Arsenal 1893 vs Chelsea 1905. A college of divinity vs an ex-coal tip

The club that changed football

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Making the Arsenal



Chelsea FC was formed in 1905, after a meeting between a football enthusiast and the owner of a down-and-out athletics stadium which had previously been used as a coal tip, decided that west London could do with another football team.

An application was made to join the Southern League.  There was no club, no players, no history, and no supporters – just a ground in need of development.

Tottenham, then members of the Southern League, decided to oppose the move, and whipped up some feeling against the fact that there was no club at all, and that the whole application was artificial.  The Southern League voted not to accept the application from the non-Club.

Chelsea then applied to join the Football League.  Woolwich Arsenal, a first division team at the time, made no objection and so Chelsea were accepted.  (Interestingly while Woolwich Arsenal moved to the grounds of a college of divinity, Chelsea continued to play on their ex-coal tip.)

But back to history.  Chelsea quickly gathered together a team, and brought in Archibald Leitch as their football stadium architect.

Leitch had found little work at the time, following the collapse of terracing at Rangers ground in 1902, causing mass injuries and over 20 deaths so he was up for anything, even at half price.  Indeed he even did some work at the Manor Ground – for which he was not paid until Henry Norris sorted out the accounts at Woolwich Arsenal in 1910.

Leitch was supposed to be in charge of the works when the terracing at Rangers was built, but evidence presented at the inquests and subsequent enquiry showed that he had not checked that the materials he had prescribed were used.    He was, in short, sidetracked by other jobs and in contemporary talk was guilty of a dereliction of duty.  But only the building contractors went on trial.  Leitch just gave evidence to say that they didn’t do what he told them to do, and no charge was pressed.

This is interesting and relevant, because in 1905 the same thing happened – he got the Chelsea job (not least because he was available cheap), but simultaneously got the job of designing and building a new stand at Craven Cottage, and he worked on both at once to make up the short fall in his salary.  In both cases he was designated as the man to oversee the works (as at Rangers) and ensure the right materials were used – but in fact so short of time was he, he submitted exactly the same design for the new stand at Fulham as he did at Chelsea.

Within a short while problems occurred at Chelsea and the terracing began to break up – the story is told in “Making the Arsenal” which focuses on the London clubs in 1910.

So the team with no team, no support, and just an old wreck of a ground was born and they entered division 2 in 1905.

Last season we played them twice but only one game is memorable – the 5-3 win away.  At home it was 0-0 and quite honestly I can’t remember it at all.

Chelsea have had the easiest of starts this season beating teams like Reading, Wolverhampton  and Newcastle, but coming unstuck against Man City, Athletico Madrid and drawing with Juve.  They might be coming good – but it hasn’t been the hardest of openings for them.

As for Arsenal, Giroud has scored which is good news, and he and quite a few other people noted that there were just under 60,000 people in the ground to witness the moment.

But that doesn’t mean he will play.  Arsène Wenger said that the type of centre forward he selects in each game will dictate the team’s attacking approach – and suggested that he is picking his number 9 according to the game.   So is it Podolski, Giroud or Gervinho for the centre in this game?   Of course he could pick all three and give signals from the bench to rotate.  That would be fun.

Wenger said,

“Up front affects the [whole] team.  Whether you have a more mobile player or a more [physical] player affects the passing of the team.    We can be efficient with both styles, I even think we can combine the two which I try to do in some games. It is good, you cannot play a season with one striker.

“We have many strikers. Walcott can play through the middle as well, so we have good options that we will try through the season.  The season is very long, we have only played five games now [in the Premier League] so we will have the chance to test all of the solutions.”

So we move on to comparisons with last year where we knocked in seven goals in seven, as opposed to 17 in seven this season – and that after two goalless draws.  It is looking exciting.

The team might (or might not) be:

Gibbs Vermaelen Koscielny Jenkinson
Arteta Diaby
Podolski Gervinho Giroud
but then I suggested something like this last time, and Mr W put Ramsey in, so it is probably best if you don’t taken any notice of me, as usual.  Walcott?  Oxlade-Chamberlain?
Terry will play for the other lot, so at least we can sing a few amusing ditties.

