#ThrowbackThursday - Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Part One

By Robert Exley

Recalling the history of the fixture ahead of the weekend’s visit

Like many other clubs from the period, Middlesbrough Football Club were founded in 1876 by members of the Middlesbrough Amateur Cricket Club as a means of remaining fit during the winter months. The club remained amateur, however in 1889 a group of Middlesbrough players grew disaffected with their amateur status and formed breakaway professional club Middlesbrough Ironopolis FC. That same year, Middlesbrough began competing in the Northern League while Ironopolis entered the same league the following year. On their first three season in the Northern League, Ironopolis won a hat-trick of Northern League titles, while Middlesbrough FC finished runners up in each season.

In 1892, both sides felt that the town of Middlesbrough had a better chance of securing a place within the Football League if they amalgamated and so an application to join was filed under the name of Middlesbrough and Ironopolis Football and Athletic Club. The proposed club however received only one vote in its application, quite possibly due to the reason that most of the Northern and Midlands clubs didn’t fancy a long trek to Middlesbrough. The failure of this application meant that the planned merger was shelved and both clubs remained independent. Twelve months on, Middlesbrough Ironopolis succeeded in being elected to the Football League and competed in the Second Division in 1893/94 alongside Woolwich Arsenal.

On competing within the Football League, through the early use of football agents Ironopolis practically built their side up from scratch. Arsenal’s first visit to Middlesbrough came in late February 1894 at the Ironopolis’s Paradise Ground (very rarely is anywhere in Middlesbrough described as ‘paradise!’). Arsenal left the north east with a 6-3 victory with goals for Frederick Davis, two for James Henderson and a hat-trick for Walter Shaw. Two weeks later, back at Plumstead’s Manor Ground, Walter Shaw was on target again as Arsenal picked up both points with a 1-0 win. In 1893/94, Ironopolis finished eleventh out of fifteen clubs. At the end of the season however, the club were in financial dire straits and folded after just one season in the Football League.

After Ironopolis left the Football League, Middlesbrough FC continued to compete within the Northern League and won three titles out of four between 1894 and 1897. The club remained amateur however and won the FA Amateur Cup twice in four seasons between 1893/94 and 1897/98. In 1899, Middlesbrough FC turned professional and their application – backed by both of their rivals in the north east, Newcastle United and Sunderland - to join the Football League Second Division was accepted. Boro’s first fixture against Woolwich Arsenal came with their visit to Plumstead’s Manor Ground in late September 1899. The Gunners ran out 3-0 winners with goals from Andrew McCowie and two for Herbert Shaw.

Boro’s first season in the Football League ended without a single away win, however they secured their first win over Arsenal at Ayresome Park in February 1900 by inflicting a 0-1 defeat on the Gunners. In their first season, Boro finished fourteenth out of eighteen clubs. Boro’s first away win over Arsenal came in October 1901 by inflicting a 0-3 defeat on the Gunners at the Manor Ground. That same year, Boro won promotion to the First Division by finishing as runners up in the Second Division. The earliest footage of a Boro match is an away trip to Notts County in 1902. By this point, Boro were playing their home games at the Linthorpe Road West Cricket Ground. However, their success required Boro to find a new home and on the site of Ironopolis’s old home at the Paradise Ground, their new Ayresome Road home was built in 1903.

In January 1904 footage of Tees-Wear Derby was captured on film, where Boro were defeated 1-3 by Sunderland. On Arsenal’s promotion to the First Division in 1904, their first visit to Ayresome Park came in September, however they suffered a 0-1 defeat. In the first decade of the twentieth century Boro spent big money on acquiring Alf Common from Sunderland for a record £1,000 in 1905, who later on in his career turned out for Woolwich Arsenal. Middlesbrough also captured the famed England forward Steve Bloomer from Derby County a year later. Bloomer’s first visit to the Manor Ground with Boro in September 1906 however would be described in a report for the London Daily News as ‘gloriously one-sided’.

