Arsenal – probably the best thing to come out of Woolwich since the South Circular. But has that got anything to do with Boro'?
Photo: via Twitter

Arsenal – probably the best thing to come out of Woolwich since the South Circular. Maybe even the ferry too. But has that got anything to do with Boro’? Well, yeah – sort of. After all is said and done, the Gunners are on our list of clubs that we ‘played’ at some point. Both of us go about things in two very different worlds, however. We always have done. And we tell you this for nowt: they’ve never won the Conference. So, why are we bothering?

Who are Arsenal?

First, let’s insult your football intelligence by reminding you who the Gunners are. And their place in the grand scheme of things while we’re at it. Up there with England’s most famous club sides, it all started for ’em in October 1886 as Dial Square. One month later, their name became Royal Arsenal. Then, in 1893, they decided to call themselves Woolwich Arsenal. Now, that brings us up to date with the name changes and that.

One thing we didn’t know is that Arsenal were the first southern team to join the Football League. But life in south east London wasn’t kind to them at the start – and it nearly did for them in 1910; the club on the brink of going bust. It saw new owners come in and decide to take the Gunners to a new home in 1913 – Highbury. It also meant another change of name too; the Woolwich prefix kicked into touch.

Oh, it started the long-running rivalry with Spurs too; not helped by the Football League’s decision to promote the Gunners into a bigger Division One at the expense of Tottenham. With little twists of fate like this, who knows how things could’ve turned out differently. As they did, however, the club went onto dominate English football during the 1930s. It’s just the start of a trail of titles and silveware that litter the years and decades to follow.

Why do we know Arsenal?

In many ways, we have no reason to know the Gunners. Not since the 1914-15 campaign have they played outside the top flight. It’s quite some record, to be fair. Boro’ had to start much further down the pyramid when we formed in 1976. More clubs being around wasn’t helping that. But it does mean our path to the top is still ongoing (and dragging itself out, if we’re being honest). So, the only real reason we’ve ever had to know the Gunners to date is in the friendlies we used to fix up.

What is our record against Arsenal?

Embed from Getty ImagesWell, it doesn’t matter that much – does it? In many cases, the Gunners sent their select side or U23s up the road. Mind you, our pre-season curtain-raisers used to give Arsenal’s summer signings their first taste of English football. Perhaps we should claim some of the credit for the trophies that followed? It’d be a hard sell, sure. But he who dares, Rodders. He who dares. Now, where were we? Oh yes. The Gunners.

As we don’t count friendlies in our database, it’s not that easy for us to track our rundown of meetings with Arsenal. As far as we know, our first friendly encounter came back in ’82. After that, there were matches in 1988, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2011. Now, we know there could be others. But what can you do about it? Here’s a great pic from one of the late 1980s/early 1990s encounters.

Embed from Getty ImagesWe also met in 2002 for a special occasion: Paul Fairclough‘s testimonial. And it was Boro’ who put out the select XI; a team containing players from that vintage – as well as some of the lads who were part of the magical journey that Cloughie took us on.

Arsenal: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: No competitive meetings

What happened to Arsenal?

Well, nothing ‘happened’ to them. We decided that we’d get more use out of playing more competitive pre-season matches. So, they’re no longer on our Christmas card list it would seem. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that it coincides with a slightly leaner period for them too. Unless you count four FA Cups and a Premier League runners-up medal as ‘success’.


You do.

Life at the bottom of League Two will do that to you.


• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Arsenal club profile