28 Replies to “Arsenal 1893 vs Chelsea 1905. A college of divinity vs an ex-coal tip”

  1. LOL, the “coal tip” comment is rich coming from you lot. Your first ground in Plumstead had an open sewer running through it. At least we haven’t “whored” ourself around London, a proposed merger with Fulham and then relocating to Spurs territory. One name, one ground, one hundred (plus) years, something you can never boast. Not to mention the FIRST and so far only London club to win the European Cup.
    Incidentally for a team with “no support” it’s rather odd that by the end of our first season we were attracting crowds in the tens of thousand, over 67,000 for the visit of Man Utd.

  2. I think Chris you should read the article a little more carefully. Chelsea had no support when it entered the league because it had never played a game. The Manor Ground did not have an open sewer running through it – you are confusing that with the original Millwall ground on the Isle of Dogs.

    As for 100 years, well we can boast 109 years in the league, and a few more cups and league championships than Chelsea, although of course it is true we have not won the European Cup on penalties or otherwise.

    Chelsea did indeed gain support, and thanks to the intervention of Tottenham did become the best supported London team before the first world war. But the fact is that in 1910 there were serious problems with the terracing, which is what I mentioned, and which is told in the “Making the Arsenal” book that I cited.

  3. Far be it from a Chelsea supporter to question you on Arsenal History but didnt Dial Square play in Plumstaed on what had been a pig field before moving to Manor Field which whilst it may not hae had an open sewer running through it did have one running alongside and resulted in the ground being very muddy?

  4. C’mon Chelsea fans – please concentrate on a long, and shared, loathing of SpudsFC and the fact that your first major honour was with Ted Drake as manager.

    On top of that, you cannot deny the origin of the traditional London folk song, ‘Stamford Bridge is falling down!’ :p

    That line-up looks tasty Tony – I see us scoring 4 despite the stingy defence at the other end.

  5. Mike T, the Arsenal History Society has been trying to unravel the Dial Square issue for the last couple of years, in fact we have a blog that works on it regularly (

    In essence Arsenal was formed as a footballing off shoot of Dial Square Cricket Club, but probably never played under the Dial Square name. The fabled first match on the Isle of Dogs next to an open sewer, if it did exist, probably took place with the club having no name, or being Royal Arsenal. Certainly by match number 2 they were Royal Arsenal, and continued as such until 1893 when they entered the league.

    The ground in question was almost certainly the original Millwall ground, before they moved south of the river. There are numerous articles reviewing the evidence on the above mentioned site.

    The ground you are thinking of, as a previous Arsenal ground, was the Invicta, which Royal Arsenal used until the club split in two – one part becoming Woolwich Arsenal and the other becoming Royal Ordnance Factories who played in the Southern League. There is no report of any sewer by that.

    The Manor Ground was used by Arsenal Reserves and the school and youth teams, until it was bought by Woolwich Arsenal in June 1893 as it was thought that ROF FC was about to whisk it away from them.

    Back to today, the Guardian reports that Arsenal will put out the team I mentioned except with a forward line of Ramsey – Gervinho – Podolski.

    They also have a couple of other interesting factoids…

    • Over the past 33 league matches between these sides, Chelsea have only won when they have fielded the summer departure Didier Drogba

    • Arsenal won their first 12 home Premier League fixtures against Chelsea but have won just two of their last eight

    • Mikel Arteta has averaged 111 touches per match this term, the most in the division

    • Chelsea and Arsenal are the only top flight teams yet to concede a second-half goal

    • Only Vito Mannone (91%) has a better saves-to-shots ration this season than Petr Cech (88%)

    Of course I think back to the 5-3, but I also remember in horror that dreadful defeat – 4-1 was it (I can’t bring myself to look it up) at home about 3 years ago in the rain.

    Such is football.

  6. Tont

    Thanks I wasnt aware that there was such confusion as to Arsenals past. Ever thought about asking the BBC if they can feature you on Who Do You Think You Are?


    You make a good point about Spurs and yes I can remember thet song and in truth frior to good old Ken B it was a terrible mess.

    As for tomorrow dont really know what to make of it. Its easy to point at teams already played but you can only play against those put in front of you.

    Our whole approach has changed this season and the real wekness is in the two holding midfielders. RDM wants to play Lampard and Mikel there but it doesnt work. Mikel wins the ball ok but he can not play a simple pass, he quite simply gives the ball away too much. Once RDM settles for Ramieres and Romeu there things will settle.
    The back four will soon settle and I am not sure that Terry will first chioce for that much longer.Although at the moment he and Luiz will be first choice as will Cole but over the coming weeks Ivanovich may well struggle to retain the RB slot.
    Up front there are several options. My guess is that you will see Hazzard, Torres,Mata & Moses although Sturridge, Marin and Oscar will start to play more games.
    So I would think our team for Tomorrow will be: Chech, Ivan, Terry, Luiz( or possibly Cahill) Cole,Lampard, Mikel,Hazzard, Mata,Torres & Moses

  7. Tony said “I think Chris you should read the article a little more carefully. Chelsea had no support when it entered the league because it had never played a game.”

