The answers to the anniversary quiz and how to re-write history

Happy Christmas everyone.  Here are the answers to our little quiz of yesterday…   For simplicity I have printed the questions again (in italics).  I did try and print them upside down, but then had to turn the computer around to read them, so it didn’t seem to help.

1.  In 1893, the year Arsenal joined the Football League, the club was unwittingly involved in transforming the rules about player registrations with clubs, creating the Retain and Transfer system which lasted over 60 years.   What triggered the change?

This was the 1893 Davie v Royal Arsenal Committee court case.  Davie was injured and Royal Arsenal refused to keep paying his salary.  He claimed in court that his contract said he would be paid no matter what, but the judge said the this was a nonsense as no one had to be paid when they couldn’t work.  As a result, that summer all the players’s contracts were changed and from then on the players were unable to leave the club without the club’s permission, even if they were not being played – or paid.

2.  Curiously, Arsenal were also involved in the legal end of Retain and Transfer when they bought in a player who had gone on strike in protest at the system.  Who was that – and when?

The wonderful George Eastham was the man – he forced through his transfer from Newcastle to Arsenal in the autumn of 1960 and finally became an Arsenal player on 18 November.   The court judgement revealed that retain and transfer was illegal, and freedom of movement began.  The next change did not occur until Bosman on 15 December 1995.

3.  We recently uncovered the story of an Arsenal player who was transferred from Arsenal to Tottenham on the Friday and who then played for Tottenham against Arsenal on the Saturday.  Who was it, and what was so odd about where he played in the match for Tottenham?

This was Laurie Brown, and what made it particularly interesting was that Brown played as a centre half for Arsenal, but was played as as a centre forward on the day after his transfer by Tottenham.  He had been a centre forward with Northampton Town, but never played that position in the First Division.

Bill Nicholson, the manager of Tottenham (who were top of the league at the time, but entering a difficult patch) was hailed as a tactical genius at the time, and his awareness contrasted with that of the Arsenal management under Billy Wright in 1964.  But the gamble didn’t pay off, and Brown was dropped by Tottenham after a handful of matches – although he came back the following season – at centre half.  Bobby Smith, the Tottenham number 9 was outraged by it all and quickly transferred out of the club.  Tottenham ended the season fourth.

4.  We also recently ran the story of the Arsenal player who later in life went on to manage Norway.  Who was that, and why did he leave Arsenal?

This is the story of George Curtis, who was transferred to Southampton with Tommy Rudkin in exchange for the wonderful Don Roper in August 1947.

These days we tend to think that playing outside your own country is a modern invention, but it has happened since the 19th century.  After Southampton George played for Valenciennes in France before coaching the Indian Olympic squad of 1948 followed by various clubs in England, plus San Diego Toros, and Rosenborg in Norway.

There is a lovely story that is oft repeated in which he started his first training session in Norway, speaking in English, saying “This is a ball,” while pointing to the ball. “Don’t go too fast, now!” called back the club’s star player.   He took over the Norwegian national team in 1972.

5.  One of the great traditions of the telling of Arsenal’s early history is to include a piece about a player who demanded a monkey as his signing on fee.   Who was it, and what is it that makes us think the story is not quite all it seems?

I think this story about John “Alex” Mackie is important not because of the monkey as such, but because it shows how stories can get out of hand.  Every source seems to mention the signing on fee, and some talk about Sir Henry Norris using his overseas connections to get the monkey – which given the fact that Norris was a Fulham property developer seems unlikely.

I can find only one source for the story – Bernard Joy’s book “Forward Arsenal!” – but he doesn’t say “signing on” at all.  He says that Alex Mackie thought his first week’s wages a king’s ransom, and was so overwhelmed at having money he went out a bought himself a monkey (probably in the London docks).

And there is an important difference between the monkey as a signing on fee, and the actual story told by Joy.  A signing on fee gives the impression of the club rushing around to meet the whim of this newcomer.  Him spending his own money is quite different.

It just shows the need to look back to the sources.

6.  We’ve often been critical about the way the image of Henry Norris is mostly built on the unsupported accusations made by Leslie Knighton – especially on the issue of transfers.  Who was Leslie Knighton, and what was his problem?

Leslie Knighton was the manager of Arsenal from 1919 to 1925 – he was the man who was sacked to make way for Chapman.

Knighton, by any standard was a failure and a half, missing relegation by one point in 1923/4 and one position the following year.

But 20 years later (and ten years after Norris died) he wrote an autobiography in which he trashed Henry Norris’ reputation with a series of unsubstantiated accusations.   Although George Allison’s autobiography came out the same year, and although Allison won the league with Arsenal twice, and the FA Cup once, it is Knighton’s scandal laden book that is endlessly quoted, while Allison’s volume (which speaks very highly of Norris, whom Allison knew for over 20 years) is ignored.

Knighton was doing two things: trying to justify his failure as a manager (by blaming Norris) and earn some cash in his retirement (the book was serialised in the sunday press).

Virtually all the stories that people repeat about Norris come from this book, and are simply not backed up by the facts.  One such story gives a feel for it all…

Knighton claimed that Norris was so restrictive in allocating money for transfers that Knighton couldn’t function as manager, and in the end Knighton was reduced to playing the brother in law of the club doctor (a man who was not attached to any club, and thus for whom no transfer fee was payable) on the wing.