Two goals for Charlie Satterthwaite gave Woolwich Arsenal a 2-0 win, though the London Daily News piece on the match described that the score: ‘does not indicate such an overwhelming victory as the home team actually gained’ and that ‘neither of the famous pair (of Common and Bloomer) had any disposition to work….what seemed to be wrong with Middlesbrough was that all its stars (!) were in the forward line and all its triers in the rear’. Their appraisal of Arsenal in contrast was that: ‘altogether the Woolwich attack was irresistible on Saturday and entitled to at least two more goals to mark its superiority’.

In 1913/14, Middlesbrough achieved their highest ever league finish to date when they came third in the top tier. They were however never really in the title race and were eight points behind that season’s champions Blackburn Rovers under a two points for a win system. Boro’s first visit to Highbury came in late March 1920, where Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners with goals for Billy Blithe and Frederick Groves (not related to either Vic or Perry). Boro’s first run in the top tier lasted twenty two years, until finishing rock bottom in 1923/24 and ten points adrift of safety. Middlesbrough returned as second tier champions in 1926/27, fired by striker George Camsell who bagged fifty nine goals in one season – then a record which would last for just one further season before surpassed by Everton’s Dixie Dean.

Camsell went on to become Middlesbrough’s top scorer for ten straight seasons, though couldn’t stop Boro finishing rock bottom of the old First Division the following season. Middlesbrough came to Highbury that November to face Arsenal for the first time during Herbert Chapman’s reign. The Gunners ran out 3-1 winners with goals for Joe Hulme and two for Charlie Buchan, while George Camsell would be on target for Boro. That same year, a silent Pathe piece shows footage of when Boro faced a potential Cup upset against fellow north eastern side South Shields in the third round of the FA Cup. The latter side were actually a League club during the 1920s, and lying bottom of the Second Division. At the end of that season, they fell into the Third Division North before folding in 1930.

The side reformed as Gateshead AFC and retained their place in the Football League until 1960, when they failed re-election and were replaced by Peterborough United before finally falling into liquidation in 1973. Back in January 1928 however, they suffered a 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park. In 1928/29, Boro bounced back as Second tier champions again and would spend the rest of the 1930s in the old First Division. There followed a run of fixtures with Arsenal which rained goals (in fact, as many as ninety four in just twenty fixtures in the League and FA Cup – an average of 4.7 goals per game!).

On route to winning their first trophy – the 1930 FA Cup – Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Ayresome Park in the fifth round with goals for Jack Lambert and Cliff Bastin. On the road to Arsenal’s first League title the following season, Boro’s visit to Highbury in late November saw the Gunners run out 5-3 winners with two goals for Cliff Bastin and a hat-trick for Jack Lambert. Back at Ayresome Park the following March, on the way to the title Arsenal picked up a 5-2 win with two goals for David Jack and a hat-trick for Jack Lambert. Arsenal’s return to Ayresome Park in 1931/32 a week prior to Christmas saw the exact same score line, with goals for Jack Lambert and two apiece for David Jack and Cliff Bastin.

A week after losing the 1932 FA Cup to Newcastle, Arsenal stood three points behind leaders Everton as Middlesbrough came to Highbury. Boro did Arsenal a big favour the week prior by beating Everton 1-0 back at Ayresome Park. Arsenal ran out 5-0 winners with two goals apiece for Jack Lambert and Cliff Bastin and a Middlesbrough own goal. Up at Goodison Park however, a 1-0 win for Everton meant that they secured the title and Arsenal – failing to retain their title – ended the season trophy-less. In looking to win their title back in 1932/33, in late November after a run of five straight wins Arsenal lost pole position to Aston Villa on goal average after a 3-5 defeat up at Villa Park.

