Arsenal in the FA Cup . by Charles Veritie
Played 21 Finals, won 14, lost 7.
As the other side of north London is flooded with manure, I thought it would be good to look at Arsenal’s record in the FA Cup.
Arsenal has a long list of ‘Firsts’ but as far as The Cup goes, I can’t think of one of any significance.
The first F.A cup was played in 1871 at The Oval with an attendance of 2,000. The Oval was and still is the HQ of Surrey Cricket Club.
Arsenal was established in 1886 but there was a 20 year wait before we came anywhere near to a Cup Final appearance when in 1906, we lost to Newcastle 2-1 in the semi-final. We were back in the semi-final in in 1907 this time losing to ‘The Wednesday’ aka Sheffield Wednesday 3-1.
It was another 20 years before we again appeared in a semi-final, strangely enough it was another consecutive appearance. In 1927 we won our first semi-final, This time against Southampton 2-1. Then in 1928 we lost to Blackburn Rovers 1-0.
For our fifth semi final we had a short wait for we were back again on the threshold of Wembley in 1930 beating Hull 1-0 after a 2-2 draw.
Facts without the story behind them are meaningless unless the facts are to your liking of course.
Those first two semi final appearances came after winning promotion to the then First Division in 1903 (We were 2nd).
The records show that in the 1880s the club were going downhill fast. Action was taken to stop the rot in the usual way ‘Sack the manager’. It took 3 sackings in the mid to late 1880s to find the right man for the task of turning the decline into incline.
With Mr Harry Bradshaw we climbed out of division 2 and into Division 1 and, as well as the league ladder, we climbed the Cup ladder falling off so to speak in our first two semi-finals. A quiet start to a great history. Mr Bradshaw left, and the decline returned and we once again became a club going nowhere in the second division and no where near a cup semi-final.
Then when World War 1 broke out and football was stopped Arsenal were at the giddy heights of ‘fifth’ in the 2nd division, Another ‘nowhere season’. The nations at war were bad enough, but there was now a local war. It started with our move to Highbury and a war was declared this side of North London that continues to this very day.
The World War over our interest returned to the ‘Local War’.
Due to some shenanigans involving northern clubs and the extension of the First Division from 20 to 22 club’s fifth place Arsenal were promoted and the Middlesex enemy demoted.
However, in the 1st division we escaped relegation by the skin of our teeth. In desperation the owner Henry Norris, (who had invested a lot of his own money in the club. Please note present owners.) turned to the most successful manager of the time and said ‘HELP’ and so it was a former Tottenham player became the manager of Arsenal.
I believe this man is so famous in the history of Arsenal that if you don’t know his name then you don’t know your Arsenal.
In five years, all we had to show was two semi finals and one lost cup final, but the wheel was to turn ‘Forward Arsenal’.
The manager went on to win the 1929-30 FA Cup. It was this F A Cup that was not only a turning point in the history of Arsenal, but it was the Football League’s equivalent of 1066. The giants of the north had lost their strangled hold on Football’s silverware. There was little hint of this in 1930 for when winning the Cup our league position was 12th! The ‘North’ had nothing to fear. Just a hiccough! I wouldn’t be surprised if the Manchester Guardian even bothered to report on the match.
We were back at Wembley in 1932 having won the league the season before. This year we finished 2nd and sadly we finished 2nd at Wembley, against Newcastle. However not without controversy.
I find it strange that our first 3 Cup Finals should each have a tag to them as in ‘The Cup Final when….’ There were more ‘tags’ to come.
Sadly, our manager died unexpectedly. However, the foundations of greatness had been laid down and were built on, and we were back at Wembley in 1936 for a ‘One nil to the Arsenal.’ At the expense of Sheffield United.
The rebuilding of a second team was interrupted by WW2.
So, it was not till 1950 before we returned to Wembley with a 2-0 win over Liverpool, in what was to become known as ‘The Joe Mercer Cup final.
Hey ho, back to Wembley we go in 1952 and a chance to take revenge on Newcastle – so we hoped. We lost one nil, and the Final became known as the ‘Wally Barnes Cup Final. He broke his leg and there being no reserves as we have today, Arsenal played on with 10 players.
1953 was Coronation Year. The Coronation cup final was won by Blackpool who included Stanley Matthews, the most famous footballer of his time and the game is known as the ‘Stanley Matthews Final’.
The Coronation league champions was Arsenal. When this fact is mentioned, much is made off the fact that we won by the ‘Narrowest of margins’, under the old system of ‘Goal Average’ making the difference between clubs with the same number of points.
You can imagine the excitement the happiness, the joy of the Arsenal fans. The wheel was forever turning ‘Forward Arsenal’.
No Arsenal fan in his or her wildest dreams could have imagined what was about to happen.
To be continued.