It’s April 25th 1936 and Arsenal return to Wembley to face Sheffield United in their fourth FA Cup Final in nine years. Previously they lost 1- 0 to Cardiff City in 1927, won their 1st FA Cup in 1930, by beating Huddersfield Town 2-0, and then lost to Newcastle United 2-1 in 1932. Having won their first League Championship in 1930 and then again in three consecutive seasons from 1933 to 1935 they were now looking to add a second FA Cup to their 1930’s trophy collection. Herbert Chapman had died, suddenly, two years before and David Jack had hung up his boots. George Allison who was BBC Radio’s first football commentator, was now the new Arsenal manager. The attack was led by the formidable Ted Drake, who earlier in the season had scored seven goals against Aston Villa.
1936 FA Cup Final
Harry Hooper of Sheffield United and Alex James of Arsenal shake hands at the start of the match.
The 1936 FA Cup Final was the sixty fourth and the fourteenth at the national stadium. Each team received a bye to the third round of the tournament, and then progressed through five rounds before reaching the final.
Both Arsenal and Sheffield United were seeded into the third round of the FA Cup. In the third round itself, Arsenal was drawn away against Third Division South, Bristol Rovers Arsenal missed a penalty, and the third Division team went a goal up in the first half; Arsenal were playing so poorly that it seemed they would struggle even for a draw. The turnaround in the match occurred when manager George Allison moved Cliff Bastin to the inside left position. Arsenal equalized in the 65th minute, and scored a further four times over the course of the following fourteen minutes to win the game by five goals to one, with a single goal from Bowden and two each from Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin.
They followed this in the fourth round with a 2–0 victory over Liverpool Anfield. The match was played seven days after the death of King George V, with both teams wearing black armbands. The crowd of 60,000 stood to sing Abide by Me and God Save the King before the kickoff. In the fifth round they were drawn against Newcastle United, in a rematch of the 1932 final Newcastle had already knocked out the current cup holders, Sheffield Wednesday, in an earlier round. On the day, the gates to St James Park needed to be closed before the match started to keep additional spectators out, some 64,484 fans already being inside the ground. The match resulted in a 3-3 draw, Arsenal having gone a goal ahead each time, but Newcastle coming back and equalizing, in the replay at home, Arsenal won the game 3–0. They had gone a goal up in the first half from a penalty scored by Clifff Bastin after the Newcastle centre half handled the ball in the box. The second goal came during an advance by Arsenal, where the Newcastle goalkeeper, Norman Tapken, cleared the ball directly to Arsenal midfielder Pat Beasley, who promptly shot the ball into the back of an empty net. The final goal was another penalty, caused when Cliff Bastin was brought down in the box, who then took and scored the goal himself.
In their quarter final, they defeated Second Division Barnsley 4–1, having outplayed them right from the start, the first goal coming in the fourth minute from Pat Beasley in an attacking move. Bowden scored the second goal, and the third came from a penalty scored by Bastin. The fourth and final Arsenal goal was Beasley’s second, with Barnsley’s consolation goal coming a couple of minutes from the end of the match. In the semi final, played at Huddersfield Town’s ground, they defeated Grimsby Town 1–0 in a match that was described by reporters as completely one sided, with the goal coming from Bastin five minutes before half time.
Arsenal played in red and white shirts in an FA Cup final for the first time, on previous occasions in 1930 and 32 they wore fully red shirts. Additionally, before the 1967/68 season, Arsenal only wore team badges on their shirts on special occasions, such as FA Cup Finals. The 1936 cup final was the fourth occasion such a badge was worn.
The following is a match report that was taken from the Daily Telegraph
DRAKES GOAL WINS CUP FOR ARSENAL
SHEFFIELD UNITED NEARLY WIN MATCH
Drama of Dodds Header That Hit Post *
A Champagne Shampoo
By Frank Coles
Arsenal are Cup holders again for the second time in six years As expected, they beat Sheffield United in Wembley’s fourteenth Final Tie, but not as comfortably as 2-to-1-on favourites are supposed to win .
The honours of a match which rarely produced a high standard of play should go to Sheffield United, whose defence held out for an hour and a quarter and who twice narrowly missed taking the lead before Drake scored.
