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Harry (“Bert”) White: an Arsenal man at Thames Association

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by Tony Attwood

Continuing our series of post 1919 players, Harry White as he is known on the Arsenal database, or Henry Albert “Bert” White as other sources have it, played for Arsenal between 1919 and 1923 and made 109 appearances and scored 45 goals.

He was born in Watford on 17 April 1892 and died on 27 November 1972.

Bert played for Brentford as an amateur before the war, and then served with the Royal Fusiliers.  He came to Arsenal after the war, and so the first game of the 1919/20 season was his first for the club.  He played 29 league games and scored 16 goals, making him the top league scorer for the club that season.

On the back of this he had a trial for England although did not win a cap.  He also played cricket for Warwickshire.

He played for four seasons for Arsenal in all: in 1920/1 he played 26 and scored 10, in 1921/2 he played 35 and scored 14 and then in 1922/23 played 11 and scored 1, making the total of 101 league games and 40 goals in the league, 109/45 when the cup is included.

In March 1923 he was sold to Blackpool, followed by Fulham, Walsall, Nelson, Walsall, Stafford Rangers and Thames FC.

And that’s about all I have – so as usual if you know more, please say.

But I would like to take a moment to write about Thames – a club that has always fascinated me.

Their name was Thames Association FC – that is to say the word “Association” was part of the club’s name.  And what makes them so fascinating is that they are just about the last franchise team to enter the league.   They joined, as did Chelsea, because there was a ground.  So a team was created around the West Ham Stadium which had the most astonishing capacity of 120,000 by the Royal Victoria Dock in Newham.

The place was designed by Archi Leitch, of whom you will know, and was used for greyhound races and speedway.  It held the Cesarewitch and that made the ground famous, although it is hard to imagine 120,000 people watching dogs run 600 yards.

The speedway team – West Ham Hammers were founder members of the British League which they won in 1965.  There was also a baseball team in the 1930s and 1940s and stockcar racing in the 1950s and 1960s – which is the bit I can remember from my youth.   My father even spoke of the football team, and its difficulty in getting any sort of crowd in at all.

The football team Thames Association was formed to put something into the ground at the weekends, and they played for two years in the Southern League Eastern Division where they came 14th and 3rd

That was clearly good enough for the Football League who gave them a place in the 3rd division south at the expense of Merthyr Town.  The club then ended up 3 from bottom in its first season.  In this first season it attacked a crowd of just 469 for the match against Luton on 6 December 1930.  The following season Thames came bottom of the league and resigned after winning just seven games that season, but the stadium continued as a   greyhound and speedway stadium.

Aldershot over the Southern League moved up in their place but most interestingly, and commonly forgotten, Clapton Orient approached Thames with a view to merging the two teams.  Somehow the move didn’t happen.

The stadium was demolished in 1972, and a housing estate built, with some of the roads named after famous speedway riders who rode in the stadium.

According to Wikipedia, in total, 103,698 fans watched all of Thames’ games, at an average of 2,469 per game, which ranks them as 122 out of all the 130 Football League teams in terms of attendance.

New series: Arsenal after the first world war

1: The opening game, and Ernie Williamson our first post-war international

2: Frank Bradshaw, from inside left to full back – an Arsenal hero who vanished

3: Alex Graham – played before and after the first world war, then lost to history

4: The most curious case of Clem Voysey

5: Fred Groves – played mostly during the war

Players covered in earlier articles who played in the opening game of 1919/20

Angus McKinnon

Jock Rutherford

 

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