Arsenal – The Times of our Lives?

April 1, 2011

Written by Red Arse

Have you ever wished you could go back in time to see the Gunners of an earlier era?

Now for those scientifically inclined, I know it is not possible to go back in time, and we could have an interesting chat as to why that is, but let’s just dream that it is possible for a moment!

What would be your choice? Would you go back in a ‘time machine’ to the beginning, in 1886, to see history unfold, to see how the Arsenal got up and running and to witness our founding?

Who were these ordinary/extraordinary working guys from the Woolwich firm, ‘Royal Arsenal’ who founded our club? We were nicknamed: The Gunners: because the firm was an armaments factory. The guns (cannons) that we are associated with since and which are on display outside the Arsenal Museum and the Emirates, were made here, and would have been used on ships of that era.

We were originally called “Dial Square” from the designation of one of the armament workshops. Then at Christmas time in 1886, the name was changed to “Royal Arsenal”. We were also, for a time, known as “Woolwich Reds” and “Woolwich Arsenal” until finally we became Arsenal Football Club, in 1914, and were henceforth always referred to as “The Arsenal”.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall, so as to hear the machinations over the move from Woolwich, in South London, to Highbury, in North London, and our subsequent political elevation to the old First Division, courtesy of Sir Henry Norris, much to the chagrin of the cockerel lovers?

If that is not to your taste, how about the 1930’s which, under Herbert Chapman, began with a famous 2:0 FA Cup Final win over Huddersfield? That was the start of a sublimely successful era with some of the all time great footballers of that or any other era playing for us. Our cup winning team, that day in 1930, included Cliff Bastin, and Joe Hulme, celebrated wingers of contrasting but complementary styles, with both possessing deadly accurate crossing ability and blistering shots.

How about watching the Jack Wilshere/Liam Brady of those years; Alex James was a footballing genius, if there ever was one, despite wearing the longest baggiest shorts ever designed to embarrass mankind?  Other names to leap out of that team line up were Lambert Jack, and Hapgood. It would have been a joy to be there and witness the start of one of our most successful periods.

Another FA Cup Final victory came along in 1936 with many of the same names cropping up along with that of one of our all time best forwards, Ted Drake, who scored in the 1:0 Cup Final win over Sheffield United.

The decade was full of League titles too, commencing in 1931 and encompassing 1933, 1935 and 1938. Who would not have wanted to see that period through the eyes of those who lived through it?

Or, perhaps, you would prefer to experience the next key period for trophy success in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when under manager Tom Whittaker we won titles in 1948 and 1953, together with another FA Cup win in 1950. From what I have heard of this era, following on from WW2, it was still a desolate time for many, and the football must have been a desperately needed opiate to make up for the post war drudgery.

The first Arsenal “Double” year of 1970/71 through to the current season is a period many of you were fortunate enough to witness first hand.

But would you not want to go back and again experience the excitement and euphoria of the trophy winning George Graham era?

In 1987, we won the old League Cup under George, and then in 1989 came that fabulous last minute, Mickey Thomas goal that won us the old First Division title, before we went on to win it again in 1991, followed by the League Cup and FA Cup double in 1993, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994 with an Alan Smith special.

We all know that George’s teams, though remarkably successful, could not hold a candle to Arsene’s entertainingly skilful little ball players, and their style still leaves many shuddering at the thought of going back to it. But isn’t that what many fans are now calling out for. “Sod the style”, they say, “we want trophies” they yell. Well, first go back and look and remind yourselves what you might be letting us all in for!

Over the 40 years from 1970 until today, it has been possible to bask in the glory of the teams and see the brilliance of wonderful or charismatic players like Charlie George, Frank McLintock, George ‘the Stroller’ Graham, Denis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and all the others, as we won FA Cups, League and Premier League titles and Doubles.

There are so many other times, games and players you might like to go back and experience first hand, not least during the changes that happened in professional football as a result of our own George Eastham’s successful court battle over players’ salaries.

Known for his short arms and deep pockets, how did his team-mates of the time, Joe Baker, Geoff Strong, Geordie Armstrong and Alan Skirton react? Did they play better as a result?

Yes, if a time machine was available, I would simply be unable to resist going back to see the stars and events that surrounded our wonderful club from its foundation in the 19th century.

There is such a wealth of history about Arsenal and you and I are all part of it!

So, how about you? What era would you go back to? What players would you like to see? And why?