A very happy International Workers’ Day to you, and a very happy day it was for the Arsenal in 1948; the Gunners rounded off a first post-war title win with a final day demolition of Grimsby Town in front of an exuberant Highbury crowd. This was Tom Whittaker’s first season in charge, and he could not have dreamt for a better start to his tenure than finishing 7 points clear of the chasing pack (via AISA Arsenal History Society). That the chasing pack was led by Matt Busby’s Manchester United, who won the FA Cup that same season, tells you everything you need to know about the size of this achievement.
Poor old Grimsby probably knew that they were in for a hiding before they even took to the field; not only relegated, they were rock bottom of the table with a measly 22 points. In addition, they had won just 3 of their 20 games away from Blundell Park. Interestingly, the Mariners had scored the same number of goals on the road as the Gunners – 25 – but whereas the Arsenal’s mean defence had conceded a miserly 17, Grimsby had leaked a shocking 68 (via Statto). Somewhat unsurprsingly, that number was about to get a whole lot worse.
With nothing resting on the match, Whittaker was able to hand a debut to 17 year old centre-half Lionel Smith. The rest of the side were pretty much the players who had borne most of the responsibility for capturing the Division One championship: George Swindin in goal; Laurie Scott and George Male accompanying Smith at the back; team captain Joe Mercer and Alex Forbes playing as wing-halves; Denis Compton and Don Roper on either flank; fellow Scots Jimmy Logie and Archie MacAulay occupying the inside forward positions; the prolific Ronnie Rooke up top (via 11v11). Rooke had scored 29 goals for the Arsenal in the 1947/48 season, and his sights were firmly set on the Golden Boot.
The newly-crowned champions were rampant from the off. The Arsenal’s record win in the top flight was a 9-1 annihilation meted out in January 1931 to, you guessed it, Grimsby Town – they must absolutely hate the sight of the Gunners – and that margin of victory was equalled on this day 69 years ago (via Arsenal.com). Rooke took his tally to 33 with a quartet of strikes, Compton bagged a brace, Forbes got in on the act with a goal as well, and Logie rounded off a perfect performance with a penalty. Swindin’s clean sheet was an apt finale too; he – along with Rooke – finished the season having played in every one of the Arsenal’s 42 league games.
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