Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

The 1930-31 season is one of the most humiliating in the history of Newton Heath Football Club and Manchester United Football Club.  The previous season United finished 17th in the English First Division Championship on 38 points with 15 wins, 8 draws and 19 defeats in their 42 League games.  They scored 67 goals, Harry Rowley and Joe Spence each scored 12, and they conceded 88 with veteran Alf Steward in nets for 39 of them.  In the FA Cup, they limped out in Round 3 going down 2-0 at Old Trafford to Swindon Town who were playing in Division Three South.

The most important game of the season played at Old Trafford during the 1929-30 season (finished 17th) was played on 22 March 1930 and it did not even feature Manchester United.  On 22 March 1930, the Match Programme for the game which was called “RED & WHITE,” many years before it became known as “THE UNITED REVIEW,” carried an advertisement stating: “PARK YOUR CAR at the COUNTY CRICKET CLUB GARAGE, OLD TRAFFORD.”  Looking back now at this Match Programme it is difficult to understand the marketing appeal of the advertisement as by the time most fans had purchased the souvenir programme, which cost 2d, they would already have parked-up and made their way to the stadium.  The Match Programme was Vol. XVII, No.33 and had a photograph of James “Jimmy” Seed (the captain of Sheffield Wednesday) and Thomas “Tom“ Wilson (the captain of Huddersfield Town) on the front cover with the caption of “THE RIVAL CAPTAINS.”  The game was the FA Cup semi-final which was played out by Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.  The Terriers (Huddersfield Town) beat The Owls (Sheffield Wednesday) 2-1 but Huddersfield Town lost the 1930 FA Cup final 2-0 to Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, London.

Manchester United set four unwanted records in season 1930-31.  Firstly, they lost all 12 of their opening League matches which included a 6-0 and 7-4 tanking at home to Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United respectively.  They also lost 4-1 to Manchester City, 5-1 to West Ham United and 4-1 against Portsmouth away from home.  This was not only a club record but also a record for the English First Division Championship.  Secondly, United won 7, drew 8 and lost a club record 27 League games in a season giving them a meagre 22 points from 42 League outings.  Their points tally was a club record low from 42 games whilst Newton Heath Football Club could only manage 14 points in season 1893-94 (United’s lowest number of points with 3 points for a win came in season 1989-90 under Alex Ferguson when they could only register 48 points from 38 matches).  Fourthly, United scored 53 times in their 42 League games, but conceded a club record 115 goals with the hapless Steward partly responsible for them having played in 38 of the games.  Bizarrely, Blackpool conceded 125 goals during the season but unlike Manchester United, who finished bottom of the First Division along with Leeds United who were one place above them, who were both relegated to the Second Division, Blackpool survived the drop after ending the season one point above Leeds United.

After Manchester United lost their opening ten League games of the season, and were sitting bottom of the English First Division with no points and a minus goal difference of 29, it was too much for one group of fans.  Some 68 years before “Shareholders United Against Murdoch,” which subsequently became the “Manchester United Supporters’ Trust” (MUST), was formed in 1998 to stop a proposed takeover of Manchester United by the media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, a large group of very disgruntled Reds formed a Supporters’ Action Group.  However, the United fans in 1930 could not call upon the social media monster that fans’ pressure groups have at their fingertips today to advertise their dissatisfaction with their team’s Board of Directors whose resignations they were calling for.  The club’s eleventh League game of the 1930-31 season was against Arsenal on 18 October 1930, and the disgruntled Reds placed advertisements in the local press calling upon fans of the club to boycott the game.  On the day of the game the same group of angry Reds paraded the concourses of Old Trafford with a placard in one hand and a leaflet in the other calling upon all Manchester United fans to boycott attending the match.  However, the loyal Reds paid no heed to the call to boycott watching their team play and 23,406 fans attended the game which was the club’s highest home attendance of the season at the time.  United lost 2-1 with George McLachlan scoring United’s only goal of the game.

United’s record home attendance of the 1930-31 season was set on 7 February 1931, when they lost 3-1 at home to their rivals, Manchester City.  Joe Spence scored for United.  However, the 1930-31 season was not a complete disaster as Manchester United won the Manchester Senior Cup for the fourteenth time since the formation of Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Cricket and Football Club in 1878.

Did You Know That?

United’s difficulties on the pitch in season 1930-31, mirrored their financial position off it.  The club, and not for the first time, were in deep financial trouble.  Old Trafford was owned by a local brewery and the club’s Board of Directors asked their landlord to suspend mortgage interest payments until the books were close to being in the black.  The club also owed a significant sum to the Inland Revenue in respect of income tax arrears.  However, in December 1930, the club faced bankruptcy for a second time (the first was in season 1901-02 as Newton Heath Football Club) when the bank refused to extend more credit which meant players’ wages could not be paid.  But, as time has shown, history has a habit of repeating itself and for Manchester United Football Club, history came about for the club for the second time in 28 years.  In 1902, John Henry Davies rescued the club when Newton Heath Football Club became Manchester United Football Club.  And in early December 1931, the club had a second benefactor to thank for their survival, their Guardian Angel, and his name is James W. Gibson who placed the princely sum of £2,000 at the club’s disposal and paid all of the back wages owed to the players.  He even ensured every player’s family had a turkey to enjoy for their Christmas dinner.  However, James W. Gibson expected nothing in return for his generosity, he just wanted the club to survive and entertain his fellow Mancunians.


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