Arsenals Top Seasons 1947-48
1947 was a milestone year in the life of GunnerN5, I spent endless hour’s playing football with my mates on Avenell Road we kicked a rag football (made by my mum) about using the main gate into Highbury as our goal. We were in awe of all the supporters as they streamed in and out of Highbury on Saturday afternoon’s wishing we could be inside with them. The Oh’s and Ah’s coming from the ground always left us wondering what was happening but we knew when the Gunners had scored as that caused the biggest roar of all.
My maternal Grandfather changed my life when he gave me the best birthday present I’d received – for my birthday he took me to my very first Arsenal game – it was November 22nd 1947 Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town and we won 2-0. That game was the start my life long journey of supporting the Arsenal and it was capped off with us winning the League Championship.
WW11 was over but our ground in Highbury had not been spared from war damage; the North Stand had been extensively damaged by fire causing the roof to collapse plus the South Stand terracing was badly damaged and in need of repair. The debts from the construction of the ground and the costs of repairing the war damage were a heavy financial burden, and Arsenal struggled when competitive football resumed. The war had also cut short the careers of many of the club’s star players, including Cliff Bastin and Ted Drake and sadly nine of the pre-WW11 players lost their lives during the war.
The Football League resumed for the 1946-47 season and Arsenal finished a disappointing 13th. After close to forty years with the Arsenal George Allison retired at the end of the season, and was replaced by his assistant Tom Whittaker, who had been the clubs trainer under Herbert Chapman, with Joe Shaw joining him from Chelsea.
Arsenal kicked off the1947/48 season with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Highbury, an ideal start for the new management team. Leslie Compton, the previous club Captain (who had been playing cricket for Middlesex Cricket Club), returned to Arsenal and they won their next six games. Joe Mercer had been Arsenal’s Captain in Compton’s absence but Whittaker felt that now Compton was back he should, once again, lead the team but Compton felt differently and persuaded Whittaker to keep Joe on as the clubs Captain.
They remained unbeaten in the first 17 games of the season, winning 12 and drawing 5 before they lost 0-1 away to Derby County in the 18th game. Arsenal were the dominant team of the season and were ahead of the other final top teams from the 2nd game of the season onward – as shown in the following table.
The Arsenal 1948/48 team consisted on many of the era great players –
Walley Barnes – (WAL) Full back
Denis Compton – (ENG) Outside Left
Les Compton – (ENG) Centre half
Alf Fields – Centre half
Alex Forbes – (SCO) Wing half
Bryn Jones – (WAL) Inside forward
Reg Lewis – (ENG) Centre forward
Jimmy Logie – (SCO) Inside forward
Archie MacAulay – (SCO) Inside Forward/Wing half
George Male – (ENG) Full back
Ian McPherson – (SCO) Winger
Joe Mercer – (ENG) Wing half
Ronnie Rooke – (ENG) Centre forward
Don Roper – (ENG) Winger
Laurie Scott – (ENG) Full back
Paddy Sloan – (NIR) Wing half
Lionel Smith – (ENG) Full back
George Swindin – (ENG) Goalkeeper
Joe Wade – (ENG) Full back
Ted Platt – Goalkeeper
Two of their most well known players were the Compton brothers.
Denis Compton CBE was born in Hendon on 23 May 1918. He played in 78 Test Matches and played for Middlesex – his home county. He was a slow left arm bowler, and cricket reports call him one of England’s most remarkable batsmen. He scored 123 centuries in first-class cricket. A stand at Lord’s is named in his honour. He started his football career at Nunhead in 1934/5 before moving to Arsenal, where he made his début in 1936. He also played for England was of 38 years and 64 days; the oldest post-war England debutante and the oldest ever outfield player to début.
Leslie Compton was born in Woodford on 12 September 1912. Like his brother he played cricket for Middlesex, but it was at football that he excelled. He came to Arsenal straight from Middlesex Schools, and played as an amateur in 1930 playing his first first-team game on 24 April 1932 against Aston Villa, just after turning pro. He started as a right back, but then when George Male took that place Denis went back into the reserves. His first medal came with the Charity Shield in 1938. During the war he continued to play for Arsenal and, being converted to centre forward he apparently scored ten goals in one game against Leyton Orient. After the war however he moved into the centre of defence. He missed a few games in 1947/8 because of his commitments to Middlesex (which must mean that Arsenal and Middlesex had a deal as to when he was available) he played for the rest of the season as Arsenal won the First Division title and both Comptons got their league winner’s medals.
The Compton’s are the only brothers ever to have won the League and County titles in football and cricket.
In the final Arsenal matchday programme of the 1947/48 League Championship winning season, ‘Marksman’ (aka Harry Homer), the programme editor of the day, wrote: “…my mind seeks an apt quotation with which to close this season which has been such a glorious one for Tom Whittaker, Joe Mercer and all connected with The Gunners. Shall we turn for once to Latin? ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’. Translation: ‘Victory grows out of harmony.’”
Two seasons later and Arsenal unveiled its new crest which incorporated Marksman’s Latin maxim. Tom Whittaker explained in the 1949/50 handbook (which also included the new crest) that the Club had been impressed by Marksman’s motto and it had now been officially adopted by the Club. The new crest also featured ‘Arsenal’ in a gothic style typeface, the westward facing cannon, the Borough of Islington’s coat of arms and ermine. (courtesy of Arsenal.com)