[ROGER THIS FOLLOWS STRAIGHT ON FROM SL25].
Last updated: April 2008
As if there wasn’t enough action in Henry Norris’ life right now, during the period 3-30 June 1925 the FA Emergency Committee undertook an investigation into the contract agreed between Arsenal FC and the player C R Voysey, signed in 1919 (see my file on 1919 for more details) [ROGER I NEED A CONNECTION TO SL19 HERE]. It’s not clear from the FA’s own records of this who had asked for it or why; I don’t think Norris would have asked for it, so I suppose Clem Voysey did. The FA’s investigators found that the contract wasn’t acceptable as enacted; they decided that two of its clauses contradicted each other. As the £200 signing-on fee paid to Voysey by Arsenal FC was in cash and (naturally) not referred to in the contract, this investigation didn’t find out about it.
On Mon 8 June 1925 an FA touring party played a match at Wollongong, New South Wales. During it, Arsenal’s Tom Whittaker received the injury which ended his career as a player and provoked a row (in December 1926) between the FA, and Henry Norris.
On Mon 8 June 1925 the Football League held its AGM at the usual venue, the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden. Transfer fees were not discussed at it. Henry Norris almost certainly attended the meeting but he doesn’t seem to have pressed the point about transfers this year, or ever again. As was usual with football’s two main organisations, the AGM of the Football Association followed that of the FL, in the evening of Mon 8 June 1925. The members voted to change the offside law in accordance with the rules that had been tried out at Highbury a few weeks before. From season 1925/26 only two defending players would be necessary to put an attacker offside. Henry Norris definitely attended the FA’s AGM; because he used the meeting to open negotiations with Sunderland FC for the transfer to Arsenal of forward Charles Buchan. Buchan’s memoirs state that the first news he had of a possible transfer came from Chapman; so Buchan may have been one of Chapman’s demands of Arsenal FC if he was to take the job of manager.
Throughout June 1925 the negotiations between Arsenal FC and Sunderland FC over the transfer of Charles Buchan continued. Henry Norris was representing Arsenal FC in them, and he didn’t want to pay the full £4000 transfer fee being asked for by Sunderland FC. So he negotiated a unique transfer deal in which Arsenal would pay Sunderland £2000 down plus £100 for each goal Buchan scored during season 1925/26. He scored 21 so Arsenal ended up £100 worse off than if Norris had agreed Sunderland’s original demands.
On the evening of Wed 10 June 1925 the directors of Huddersfield Town FC met with Herbert Chapman to try to talk him out of accepting the job of manager of Arsenal FC. They were unsuccessful. At around midnight on Wed 10- Thur 11 June 1925 Chapman contacted Arsenal FC - by phone and I’m sure it was Henry Norris he spoke to - to accept Arsenal’s job offer. Chapman may have been persuaded by the efforts already made by Henry Norris to get Charles Buchan for him; Norris may also have already promised him housing in London at Arsenal FC’s expense. The site at 6 Haslemere Avenue Hendon was bought on Arsenal’s behalf later in the year; and Chapman and his family moved in when the house was built, before April 1926.
After accepting the job at Arsenal - that is, after Thur 11 June 1925 Chapman travelled to Sunderland to speak in person to Charles Buchan and persuade him to join Arsenal FC. Buchan told him that he was reluctant to leave - not Sunderland FC necessarily although he had signed a new contract with the club, but the sports shop business he’d developed in the town. Buchan argued that without his presence as a selling point, the shop would not be so profitable.
Between Chapman’s visit to Sunderland to see Charles Buchan and 2 July 1925 two meetings were held in London to try to resolve the situation created by Buchan’s reluctance to take his eye off his sports business. Present at these meetings were Chapman, Henry Norris and Buchan himself. They resulted in Henry Norris agreeing to pay Buchan £250 per year over and above the wages he would receive from Arsenal FC. In Norris’ account of these negotiations, he said that Chapman was perfectly aware that a deal that was against the FA rules would be necessary to bring Buchan to Arsenal, but absented himself from the meetings at the points at which the details of the deal were thrashed out. The payments to Buchan were to be made by Arsenal FC, not Norris himself.
By Mon 15 June 1925 there had been another big change in Arsenal FC’s circumstances. Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited announced that it had bought the freehold that it had leased since 1913 in Highbury, and some adjoining land not part of the lease deal but also owned by St John’s College. Henry Norris had played the biggest part in bringing the deal to a successful conclusion, almost certainly including the negotiation of the mortgage by which Arsenal was going to fund the purchase; the money was lent the club by Legal and General Insurance Company, with the directors as the guarantors - an obligation which Henry Norris still had in February 1929.
