The Arsenal’s big guns

October 8, 1904
At the present moment Woolwich Arsenal, who meet Aston Villa at Plumstead to-day, occupy the mind of the public, in the south at least, more than any other club. The Arsenal have reached a position in the League never yet achieved by any other Southern organisation, and the question which is exercising men’s minds is – Will they keep it?

Are they good enough to maintain their position in the First Division of the League, won after many hard battles by sheer merit last season?

Bob the trainer.
1904 Arsenal Bob the trainer

On the surface, the record of the Arsenal since their promotion would appear discouraging, but the superficial observer who holds that view has probably not properly estimated matters. So far they have played five matches in their new sphere, and of those two have been lost, one won, and two drawn.

Newcastle United beat them by three goals to nil at Newcastle, and then followed a pointless draw, which might easily have been a win if a little luck had come their way, their opponents at Plumstead being Preston North End. That was followed by a one goal to nil defeat at Middlesbrough. In that match also the Arsenal were not blessed with the best of good fortune.

Their next opponents were Wolverhampton Wanderers, and on the Manor Field at Plumstead they beat the ex-Cup holders by two goals to nil, it being universally acknowledged that the win was due to superior football, the brilliant passing and accurate shooting of the Arsenal being the subject of great praise.

Manor Fields, Plumstead, football ground of Woolwich Arsenal.
1904 Arsenal Plumstead

A visit to Bury followed, and here again the fates were against them, and they had to put up with a draw of one goal each, but their opponents’ point was due to a lucky penalty kick.

In order to learn something of the club, our representative visited Plumstead, and was enlightened on several points which have hitherto not been presented to the public.

It is some twelve years ago since Woolwich Arsenal embraced professionalism, and they were at once admitted to the Second Division of the League. From that time they have striven for a place in the First Division, and how they at last achieved their ardent desire is now a matter of history.

Many good judges of football have expressed the opinion that they would have done better had they joined the Southern League, and that their gates would be equally as good when playing matches with the clubs affiliated to that body. However that may be, it has yet to be proved; and the Arsenal can point with some pride to the fact that their first home match in the First Division drew a crowd of 30,000 spectators to the Manor Field.

There is no doubt that two seasons ago they were rather unlucky not to attain the goal which has at last rewarded them, but they are there now, and the players are keen enough to hold their own if they are only clever enough. They assert that they will leave nothing undone to remain there.

Percy Sands.
1904 Arsenal Percy Sands

The directors are perfectly satisfied with the results to date, especially with the match at Middlesbrough and that against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

There is a good deal of difference of opinion at Plumstead regarding the forward line. Some think that Satterthwaite should go inside left, and Linward take the outside position; while others maintain that Hunter is one of the best forwards the club ever had. Gray, the ex-Hibernian from Edinburgh, played a capital game at right back at Middlesbrough, and, once he settles down, will make a worthy partner for Jackson. Dick, Sands, Buchan, and McEachrane are capital half-backs, and each is “bad to beat”; while in Briercliffe, Coleman, and Gooing, of old hands, the club have a clever forward line. Of Jimmy Ashcroft in goal it is almost needless to speak, for he appears in better form than ever.

Woolwich Arsenal’s left wing of John “Sailor” Hunter and Charles Satterthwaite.
1904 Arsenal John Sailor Hunter and Charles Satterthwaite

The ground arrangements are now completed, and space has been added to the huge mound from which 20,000 spectators can get a comfortable view. And, most welcome news of all, the South-Eastern Railway are considering a scheme for the better conveyance of the public. The utmost good feeling prevails between players and officials, and the opinion is freely expressed both by friends and opponents that the Arsenal Club is a fixture in the First Division.

It is worthy of note that some of the Arsenal players have put in a period of service quite unusual in the south. Jackson, who captains the side, has been with the “Reds” for six seasons, and will be given a benefit match before Christmas, the date and title of which has yet to be fixed.

The right half-back, John Dick, has been there one year longer. Ashcroft has served them five years, and has been chosen to represent the English v the Irish League on Saturday week. Briercliffe is in his fourth season; Coleman has had three and Gooing there and half years’ stay with the “Reds.”

John Dick
.1904 Arsenal John Dick

Bill Gooing.
1904 Arsenal Bill Gooing

Their match with Aston Villa to-day is looked upon as one of the severest trials they will have to undergo, but as the match has to be played at Plumstead the Arsenal are hopeful of the result.

In conclusion, two or three further words about Arsenal’s magnificent new ground may be interesting. It is the largest ground in the south, and is kept in beautiful condition. It is as green as a billiard board and as smooth as a tennis court.

All told, the mound and the enclosures will accommodate 50,000 spectators, and every one will be able to see. The new grand stand will hold 10,000 people, all of whom will be under cover, an important consideration. It takes a lot to dispirit a football crowd, but even the most enthusiastic onlooker enjoys the game better when he is dry than in a drenching downpour.
(Source: Daily Express: October 8, 1904)

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