Arsenal History: Our 2nd Decade 1896-1906 – Promotion but no trophies

Through the years continued- 1896-1906!

Ten years in the making and Arsenal were still going as strong as they could be given the financial difficulties and playing conditions they had over the years.

Having taken up residence at their permanent home of the Manor ground, Arsenal remained there until they moved to what would turn out to be our special ground, Highbury, in 1913.

More of this part of our history will be covered later on no doubt 😉

And so Woolwich Arsenal were playing in the Second Division for 11 seasons, and during their time there they generally occupied mid-table positions before the appointment of Harry Bradshaw as manager in 1899. Who followed on from Sam Hollis 1894-97, Tom Mitchell 1897-98 and George Elcoat 1898-99.

Bradshaw clearly had a bit of an impact in the side with his tactics, as England international Fergus Hunt was top goalscorer for the team in 1898-1899 with 26 goals, 10 more than he did the season before under Elcoat.

Along with his appointment, Bradshaw signed many players including goalkeeper Jimmy Ashcroft who would become Arsenal’s first England international and captain Jimmy Jackson. Five years after his appointment the team won promotion to the First Division in the 1903–04 season.

Bradshaw would leave us after that season though as he moved on to Fulham in May 1904, even before Arsenal had begun to kick a ball in the top flight. And incoming Scottish manager Phil Kelso would take over the reins for four years from 1904-08

From the 1896-1906 seasons our top scorers and League finishes were as below:

1896-97: Scotland International Patrick O’Brien – 20 goals – 10th place

1897-98: England International Fergus Hunt -16 goals – fifth place

1898-99: England International Fergus Hunt -26 goals – seventh place

1899-1900: England International Ralph Gaudie -17 goals – eighth place

1900-01: England International Ralph Gaudie -8 goals – seventh place

1901-02: England International Tommy Briercliffe -12 goals – fourth place

1902-03: England International Tim Coleman -22 goals – third place

1903-04: Ireland International Tommy Shanks- 25 goals – second place

1904-05: Ireland International Charlie Satterthwaite- 11 goals – First Division 10th place

1905-06: England International Tim Coleman -15 goals – First Division 12th place

The early years of the team were not the most successful although they had a steady league position in the latter part of the 19th Century, they then achieved promotion in 1903 and then three years later they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup for two consecutive seasons in 1905-1906 and 1906-1907.

However despite some strong performances in the FA Cup we were never really able to challenge for the League title and if we did we fell just short of winning it.

And so as previously mentioned, Woolwich Arsenal was the first southern member of The Football League, starting out in the Second Division and reaching the First Division in 1904, yet we maintained our place and in contrast to our league finishes in more recent times, we only managed to finish above tenth place twice back in those days in the First Division between the 1904 and 1913 seasons and up until that point, despite going through some rather poor facilities and having our players being targeted by other clubs, we had never been relegated.

So there were some ups and downs during those years but none of those seasons gave us a trophy although the team remained consistent enough to keep their place in the top Division’s and so that is how those seasons would peter out.

But little did we know that the best was yet to come…

Shenel Osman


Read Arsenal History – Our very first Decade – Dial Square

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  1. Great article…..thanks a Bunch “Pat”.

    Guys I watched this Amazon Prime video….All or Nothing.

    An unbelievable unbiase data analysis of the club under Mikel….a must watch for every gunner

    The video

  2. That’s twice you’ve posted this childish trash in two different threads that has nothing to do with either of them.

    1. Jeez Declan – if skills1000 was such a wonderful predictor, I wonder why he hasn’t won the lottery 🙄😂😂
      Appreciate the work you have put in Shenel – the history of our club is, indeed, fascinating and complex.

  3. Big Ups once again Shenel O…Brilliant history of a Brilliant Football Club. 👍🏾

  4. Another very interesting and informative article.few more articles like this one and there won’t be much left that I won’t know about our dear club’s history.keep up the good work @Shenel!!

  5. Good for the younger fans to learn the history of this great club. A couple of what I would say interesting facts haven’t been mentioned in this article about this decade, firstly the Manor Ground was shut for a few weeks due to crowd trouble, and secondly, we were the first team to have an end called the Kop.

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