    Err, surely the same can be said about EVERY club before it plays it’s first game? Or did Dial Square, Woolwich Arsenal or whatever you used to be called have fans prior to your forming in 1893 😉

    P.S. The Emirates is built on an old RUBBISH dump.

  8. Sammy the Snake, did you get a trophy for that 5-3 win then? You’re getting as bad as Spurs and you’ll be bringing out souvenir DVD’s of wins over Chelsea next.

  9. Tony,
    For all your historical knowledge, you are wrong.

    Everyone knows Chelsea FC was established in 2003 when the Irish Baron, Abram O’Vich struck oil in West London, and decided to form a football club on the grounds of the pensioners of yore. Their quick rise to the top echelons of the league is something all Chelsea fans (all 35,000 of them) are proud of, as of the size of their transfer budget. The trophy cabinet too can only be compared back no more than a decade since before that is ancient history and doesn’t count. No matter that they call themselves the Roman Army 🙂

  10. Chris
    We had support when we entered the league, ie, we existed beforehand that’s what Tony means.

  11. atkinson is the ref. he ususally is biased in favor of chelsea. that ccould be a deciding factor in tomorrows match.

  12. The sky panel, not one single Arsenal representative and yet they include Redknapp(Jnr)Gooner hater, an old prick who thought he could sing and a crazy scot.

  13. 42″, Gerv makes it 1-1.

    He strikes inside penalty box like a striker.
    Maybe we found new striker.

  14. Torres found the net! But only side net. So 1-1 at the end of 1st half.

    Stat from somewhere, so far these two teams never concede goals in 2nd half.

  15. I will take that result and performance every day.
    Thought not starting with Walcott was a mistake for you and other than the odd glimpses very little happening in your midfield, Ramereis and Mikel looked comfortable.
    Defensively you are all over the place free kicks were a problem for you as were your full backs when we had a cahnce to run at you.
    The stats showed you had plenty of chances but Cech only really had one save of note to make.

  16. we lost due to 3 reasons:
    *chelsea luck, cant believe hw lucky they were, everytime the ball bounces back to their player plus 2nd goal.
    *atkinson and co., free fouls and offsides for against arsenal, not enough cards, 1st goal torres playing jedo with kos.
    *must importantly, why did Wenger subst. ramsey, arsenal.lost control after that, specially that neither fresh walcott nor gervinho or cazorla trace back to get ball 4wrd arteta alone

    still we played with pride and Wenger is goin to get something from this team, oh hw.i missed rosicky 2day….

  17. Sorry Yassin cant agree

    Where was the luck for Chelsea toady?
    I would argue that both Torres and Kos were all over each other. The goal was down to poor defending. For me the ref just about got all the decisions right. Could easily have booked a couple more on both sides.
    You being an Arsenal supporter and me Chelsea we are both bound to see things through red, in your case and blue in mine, coloured specs. Arsenal lost because they are poor in the defensive third.
    If Wenger or Arsenal supporters go away from today thinking all was fine it was just one of those days well your going o have a long hard season.

  18. Generally I though this was a very poor performance based on our last few games. Second half we were lacking in belief and our standard slip back quite badly. Yes Kos was fouled for the torris goal however their second was just down right stupid on our part. There s a lot of work to do with this team.

  19. Mike T

    The Sportsman ground was rented by Royal Arsenal from a Pig farmer, called “Piggy Walton” for their 1887-8 games. The ground was not a farm but a sports facility entitled the “Sportsman Running field” where they also held cricket, athletics, dog racing and cycling. Virtually all the previous histories on Arsenal have taken the fact he was a pig farmer and assumed they played on his farm. They did not, but played on land next to the pub where he was also landlord at the Sportsman pub.

    This and and many other revisionist Arsenal research will be presented in Tony’s, Andy’s and my Book on Royal Arsenal FC 1886-1893 to be published in the summer of 2013.

    I thought Chelsea deserved their win today, as much as it pains me to admit it.


  20. Also, to support their application to the Football League, Chelsea agreed to make payments to the midlands and northern teams to cover their travelling costs to London.

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