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100 years in the top league; how the season opened

By Tony Attwood

As you may recall, this is the 100th year since Arsenal joined the top division in English football.   And as a reminder, if you are stuck in the alternative universe which suggests that Arsenal fixed their way into the top league, we have the full, (and rather strangely correct) story, and explanations of how the Arsenal-haters spread the false tales about bribes and corruption.

The whole story is in our series “100 Years”.

So what was it like 100 years ago at the opening of the 1st division in 1919 – Arsenal’s return to the league after two years in the second division, plus the four years pause in professional football for the first world war.

Here are the opening games.

Date Game Res Score Crowd
30 Aug 1919 Arsenal v Newcastle United L 0-1 40,000
01 Sep 1919 Liverpool v Arsenal W 2-3 15,000
06 Sep 1919 Newcastle United v Arsenal L 3-1 45,000

Interestingly in the second match it was Liverpool away, and we won 2-3.  The crowd was lower than normal because it was a Monday game and many working men would not have been able to get into the ground in time. 

After three games, 100 years ago, the table looks like this… but two columns might need a little explanation here which I’ll give after the table…

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts Now
1 Middlesbrough 3 2 1 0 6 2 3.000 5 Ch
2 Sheffield United 3 2 1 0 9 4 2.250 5 Pr
3 Blackburn Rovers 3 1 2 0 6 2 3.000 4 Ch
4 West Bromwich Albion 3 2 0 1 6 3 2.000 4 Ch
5 Chelsea 3 2 0 1 5 3 1.667 4 Pr
6 Derby County 3 1 2 0 5 3 1.667 4 Ch
7 Everton 3 2 0 1 5 3 1.667 4 Pr
8 Sunderland 3 2 0 1 5 3 1.667 4 Lg1
9 Liverpool 3 2 0 1 7 5 1.400 4 Pr
10 Bradford Park Avenue 3 2 0 1 4 3 1.333 4 N2
11 Newcastle United 3 2 0 1 4 3 1.333 4 Pr
12 Manchester City 3 1 1 1 7 7 1.000 3 Pr
13 Burnley 3 1 1 1 3 4 0.750 3 Pr
14 Bradford City 3 1 0 2 7 6 1.167 2 Lg2
15 Arsenal 3 1 0 2 4 6 0.667 2 Pr
16 Notts County 3 1 0 2 3 5 0.600 2 Nat
17 Oldham Athletic 3 1 0 2 4 7 0.571 2 Lg2
18 Manchester United 3 0 2 1 1 3 0.333 2 Pr
19 Aston Villa 3 0 1 2 3 7 0.429 1 Pr
20 Bolton Wanderers 3 0 1 2 2 5 0.400 1 Lg 1
21 Preston North End 3 0 1 2 1 9 0.11 1 Ch
22 Sheffield Wednesday 3 0 1 2 0 4 0.000 1 LG1

GAv is Goal Average – the approach to separating clubs on the same points.  It was calculated by taking the goals for and dividing that number by the goals against.

The trouble with the system was it was more complicated than taken goals against away from goals scored, and it favoured defensive teams.  (Try doing the division and you will see what I mean.)  But it very rarely meant that clubs were tied.  Interestingly the final league table for 1914/15 was wrongly calculated at first and Arsenal were shown as being 6th in the league on goal average, whereas they were in fact 5th.  The error was not noticed until some 30 years later.

In the final column (“Now”) I have noted which league each club is in these days.  By my counting just nine of the 22 are in the top division 100 years on, although of course all the clubs other than Arsenal have all had periods outside the top division since this season.

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Three clubs have dropped out of the Football League totally – the two Bradford clubs and Notts County who last season dropped out of the league for the first time.

Crowd figures in those days were not recorded as accurately as now, and although a few teams did produce exact numbers, Arsenal, along with the majority, gave attendance numbers in round figures.

1 comment to 100 years in the top league; how the season opened

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate this 100th season by winning something significant ?
    It wouldn’t be easy , with Liverpool and Man City ahead of us in terms of better and settled players , but are we that too far away ?
    But with a little bit of luck ; the others cancelling out one another ; some shotting themselves in the foor ; we remaining relatively injury free , and the PIGMOB being fair !
    The last one being the key , as far as I am concerned !
    Up the Gunners !

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