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July 2021

It’s Arsenal but not as you know it; the re-discovery of Arsenal’s past

UNTOLD: I am pleased to have with me today Tony Attwood, a man who of late has been telling anyone who will listen, and quite a few people that won’t, that Arsenal isn’t quite the Arsenal that we know.  What’s it about Tony?

Tony Attwood: In essence the club that we thought we knew isn’t the club we thought we knew.

UNTOLD: That is a rather bizarre repeating of what I just said.  Could you expand?

Tony: Well, we rather like to think that the club was a formed by a lovely bunch of hard working individuals who travelled from Nottingham and all points north, and who formed a club called Dial Square, which over time became Arsenal.

UNTOLD: And isn’t that true?

Tony: Only up to a point.  In fact the club had to endure all sorts of problems along the way, including two periods of major financial difficulty, and one attempt by a group of dissenters to destroy the club completely.  All the original men save one left the club quite early on; it was in fact just one man who provided the continuity.

UNTOLD: This sounds dastardly.  Who were these people who tried to destroy our club?

Tony: Members of the club who were not getting their own way.  In the end they went and formed a rival club Royal Ordnance Factories FC, so for a while Plumstead had two clubs, one playing in the Southern League and the other in Division 2 of the Football League.

UNTOLD: But Arsenal survived – otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

Tony: Yes, but the finances of the club were troubled. They had a problem during the Boer War because the factories where the men worked went onto compulsory overtime on Saturday afternoons, so they lost a lot of their crowd.  And then they had difficulties because the directors got it all wrong, and leading up to 1910 the debts mounted.

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UNTOLD: What happened in 1910?

Tony: Henry Norris came in.

UNTOLD: Ah the evil black bearded baron who rapes children and eats their mothers?

Tony: Not as such.  Norris has always had a bad press, but in fact he was in every way Arsenal’s saviour, and the man who built the modern club.  He paid off all the club’s debts in 1910, and in 1913 found the ground at Gillespie Road and paid for the building of what we now call “Highbury”.  It was his vision and dedication to Arsenal that made the club survive.

UNTOLD: But he was still an evil fascist dictator who forced his workmen to work 28 hours a day for 3d a week.

Tony: In fact, when he stood for parliament in 1918 he stood on a platform of jobs for every returning soldier, pensions for all injured soldiers, cutting rail fares in half, and votes for women.  What’s more he openly said that the disputes between government and striking workers were generally were down to the ineptitude of government, not the evil of the working man wanting to take over the country.

UNTOLD: So Norris became Arsenal chairman.  Did he stay long?

Tony: Until 1927 – along with Jack Humble who joined the club in 1887.  In fact Jack Humble was the first chairman of Arsenal as a league club and the man who represented continuity all the way through Arsenal’s early years.  Together Norris and Humble, with one other long serving director, William Hall, appointed Herbert Chapman as manager.

UNTOLD: What else do we need to know about the young Arsenal?

Tony: The fact that from the earliest days there was a version of the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal in the ground, who could turn on Arsenal’s own players and boo them.  The fact that Arsenal was the first club to have its ground shut for crowd problems.  And the fact that Arsenal more or less invented away travel.  They would take dancers, musicians and singers with them, as well as a group of lads from the torpedo factory who would let off home-made fireworks.   The rest of the football world had never seen anything like it.

UNTOLD: Well I think that is about enough to be going on with.

Tony: There’s far more – the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham started long before Arsenal moved to north London.   And there’s another claim to fame for Arsenal, as they were the first league club in the south of England, and the club that invented the concept of the Southern League.

UNTOLD: How can I find out more?

Tony: I thought you would never ask.  The history of Woolwich Arsenal – the club that entered the league in 1893 and which mutated into The Arsenal in 1915, has never been told properly before.  Now, because Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews have spent millions of hours inside newspaper libraries and the like studying the local daily papers and old documents associated with Arsenal, the real story of Arsenal’s early years as a league club has been told.  The book is called Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.

UNTOLD: Has it got pictures?

Tony: Loads of pictures, details of players, managers, shareholders, and the complete story of everything you could ever wish to know about the early club.   It really is a different story from the one you will read in all the other histories, because it has all been researched afresh.

UNTOLD: And where can I get it?

Tony: First you can order it from the publishers.  See that link that I slipped in above?  No? ah well, here it is again.

Second you can try Amazon – but they are being a bit soppy about their selling.  Some days they have it in stock, available for next day delivery, and then other days they don’t.  Trouble with them is they are not ordering enough copies to keep up with demand.