In winning the Cup for Arsenal at the 29th minute of the second half, Drake accepted the only scoring chance that came his way The opening was made by Bastin, who tricked Hooper very cleverly before pushing the ball squarely across to his unmarked centre-forward.
It was the kind of opportunity Drake had been waiting for all the afternoon and, quick as thought, he swung his left leg at the ball Before Smith, the goalkeeper, could move an inch a crashing drive had found the roof of the net.
Sheffield United could argue with justification that Bastin, might not have put Drake through if Hooper had not been handicapped by a leg injury They could also point to the fact that Jackson, playing immediately in front of Hooper, was also limping.
Drake’s goal gave new life to a game which for the greater part of the second half, had lapsed into a dull, humdrum affair, so lacking in quality and thrills that the 93,000 crowd was almost silent.
BAD LUCK FOR UNITED
However, a touch of genuine drama was to follow No sooner had United set the ball rolling again than Barton streaked past Hapgood and swung over a beautifully accurate centre Dodds, pounding down the middle, got his head to the ball and a thrilled crowd yelled “Goal!
But no, the ball hit the crossbar with a bang instead of going into the net, terribly bad luck for United. They had struck back gallantly, and for practically the first time Arsenal’s magnificent defence was shaken The movement, swift and sudden skilfully executed was a reminder of what had happened in the opening quarter of an hour, and it set me wondering why United did not exploit their five-men-up attack more often. As I had prophesied, United were an extremely dangerous team in the first 15 minutes because they were willing to gamble on attack They threw the last ounce into a grand assault on Arsenal’s goal and, as early as the third minute, nearly succeeded
For 20 minutes United had Arsenal’s defence at full stretch All this time Smith, in the United goal, was a spectator When, at length, he was called into action he ought to have been beaten; from Bastin’s pass Bowden had an easy scoring chance To the undisguised dismay of Drake, who was by his side, Bowden shot weakly outside the post.
This, Arsenal’s first rejoinder to United’s beginning gesture, marked the transfer of the initiative. Whereas Arsenal’s goalkeeper was untroubled for the remainder of the opening half, Smith became the busiest man on the field incidentally, he proved himself a first-class workman.
The half hour after the interval did not provide the onlookers with much excitement.
Fortunately, Drake’s goal and United’s bid to save the match made the last quarter of an hour worth while, but I am bound to say that as a spectacle this latest Final Tie disappointed me. The Sheffield forwards were unlucky. On their first Wembley appearance they met the most astute defence in the country And if they had shown a sign of wavering, United’s attack assuredly would have won the match.
Barclay and Pickering, the inside forwards, were a long way ahead of Bowden and James They tried mightily hard to draw a cast-iron defence by holding the ball, and their understanding with the wing men was excellent.
At outside right Barton was as effective as Hulme, without attempting to be as spectacular – he was always a worry to Hapgood – and, until he was slowed down by injury, Williams was dangerous, despite the fact that he was up against Male, the best back on the field.
The experience of Dodds was in one respect similar to that of Drake Both met master stoppers But Dodds was given a far better service than Drake received If his luck had been good he would have converted a flashing cross from Williams midway through the second half The pace of the ball just beat him
I have described Male as the outstanding back Second to him I rate Hooper, United’s captain, who had the difficult job of subduing Bastin. Johnson, the centre-half, also played a great game.
Arsenal – Wilson, Male, Hapgood, Crayston, Roberts, Copping, Hulme, Bowden, Drake, James (Captain), Bastin
Sheffield United – Smith, J, Hooper (Captain), Wilkinson, Jackson Johnson, McPherson, Barton, Barclay, Dodds, Pickering, Williams
Referee H Nattrass (Durham) Linesmen: J M Wiltshire (Dorset) and Dr A W Barton (Amateur FA.)
It was Arsenal’s sixth success in League and Cup in seven seasons but their triumph did not get the deserved news coverage. A dispute over terms between Wembley and the news reel companies led to the ban on film cameramen inside the stadium. The companies still took to the air and shortly before kick off a whirl of auto-giros rose above Wembley. The only film taken inside the ground was an official one.
Alex James holding the 1936 FA Cup.