davie – over whether they had to pay him or not. Not Arsenal’s finest moment given that they were a club set up by and for the players, not the pernicious owners who ruled elsewhere.
Much of the Southern League of that era eventually became the 3rd Division (South) of the Football League and by this time it was made up of names that will be familiar to us now… Here’s the league table for the year QPR got to the quarter finals. There were two points for a win, and clubs with equal points were separated by dividing goals for by goals against to get a “goal average”.
What we can see are such current Premier League luminaries as Crystal Palace, West Ham and Southampton in the league. Indeed the only club to have dropped out of Football League activity from this list of nearly 100 years ago is Merthyr who in this season were relegated with Coventry to Division 2 of the Southern League.
|6||West Ham United||38||15||12||11||61||60||1.02||42|
|7||Brighton & Hove Albion||38||15||12||11||43||45||0.96||42|
|8||Queens Park Rangers||38||16||9||13||45||43||1.05||41|
As for Woolwich Arsenal they were playing in their first season at Highbury, but retained the old name for a while longer finally changing it between 20 and 23 April 1914 to The Arsenal. We went out of the cup in the first round that season on 10 January 1914 losing 2-0 away to Bradford City.
As for the forthcoming game, it is a match in which virtually everyone is against us. The rest of the Premier League, all the media, all their allies in the aaa… that’s how it goes these days. In fact I am getting to think the number of people who actually want Arsenal to win is down to the readership of Untold – and some of those are known to write odd comments.
So what of Sutton? Unlike Lincoln who are an ex-League team, and who look like going back to the Football League fairly soon, Sutton have eternally been non-league.
Sutton went through the classic route in local leagues, and then the Athenian League one of the classic amateur leagues which finally folded in 1984 with the unstoppable advance of semi-pro football. Sutton went to the Isthmian League in 1964 and the Conference in 1986 falling back in 1991 ending up later in the Conference South. They won the National League South in 2015–16, and so are in the National League for the first time.
They have played in two Amateur Cup finals and the FA Trophy final. In 1989 they beat Coventry 2-1 in the third round – Coventry had won the Cup two seasons earlier and were establishing themselves as a solid mid-table in the first division at the time. Some writers consider this the biggest FA Cup upset in the history of FA Cup upsets.
Here are their exploits so far this season in the Cup
|October||4th Premliminary Round|
|Sat 15||3.00||H||Forest Green Rovers||FAC||751||W||2-1|
|Sat 3||3.00||H||Cheltenham Town||FAC||2224||W||2-1|
|January||3rd and 4th rounds|
|Sat 7||3.00||H||AFC Wimbledon||FAC||5013||D||0-0|
|Tue 17||7.45||A||AFC Wimbledon||FAC||4768||W||3-1|
|Sun 29||2.00||H||Leeds United||FAC||4997||W||1-0|
Since the Leeds game they have played four games, two in the FA Trophy and two in the National League…
|Sat 4||3.00||H||Boreham Wood||FAT||879||D||0-0|
|Tue 7||7.45||A||Boreham Wood||FAT||269||L||0-5|
|Sat 11||3.00||A||Solihull Moors||NL||671||L||0-3|
It looks like their minds are elsewhere. In fact their last ten games consist of six defeats, three wins and a draw. Here is their league table…
|2||Dagenham & Redbridge||32||19||4||9||57||36||21||61|
|3||Forest Green Rovers||32||17||9||6||64||39||25||60|
However they are doing better at home than away. Here’s the home results.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.
Latest from the Arsenal History Society blog, continuing the complete history of Arsenal in the 1930s…