However, a 4-2 victory over Middlesbrough seven days on, with goals for David Jack, Joe Hulme and two for Ernest Coleman saw the Gunners reclaim the top spot after Villa crashed to a 2-5 defeat to Man City. Two months later, Middlesbrough’s 4-1 win over Stoke in the fourth round of the FA Cup would be captured by Pathe News. Boro’s FA Cup run however ended the following round after a 0-3 away defeat to Birmingham. By the following April, the main title challenge to Arsenal came from Sheffield Wednesday. After a run of four games without a win, Arsenal got back on track with a 5-0 home win over Aston Villa.

The following week, Arsenal visited Ayresome Park to play Middlesbrough. The Gunners ran out 4-3 winners with goals from Cliff Bastin and a hat-trick for Joe Hulme. A 0-4 defeat for Sheffield Wednesday that same day meant that Arsenal gained a four point cushion at the top of the table and by the end of the month, the title returned to Highbury. On the way to retaining the title in 1933/34, Arsenal hammered Boro 6-0 at Highbury in late September with goals for Ray Bowden, Cliff Bastin and two apiece for Ralph Birkett and David Jack. By Christmas of 1933, Arsenal held a four point cushion at the top of the old First Division after four straight wins.

However, there after came a run of two draws followed by three straight defeats by early February for the Gunners which left Arsenal two points behind Derby County who overhauled them at the top. Arsenal then travelled to Ayresome Park and goals for Ralph Birkett and Ray Bowden gave the Gunners a 2-0 win – the first of three straight wins which took Arsenal back to the top of the table. Boro had to wait another fourteen months to face Arsenal again, twice over the course of Easter weekend in 1935. On Good Friday at Highbury, Arsenal thumped Boro 8-0 with goals for Pat Beasley, Cliff Bastin as well as two for Welshman Ehud ‘Tim’ Rogers on his debut after signing from Wrexham and four goals for Ted Drake.

After a 1-0 win at home to Huddersfield the following day, Arsenal travelled to Ayresome Park for the return fixture on Easter Monday. As described by Andy Kelly’s ‘The Arsenal History’ website, a Ted Drake goal after six minutes gave the Gunners a 1-0 win over a Middlesbrough side battling relegation in 21st place. That same day, a 1-1 draw for second place Sunderland away at Preston North End meant that Arsenal could not be caught at the top of the table and a hat-trick of League titles was secured. As for Boro, that season they avoided relegation by one point while Spurs finished rock bottom.

By the following December, only one point separated Arsenal and Middlesbrough standing in fourth and sixth place respectively. Despite winning three titles on the bounce, the Gunners were quite some way off the pace standing eight points behind leaders Sunderland. After the game was called off due to thick fog on the Saturday, the following Monday afternoon in front of a diminished crowd of just 23,365, Arsenal picked up both points with two goals again from Ehud Rogers. ‘Tim’ was never a big name in Arsenal’s history and the four goals scored against Boro during 1935 accounted for four fifths of his five goals for Arsenal, before he moved on to Newcastle the following year.

By the time Arsenal came to visit Middlesbrough on Good Friday in April 1936, they stood twelve points behind Sunderland at the top of the table and needed a win to keep their faint hopes alive. On the scoresheet for Boro were two former Arsenal players – Ralph Birkett and Ernest Coleman. Goals for Ray Bowden and Cliff Bastin meant that the Gunners were held to a 2-2 draw and Arsenal’s long reign as English league champions was over. In 1936/37, Middlesbrough visited Highbury in late November. Arsenal were languishing in eighth position, while Boro were two points above in Sixth place. Arsenal however leapfrogged Boro after a 5-3 win, with the points secured with goals from Ray Bowden, Ted Drake, Cliff Bastin and two goals for Jackie Milne who later moved on to Middlesbrough a year and a half later.

By the time that Arsenal met Boro in the return fixture at Ayresome Park in late March 1937, the Gunners had climbed back to the top of the league and were three points ahead of Middlesbrough in third place. Ray Bowden was on target for Arsenal, though the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw. By the end of the season, the title would be won by Man City, while Arsenal finished five points behind in third and Boro languished in seventh place. Boro visited Highbury again late on the following October. Arsenal were in sixth place but just three points off the top of the table. The Gunners were just two points ahead of Middlesbrough, though Boro were as many as six places lower in twelfth place. Boro however managed their first win over Arsenal for eight years, by inflicting a 1-2 defeat on the Gunners.

