Why 22 June is just about the most important day in the year in Arsenal’s history.

By Tony Attwood

Today is my birthday. Of course as one gets older birthdays get to mean less, and indeed one can readily wish that they didn’t have to happen quite so often.

And birthdays get a bit more spread out.  I saw one of my daughters and her children last weekend, I’ll see another of my daughters and her children next weekend, and had a lovely chat on the phone with my third daughter who lives in Australia.

But this has nothing to do with my headline.   For if you ever look at the anniversary list that we publish each day (that is each day apart from the days when I get the dates confused and put the wrong list up) on the home page, you might have noticed that there are some other rather interesting moments.

The one that really pleased me when I realised it happened on my birthday occurred on 22 June 1893  It was the first AGM of Woolwich Arsenal was held under the chairmanship of  Jack Humble as the club’s first directors were elected ahead of entry into the Football League for the first time.

I suspect most fans don’t know just how near to the edge Arsenal came in 1892/3 – the committee that ran the club split along what seems to have been class lines, the middle class men having as their prime ally the owner of the club’s Invicta ground.   Arsenal were already paying a rent way beyond the norm for a football club and he announced that rent would rise dramatically next season.

It was a take it or leave it situation, and undoubtedly set up to force the current committee out, to be replaced by his allies.  But the working men who made up the bulk of the committee retaliated, applied for a place in the Football League (which they got), and found a new ground (The Manor Ground) virtually opposite the Invicta.

The landlord of the Invicta ground, then conspired with others to make arrangements so that he would buy the Manor Field, but not until the Arsenal men had spent all their money preparing it as a football ground.  It was a thoroughly evil plot since it would have bankrupted most of them had the plan succeeded.  Fortunately the owner of the Manor Ground had more honour than the middle class rebels, and refused to do the dirty deed.  Arsenal pushed their plans through and on 22 June 1893, the newly formed Woolwich Arsenal Football Club Ltd had its first AGM under the chairmanship of Jack Humble – one of the men who had steered Arsenal through from its earliest beginnings to this moment.

Moving on, 22 June 1901 was a sad day in the world of Arsenal as George Lawrence, benefactor extraordinary to the Woolwich Arsenal, and the club’s very first historian, died of a heart attack. He is one of the men, without whom there would have been no Arsenal because through his generosity of money and time he kept the club going in the hard times, for no reason other than he believed in it.

He is also the man who arranged the first away trips to matches and the first “days out” for supporters of the club, in which they would hire a train and for a day and travel to the coast or other place of interest.  The first of these was on 14 July 1894 when his excursion to Hastings was patronised by 400 people.

George Lawrence’s early history of the club is also vital to our understanding of Arsenal and how it developed.  He took over his father’s newsagents and turned it into a flourishing business, became a Conservative member of the Borough Council, and a Patron of the Cottage Hospital Committee and Woolwich Soup Society.

He was a shareholder in Arsenal, was involved in the move to professionalism, was involved in the rejection of the outrageous demands of the landlord and he was the man who signed all the documents to transform Royal Arsenal FC into Woolwich Arsenal FC.    He also personally paid for the deposit on the Manor Fields to secure it for Woolwich Arsenal.  He then bonded £1500 as part of the way to secure the £4000 mortgage on the Manor Fields ground.

And if that were not enough he published the first ever Arsenal Handbook.  A copy of the 1894/5 “Woolwich District Foot ball Handbook is still in existence and contains a founding account by Fred Beardsley – very handy since it was almost a contemporary account.

There is a more complete account of George Lawrence and the other directors and shareholders of the era in the book “Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football” – details below)

Then I come to the third vital anniversary on 22 June 1925: Herbert Chapman took up the job of Secretary Manager of Arsenal FC.   I think every Arsenal supporter will know that this was a moment of supreme importance within the club, ranking alongside the move to professionalism in 1891, the application to join the League in 1893, the rescue of the club by Henry Norris in 1910 and the move to Highbury in 1913.

Chapman came to Arsenal at a time when the club had just escaped relegation for two seasons in a row.  In his first season he  took Arsenal to second in the league, and in 1927 to their first cup final.

