One of the most famous days in Walsall’s history occurred in 1933 when the mighty Saddlers beat Arsenal. Steve Blake tells the story of the great day:
Walsall v Arsenal
Fellows Park 14th January 1933
Back row, left to right: C.Ball, W.Coward, J.Bennett, S.Bird, H.Salt.
Middle row: H.Wait(trainer), J.Reed, G.Leslie, G.Alsop, W.Sheppard, J.Cunningham, F.Lee
Front row: Mr.W.Slade(manager), Messrs. A.J.Eyre, H.L.Fellows(chairman), H.Lake and W.Roper(directors)
One of the biggest upsets in the history of the FA Cup, was when 3rd Division Walsall met Arsenal at home. Arsenal were revered as a legendary side and were classed as the greatest in the land. Arsenal looked upon the tie as a mere formality. Walsall were languishing in the lower reaches of the Third Division (South)and although 3 of the Arsenal side were absent through injury (Hapgood, Lambert and Hulme) they thought it was going to an easy victory. How Wrong could they be!
Cliff Bastin, Arsenal’s winger was quoted as saying “the Third Division footballer may not be a soccer artist, but when it comes to the heavy tackle, he ranks with the best.” He also added “Arsenal disliked playing Third Division sides for they would fling themselves into the game with reckless abandon, and the gashed bruised legs of the Arsenal players would bear grim testimony to their misguided enthusiasm”.
The teams were:
Walsall (Blue and White)- 1 Cunningham, 2 Bennett, 3 Bird, 4 Reed, 5 Leslie, 6 Salt, 7 Coward, 8 Ball, 9 Alsop, 10 Sheppard, 11 Lee.
Arsenal (White Shirts)- 1 Moss, 2 Male, 3 Black, 4 Hill, 5 Roberts, 6 John, 7 Warnes, 8 Jack, 9 Lambert, 10 James, 11 Bastin.
In the first ten minutes, Arsenal were awarded many free kicks, and Walsall held the “Gunners” to a goalless draw at half-time. In the second half, Walsall’s centre forward,Gilbert Alsop headed in the first goal from a corner. They say the cheering was heard two miles away! Arsenal missed many chances untill Tommy Black lost his cool and the resulting foul produced a penalty, and Sheppard scored to put the result beyond doubt. Herbert Chapman, the Arsenal manager, was in a state of shock and promptly banned Black from Highbury, and then a few weeks later transferred him to Plymouth.
The Daily Mirror Monday, January 16 1933
“Saturday may of been a dream to the small teams in the Cup-ties, but it was something of a nightmare for the “big noises”. Walsall led the way and gave the Arsenal the shock of their lives in defeating them by two goals to none.The Londoners were completely unsettled and their craft failed against the bustle and energy of the Black Country men. Jack and James tried desperatly hard to set the “machine” going, but always the Arsenal found themselves robbed of the ball. Alsop, Walsall’s leading goalscorer, drove the first nail into Arsenal’s coffin and Sheppard, with a penalty, completed the job. The crowd were almost mad with excitement and the players were carried shoulder high off the field. Thus a struggling Third Division team created a sensation of the century.”