By Tony Attwood
Arsenal History Society.
Harry Storer was born on 24 July 1870 and died aged just 37 on 25 April 1908. He was an Arsenal keeper who has two very particular places in Arsenal’s early history, and yet is not represented (beyond his name and playing record) on Arsenal.com, which is a shame.
Harry Storer (often referred to in reference books that do mention him as Harry Storer Snr) was born in Ripley, Derbyshire.
He is first noted playing for Ripley Town, followed by Derby Midland, Gainsborough Trinity and Loughborough, before moving to Woolwich Arsenal in May 1894 at the end of Woolwich Arsenal’s first league season.
Harry immediately joined the first team, and played in goal in the first game of the 1894/5 season against Lincoln City on 1 September 1894. He missed the second game when Crozier came in for one match, but after that stayed in goal for the whole season except for the final game.
His rise to fame was rapid – Loughborough at the time of the transfer played in the Midland League, and Arsenal were in the second division, playing just their second season, and yet Harry Storer has the honour of becoming the first ever Arsenal player to win representative honours being selected for the Football League XI to play on 13 April 1895. The game came one day after he played his final league match of the season – the 6-1 win over Walsall Town Swifts on 12 April 1895.
But he did not have the summer off for in 1895 Storer, played five cricket matches for Derbyshire.
Having achieved such all round fame and honour Storer was naturally first choice at the start of the 1894/5 season but then it all went wrong for on 16 November 1895 Storer played his last match for Arsenal. This last game he played was Woolwich Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2.
Obviously it was a defeat but the previous games were five wins and 1 defeat. What’s more Arsenal didn’t have an obvious backup and so could hardly afford to lose him.
As a result after Storer was dropped (and he was not injured) Arsenal had serious goalkeeping problems. Amber played 1, then Hatfield played the next one, and then amazingly Boyle who had just played four games as a defensive midfielder, played four games in goal (in which run Arsenal incredibly won three of the four). Then Gilmer got three games and finally Fairclough came in and played in goal for the rest of the season (a total of nine games).
And that’s not all for Russell played in goal for Arsenal’s only FA Cup game of the season – a 6-1 away defeat to Burnley. It was the Year of the Seven Goalkeepers.
Storer’s record was 40 league matches and one cup match…
So we know the last game he played was Woolwich Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2 and we know Storer was successful (five wins and one defeat in the last six), recognised as a fine keeper and not injured. What we also know is that after the Liverpool game the club suspended him for a month.
And we know that when the suspension was over he was transferred to Liverpool – in December 1895, making his début for them against Manchester City on 1 January 1896, keeping his place from then on and helping Liverpool win promotion.
What seems to have happened is that in the final game for Storer at the Manor Ground, he was involved in an altercation with fans behind the goal, and he claimed that the spectators had behaved in a “disgraceful” manner. Now this was not the only occasion in which goalkeepers of either team were given a hard time, and indeed we have already looked at the story of the Arsenal keeper who moved on to play for Tottenham who was so outraged as his treatment upon his return, he left the field of play and assaulted a spectator.
But with Harry Storer this is a case of Arsenal fans booing their own keeper – and not just their own keeper, but the club’s first representative player, and a man who was achieving considerable success in goal for the club – and had achieved more than any other Arsenal player at this time.
As Mark Andrews’ book on The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal (see below) reveals, as the crowds increased, one end of the ground (the Abbey Wood end) became the home of the barrackers.
Indeed, as Mark points out, so bad was the attitude of some of the crowd that local reporters often commentated on the fact that they were forcing decent minded supporters out of the ground.
So it seems that Storer stepped out of line in response to the booing and barracking (although we don’t know exactly what he did), and was suspended and then sold. He continued to play for Liverpool until 1899 and stayed on the books until 1901.
Tragically he died just six years later in Derbyshire of tuberculosis.
And that is all we have on Harry senior, but we should also mention here others in his family.
Harry’s brother William played six test matches for England. But more attention should be given here to his son Harry Jr, who like his father and uncle played football and cricket, and became an England international and later a football manager.
Harry junior did not have the sadly foreshortened life of his father, and lived from 2 February 1898 to 1 September 1967. After the first world war Harry played for Grimsby Town, Derby County and Burnley plus twice for England. Like his father he played cricket for Derbyshire.
Then in June 1931 Storer Junior became manager of Coventry City and took them to the 3rd Division (South) title in 1935/6. Later he managed Birmingham City, and took them to the 2nd division championship in 1947/8. He also won the 3rd Division North with Derby County in 1948 – an extraordinary set of managerial achievements.
So there we have it – Harry senior, the first man to fall foul of the 19th century AAA, the first man to be forced out of the club by the crowd, and the first Arsenal man to play in a representative match.