Battle of Highbury
|Date||14 November 1934|
|Venue||Arsenal Stadium, London|
|Referee||Otto Olsson (Sweden)|
The "Battle of Highbury" was the name given to the football match between England and Italy that took place on 14 November 1934 at Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, London. England won 3–2 in a hotly contested and frequently violent match.
This was Italy's first match since they had won the 1934 FIFA World Cup that summer, although England had not taken part as the Football Association had left FIFA in 1928. England were still considered one of the strongest teams in Europe at the time, and the match was billed in England at least as the "real" World Cup final. The match was important enough to the Italians that Benito Mussolini had reportedly offered each player an Alfa Romeo car and the equivalent of £150 (about £6,000 in modern terms) if they beat the English.
The match set a record, in that it was the first and so far only time that seven players registered with the same club (namely Arsenal) started for England. Coincidentally, the match was played at Arsenal's home stadium, Highbury. In addition to the seven Arsenal players (Frank Moss, George Male, Eddie Hapgood, Wilf Copping, Ray Bowden, Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin), a young Stanley Matthews won his second cap for the side; Cliff Britton, Jack Barker and Eric Brook were the other three players. The England side was largely inexperienced, with every player having fewer than ten caps for his country.
After only two minutes the Italian centre half Luis Monti had his foot broken in a rough tackle with Drake. Although Monti remained on the field for 15 minutes, he eventually had to leave the game leaving his team with ten men - at the time, no substitutes were allowed. Further, as Monti continued to play, other Italian players may not have been aware of the extent of his injury which is likely to have contributed to England's goals; England scored all its three goals in the first 12 minutes (at 2', 10, and 12'), while the Italians continued to play tactics where Monti was the last defender faced by the England attack. Eric Brook and Cliff Bastin caused the Italians 'an infinite amount of trouble by their passing and quick shooting'.
Brook had missed a first-minute penalty after Drake was fouled by Carlo Ceresoli (who was able to save the goal with a prompt jump on the right). However he made amends by scoring twice, with a header (following a precise cross from Stanley Matthews) and a free kick, which Stanley Matthews described as being like a 'thunderbolt'. Drake added a third before half-time to make it 3-0. However, after realising the gravity of Monti's injury, the Italians adjusted their playing tactics so that England were unable to break through their defences.
The match was violent from the very start, with the visitors repeatedly retaliating against Drake's second-minute tackle: Eddie Hapgood had his nose broken (and had to be withdrawn for 15 minutes), while Bowden damaged his ankle, Drake was punched and Brook had his arm fractured.
However, Italy were not World Champions for nothing and after half time, despite the handicap of ten men, took the game to England. Giuseppe Meazza scored twice, and was only denied an equaliser by the woodwork and a series of saves from England's athletic goalkeeper, Frank Moss. Copping, England's "hardman", took the man of the match award with a strong fighting and tackling display in midfield.
The match settled nothing; although the English could claim a win and unofficially crown, the Italians claimed they had been handicapped for virtually the entire match by being a man down, and that England had scored only within the few minutes in which its stronger defender had been injured and not able to run. For this reason and despite the loss, in Italy the team players are still celebrated as "The Lions of Highbury". One thing that could not be contested was the violent nature of the match; the FA considered withdrawing from all internationals as a result, while Matthews would later recount that it was the most violent match of his long career.
England wore a white shirt and navy blue shorts. Italy wore traditional blue shirts and white shorts.
14 November 1934
|Brook 3', 10'
|Report||Meazza 58', 62'|
- Some historians claim that there have been two other such occasions, in 1894 and 1895, when seven players from the Corinthians played for England, both times against Wales. However, many Corinthian players were primarily registered with other clubs, with the Corinthians team at the time serving as a combined amateur XI that occasionally played friendlies, as a feeder team of sorts to the main England team. Authoritative sources such as United Kingdom & Éire International Database (Jeff Hurley/AFS, 1998), England (1872 - 1940), Éire (1924 - 1940), England/Amateurs (1906 - 1940): Full Internationals (IFFHS, 2000) and Soccer: The International Line-Ups & Statistics Series - England 1872-1960 (Mike Ross, 1995) give no more than three players in the 1894 match, and two in the 1895 match, that were primarily registered with Corinthians; the FA's Official Annual does not recognise Corinthians' claim either. Reference: "Most Players from a Single Club in an England Team". England Football Online. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
- The only other occasion when seven players from the same club have been on the pitch for England was on 28 March 2001, when Manchester United's Teddy Sheringham came on as a substitute against Albania in the 84th minute; five other United players had started the match, and Wes Brown had come on as a sub earlier.
- "From the Vault: England and Italy do battle at Highbury in 1934". The Guardian. London. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- Matthews, Stanley (2001). The Way it Was: My Autobiography. Headline. ISBN 978-0-7472-6427-9. p67