Arsenal visited Ayresome Park in early March 1938, by which time the Gunners had climbed to the top of the table despite at that point winning just four games away from home in the league. Boro however, after six straight wins, did the double over Arsenal by inflicting a 1-2 defeat. The Gunners though won back their title on the final day of the season, with a 5-0 win over Bolton at Highbury, overhauling Wolves who lost their final game of the season to Sunderland up at Roker Park. Middlesbrough finished six points behind in fifth, meanwhile reigning Champions Man City were relegated after being kept off of the bottom of the table only on goal difference. In what was an oddity of a league season however, in 1937/38 relegated City were only sixteen points behind newly crowned champions Arsenal!

The Gunners failed to obtain another win over Middlesbrough before the outbreak of World War Two. In late November 1938, Arsenal were languishing in thirteenth position before visiting Ayresome Park to play a Middlesbrough side seven points above them in sixth place. Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw. By 1st April 1939, when Boro visited Highbury for the last time before the war, Arsenal had climbed the table but still a considerable way off in seventh place. Boro meanwhile were three points ahead of Arsenal in fourth place. That afternoon, Highbury had a distinguished visitor in the shape of American Baseball legend Babe Ruth.

That day, Boro inflicted a 1-2 defeat on Arsenal. On the scoresheet had been Boro and England forward Wilf Mannion, who struck up a conversation with Ruth after the game. In an interview with Richard Whitehead of the Times Newspaper in 1996, Mannion recalled how Babe Ruth stated that he had ‘never seen such a big crowd’ enquiring with Mannion: ‘Gee, how much are the 22 players on?’ Mannion replied: ‘all on the maximum wage of £8’ A shocked Babe Ruth responded: ‘Jeez, are they bloody idiots or something?’ Mannion admitted years later: ‘We were, too, weren’t we?’ Middlesbrough finished the season in fourth place, one position above Arsenal in fifth. There followed the outbreak of World War Two and a seven year absence for competitive football.

Football returned in 1946/47 with record attendances, therefore Mannion – with Babe Ruth’s damning observation in mind – decided to take a stand over football’s maximum wage and the ‘retain and transfer’ system by turning down a contract with Middlesbrough and making a formal request to be transferred from Ayresome Park. Boro, now managed by former Arsenal striker David Jack, refused to sell and in protest Mannion went on strike. Under the existing system, as Boro held Mannion’s registration in perpetuity, they could maliciously prevent Mannion plying his trade anywhere else. In David Jack’s words: ‘If Mannion won't play for us, he will never play in League football again’.

At the time, Alan Hoby of the Sunday people remarked: ‘personal liberty is a precious thing. It is one of the things we went to war about….frankly this seems to me to savour of dictatorship’. After eight months, with Mannion ready to take his challenge to Parliament, complications with Mannion’s wife’s pregnancy meant that he withdrew his challenge and returned to Middlesbrough. Consequently, it would be another decade and a half before Football’s employment restrictions were removed and an English footballer’s wages would get anywhere near what the likes of Babe Ruth earned over in the USA. By this time however, Mannion would be running a pub in the new town of Stevenage, which as shown by this Pathe News piece, would be visited by the Queen in 1959.

Immediately after the Second World War, the high scoring element of Boro’s visits to Highbury continued. The league fixture in April 1947 saw Arsenal run out 4-0 winners, with Ronnie Rooke scoring all four goals. Eleven months later, another League visit for Middlesbrough to Highbury saw Arsenal dish out a 7-0 thrashing with goals for Don Roper, two for Dennis Compton, a hat-trick for Ronnie Rooke and a Middlesbrough own goal. Middlesbrough remained in the top flight until 1953/54, as their twenty six year run in the old First Division ended with them finishing second from bottom. There would be no quick return to top tier football for Boro who would remain outside of the old First Division for the next two decades.

