Ernie Collett: the reserve player who stayed with the club for 37 years

By Tony Attwood

Ernest Collett known universally as Ernie, was born on 17 November 1914 in Sheffield.  He started out playing for Oughtibridge Working Men’s Club, a club that is still extant playing in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior Football League.   

Ernie joined Arsenal in April 1933 and won the Football Combination six times with the team in the 1930s, as well as playing 20 league games from 1933 onwards.   He also made 187 wartime appearances, including playing for Brentford in the 1942 War cup final

He stayed registered with the club as a player until 1949 when he was 30 years old, and joined the coaching staff.  From there he went on to become chief scout a post he held until the age of 60, when he retired.   Tragically he was killed in a motor accident just five months later in 1980.

His first game came in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City in October 1937 where he replaced Wilf Copping and he is noted in reports as having a particularly effective long throw.

Collett’s best run in the Arsenal season was in 1938-39, when he made nine appearances deputising for Wilf Copping at left half.

Collett played another six league games in 1946-47 before stepping down from the Arsenal first-team entirely, though he continued to play reserve-team football until 1949.

After his retirement from playing, he became a member of the club’s backroom staff — he was at first George Male‘s assistant in coaching Arsenal’s youth team, before moving into scouting, eventually became the club’s chief scout, a job he held until his retirement in 1979; in total he was with Arsenal for 46 years,

There are many references to Ernie’s ability to pick out young players in training and recommend them for high things.  References have him linked to spotting and promoting players such as Pat Rice, Peter Storey, Dave Simpson and Paul Davis.

Here are his stats as a player

Season Competition Games
1937-38 League Division One 5
1938-39 League Division One 9
1945-46 FA Cup 1
1946-47 League Division One 6

And the full list of his matches

Date Match Result Competition Round
23 Oct 1937 Stoke City v Arsenal D 1-1 League
04 Dec 1937 Birmingham v Arsenal W 1-2 League
05 Mar 1938 Arsenal v Stoke City W 4-0 League
02 Apr 1938 Arsenal v Charlton Ac D 2-2 League
09 Apr 1938 Leeds United v Arsenal W 0-1 League
22 Oct 1938 Arsenal v Preston NE W 1-0 League
29 Oct 1938 Bolton  v Arsenal D 1-1 League
01 Feb 1939 Arsenal v Wolverhampton D 0-0 League
04 Feb 1939 Arsenal v Sunderland W 2-0 League
04 Mar 1939 Arsenal v Bolton W 3-1 League
11 Mar 1939 Leeds United v Arsenal L 4-2 League
18 Mar 1939 Arsenal v Liverpool W 2-0 League
25 Mar 1939 Leicester City v Arsenal W 0-2 League
01 Apr 1939 Arsenal v Middlesbrough L 1-2 League
05 Jan 1946 West Ham  v Arsenal L 6-0 FA Cup 3rd round 1st leg*
12 Oct 1946 Arsenal v Brentford D 2-2 League
09 Nov 1946 Preston NE v Arsenal L 2-0 League
16 Nov 1946 Arsenal v Leeds United W 4-2 League
23 Nov 1946 Liverpool v Arsenal L 4-2 League
07 Dec 1946 Middlesbrough v Arsenal L 2-0 League
18 Jan 1947 Arsenal v Aston Villa L 0-2 League

* The FA Cup in the post war season was run over two legs in each round.  The league resume the following season.


A History of Arsenal


Arsenal in the 1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Arsenal in the 30s: the complete history

Arsenal in the 70s: the complete history

Arsenal in the summer

Arsenal Managers

Arsenal on this day

Arsenal players Part 1: A to K.

Arsenal players part 2: L to Z


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