It’s Manchester City v Arsenal on Friday. The first FA Cup tie between these clubs came in 1904 and was part of Manchester’s first major trophy winning campaign. The two sides met at Arsenal in the second round of the competition. Back then City were a top flight team while Woolwich Arsenal were in the Second Division and some reports talked of the Gunners being envious of Manchester City and their status (how often do modern interpretations of a club’s status forget the game’s full history hey?). Arsenal had defeated Fulham 1-0 in the previous round.
The Blues defeated the Gunners 2-0 with goals from Sandy Turnbull and Frank Booth, prompting the Manchester Evening News to print a cartoon of Billy Meredith leapfrogging over the Gunners while Tom Maley, dressed in kilt, watches.
Outside-left Frank Booth, one of the scorers, had joined City in April 1902 making his first appearance for the Club in a friendly with Celtic on 1 September 1902. That friendly appearance brought a little bad luck to the player as fairly early on in the match he accidentally collided with Celtic’s Right-back Hugh Watson causing him to leave the field for twenty minutes or so. When he returned however he seemed more determined than ever to prove what he was capable of and, when a chance came his way, he scored what was described as a “very fine” goal to give City a 1-0 victory.
Throughout Booth’s career prior to the Arsenal game he had been rather unlucky with injuries and, at times, must have seriously considered concentrating on a life outside of the sport. He was a hatter by trade, coming from the local hatting areas surrounding the towns of Hyde and Denton, and had only completed his apprenticeship in 1903. Nevertheless a career in football had to be more appealing than life in one of the large hatting factories of east Manchester.
Here’s a brief cutting mentioning the game. Note also the difficulties being experienced by Second Division Manchester United (again, how often do modern day commentators on the game’s history forget the full history?).
After the tie with Arsenal at Plumstead, George Robey, a very famous Music Hall comedian with a love of football, took the City team to visit the capital’s top Music Halls. Such light relief was needed in the City camp as the realisation was now dawning that the Blues might seriously be contenders for the League and Cup double that at this point in history had only been achieved by Preston (1889) and Aston Villa (1897).
For a side (indeed a city) whose only national success so far had been to win the Second Division, this must have felt like an impossible dream but, as the season progressed it became increasingly possible.
You can read about what happened next here:
The next FA Cup meeting between the teams didn’t come until 1932 when they met in at the semi-final stage.
You can read all about that here:
Since 1932 the sides have met in the competition on 17/2/1971 at Maine Road (a 2-1 Arsenal win); the 2017 semi-final (2-1 aet for Arsenal); and again in the 2020 semi played on 18 July 2020 (a 2-0 Arsenal win).
A City FA Cup win over Arsenal is long overdue!