The high point for Football in Middlesbrough in the meantime would be Ayresome Park’s selection to host matches during the 1966 World Cup Finals. Initially, the FA had intended for St. James’s Park in Newcastle to represent the North East, however at the time a dispute raged between Newcastle United and Newcastle City Council over the lease of St. James’s Park, with the council wanting a major say in not only in ground improvements at the Stadium but also how the club was to be run in the future, meaning that the FA chose Teeside over Tyneside. Ayresome Park’s involvement in the summer of ’66 would forever be linked with the performances of the North Korean side, whose story would be told in full in this BBC Documentary.

Their first match would be a heavy 0-3 defeat to the USSR. On their second game, North Korea were one down to Chile and heading out of the tournament before they were saved by a late equaliser from Pak Seung-Jin to earn a 1-1 draw. Their final group phase match would be against the Italians who lost their previous match against the USSR and needed a win to progress from the group phase. In the closing minutes of the first half, North Korea took the lead with a goal from Pak Do Ik and held out for a shock 1-0 win to progress to the Quarter Finals. Such was the outrage back in Italy at their elimination that it lead to a ban on foreign players which was not lifted until fourteen years later, when Juventus signed Liam Brady from Arsenal.

The North Korean’s moved on from Ayresome Park to Merseyside and met Portugal at Goodison Park in the Quarter Final. Again, a shock was on the cards when North Korea went three goals up in the first half. Four goals from Eusebio however meant that the Portuguese came back to defeat North Korea 3-5. Despite Middlesbrough’s part in the story of the summer of ’66, that same year their side was in such disarray that they dropped into the third tier of English football for the first time after finishing second from bottom. Luckily for them, their stay was a brief one as they returned as runners up within the old Third Division in 1966/67. Ironically, as will be seen tomorrow, their rise back to the big time would come courtesy of key member of the England 1966 World Cup winning Squad, albeit a good few years along the line.

Robert Exley can be followed on Twitter and is also the editor of Upstart Football.com.

20th October 2016 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Kenny  15:39pm 20th Oct 2016

Good bit on North Korea.Of course its the rule of Kim Jong-un who Wenger copies to keep the AKB's in check.Hail our great leader - Post No. 99519

Arseneknewbest  16:09pm 20th Oct 2016

Rob - thanks. You're back and the shadows caused by audits and circulars immediately lift a little. I assume you're just writing about fixtures against the clubs that came up this year but all power to you. I'm sure you'll cover it in tomorrow's instalment but Middlesbrough for me is all about 89 and that scrambled Martin Hayes goal from a massive Johnny Bostic kick. No streaming back in those days youngsters - I was listening to it in me old mum's garage with a mate while cleaning my motorbike. We went properly bonkers when the goal went in - in the last few minutes I seem to recall. I'm surprised to see that the game took place in early May. I thought it was a bit earlier. Nevertheless, it felt like a crucial win and a step towards that title. But then it was Derby (aaagh), the Wombles (double aaagh), and that rather important game at Anfield. In some ways it feels like yesterday. Ironopolis is a fantastic name for a club - and a suitable early adversary for the Gunners. Can't help thinking aluminuimopolis, plasticopolis or corporatebull****opolis would better suit some of today's outfits. - Post No. 99521

80's Gooner  23:18pm 20th Oct 2016

Ah yes Boro 89. I was supposed to go to that game but my parents had buggered off to Majorca & i had the house to myself so I had a party the night / morning before & could not be shaken. I eventually woke up at teatime, turned the telly on & to watch Hayes stroke the ball. During the 88-89 season ITV had a final score type show that showed highlights of one of the 3 o'clock games just after the final whistle. That day it was Arsenal v Boro. A nice warm sunny May day as I recall. Even though I spent most of it in bed. - Post No. 99534

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