“Honest” John McKenna’s Impassioned Speech

We’ve written a number of blogs on this site about Arsenal’s election to the First Division in 1919 that show that what is perceived to be the truth about the events surrounding this meeting are not what they seem. We thought that the one about the precedent of what happened when the First Division was expanded would be the last one as we believed that there were no more “facts” left to be dispelled.

However, we’ve now found another story that doesn’t appear to be what it seems.

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Pioneers of the South

On 9 May 1891 the members of Royal Arsenal Football Club caused a sensation on the London football scene when they voted to turn professional. The governing body for football in London were staunchly amateur, heavily influenced by the “old boys” network of public schools.

Royal Arsenal had been forced into this situation after losing a number of their players to the professional clubs in the Midlands and the North. Being the best club in London and the South had led to them becoming victims of their own success.

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Owner, majority shareholder or something else?

If you’ve read any books that tell the history of Arsenal (or even Chelsea or Tottenham) it is very likely that you would have read about Henry Norris arriving like a knight in shining armour to save Arsenal from extinction in 1910. Some histories will say that he bought the club, some will say that he was the majority shareholder.

However, neither is correct. And by quite a considerable way.

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But not when most people think

Sir Henry Norris. Depending on which team you support, Sir Henry was either Arsenal’s saviour or the scourge of Tottenham. Even to some Arsenal fans he is thought of as a villain. Many of the negative stories about Sir Henry have been shown to have been exaggerated or even fabricated. However, one fact that cannot be ignored is that he was banned from the game for life by the Football Association for a number of financial indiscretions.

Sir Henry Norris

As we at The Arsenal History have discovered over the last few years, there is a major discrepancy in the facts of this story. Read More →

by Andy Kelly, Phil Wall and Mark Andrews

Part two of this look at Arsenal ownership examines the time since Stan Kroenke came on the scene.

For part one see here.

Again this is jointly written with Phil Wall whose excellent blog can be viewed here.


It’s well-known that Stan Kroenke was introduced to Arsenal by David Dein, whose thinking was that Kroenke’s money could help Arsenal compete with the newly rich Chelsea, who were benefitting from Roman Abramovich’s billions.  It is understood that Dein brokered the deal between Granada and Kroenke, with the view that Kroenke could take over the club and make cash available to cover Arsenal through the potentially tricky period between building the new stadium and finishing the redevelopment of Highbury and other sites linked to the property deals. Bear in mind that this was still before the financial crisis, and the club expected to easily make eight-figure profits from the property development. Kroenke bought Granada Media’s 6,216 shares (9.99%) and by the end of May 2007 he held 7,584 (12.2%). He’d bought 659 of these from Danny Fiszman, who’d decided to round his holding down to exactly 15,000 shares. It’s believed that Fiszman didn’t realise at the time he was selling to Kroenke and was not pleased about it.

At this stage Kroenke was still not welcomed by the rest of the Arsenal Board, who considered Dein had gone behind their backs. This was one reason for a falling-out between old friends Dein and Fiszman. As a result Dein was dismissed from the Board of directors in April 2007. Read More →

by Andy Kelly, Phil Wall and Mark Andrews

Ownership of Arsenal football club is an ongoing story, as disquiet has grown among fans about the direction of the club under Stan Kroenke. Is Kroenke a good or bad owner? Would Alisher Usmanov be better? How did the two of them come to own 97% of Arsenal between them? How did they get involved and where did they get their shares from? We’ll try and explain.

To produce the definitive story we asked Phil Wall if he would collaborate with us. We can highly recommend Phil’s blog which has a number of articles about Kroenke, Usmanov and Arsenal ownership.


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…on this day in 1910

Sorry to disappoint you “Kroenke Out” fans but this happened 106 years ago.

The 1909-10 season was something of a watershed for Woolwich Arsenal FC. Having hit the highs of promotion to the First Division in 1904 and FA Cup semi-finals in 1906 and 1907, things turned decidedly sour for the Reds over the next three years. The main problem was that they were no longer the only club in London and the south in the top tier of English football. Chelsea had gained promotion in 1907, whilst Middlesex’s Tottenham followed suit two years later.

Woolwich Arsenal 1904 - The Good Times

Woolwich Arsenal 1904 – The Good Times

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…you’ve probably been taken for a ride.

“Compton and Smith played for England for the first time against Wales at Sunderland, Compton at thirty-eight becoming the oldest man to win his first cap for England.”

Bernard Joy – “Forward, Arsenal!”

“Two Arsenal players, Peter Connolly and Bobby Buist, played so well in that game [1891 FA Cup v Derby County] that John Goodall, the Derby captain and acting secretary-manager, offered them contracts.”

Phil Soar and Martin Tyler – “The Official Illustrated History of Arsenal”

Two statements from two esteemed tomes that have become ingrained in Arsenal’s history, written by three respected names in the game, printed in in black ink on white paper for all eternity. The only problem is that both statements have recently been proven to be wrong. Read More →

The Archery Tournament – Or Was It?

Those of you that have read an Arsenal history book will, more than likely, have noticed that the club organising an archery tournament in 1903 to raise funds. Arsenal handbooks throughout the 1970s included this statement within the club’s chronology:

Archery 1

Now, Edwardian England may seem a long time ago, but the medieval art of archery was very much in the decline, if not virtually non-existent at this time. On top of this, £1,200 was more than one fifth of Woolwich Arsenal’s turnover at the time. To put this into perspective, it is similar to a tournament bringing in £40 million today.

So, how was it that a tournament of this nature could greatly swell the club’s coffers? Read More →