But I think some people believe that Chapman then delivered trophies straight away – and this is wrong.  It was not until his fifth season at the club that Arsenal won the FA Cup, and before that on 5 April 1929 Herbert Chapman resigned from Arsenal after a 1-2 home defeat to Newcastle, feeling he had not achieved what he had promised.  Fortunately Sir Henry Norris rejected his offer and told Chapman to carry on.  The following season Arsenal won the FA Cup for the first time, and in 1931 won the League for the first time.

After another cup final and another runners up spot in 1932, Chapman won the League again in 1933 but tragically died in January 1934.  However so massive was his legacy that first under Joe Shaw and then under George Allison Arsenal won the league again to make it three in a row.  Indeed Allison copied Chapman’s record of two league trophies and the FA Cup, before the war called a halt to such matters.

Just as it is quite likely that there would have been no Woolwich Arsenal had not George Lawrence been there to take on the club’s landlord and his fellow travellers on the Committee, so it is likely that there would have been no Arsenal glory in the 1930s without Herbert Chapman.   More likely Arsenal would have finally succumbed to relegation and joined Tottenham in the second division, instead of becoming the first London club to win the league.

So three 22 June dates: 1893, 1901, 1925, two marking the start of the next part of the adventure, one marking the death of a man now forgotten in the annals of the club but one of the massive heroes who ensured the club continued; one of several from the early days who deserves his own statue somewhere in the grounds of the Emirates Stadium.

Of course it being my birthday helps me remember these particular events, but that is not the point.  It is much more important that we do remember our club’s history, and recognise the huge achievements of those men who came in generations before ours, and through whose work we now have the club that we support.


Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football.  By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.   The book that turned our understanding of Arsenal’s history totally upside down, cataloguing the club’s split into rival factions, its bankruptcy, its revival, and the all-important move to Highbury.

27 Replies to “Why 22 June is just about the most important day in the year in Arsenal’s history.”

  1. Just imagine if they had had blogs, Neil Ashton and social media in 1930. Five seasons at The Arsenal and Chapman could only manage 14th place with 39 points. Apart from that second place in his first season his best finish had been 9th. And he played for that lot from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters.

  2. Happy Birthday Tony! Many happy returns of the day.

    The commitment and perseverance of those in the past in serving the Club had paved the way for the Arsenal to build its character and spirit. Long may this legacy continue to shape the destiny of this great and proud Club.

  3. Happy birthday Tony……I class you and Walter as being among the stalwarts of the Arsenal, because:

    1) your advanced age makes you a scion among us lesser lights, and you are both true gentlemen,

    2) both you & Walter kept this blog (the undisputed best on the net) faithful to your 2008 mission,

    3) you both represent what it is to be a TRUE GOONER and what it means to support your club through thick and thin,

    4) You both have been bulwarks against the fetid tide of aaa, shite media and corrupt international and national authorities, including the PIGMOB!

    So have a great one and drink a Murphy’s (the best Irish stout) in your favourite pub !!!

  4. Happy birthday to you Sir, Mr Tony Attwood and many happy returns of it. Amen.

    I was just going to say it but you first me said it. Is the late people like Herbert Chapman’s statute that should have since been first erected at the Arsenal Highbury Stadium. And then move it down to the new Arsenal Stadium being sponsored as the Emirates.

    If this is done, Arsenal fans will have the open opportunity to keep remembering him as they see his statute and also buy some books on the history of his achievements for Arsenal. Which is a small way of immortalising the Arsenal manager that first won the League title for us.

  5. Tony,
    “As one gets older, birthdays get to mean less”.
    Don’t you believe it, Tony. As you approach each anniversary of your birth, after the big nine-o, there is a feeling of amazement and achievement, that one has lasted so long. Most of your chums have gone, of course and although your memory of things past is phenomenal, by the afternoon each day, you simply cannot recall what you ate for breakfast.
    Pretty girls will help you to cross the road (even if you don’t actually wish to go).
    Increasing deafness can be a useful aid when you wish to avoid a chore or an argument.
    And as the years slowly condemn, glaucoma, dodgy cholesterol, high blood pressure and prostate trouble and gout can all be dismissed as mere casual annoyances to be expected in one’s twilight years.
    So you see ,Tony, you have much for which to look forward, in a few more decades of celebrating your birthday……I think. 😉

  6. Tony,

    best wishes for your birthday which by the way coïncides with the Luxembourg national Day.

