There’s some gold dust in old Arsenal programmes sometimes. This is an eyewitness account of the events surrounding one of the most infamous matches in Arsenal history: the FA Cup tie away against Walsall on 14 January 1933. Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by the struggling Third Division side in a match regarded then and for many years afterwards as the greatest giant-killing in Cup history.
Although Arsenal weren’t the reigning Champions, they were regarded as easily the biggest club in England by that time, having won the FA Cup in 1930, the League in 1931 and been runners-up in 1932. They went on to be crowned Champions four months after the defeat to Walsall, and also for the following two seasons – only the second time a hat-trick of titles had been achieved. The first was by Herbert Chapman’s Huddersfield, though he’d left for Arsenal before the hat-trick was completed; the next was not until Liverpool managed it in the 1980s.
The events are described here by Bob Wall, my brother’s namesake and an Arsenal employee from 1928 to his death in 1981. Bob worked as assistant to Herbert Chapman, then Secretary (effectively CEO in the club’s set up at the time), General Manager, and finally Director following his retirement from day-to-day running of the club in 1978.
Bob tells how, on the train back to London from the Midlands after the defeat, Herbert Chapman told Tommy Black that “he would never play for Arsenal again, he had let our reputation down, and he need never come to the ground again, his boots would be sent round with the transfer forms”! Black was deputising on his first team debut for Eddie Hapgood and gave away the penalty that made the score 2-0. He’d played 26 games for the reserves, but his Arsenal career was suddenly over. Fred Ollier in “Arsenal – A Complete Record” describes Black’s Arsenal career with the words “Made an undistinguished appearance in the ‘famous’ Cup defeat at Walsall.” I imagine Herbert Chapman’s words were somewhat stronger!
Bob Wall also explains how several of Arsenal’s first teamers were rested, in an early example of squad rotation, rather than being ill as was rumoured at the time. All the players travelled to the match, and the team was only announced on the train there – to the apparent amazement of those who found themselves sitting in the stands for the game.
This article appeared in the Arsenal programme for an FA Cup Fifth Round match against Walsall on February 18, 1978. Arsenal won that match comfortably 4-1 and went on to the final, losing 1-0 to Ipswich.
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