The fans and the media against the Arsenal: “Nothing is ever good enough for this crowd”

by Tony Attwood

This article follows on from  Supporters and the media against The Arsenal. How it all started.

In part one of this series I pointed out that Arsenal had long history of getting harsher treatment from the authorities than other clubs, of in-fighting within the club, and Arsenal fans turning on their own players – a history that took us back to the earliest days of the club.

That article took us up to the early days of the 20th century and the next big crisis came in 1910 when a decline in Arsenal’s performances on the pitch led to ever greater requests for cash being placed on the club’s main benefactor who ran the local gentlemen’s outfitters.  When, in that year, he said he had no more money it became clear that without his financial input the club could not continue.   Henry Norris, a director of Fulham, stepped in and offered various possible solutions, including a ground share with Fulham, or as an alternative the two clubs merging to form Fulham Arsenal.

Local opposition to these plans plus the decision of the League that if Fulham and Arsenal merged they would have to play in the second division, led Norris to offer an alternative: to keep the club playing in Plumstead, so fans could show they supported the club. 

He kept his word, but the average crowd size which had been as high as 19,980 in 1904/5 sank to 9395 in 1912/13 and with finances drying up Norris, by then the leading shareholder, moved Arsenal to Highbury.  As he pointed out, the club was losing money, and there were no other plans that could make it sustainable.

And he was right in his thinking.  In the following season the average crowd was 22,745 – the club’s highest up to that point.  It was a viable solution.

In the following years there was much local newspaper commentary on discontent among Arsenal fans, and even after Chapman arrived in 1925 and the club reached an unprecedented second in the league in his first season, a subsequent combination of mid-table doldrums (finishing 11th, 10th, 9th and 14th in the following years) and spectator unrest, resulted in Chapman tendering his resignation (thankfully rejected by Chairman Norris).

There was also more tumult around the club, as a group of men from more traditionally wealthy families who seemingly saw Henry Norris’ long term plan of having the club owned by its supporters (which had been his aim since 1910) as a revolutionary step in the wrong direction, started to oppose him.

Of course there was also the fact that Norris was never “one of them”.  He had made his money from house building, rather than inheriting it and that made him a dangerous upstart.  As did his  political and social views (equal pay for women, pensions for all men who returned from the war unable to work, and that sort of thing).   In fact they seemed to want power in the hands of the “gentlemen” who “knew how to run things”.   Ultimately Norris, despite his knighthood for his work in recruiting volunteers and setting up (and paying for) three football battalions, plus his elevation from no rank in the army to Lieutenant Colonel, as he oversaw both conscription in 1917 and demobilisation in 1919,  was pushed out.

However the battle lines had been drawn because Norris had very publicly fought the FA over compensation for Tom Whittaker after his career was ended playing for England.  No one from within football had ever previously fought the FA in this way at all, let alone in public, and since then the League and FA had been out for revenge. 

The authorities were also very unhappy about Norris’ vocal campaign that the maximum pay rules for players should be abolished, (something that was thought of as revolutionary, socialist and liable to bankrupt clubs.  What Norris wanted was a maximum limit on transfer fees in order to help club finances, while rewarding the working players for their efforts on the pitch.  To the toffs who ran the game that seemed like the Soviets were trying to take over.

The opposition to Norris then used a technical accounting irregularity at Arsenal to force him out. Norris it should be noticed did not in any way profit from the irregularity which was readily corrected, but neither they nor the League nor FA worried about thatf.  The battle lines had been drawn and the FA as noted above wanted revenge.

Eventually the FA stated that if Norris was not removed from Arsenal, Arsenal would be thrown out of the League, and so Norris stepped down from his role in the club he had rescued, as the club was taken over by the Hill-Wood family dynasty, (who had summarily closed down their own league club Glossop NE, which had been making a loss.   Profit making Arsenal looked just the vehicle for their ambitions of advancement in football, and that was more important than the fans in Glossop.) 

Of course as the 1920s drew to a close Chapman’s Arsenal, financed by the huge crowds that Highbury could attract, not only won Arsenal its first two league titles and its first FA Cup victory, but Chapman also left a dynasty to follow on his good work – which was reflected both in more trophies, and in growing crowds, reaching an average before the second world war of 44,045.  