On the morning Mon 22 June 1925 Herbert Chapman began his new job, his official title being secretary manager of Arsenal FC. Arthur Bourke/Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette expressed delight: he looked forward to “the end of square pegs for round holes, and the building up of efficient reserves, without which success is impossible”. He congratulated Norris and the other Arsenal directors on their “bold move” in appointing Chapman.
It’s clear from documents prepared by Henry Norris in 1929 that Norris and Chapman never got on. See my file Henry Norris and Herbert Chapman for a deeper and franker assessment of what their relationship was like [ROGER I SHALL NEED A LINK HERE WHEN THE CHAPMAN FILE IS DONE]. Here I’ll just say that Chapman showed from the start that he would be manager of the club in every respect: he showed a greater determination than any of his predecessors to investigate and be informed about the way the club was run - especially the way its finances were run. And Norris simply wasn’t used to that.
During July 1925 Jock Rutherford re-signed for Arsenal FC. But when the club sent his details to the FA, the FA refused to process his registration. They told Arsenal FC it would have to wait, while they investigated the possibility that Rutherford had links with a betting syndicate, who were using his name on their promotional hand-outs. Of course, Rutherford couldn’t play without being registered.
On Thur 2 July 1925 the transfer of Charles Buchan from Sunderland FC to Arsenal FC was completed for a deal of £2000 down plus £100 per goal scored, a deal unique in transfer history. In their reports on the deal neither the Sunderland Daily Echo, the Times nor the Islington Daily Gazette mentioned the terms of the transfer; so I suppose the details of it were not made public at the time. In fact, Buchan’s 22 goals during season 1925/26 meant that Arsenal FC paid more than the £4000 originally wanted by Sunderland FC; and a joke went round every time Buchan didn’t play, that Norris had forbidden Chapman to pick him in case he increased the transfer fee even more!
On the evening of Mon 6 July 1925 Henry Norris took a break from football business to go to the Guildhall, where he attended the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company.
On Tue 4 August 1925 Arsenal FC’s squad, apart from Rutherford, reported for pre-season training in an atmosphere of growing excitement in north London, though the focus of it was rather more on Charles Buchan’s arrival than Herbert Chapman’s.
Unknown date shortly after Chapman’s arrival; once pre-season preparations had begun is the most obvious time Herbert Chapman, assessing Arsenal’s coaching staff, decided that George Hardy, the first-team trainer, wasn’t up to the job as he saw it; it’s likely that Chapman, always one for modern methods, saw Hardy’s approach as old-fashioned. However, he was told by Henry Norris that demoting Hardy wouldn’t be permitted; so Hardy stayed in his job until early 1927.
On the afternoon of Sat 8 August 1925 the United Grand Lodge of England held its Masonic Million Memorial Festival at Olympia. This was the start of their campaign to raise money for a new building - the one they built and still use in Covent Garden - to be a fitting headquarters and also a fitting memorial to the dead of the first world war. 7000 freemasons attended this; I couldn’t find a list of all them! But Henry Norris was certainly entitled by his freemason’s rank to be present on such an important occasion.
On Mon 10 August 1925 Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited published its annual report, which showed that despite the dismal showing of the first team in season 1924/25, the club had made a profit of £1622. Gate receipts for the season had been £35984 on the door plus £1633 through season tickets and the profits of the European tour. There was still over £8000 due various creditors, but the club’s overdraft was down to only £470. More importantly, the freehold of Highbury appears in the accounts for the first time, this year. For Henry Norris and William Hall this was an important report: the burden they had carried since 1910, of loans and guarantees of loans, could now be carried by the land at Highbury, collateral even the most cautious lender would be happy to advance money on. Norris and Hall were still the largest shareholders, their recent policy of buying up small numbers of shares when they were available meaning that William Hall now owned 388 shares and Norris 402. By dint of the here-and-there purchases, since the beginning of 1925 William Hall’s daughter Elsa Kate had emerged as one of the larger shareholders, with 81.
At 2pm on Mon 10 August 1925 Henry Norris may have gone to Shepherd’s Bush cricket ground, in Acton to see a match between a Queen’s Park Rangers FC eleven and the Arsenal squad. Norris had several good friends amongst QPR’s directors so it’s likely he and they organised the match between them.
