Woolwich Arsenal FC

This isn’t actually by me. Scared of Chives wrote such a fab reply to one of my earlier postings that I thought it merited an actual post in itself. Since I know bugger-all about any kind of football, I am always glad to have the massive gaps in my knowledge filled…

He writes (of the early, local years of Arsenal FC)

Loads of people from the North/Scotland bundled down south to find work in the 1880s and some ended up at the Woolwich Arsenal which I guess was a bit more important then than it is now!

A bloke called David Danskin – a Scot -bought a football after a whip-round with his work chums. A team was formed – Dial Square – and their first match was mid-December 1886. As you said TGP, on Chistmas Day they all hooked up at the Royal Oak pub, probably got rat-arsed and named the team Royal Arsenal. As some of the team had already played for Nottingham Forest and still had their tops, they chose red and Forest even supplied a set of tops for the whole team – bless.

Arsenal have never actually played in Woolwich! First ‘ground’ they played as Royal Arsenal was Plumstead Common, then they moved to a site of old pig farm – the Sportsman Ground – on Plumstead Marshes, then onto Manor Field (later to be known as the Manor Ground) near the station. (They briefly went to the Invicta ground but came back to stay put for 20 years or so).

The facilities was originally two-bob and the players changed in the Green Man pub on the high street or the Railway Tavern! (Are they still there?)

I guess you by now will have worked out the reason why the team are called the Gunners.The club started to become pretty popular with locals – including the workers at the munitions factory – and non-locals.

The club made money and improved the ground – although in the early part of the 20th century they did have bad money problems. This was one of the reasons why the club decided to move to north London. Plumstead was hard to get to (even now if there’s a problem with the line, you’re stuffed basically) and the club needed to make sure there was lots of local support, good transport links and so on. Land belonging to St John’s College of Divinity, in Highbury, was found. The owners got chucked 20 grand for a 21-year lease and rest, as they say, is history.

Of course many ‘Woolwich’ people got the hump and I guess they had a point. Even as a Gooner (an AFC supporter? TGP) it is odd that a club upped-sticks to go so far from their birthplace. But the club may not have survived otherwise. And there are two main reasons why – by then – local Tottenham Hotspur hated us. One was obviously the geographical reason and the other, well that’s for another day/blog as it’s too detailed to go into on TGP’s one. And probably not for here anyway.Oh, the ‘Woolwich’ part of the name was dropped in 1914 to become The Arsenal’.

The Phantom doffs a red and white cap in SoC’s general direction…


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