But although today Chapman is seen as the man who created the modern Arsenal, it should be remembered that he too was often angry at the continuingly negative attitude of the Arsenal crowd.

Jack Lambert, for example, a nervous player who could make mistakes, was regularly booed by sections of the the Arsenal crowd – and this for a man who scored 38 goals in 34 league matches in 1930/1.   Chapman labelled one part of the crowd “the boo boys”, but neither his admonishment nor Arsenal’s trophies could silence them.

After Arsenal lost to Walsall in the FA Cup, a section of the Highbury crowd regularly jeered every pass that didn’t reach an Arsenal man, heightening Chapman’s extreme annoyance.  Even the newspapers started to comment negatively on the crowd at the Arsenal.  The comment regularly was “nothing is good enough for this crowd”.

The series continues tomorrow.



8 Replies to “The fans and the media against the Arsenal: “Nothing is ever good enough for this crowd””

  1. Spuds’ Harry Winks says that trophies are round the corner. Never has the truth been so obvious.

    Trophies are all in the trophy room at Arsenal!!!

  2. Arsenal beating Bayern Munich 2-1 yesterday in an International Championship match in the uSA, thanks to an own Bayern goal and a tap-in goal by Eddie Nkethia has left me half convinced of the Gunners overall performance in the match. Which I saw as of average performance quality. Lacazette was unconvinced in the match and Mkhitaryan looked to be a mistake starting for Arsenal in the match. Generally, the finishing of the Gunners in front of goal in the match lacked the requisite killer instinct conviction that will be required the Gunners do in front of the opposition team’s goal mouths when play resumed in the Premier League next season. By the way, where was Martinez watching when Lewandoswki headed in the Bayern’s equalizing goal as he was statically rigid looking to be in- trance as he dudnt make any lipping effort to tip the ball over the bar when it was headed toward the goal he was keeping? In the PL next season, to be in such a rigid looking position could cost Arsenal conceding a goal that could be saved.

  3. Big player signing is a big gamble that could come off successfully for the signing club side. But a times it doesn’t come off successful as thought it’ll be after signing. On the optimistic side of big player signing for Arsenal this summer but not on the pessimistic side for the club in the current window, Arsenal should come off successfully strong and even be stronger than have been thought they would be in the PL next season when the Gunners start competing for title wins for the club after the completing by Arsenal this summer the signings of the Brazilian winger Everton Soares on a reported £36m transfer fee, the midfielder Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid on loan, and possibly if his having 2 surgeries will permit, the left back at Celtic FC Kieran Tierney at a reported £25m transfer fee package. And haven looked to be completing the signing of the young St Eitieen centreback William Saliba this summer but won’t use him until next season. However, the £36m that Arsenal will be spending from their reported initial £45m summer transfer kitty that got increased to £48.5m after their selling David Ospina for £3.8m. But the club will be left with a balance of £6.5m in their summer kitty after using £6m to import the young Brazilian striker Gabriele Martinelli. But save, Ospina whom they’ve sold this summer, Arsenal are yet to sell any of their Gunners beside him this summer to raise money to boost their summer transfer kitty that will be depleted after completing the deal to sign Everton. So that funds enabling will happen at the club to complete the signing of Tierney this summer if £20m will be raised after looking to be completing Everton signing for a big transfer fee of £36m and that of Ceballos on loan.

  4. Samuel – do you know what you are trying to say?

    Read your comment & translate it into English that a brother can understand.

  5. I read it and thought it was clear – sometimes the big signings work and sometimes not. The point I’d disagree with Samuel about is that I don’t think the £45m is real – it was a fantasy story made up by the media.

  6. I suspect the current discontent is because many fans started supporting Arsenal during Wenger’s peak years and think that is what you should expect. Those of us who are pre Wenger supporters tend to have a more grounded outlook. I was actually there when Johnny scored and the turnout was around 18000. That is Arsenals hardcore support. The rest are only going to be happy with us being title contenders and in the CL. So expect a lot more moaning! I for one am excited by the focus on youth as I remember the George Graham years.

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