Two of Arsenal’s most remarkable goal scorers
Arsenal’s record during the 1930s was something to behold: League Champions five times, Runners Up once, Cup Winners once, losing finalists once. The question was asked more than once, could anything stop Arsenal?
The answer of course was yes, but it wasn’t a football club. It was the second world war.
Arsenal came fifth in the final pre-war season and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Chelsea. By a curious coincidence in the first season after the war, Arsenal were once again drawn against Chelsea in the third round, and once again we were knocked out, this time after two replays.
But by the time of the FA Cup in 1946/7 the chance of even a top half finish were looking remote. We had lost the opening game away to Wolverhampton 6-1. Our goal was scored by Reg Lewis.
The second match gave no relief to Arsenal fans – a 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn. Reg Lewis scored. The third match was a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland in front of 60,000 people. Reg Lewis got both. In the fourth match we lost away from home to Everton 2-3. Reg Lewis scored. Twice.
You’ll have started to see a pattern here. Arsenal, despite clearly being way off the form that had led the club to dominate the 30s had in their midst a scoring machine called Reg Lewis.
Although many players were unable to continue after the war, Reg was still only 26, and he came back to professional football with a bang. Arsenal never recovered from their poor start in the first post-war season, but in the second half of the campaign, Reg found he had a fellow goalscorer in the team: Ronnie Rooke. He took up Reg’s position on December 14 1946, with Reg injured, and scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Charlton.
By the end of the season the power of the Arsenal team was clear for alongside Reg’s 29 goals from 28 games Ronnie had 21 goals from 24 games.
The following season Reg and Ronnie scored 47 goals between them as Arsenal won the First Division title in 1947/48.
We’ve covered Reg Lewis before – particularly within this article. But not Ronnie.
So where, one may ask, did Ronnie Rooke come from?
In answering this question, we have perhaps the strangest part of the story of all. Ronnie played for Fulham before the war, but was 35 years old when football resumed in 1946. And yet despite this was still signed by Arsenal.
Amazingly the plan worked and not only did Ronnie get his 21 goals in 24 League matches in his first season, in the championship season of 1947-8 he scored an unbelievable 33 League goals.
Ronnie was born on 7 December 1911 in Guildford and started out with Crystal Palace in the Third Division South, playing 18 games and scoring four times.
Then he went on to Fulham in the Second Division in November 1936 scoring 57 goals in 87 league games, including all the goals in Fulham 6 Bury 0 in the FA Cup.
During the war he was in the RAF and upon being demobbed he joined Arsenal. Perhaps even more amazingly Ronnie kept going for one more year, getting 14 goals in 1948-9 before moving to Crystal Palace, as player-manager on 20 June 1949. He scored 70 goals in just 94 matches for Arsenal.
After Palace Ronnie went on to be player manager of Bedford Town in November 1950, and later worked as a porter at Luton Airport, dying of lung cancer in 1985 aged 73.
It is to Ronnie Rooke and Reg Lewis that we owe the 1947/8 Championship.
Other 20 June anniversaries
20 June 1987: Ian Allinson released
20 June 1989: Andrew Marriott sold to Nottingham Forest
20 June 1966: Bertie Mee becomes manager
Other sites from the same team…