Woolwich Arsenal FC: 1893 – 1915 The Club That Changed Football
By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews
Published by Hamilton House
What happens when you spend too much time in libraries and other such institutions? You end up with a tremendous collection of photographs and newspaper cuttings; what to do with it? Writing a book about Arsenal seems to be as good as use of these items as you are likely to come up with.
This book spans two decades, beginning with the club’s inaugural season in the Football League, through to the commencement of the First World War. It is a football soap opera in which heroes, villains, drama queens and innocents all feature. Thoroughly researched, the analysis of the early years of the club’s existence captures a crucial period as they entered the League, promotion, the only relegation suffered, financial disaster and the emergence onto the Arsenal landscape of Highbury and Sir Henry Norris.
The seasons are covered off as discrete chapters, reviewing each campaign with a solid backing of statistics. Nothing is left to chance in this respect, the all too often ignored FA Cup qualifiers – well before automatic entry into the third round draw – are covered with as much relish as the two semi-finals reached during this period, each individual cup-tie afforded its own coverage.
To the credit of the authors, they avoid making this book a dry, academic football history, bringing to life the key players on and off the pitch, through a compelling narrative. OK, we’re biased, this a book about Arsenal and any story is compelling in that sense. As well as the machinations in the boardroom, 50 of the crucial characters who shaped the club during this period are afforded special mention in their own section; not simple stats that leaves the person as the historical equivalent of a Top Trumps card but a little insight to the people.
For those who think the politics of football in the modern day are as low as they have ever stooped, think again. From the murky dealings that saw Royal Arsenal morph into Woolwich Arsenal, from the Invicta to the Manor to Highbury; the professional era welcomed into the club with the problems that brought about. Above all, this is the story of the strength of belief and personalities who put incalculable effort into keeping the club alive when the darkest hours, the dividends of which were reaped decades later.
Whilst there are those who are inexplicably uninterested in the club or its history in the pre-Premier League (or Wenger) era, this is a compelling documentary of the past. Click on the link to purchase Woolwich Arsenal FC: 1893-1915 The club that changed football