And you should be able to buy it from the Arsenal shop too, both on line and at the shop at the stadium.   They had copies available for last Saturday’s game, but they, like Amazon sold out on the day.  However they’ve got more copies in their warehouse, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

UNTOLD: So it’s “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” by Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.

Tony: Well actually its by me as well, only I was too modest to say.

UNTOLD: Oh for goodness sake.   Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football, by Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.  All right?

Tony: With an intro by Ed Humble, the great grandson of Jack Humble.

UNTOLD: Thank you

Tony: An honour and a privilege

22 comments to It’s Arsenal but not as you know it; the re-discovery of Arsenal’s past

  • Very interesting read – I just might buy that book.

    Are the Anti Arsenal – Arsenal defined as people who boo the players at the stadium, or is it wider than that?

  • Excellent!
    You need to RE-post this on a fairly regular basis.
    Some people don’t surf each and every day, some take holidays…

    Obviously (!) the book will begin at the very beginning of the club’s history. At what point in time does the book end?

  • Why have you given me a green miserable face?
    My comment was positive. Can you give me a happy face? Thanking you in advance.

  • What’s going on? You’ve done it AGAIN!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Big Al, the computer generates them random but once it has given you an avatar you get stuck with it. There fore I created my own world wide avatar that follows me like a shadow wherever I go…

  • ARSENAL 13

    some promotional activities ……

  • @Walter
    That’s not good enough. I’d like a free book by way of apology.
    Thanking you in advance.

  • Georgaki-Pyrovolitis

    @Big Al, 9:56 am login to:

    You should be able to generate your own avatar. You will need an image of your choice.

  • Andy Kelly

    Big Al, the book starts in 1893. The prequel will cover the real story of the club’s foundation and struggle against one man who thought he had more friends than he really did. A bit like those who formed Royal Ordnance FC and Tottenham.

  • mark andrews

    Big Al,

    The book does not start at the beginning of the club, it starts at the beginning of Woolwich Arsenal Football Club which was formed out of Royal Arsenal FC and is dated between 1893-1915.

    We are shortly starting on the Royal Arsenal FC book which is dated 1886-1993. It should be published this time next year.

    There was much barracking of players and officials at the Manor Field. Nowhere, could I find this done intentionally to the detriment of the club.


  • Shakabula Gooner

    If Big Al gets a free book, I must get 10 free.
    Then again, I see Georgaki’s avatar, generated obviously by him and I know that AAA is in trouble we have king kong to eat them all up (smiles pls!)

    Tony congrats on the book. I hope it sits well on a coffee table? The coffee table is already in place. Now, to kick in my arrangement to get a copy…now I know why you colluded with Walter to increase the hits on this blog all summer long

  • mark andrews

    Obviously it should say 1893 and not 1993 as above.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Congratulations, Tony. All Untold regulars get a signed copy (fully paid, of course), right?

  • Andy Kelly

    Shakabula, just to let you know that Walter paid for his copy 😉

  • Bloody hell, I write a piece about the most wonderful book ever written in the history of humanity and everyone starts commenting on the avatars!

  • LRV

    @Shakabula, Remember, I had been with untold almost from inception. I paid for my own copy, so you have to pay for yours. lol! Walter paid for his (I have seen the evidence) and I presume Dogface paid (Don’t have the evidence, I am afraid).

  • Matt Clarke

    My avatar is rather nice – the computer that generated it must know me.

    (Hehe, sorry Tony, I could not resist).

    I am half way through reading said book and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the history, not only of our club, but of the development of league football in this country. It is fascinating.

    Some interesting aside therein on corruption in the game too.

  • Stuart

    I watched Avatar last night. Great film!


  • @Georgaki-Pyrovolitis – Cheers buddy!
    @Andy Kelly – Cheers buddy!
    @mark andrews – Cheers buddy!

  • Adam

    Nice advert Mr Attwood, Henry Norris evil? I suggest taking a stroll through the life of Cecil Rhodes, The surname should give it away (anyway totally unrelated but both were around at the same time, and both political).
    Oh Yeah, What are the titles of your books?

  • semeotistic

    While it is amazing to know the history of Arsenal, the motivations of these men remain shrouded in the mist of time. Even today no one really knows why or how Arsene and the board come to make the decisions they do. Your site remains a treasure trove of information nonetheless. Keep up the good work!

  • Gouresh

    hahahahaha, could not stop laughing about the avatar comments…..will be still laughing on my motorbike to work….great start to the day. OH…will be looking at purchasing this book