Looking at Arsenal now, with sell out crowds week after week, and a bulging trophy cabinet, it is hard to imagine that once there were just eleven players with no pitch and no kit. Back in 1886 a group of workers at The Woolwich Armaments Factory in South East London had a brief meeting and so the history of Arsenal Football Club began.
Their first ever match was a 6-0 victory, and was played under the name of Dial Square, a name which was held for a short time until such time as Royal Arsenal was decreed a better and more suitable name. The team continued for some years much as our current day Sunday League teams play, with friendlies and regional competitions in the South London area, and largely made no real impact on the footballing world, however the course of history was already truly under way, and the progression of Arsenal had begun.
It was around this time that the red kit was introduced, apparently a borrowed kit from Nottingham Forest, the red which, of course, we continue to wear to this day, albeit a different shade. The origin of the cannon comes from the sign above the entrance to the original factory, and although the shape and design has altered slightly over the years, it is as close as it can be to the original.
Royal Arsenal continued to play their friendly/local matches up until 1891, when the decision was taken to become a professional outfit in an attempt to join the Football League. The name of the club was changed to Woolwich Arsenal in a bid to appeal to a wider base of supporters from the local area. Although exact crowd figures are only ever guesstimates, it would appear that the move paid dividends, so much so that Woolwich Arsenal were secure enough to be admitted to The Football League within two years of turning professional. The Manor Ground in Plumstead was the sporn of the current Ashburton Grove, and although at the point of turning professional, Arsenal played at The Invicta Ground, The Manor was "The Home Of Football" into the new Century.
Arsenal have remained a league club since this day, and also a professional outfit from that point onwards.
Although the early years provided little in the way of success, Arsenal were promoted to top flight football for the first time in 1904, a place where most people alive would only ever remember them.
Problems began to set in, with Woolwich Arsenal consistantly pulling in smaller crowds than their local rivals, to the point of near bankrupcy, before being saved in around 1910. However things did not quite go their way, and relegation meant second tier football once again, where the team remained until the onset of war.
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