One of the published articles I wrote for AFC Liverpool’s Matchday programme.
AFC Liverpool isn’t the only team in the North West Counties with a connection to a Premier League side. Today’s opponent, Darwen Football Club, have a rich 133 year history, yet for most of their fans a single, legendary 90 minute match aptly defines the spirit of the club. Darwen Football Club’s impressive FA cup run of the 1931/32 season culminated in a fixture that they and, their opponents on that day, Arsenal will never forget.
After beating Chester at home in the second round Darwen went through to the third round, where they were drew away against Arsenal. Darwen were truly up against the big boys, Arsenal were the reigning champions, having secured their first ever league title. Non League Darwen saw the opportunity of a life time, to prove themselves against one of the great teams.
The match played on January 9th 1932 is better known to Arsenal fans as their highest scoring competitive game, thanks to an incredible four goal effort from Cliff Bastin, a hat-trick from David Jack and a brace from both Joe Hulme and Jack Lambert. Arsenal won 11-1, however, taken in the context of that season, Arsenal trounced far more glamorous opponents than the part-timers from Lancashire. In that same season the rampant Gunners beat Liverpool by a hefty 6-0. Three seasons on, in the 34/35 season Arsenal beat Liverpool 8-1, showing that their domination in this period wasn’t limited to non league sides. Darwen lost to an Arsenal team who controlled the decade with a haul of five league wins and two FA cups.
Over 75 years on and Darwen are still proud of their heroes, and rightly so. Their defeat was far from a humiliation and the Lancashire side and their travelling fans did a great service to the league, showing great sportsmanship and that part timers could compete with the big boys.
However, it wasn’t only honour that the visitors took back to Lancashire. Darwen’s share of the 35,000 gate tickets funded the building of a new stand and, more significantly, the Arsenal team were so impressed by the conduct of the visitors that they donated a full strip of their red and white home kit. Darwen were honoured and adopted the colours, the red and white kit has endured to this day, and although modernised since its adoption, it still resembles that awarded to the heroes of the FA cup, carrying the spirit of Darwen’s golden age into every game.