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The First Gunners: Arsenal from Plumstead to Highbury

By Brian Belton

Everyone knows that Arsenal take their distinctive name from the old arms factory in Woolwich in South-East London where the team was formed. 

That is the legend of how ‘the gunners’ were born.

But what was the real story behind the creation of one of the world’s greatest football teams? 

‘In ‘The First Gunners: Arsenal from Plumstead to Highbury’ Brian Belton traces the tale of how the club came into existence. 

Started as Dial Square, by a group of workmen at the workshop of that name within the factory, they played their first game on an open field in the Isle of Dogs.

Soon afterwards, the team became Royal Arsenal and moved to Plumstead. But this was always a club with ambition, and, struggling to compete with the booming teams from the mighty industrial cities of the North, the team moved to Woolwich, turned professional, and became the Woolwich Arsenal. 

By 1913, they had outgrown that district of London, and moved on to Highbury in the north of the capital, dropping the Woolwich from their name, and becoming simply Arsenal. 

They were set on the path to glory. 

But the character of the club – its ambition and style – were all forged in those precarious, difficult early years when at times it seems as if the team had no future at all. 

‘The First Gunners: Arsenal from Plumstead to Highbury’ is a book that no Arsenal fans, or anyone who loves football, will want to miss. 

Brian Belton is the author of ‘Bolton Born: The Early Years of Bolton FC’, and numerous books on the history of football. His books on the game are primarily a study and celebration of this global congregation, the life carnival of soccer splendour.

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