On Thur 13 August 1925 Henry Norris was at Tufnell Park FC/CC’s ground near Highbury for at least part of the day during a charity cricket match between a Tufnell Park eleven and the Arsenal squad; with the money raised going to local hospitals. He was certainly there for lunch - he made a speech.
On the afternoon of Sat 15 August 1925 11406 turned up at Highbury for the first pre-season practice match; they were hoping to see Charles Buchan, of course, but he didn’t play! Arthur Bourke/Norseman was there to watch Possibles 2 Probables 2 for the Islington Daily Gazette and he wrote afterwards that you could see the impact of the changed offside rule even in a game like this: there were far fewer stoppages. Bourke didn’t mention whether or not he’d seen Henry Norris at this match; but Norris did usually attend practice matches.
By Wed 19 August 1925 if not long before, wild stories were circulating about the Buchan transfer deal. Bourke/Norseman denied some stories that he’d heard presumably at the practice match, that it would be Buchan personally who would be paid £100 per goal scored. It was Sunderland FC who would get the £100 per goal.
The second practice match was held on the afternoon of Sat 22 August 1925 and this time Charles Buchan did play, captaining the Reds while Brain did the honours for the Blues. 13269 saw the two teams draw 2-2 and Baker get injured.
By Mon 24 August 1925 when the Athletic News did its pre-season assessment of all Division One clubs, Arsenal player Jock Rutherford had still not been registered at the FA. The FA’s investigation into Rutherford’s possible links with a betting firm was still continuing. By Fri 28 August 1925 with the first game imminent, still nothing had moved on the Rutherford front and Arthur Bourke/Norseman told his readers in the Islington Daily Gazette that there was now some legal action pending: he was referring to a case against the betting firm being brought by Rutherford for using his name without permission. In 1927 the FA reprimanded Arsenal FC for helping Rutherford pay his legal expenses in this case.
On Tue 25 August 1925 Harry John Peters, acting for Arsenal FC, bought the plot of land on which 6 Haslemere Avenue Hendon was to be built. When the house was finished, Herbert Chapman and his family moved into it; they were in residence by April 1926.
From August to December 1925 I have only one or two definite sightings of Henry Norris; and none at a football match. This reflects two developments, I think: he did not attend so many functions; and Charles Buchan and Herbert Chapman dominated both Arsenal FC and coverage of the club in the media, so that Norris’ presence at football matches - if he attended any - wasn’t mentioned, not even by Arthur Bourke/Norseman at the Islington Daily Gazette who in past years was my best source for which matches Norris went to.
Sat 29 August 1925 was the opening day of season 1925/26 which at least until the clubs got used to it was hugely enlivened by the changed offside rule. Arsenal FC’s match-day programme contained a long statement from Herbert Chapman, explaining his own expectations and warning the supporters against expecting too much too soon from the new regime at the club. Unwittingly, the fixture list had done its best to heat expectations to boiling point, by making Chapman’s first game in charge at Arsenal a north London derby. There were 53000 in Highbury for it, with the gates shut against many more. Although I’ve steered away from team lists in this diary of Henry Norris’ life I will give Arsenal’s first team for this match: Robson. Mackie. Kennedy. Milne. Butler. John. Hoar. Buchan. Cook. Ramsay. Toner: that is to say, a team comprised mostly of players who’d played for Arsenal in season 1924/25 with Buchan being the weightiest addition to the mix. Inevitably, the result fell way short of pre-match anticipation: Arsenal 0 Spurs 1 showed Arsenal keeping to their long-standing tradition of losing the first match of the season. The match report in Athletic News described Arsenal as rather incoherent, not making best use of Buchan’s talents; it also thought they’d showed themselves unable to cope with new offside law but as results over the next few weeks showed, they weren’t the only ones! I have no certain information about where Henry Norris was on the afternoon of Sat 29 August 1925 but if he wasn’t at Highbury what on earth else was more important?
After the disappointment of the first match of season 1925/26 Arsenal’s next two results were more what was required: Mon 31 August 1925 had Arsenal 2 Leicester City 2; and Sat 5 September 1925 the first away game under Chapman was a win: Manchester Utd 0 Arsenal 1.
On Mon 7 September 1925 Arsenal won away again: Leicester City 0 Arsenal 1. And on Sat 12 September 1925 the £100 owed to Sunderland FC started clocking up when Buchan scored his first goal for Arsenal in Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1.
On Tue 8 September 1925 Bromley UDC broke with its normal habit when faced with a planning application by Kinnaird Park Estate Company, and refused to pass its plans for 8 houses in Nightingale Lane Bromley Park. The plans were sent back to the company for revision.