    Wish you good health first, the rest will align itself.



  7. happy birthday’ Tony. thanks for the reminder of a proud history of Arsenal football club that can be serve for the younger generation supporters, to remember all the hardship and sacrifices from the older generation of the club legend and heroes to make Arsenal football club successful as She is today

  8. Happy Birthday , Tony and Gunnerjoe .

    Here is an inspirational quote about life from William Arthur Ward .

    The adventure of life is to learn.
    The goal of life is to grow.
    The nature of life is to change.
    The challenge of life is to overcome.
    The essence of life is to care.
    The opportunity of life is to serve .
    The secret of life is to dare.
    The spice of life is to befriend.
    The beauty of life is to give.
    The joy of life is to love!

    William Arthur Ward

  9. ? I have this tree analogy when I think of people in my life, be it friends, family, acquaintances, employees, co-workers, whomever…
    They­ are all placed inside what I call my *tree test.*
    It goes like this:

    _Some people come into your life and they are like leaves on a tree._ *They are only there for a season.* _You can’t depend on them or count on them because_ *they are weak and only there to give you shade.* _Like leaves, they are there to take what they need and as soon as it gets cold or a wind blows in your life they are gone._ You can’t be angry at them, *it’s just who they are.*

    _There are some people who come into your life and they are like branches on a tree._ They are stronger than leaves, but you have to be *careful with them.* _They will stick around through most seasons, but if you go through a storm or two in your life it’s possible that you could lose them._
    Most times *they break away when it’s tough.* _Although they are stronger than leaves, you have to test them out before you run out there and put all your weight on them._ In most cases they can’t handle too much weight. _But again, you can’t be mad with them,_ *it’s just who they are.*

    _If you can find some people in your life who are like the roots of a tree then_ *you have found something special.* _Like the roots of a tree, they are_ *hard to find* _because they are not trying to be seen._ Their only job is to *hold you up* and *help you live a strong* and *healthy life.* _If you thrive, they are happy._ They stay low key and don’t let the world know that they are there. _And if you go through an awful storm_ *they will hold you up.* _Their job is to hold you up, come what may, and to nourish you, feed you and water you._

    ? Just as a tree has many limbs and many leaves, but *few roots*, _so are human beings too!!_
    Look at your own life. How many leaves, branches and roots do you have?
    What are you in other people’s lives?


  10. Happy birthday Tony and Gunnerjoe!

    This article mostly shows that what we now take for granted (Arsenal being one of the top clubs in England) has been in danger of ever coming this far more than once.
    It is a constant battle our club has to do each day and what some of us take for granted but is in fact not an easy thing to do.
    Moving to the top is hard, staying near the top maybe even harder.

  11. When we look back at the history of our club and it’s early years we all know about Norris and later Chapman who played a large part in making Arsenal the club we know today.
    Then the are others whose names are not as well known like the men named in this post by Tony (hope you enjoyed your birthday) who are responsible for the club surviving and becoming the club it is today.
    Just think about it if the club had failed in the early years which it nearly did I could have been a Spurs fan ick.

  12. Happy Birthday Tony and thanks for everything you do that enhances the experience of following the Arsenal.

  13. @Gunnerjoe;June 23, 2016.

    You just sent shivers down my spine. I would’ve been in vacuum!!!! As I wasn’t born into the tribe, had to select based on my viewing. And no team has ever come close to what ARSENAL felt like…….

    Thanks to all the great men who made the ARSENAL.

    And thank you Tony for the Untold. Without you, may be, the history wouldn’t have been so accessible.

    Birthday wishes to you and Gunnerjoe

  14. Happy very belated birthday Tony and Gunnerjoe! May Untold last for many years to come!

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