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How far should a manager go in giving players a lift?

How far should a manager go in giving players a lift?

One of AISA’s previous history booklets included the curious revelation by Leslie Knighton – Arsenal’s manager after the first world war - that on three separate occasions he tried to improve Arsenal’s performance by giving the players pills of dubious content, which he obtained from a Harley Street doctor.

I must admit that I had no thought that I would come across another Arsenal manager who also confessed to the use of performance enhancing drugs. I was wrong.  

In putting together the fifth publication in the AISA series, dealing with “Arsenal after Chapman” – which by and large means the managership of George Allison – I discovered that Allison “pepped the boys up with wonder tablets.” 

They were, Allison states, “merely tablets which could be bought at any chemist’s for a matter of a few pence, dressed up in Harley Street ‘propps’.  The effect was so good that players come to me for them when they felt they were in need of a ‘lift’.”

In other words, he used placebos.

Did Allison ever know of Knighton’s antics?  I doubt it, not least because both Allison and Knighton’s autobiographies were published in 1948; a strange coincidence.  I wonder if each read the other’s work, and  gasped in surprise to find the other had included a “pill story”?

Arsenal after Chapman, the fifth booklet in our series of historical reviews of Arsenal, is published by AISA, and is sent free of charge to every AISA member. 
Non-members can obtain a copy either by joining, or by purchasing it directly from the Association.  Payment (£5) can be made by PayPal to or by sending a cheque to AISA, PO Box 65011, London N5 9AX.

Tony Attwood, chair, AISA Arsenal History Society

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