For today’s game the manager and whole team must call upon the fighting spirit of Arsenal’s most pugnacious boss in its history. He stood up to the Manchester police as his team won away in 1906 to reach the Gunners first ever FA Cup semi-final.

Today Arsenal need the Phil Kelso spirit.

As you know we have been reproducing our programme work on the blog this season, well here is a match report in a slightly different format to those of this season, written for last season’s quarter-final programme against Everton. A prescient match up of the first FA cup tie between the two most successful teams in the competition’s history!


Manchester United v Arsenal – FA Cup quarter-final 10 March 1906

Tie: Manchester United versus Arsenal

Date: 10 March 1906

Competition: FA Cup quarter-final

Venue: Bank Street

Attendance: 26,500

Referee: J B Brodie

Manchester United  2                 Woolwich Arsenal  3

Sagar, Peddie                                                     Freeman 2, Coleman

Woolwich Arsenal arrived at the Bank Street Ground in Clayton for their first ever FA Cup quarter-final in fine form. They had won five successive games including the last two which were both 5-0 home wins. This tie was to be their sixth win in a sequence that was to stretch to an impressive eight straight victories. It was this form that made Arsenal favourites with much of the national press to progress to the semi-final.

The start of the game was nothing short of sensational as within the first five minutes Manchester United had scored and Arsenal had equalised. First Charlie Sagar netted after a pass from Jack Peddie in the third minute, only for Bert Freeman to reply after he pounced on a rebounded Willie Garbutt shot in the fifth minute.

Despite fine weather the ground was very heavy as much rain had preceded the match day, but the game was end to end and played at a frenetic pace with United, as the home team, doing most of the attacking but Arsenal dangerous on the counter. However, on the half hour Peddie scored, but almost immediately Arsenal won a corner from which Tim Coleman managed to reply from short range, and the teams went into half-time on level terms.

After the break it was virtually all United attacking as they bombarded the Arsenal goal, but time and time again they were repelled by the defence and, in particular, Jimmy Ashcroft whose performance was hailed by the Daily Mirror as the best goalkeeping of the season. Try as they may they could not break down the Gunners’ defence and on a counter attack near the end Freeman went on a run that ended with him crashing the ball past Henry Moger for the winner.

Renewed assaults on the Arsenal goal were repulsed by the exceptional Ashcoft. It was reported that about 500 Woolwich Arsenal supporters made the trip and many of them invaded the pitch at the end, including some jubilant fans who carried Ashcroft off the pitch shoulder high celebrating his brilliant performance. Such was the strength of his performance and reputation, he was the current England goalkeeper, that it was also stated that a number of United fans joined in chairing Ashcroft off the pitch.


Manchester United: H Moger, B Bonthron, D Holden, A Downie, C Roberts, A Bell, A Schofield, J Peddie, C Sagar, J Picken, D Wombwell.

Woolwich Arsenal: J Ashcroft, A Cross, J Sharp, J Bigden, P Sands, R McEachrane, W Garbutt, T Coleman, B Freeman, T Fitchie, B Templeton.

Facts about linked to the match or players:

The Arsenal Manager Phil Kelso was almost arrested at the game by a Manchester policeman for shouting too loudly on the touchline! More details here

Phil Kelso

Phil Kelso: The Woolwich Arsenal Manager 1904-1908

A few days after the game Jimmy Ashcroft was picked to play his second game for England. He kept a clean sheet as England beat Wales 1-0.

Ashcroft cartoon KI 20 Jan 1905

Jimmy Ashcroft cartoon from the Kentish Independent. He was the first Arsenal player to be picked for England in a full international

The referee Mr J Brodie, was well know to Woolwich Arsenal as he was the official who was attacked by members of the crowd in 1895, which led to the Manor Ground being closed for 6 weeks. More details here


Facts relating to 1906:

At the General Election the Liberals, under Henry Campbell-Bannerman, were returned as the largest party; the last time they received the majority of seats.


Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded as the leader of the Liberals by Herbert Asquith. His son Anthony Asquith directed “The Lucky Number”, a 1933 film containing many Arsenal players.

At this election Will Crooks, a great friend of Woolwich Arsenal FC, was elected to Parliament for the Woolwich constituency, representing Labour.


Will Crooks. On a number of occasions he ‘persuaded’ the LCC to approve Woolwich Arsenal ground improvements

The Bakerloo tube line was opened on the same day as this match.


Tottenham – ha ha.

The rest of the cup run:

Woolwich Arsenal had reached their first ever FA Cup semi-final which was played at Stoke on 31 March. The opponents were Newcastle United in a match watched by close to 20,000 spectators, including a fair number of Gunners who made sure that the “red colour was everywhere, rosettes, Tam O’Shanters, vivid neckties, flaring favours and overwhelming buttonholes.” Despite the strength of support Newcastle, the reigning league champions, were far too strong for Arsenal and they won 2-0. However, it was Everton who were to win the FA Cup that year beating the Magpies 1-0 at Crystal Palace.


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