Arsenal v Walsall 1933: The Greatest Cup Upset Ever

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!

Within a week, Black had been transferred to Plymouth, where he played for several years before being transferred to Southend in 1939.

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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14 thoughts on “Arsenal v Walsall 1933: The Greatest Cup Upset Ever

  1. Greatest cup upset ever no way.There were two much much worse upsets

    1. Wembley 1969 Arsenal 1 Swindon 3

    2.FA cup 3rd round 1992 Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 We were the champions and they were bottom of the 4th division!!!!!

  2. @Jack
    The Walsall defeat ’33 was the worst, due to the simple facts above – “we were in the middle of our golden days… [We finished the season] as champions, as we did the next season and the season after.”

    I went to game vs Walsall in 1978 (I have the programme, shown above).
    An interesting note for you (I hope): I knew the Walsall goalkeeper Mick Kearns) very well – we both lived in Banbury, and I first met him when he refereed a school match that I was playing in. I got to know him personally a little later in 1969 (when he began playing professionally for Oxford United); we would get together in the Banbury park for kick-abouts. Mick also had a brief spell with Wolves, and won 18 or 19 international caps for Rep of Ireland, and is today still involved at Walsall, I believe. I went to the game, incidentally, with his brother Aiden.
    I also knew Mick’s younger brother Ollie, who played for Reading, Oxford United, Walsall, Hereford and Wrexham.

    Excellent post btw Mr. Angry, cheers!

  3. An amusing aside relating to my previous post –
    When I arrived at the park one early evening a kick-about was in progress, approx 5-a-side as was the norm, and I joined in.We had jumpers or jackets for goalposts. Mick was playing, and was also refereeing. Ollie took a shot and it brushed the inside of the ‘post’ before entering the non-existent ‘net’. Referee Mick (age 19), playing on the opposing side to younger brother Ollie (age 13) disallowed the ‘goal’. An argument ensued between the two siblings, resulting in young Ollie grabbing the ball and marching towards the park exit, shouting over his shoulder “It’s my ball and I’m goin’ home!” Game over, as they say.
    What needs to be understood is their passion for the game, even in a fun kick-about, neither backing down. Thoroughly nice guys by the way.

  4. Tony Attwood did a good article in one of last season’s programmes about the Walsall game. One thing that he brought up that I had never realised before (and I can’t remember having seen it anywhere else) is that this game was Herbert Chapman’s last ever FA Cup game.

    • Good point about Herb, who died 6 Jan 1934, and the 3rd round of the Cup in ’33-’34 season wasn’t till a week later, on the 13th.

  5. Hi Gooners
    Walsall fan here in peace. My Dad was at the game and told a number of interesting stories from the Walsall perspective. Clearly, a massive game for the club and the town, but many of the unemployed could not afford to get in. The ground was overlooked by a bridge, which was packed. At half time, the gates were opened to let them in for free to add to the Walsall support. The gate is quoted at around 24k – not sure how many paid. Apparently, the Arsenal mascot was a drake, which was on the pitch for a while and then disappeared to be enjoyed by someone the next day. Dad mentioned that the atmosphere was amazing and the town was buzzing for days afterwards. The Walsall players were carried off the pitch shoulder high and then carried home from the pubs later that night. Gilbert Alsop is a genuine legend of the club who later became groundsman.

    I was at the League Cup tie in 1984 when Walsall won 2-1 at Highbury. I have to say the Arsenal fans were unbelievably gracious that night and made a great result even better with their generosity of spirit.

  6. rotheschild and zunz gave crowley all that money for the freemasons double of 1933 . arsenal traveled friday 13th jan . should have read the 1320 mr rotheschild , if 100 scots men live , they will never bow to english law lol . leslie sent the pope the letter . mad symbol wise mr rotheschild met his own one man army . 1333 the english came , only 4 scots castles remain , leven one of em , 1633 leslie formed the army no king no parliament , ask king charles . 1933 arsenal met the mad mad vangarian guard . 118 goals but when george leslie went at alex , king alex , look at alex words , WHO IS THAT MAN I ASK TRUELY SELDOM HAVE I EVER BEEN MASTERED ON A FOOTBALL PITCH , LET IT BE KNOWN HERBERT THE GREAT CHAPMAN DIED SCOUTING ONLY ONE WALSALL PLAYER HIS NAME GEORGE LESLIE , WALSALL 2 ARSENAL 0 , THE 7TH STRAIGHT DEFEAT ARSENAL TOOK ON THE FELLOWS PARK . TRUTH CHECK IT OUT LAST TIME THEY PLAYED .

  7. was no fluke george leslie was rotheschild employee in paris , called red star olympic of paris , ran by jules remet . in paris 1932 , he played newcastle who just beat arsenal 32 fa cup final , newcastle got a penalty on 5 mins , red star 3 , newcastle 1 . he beat 2 english cup winners for a french bike club and walsall . it was such a shock , the papers is all lies , walsall wore claret and blue , arsenal same as ever . the pictures in papers lies , i ave more on this than many people , originals . crowley put numbers of backs of 1st game 1933 final as it was on weekend of 322 of may 2nd 1611 bible . he left highbury and moved to loch ness straight after the game . arsenal were valued at £40000 , walsall £69 , arsenals boots £87 , so name me a game where the opposition less , than their boots . u carnt end of .

  8. like scots history scotlands greatest ever player meeting the ole scots greatest ever general . arsenal scored 7 at villa , drake the lot , not if grandad been injured and not make the big time , villa bound easter monday 34 £3000 , aston villa 1 arsenal 7 and on grandads 70th anniversary of kicking a ball we see his colchester in the town we live and boy bore , norwich 1 colchester 7 , people dont die we carnt see em .

  9. at manchester city 4th round he took tilsen out so much man city wanted him on the spot but bottom league players 33 only could move for £800 max , he was worth 4 times more . 30% of british transfer , bottom league to top club in land only 3 villa , arsenal and man city . defender as well the ones u forget .

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