Arsenal could win a record 13th FA Cup trophy this weekend, should they defeat newly crowned Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley.
With that record in mind, I’ve decided to go back to where it all began with this week’s Arsenal Scrapbook.
The date, April 26th 1930, the location, the old Wembley, the teams, Arsenal and Huddersfield Town.
Although the excitement of a cup final and the potentially historic nature of an Arsenal win would have been enough to get this game into the Arsenal Scrapbook, the build-up to the game, the action during it, and its significance in English football history make it even more interesting.
Before we even look at the game itself, we need to flash back five years to May 1925.
Having sacked Leslie Knighton in the close season, Arsenal’s chairman Sir Henry Norris was looking for a new manager to reinvigorate the club, following a close shave with relegation in the previous two seasons.
Norris placed an advert looking for a new gaffer in Athletic News.
“Arsenal Football Club is open to receive applications for the position of TEAM MANAGER. He must be experienced and possess the highest qualifications for the post, both as to ability and personal character. Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exorbitant transfer fees need not apply.”
The call was answered by none other than Huddersfield Town manager Herbert Chapman, who made the move to North London despite winning the league two season’s in a row with the Terriers. Maybe it had something to do with £2,000 salary, double his earnings at Huddersfield.
On his arrival at Highbury, Chapman stated that it would take him five years to turn Arsenal into a winning team.
Five years on, having begun to revolutionise the club and English football as a whole (Chapman’s career and ideas are worthy of a piece in itself) the one thing that was missing was a trophy in the cabinet.
Chapman knew his side had to win the final against his former club Huddersfield, a dominant team of his own creation.
Both lined up in the W-M formation, designed by the visionary Chapman himself but, with the great man at the helm and star players David Jack and Cliff Bastin in the XI, Arsenal had the advantage.
However, Chapman made a controversial decision with his team selection.
Five days previous, Arsenal had drawn 6-6 with Leicester City, a game that remains the highest scoring draw in English football history. Dave Halliday had bagged four of Arsenal’s six goals but found himself omitted from the squad in favour of fellow forward Jack Lambert.
Arsenal and Huddersfield Town walked out onto the Wembley turf in front of a crowd of 92, 488, King George V and George Allison, a future Arsenal boss who was on commentary that day, for only the fifth football game to be broadcast live.
It was also the first game that broadcast rights had been paid for in order to secure coverage, such was the magnitude of the clash.
Huddersfield started strong, looking to attack Arsenal at every opportunity, but the Gunners stayed compact and rigid, holding off the Terriers.
With 17 minutes gone, Arsenal won a free kick in an attack position on the left-hand side. Inside left forward Alex James took it quick, playing a neat one-two with the brilliant Bastin before finding the corner of the net to open the scoring and give Chapman’s side a 1-0 lead.
Then came a moment that no one saw coming but that everyone witnessed when it did arrive.
Towards the end of the first half, the drone of an airship was heard by all inside Wembley. As it got closer and closer, everyone’s eyes were drawn from the pitch to the sky. Looming overhead was the German airship Graf Zepplin, the biggest of its kind at the time with a length of 776ft.
The Zepplin loomed ominously over the stadium for a short while before eventually passing, and eyes returned to the pitch.
Thankfully for the crowd, they hadn’t missed a goal, with the score still 1-0 to Arsenal.
However, the Gunners goal was living a charmed life, as favourites Huddersfield looked for the all-important equaliser.
Despite spending most of the second period penned into their own half, Arsenal scored a wonderful second with just seven minutes left.
A long clearance from James picked out Lambert in the centre circle. The forward – who was selected ahead of four-goal hero Halliday – skipped past two Huddersfield defenders on his way to goal, running half the length of the pitch before beating the ‘keeper and giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead.
The Gunners had done it, and Chapman was true to his word, winning a trophy five years after his appointment.
While the trophy was significant for that reason, it also signalled the start of an era of Arsenal dominance, transition the club from first-division mainstays to the richest, most powerful and most successful club in English football throughout the 1930’s, something which I’m sure we will cover in the future.
Fast forward just over 87 years, 19 FA Cup final appearances and 12 FA Cup trophies later, Arsenal are in a similar situation to 1930.
Underdogs and in desperate need of a trophy, it could well kick start and era of success but, only time will tell if that is the case.
As for the final 1930, it was historic and filled with English football firsts, a truly great game in the history of Arsenal Football Club.