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Willis Rippon – the last of the XI

This article is one of a series reviewing all eleven players who played in the first Woolwich Arsenal league game in 1910/11 season.

By Tony Attwood

Willis Rippon joined Woolwich Arsenal in 1910 and played just nine games for the club scoring two goals.  But despite this tiny input into the club and despite the fact that little is known of him beyond the bare bones of his footballing career, he managed to get himself on two exlusive lists.

First he is one of a tiny group of players whose brothers were also registered with the club.  Arsenal.com has said that both brothers “represented” the club – and although this is true for Willis in terms of the first team, it was not true of Thomas.  I am presuming at this point he was a reserve player.

Willis Rippon is also one of the select group who scored on his first appearance – a 1-2 home defeat to Manchester United on 1 September 1910.  He incidentally also scored in his second match – a 1-1 draw away to Bury.

He played in the first seven games, plus two more later in the season, but after those two opening goals never scored again and left the club to move to Brentford later in the season.

Willis Rippon was born in Beighton near Sheffield in May 1886 and died in 1956.  He started out at Hackenthorpe (a local Sheffield club), then Rawmarsh Albion, Sandhill Rovers, Kilnhurst Town (all local Sheffield clubs), before moving to Bristol City and then his brief time at Woolwich Arsenal.  After that it was Brentford, Hamilton Academical, Grimsby Town and Rotherham.

Quite what took the player to so many clubs, and what on earth could cause a move between London, Hamilton and Grimsby is hard to imagine.

His brother Thomas “Pip” Rippon (4 February 1888 – 29 May 1950) is better recorded, despite the absence of any first team appearances at Arsenal scoring 47 goals from 154 appearances in the League, according to Wikipedia.  He too played for Grimsby and was still playing for Lincoln in the 3rdDivision north in 1922.

And unless I have missed someone en route this concludes a review of the 11 players who played for Arsenal in the first match of the 1910/11 season – fitting perhaps that it should conclude on the day that Arsenal start their 2010/11 series of friendlies against Barnet.

Just in case you have been reading I’ll do a quick summary of those 11 players in the next piece.


4 comments to Willis Rippon – the last of the XI

  • Andy Kelly

    Hi Tony, just to add a bit more flesh to the bones.

    I have Thomas Rippon only playing 2 reserve team matches in 1911/12 – both alongside Willis. They also played together in the second public practice match on 26 August 1911.

    Therefore, Willis must have left during 1911/12. I have his last game in the reserves on 14 October 1911.

    The 1911 census shows Willis as a professional footballer employed by Arsenal living with his wife of 1 year in Plumstead.

    Thomas was a “Hawker Fruit” lodging in Atterclife in Sheffield. 6 months later he was playing for Arsenal!

  • Tony Attwood

    Very many thanks for this – all good facts for the forthcoming book!

  • Rosalyn Jolly

    Hello Tony,
    I am the only granddaughter of Willis & was 6 years old when he died of a stroke in 1956. My mother, Constance Rippon, was born in August 1911 but my grandmother had returned to Rawmarsh for the birth & due to complications she was unable to have more children & was a sickly woman the rest of her life. I can’t shed any light on why he moved around the country so much, but after he left the game he took employment as a lorry driver, quite different from his earlier active lifestyle.

  • Tony Attwood

    Rosalyn thank you so much for writing in. It is always a great pleasure to hear from relatives of the men whose history I have tried to trace on this site. Thank you so much for your interest.

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