Henry Norris was still one of the biggest shareholders in Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited. On Thur 10 September 1925 its annual report was published. Henry Norris would already have known this was coming, but the report showed that William Gilbert Allen had sold all his shares in Fulham FC - he’d been by far the biggest shareholder for over a decade. As a result, of course, he was no longer eligible to be a director of the club. Allen’s shares had all been bought by John Dean, who’d been associated with Fulham FC since 1903 when he had joined with Allen and Norris to set up the company and get the club into the Southern League; he now became the guiding force at the club. For the beginning of Henry Norris’ involvement in professional football, see my file on 1903. [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO SL1903].
By Mon 21 September 1925 Herbert Chapman seems to have concluded that Arsenal’s goal-keepers were not up to their job, at least not with the changed offside rule. He had begun to bring about a deal to bring Scottish international goal-keeper Harper to Arsenal from Hibernian.
Unlike with Leslie Knighton - indeed, with any of Henry Norris’ previous managers - it was Chapman, not Norris, who initiated the move for Harper.
Also by Mon 21 September 1925 Jock Rutherford, still not registered as a player, had sold his newsagent’s business in Gillespie Road, and serialised the story of his career at Newcastle United, to help pay his legal fees in his case against the betting company.
On Sat 26 September 1925 Arsenal 4 Leeds United 1 put Arsenal fourth in Division One.
194 goals were scored in the Football League as clubs continued to struggle with the new offside rule but by this stage, after several matches, some teams were beginning to come up with tactical solutions to the defensive problems it raised. It’s clear from Athletic News’ coverage of the following weekend’s games (which included a diagram) that on this afternoon, Sat 26 September 1925 the W/M formation which became the hallmark of the great Chapman-Arsenal sides of the 1930s was used for the first time: by Newcastle United in their match against Aston Villa.
On Thur 1 October 1925 the Feltmakers’ Company held its most important meeting of the year, the one at which the officers for the coming 12 months were elected. Henry Norris and William Hall both attended this meeting, at the Guildhall, and both got promoted. Henry Norris was elected fourth warden - the first step on the four-year progression towards serving as the Master of the Company for one year; and Hall was appointed to the small committee that had to be present while the Company’s annual audit was carried out by its accountants.
On the afternoon of Sat 3 October 1925 the consequences of the changed offside rule hit Arsenal amidships when Newcastle United used their new W/M formation to deadly effect in Newcastle Utd 7 Arsenal 0. And Spurs were top of Division One by the end of the afternoon - it was, as Arthur Bourke/Norseman wailed in the Islington Daily Gazette, a “bitter pill” of a weekend. He reported that United had reorganised their team (though without going into the W/M details of it); and that they’d marked Buchan out of the match. The Times described Arsenal as completely “overwhelmed”; and said that anxiety and erratic kicking had spread from Arsenal’s defenders to its midfielders as the game progressed. I doubt if Henry Norris went to St James’s Park so he was spared the worst of it though he won’t have liked the match reports.
Between Sat 3 October and Mon 5 October 1925 the Arsenal squad held a meeting which was an autopsy on the catastrophe at Newcastle. This was strictly a team and manager affair; I’m sure Henry Norris didn’t attend it. As result of the points raised, especially by Charles Buchan, Chapman rearranged Arsenal’s defence so that there was more ‘strength in depth’ about it. With this new-look defensive arrangement, on Mon 5 October 1925 in West Ham 0 Arsenal 4, Arsenal made the best use of Buchan, something they hadn’t really done until then. Able at last to play the game that most suited him, Buchan dominated the match with what the Times called his “artistry” and scored “two glorious goals”; in the second half Arsenal’s defence came under a lot of pressure but unlike at Newcastle, it wasn’t torn apart, and so the crisis of the visit to St James’s Park had a very positive outcome.
The new layout of Arsenal’s defence took time to bed in. When it clicked they got very good wins. But it didn’t always click, particularly in away games.
On Thur 29 October 1925 Rutherford v Turf Publishers Limited came to court. The court found that in its betting coupons the betting company had used Rutherford’s name without his permission, and awarded Rutherford £200 in damages. Rutherford didn’t actually receive any of the £200; it all went to pay his lawyers, with Arsenal FC paying the difference between the £200 and his full costs in the case. However, Rutherford was cleared of all suspicion of earning money from betting. On Sat 31 October 1925 the last episode of a serialisation of Rutherford’s career at Newcastle United appeared in the weekly mazazine Ideas; in it Rutherford did touch briefly on his current legal case, saying that Henry Norris had told him that he didn’t believe Rutherford had done anything wrong. However, by Mon 9 November 1925 Rutherford still had not been registered as a player by the FA. The FA had issued a statement saying that their own investigations into a possible connection of Rutherford with the betting company had not been completed; he would only be registered as a player if, at the end of their enquiries, they were satisfied he had not earned any money from betting. The result of the legal case was not enough to convince them.