In fact the player in question, Jimmy Paterson, was a top Scottish player, had won the league twice with Rangers, and had moved to London to further his own career as a doctor.

So good was he that when he retired, Chapman, no less, persuaded him to continue to play for Arsenal.

The Knighton allegation of transfer restrictions includes the suggestion that Norris set an arbitrary transfer maximum of £1000 per player. In fact Knighton himself often spent two or three times this amount – a fact that he had conveniently forgotten in his dotage.

It just shows – just because stories are repeated over and over, it doesn’t make them true.

7.  Which famous Double Winning Arsenal player asked Arsenal to provide a three piece suite for his mum and dad as part of his signing on fee, and what answer did he get in response?

The player was Eddie Kelly.  Bertie Mee’s response was, ‘Get up and get out of this office. Arsenal don’t do things like that. Come back in the morning and your plane ticket will be ready to go back to Glasgow.’   Fortunately he was persuaded to calm down, and Eddie signed.

8.  In 1997 Paul Merson left Arsenal, and recently suggested that Arsene Wenger begged him to stay.  In the same transfer window Arsenal brought in two midfielders; who were they?

Merson, who has been very critical of Wenger this year, spoke of his departure from Arsenal without much in the way of context, and we were left wondering if Wenger really did beg Merson to stay, or not.  What neither Merson nor the press reported was that at the time the negotiations to sell Merson were going on Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit were being signed – which perhaps put a slightly different flavour on just how much Merson was needed by Arsenal from that point on.

9.  In an attempt to illustrate how one shouldn’t read too much into one particular bad performance and awful result, we chose 4 May 2003.   What happened on that day, why was it bad, and then what happened?

Arsenal lost 2-3 at home to Leeds on that day, and so threw away any chance that they had of winning the league.  Leeds were in danger of being relegated, so the victory was anticipated and the defeat even more keenly felt.

We had the compensation of winning the FA Cup shortly after, but still it felt like a particularly awful moment as it was a match Arsenal should have won.  The next match – an easy home victory over Southampton – didn’t really soften the blow, and it wasn’t until much, much later that we realised that the defeat to Leeds was the very last league defeat, before the 49.

10.  In the last couple of years we’ve pieced together the various series of friendlies that Arsenal regularly played under Herbert Chapman.  The most famous were those against Racing Club de Paris, and against Rangers.   But during this year we also found another short series of games that have vanished from most history books.

Who did we play in that series, what specifically is the reason we think it started, and what was the historic connection that linked the clubs and Herbert Chapman?

There’s nothing particularly important about this bit of research – I just enjoyed finding something that had been completely forgotten and it gives a little more flavour to the personality of Herbert Chapman.  But it does show there are trinkets left awaiting rediscovery in Arsenal’s rich history.

The Racing Club fixture was arranged to commemorate the Armictice at the end of the first world war, and all income from the games was given to surviving vetrans of  the war.  The Rangers fixture was first played in 1933 as the Game of Champions and the players and officials of Racing were guests of honour.  In return Herbert Chapman and Samuel Hill Wood (the chairmen) were given the French Medal of Physical Culture.

And until this year, if you had looked for series of friendlies from the Chapman era, that’s what you would have found: Racing and Rangers.   But there was a third series, and as I wrote in an article on the History Society site, I think we can piece what happened together from the fact that in December 1929 a fire destroyed three stands at the County Ground, where Northampton Town played.  The stands were rebuilt by August 1930, and so it is likely that Northampton Town were looking for funds to help pay for the rebuilding.

I suspect someone at Northampton Town, seeing the progress Chapman was making at Arsenal, but before the huge success of the 1930s got under way, got in touch, reminded him that Northampton gave him his first managerial opportunity and suggested a friendly, to celebrate the opening of one of the rebuilt stands – and raise a little cash along the way.

These arrangements would have been made in the winter of 1929, at which time Arsenal had never won a major trophy.  By the time Northampton played the first match, what they got were the holders of the FA Cup.  The following year they got the league champions.


I hope this little dip into the club’s history gave a little amusement.   The Arsenal History Society blog publishes two or three new articles a week (yesterday’s was about the Arsenal player who became Icelandic minister of finance) and they are indexed in the anniversary files – you can find them through the link above.

Just as Untold always welcomes articles, so does the History Society – as well as extra information on the many players we have covered but on whom we can’t find out everything we want to know.

If you have extra info, do just add it to an article.  If you want to create a new article, just drop me a line with the details – just to ensure that you are about to research something that we have already investigated.

Happy Christmas 2014

2 Replies to “The answers to the anniversary quiz and how to re-write history”

  1. “But 20 years later (and ten years after Norris died) he wrote an autobiography in which he trashed Henry Norris’ reputation with a series of unsubstantiated accusations. Although George Allison’s autobiography came out the same year, and although Allison won the league with Arsenal twice, and the FA Cup once, it is Knighton’s scandal laden book that is endlessly quoted, while Allison’s volume (which speaks very highly of Norris, whom Allison knew for over 20 years) is ignored.”

    And nothing has changed.

    Today, the media will happily quote Le Grove and painstakingly look for the depressed soul in row 9 with their camera. They love to perpetuate nothing but negativity when it comes to this club. The truth be damned if it doesn’t make Arsenal look bad!

    Merry Christmas to all the Untold community members and I wish you all a blissful 2015!

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