Arsenal’s new ‘strength in depth’ approach was getting them a lot of goals when it worked. On Sat 31 October 1925 Brain got his second hat-trick in only a few weeks in Arsenal 4 Everton 1; then he got two on Sat 7 November 1925 in Manchester City 2 Arsenal 5, a result which pushed Arsenal into second place in Division One.
Between Tue 10 and Fri 13 November 1925 Chapman got the goalkeeper he had been angling for when Arsenal signed Harper from Hibernian. His first game was on Sat 14 November 1925 but he didn’t have much to do in Arsenal 6 Bury 1; Brain got another hat-trick, Buchan got two. I don’t know for certain whether Henry Norris saw any of these matches; I hope he did because the team was playing some good stuff.
Two mins before kick off Sat 28 November 1925 both teams came out onto the pitch in their overcoats to the sound of Chopin’s Funeral March, to stand in silence as a mark of respect to Queen Alexandra who’d died a few days before. There was a crowd of 50000 and the gates were shut for Buchan’s first match against the club he’d played for for so long. He scored once in Arsenal 2 Sunderland 0 and the win put Arsenal on top of Division One - somewhere they’d never been before in all the time that Henry Norris had been associated with them so I hope he was there to watch. In the Islington Daily Gazette on Mon 30 November 1925 Arthur Bourke/Norseman was thrilled to be reporting on a top-of-the-table clash; and he noted how the great change in Arsenal had come about with the introduction of only two new players. The Athletic News, also on Mon 30 November 1925 noted how well Arsenal were now managing the changed offside rule; and how the defensive changes in the team had led to the rise of John as a full-back; he’d been bought by Leslie Knighton as a half-back.
On Tue 1 December 1925 Bromley UDC passed a revised planning application from Kinnaird Park Estate Company for its 8 houses in Nightingale Lane Bromley Park; the application had been sent back for revision in September.
Sat 5 December 1925 brought Arsenal their toughest test so far and Chapman’s first game against his old club: champions Huddersfield Town 2 Arsenal 2 in which, Arthur Bourke/Norseman wrote, Arsenal had “displayed the better team work”; they’d had a particularly good first half-hour and had gone in at half-time 1-2. Henry Norris may have made the trip to Huddersfield to see this. He was certainly still in England at this time, because on Fri 11 December 1925 he made to Charles Buchan the first payment of £125 he was due as part of the deal between the two of them to compensate Buchan for the loss of revenue in his sports shop in Sunderland.
The following day, Sat 12 December 1925 Arsenal played what the Times described as “admirable football” Arsenal 1 West Bromwich Albion 0 though they did go off the boil a bit in the last few minutes. The result put them two points clear at the top of Division One and the team’s brilliant form was beginning to affect gates at other venues in north London. In the Islington Daily Gazette Arthur Bourke/Norseman reported that London Caledonians 4 Wimbledon 2, on the same afternoon, Sat 12 December 1925 had a crowd of 1500 which he thought was small for an important amateur game.
Still the saga of Rutherford’s registration dragged on. By 14 December 1925 the FA had at last finished their investigation into his possible links with betting companies; and their report was meant to be considered at that day’s FA Council meeting; but the Council decided to put off discussing it until the new year.
11.15 on Fri 25 December 1925 was the first ever Christmas Day fixture at Highbury; possible now that Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited owned the freehold. Arsenal 3 Notts County 0 had a big crowd, 40000; but some hefty challenges by the visitors saw Brain, Blyth and Mackie all get injured. It was another high-scoring day in the Football League; 112 goals in 20 matches. In the return fixture, Boxing Day Sat 26 December 1925 Brain, Blyth and Mackie didn’t play through injury and Buchan didn’t through illness and as a result the team came rather unstuck. Notts County 4 Arsenal 1 was disappointing but they were still top of the league after their last match that year.
It’s frustrating not knowing how many matches Henry Norris saw during Herbert Chapman’s first few months in charge. I would like to be certain that he had been watching while Arsenal played better than at any time since William Hall and he had taken on the burdens of Woolwich Arsenal FC in 1910.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis March 2008