Injury problems as great as those ever faced by an Arsenal manager

Saturday 28 February 1959

Arsenal v Manchester United – the programme

The programme is shown as being Volume XL number 20 (ah those were the days when they actually kept count) and as always it started with the Voice of Arsenal.

And this is how it went.  (I would add that in those days they didn’t use paragraphs, which makes it quite hard to focus on the text, so I’ve added a couple, but the text is the same).


Three times fighting against odds.  That sums up the three matches.

At Sheffield we lost Jack Kelsey [he broke his arm] and with the loss went out Cup hopes for 1959.   We then finished the League match against West Bromwich Albion with Henderson and Groves limping passengers, but still with a valuable point.

The problems which confronted our Manager before the Leeds game on Tuesday were probably as great as any faced by an Arsenal Manager when picking a team for one match.  The following players were unavailable for selection:-

Kelsey, Standen (who had played so well at The Hawthorns), Clapton, Groves, Julians, Bloomfield, Henderson, Ward, Nutt and Skirton.

Arsenal had brought in two newcomers – Peter Goy and Roy Goulden for their first league matches in the previous game – a 1-0 victory over Leeds on 24 February 1959.  Goy (the replacement keeper) played two matches that season – the rest of the time Arsenal used Standen.

Roy Gouldon played just this one match at inside right – it was his first and last game for Arsenal.  He showed great promise early on (he played for England schoolboys) and turned professional with Arsenal in September 1954 helping Arsenal win the South East Counties Double in 1956 and the Metropolitan League Treble in 1961.  Despite being the son of the England player Len Goulden, Roy never made it.

After he returned from National Service in the RAF his skill seemed to have gone, and he played in this one game in February 1959.

Moving to Southend United in May 1961, he played just nine games for them, before signing for Ipswich, for whom he did not play a single first team game.  He dropped into non-league football playing for Stevenage, Gravesend and Northfleet and Dunstable and then left England for Australia.

So the positions were shared around until eventually Vic Groves returned in March, but by then the team was hopelessly unsettled.  It also showed the problem Arsenal had with its strength in depth.

But this particular match against Man U saw Arsenal top of the league at the time, despite the injuries – a game played just over a year after the Munich air crash.  The game one year before which ended 4-5 to Man U was the last game most of the Man U players played.  Five of the players who had played against Arsenal lost their lives a few days later.

As a result of the emergency purchases that Man U made following the crash they obtained Albert Quixall who became the most expensive player in football (£45,000 paid to Sheffield W) – and who played in the game on 28 Feb 1959.

Elsewhere in the programme there was the “Jottings by Spectator” which also focussed on the injury to Jack Kelsey, and came under the headline “Susbstitutes wanted for goalkeepers injured in Cup Games”

The article goes on to speak of a Wales / England international fifty years before – ie 1909, in which Dick Roose (subject of an article here just a couple of weeks ago, and who is described in the Arsenal programme as “that adventurous Welsh goalkeeper”- with no mention of the fact that he subsequently went on to play for Woolwich Arsenal), was, “so badly hurt that he had to leave the pitch.  Goals began to pile up against his deputy, and the officials of the two countries decided that if a qualified substitute goalkeeper could be found among the spectators he could take the place between the posts.

“In response to the SOS – the save our side appeal – Dai Davies then with Bolton Wanderers turned up in the dressing room and duly turned out for Wales in the second half.  The substitute agreement caused a lot of talk at the time and at intervals since then the case for substitutes from off the field for injured goalkeepers has been discussed.”


Just under that two page spread from “Spectator” there is a box headed Ticket Touts.  Touting was not illegal near a ground at this time but Arsenal clearly didn’t like it.  The message reads, “If you have bought a ticket for today’s match from a tout, pleased send the counterfoil to us so that we can  trace the source of supply.”  I wonder if anyone did.

And the interesting bits go on within the programme, for on the quiz on page 11 there is this question:

Which ranks as the longest post-war sequence of consecutive Football League matches for which a team has been unbeaten?

The answer was Man U with 26 consecutive first division games without defeat – ending on 20 October 1956.   Not any more though.

Here was the league table as Arsenal went into the game

Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 31 17 5 9 70 46 39
2 Wolverhampton Wndrs 29 18 2 9 71 37 38
3 Manchester United 30 16 6 8 73 52 38
4 Bolton Wanderers 28 14 7 7 52 42 35
5 West Bromwich Albion 28 12 10 6 65 44 34
6 Blackpool 29 12 10 7 42 32 34
7 West Ham United 29 15 3 11 62 52 33
8 Preston North End 30 14 4 12 53 53 32
9 Nottingham Forest 28 14 3 11 53 38 31
10 Birmingham City 28 13 4 11 50 49 30
11 Blackburn Rovers 29 11 7 11 55 52 29
12 Burnley 28 11 6 11 52 51 28
13 Newcastle United 29 12 3 14 57 57 27
14 Leeds United 31 10 7 14 39 57 27
15 Luton Town 27 9 8 10 49 43 26
16 Chelsea 29 12 2 15 55 69 26
17 Everton 30 11 4 15 51 67 26
18 Manchester City 29 8 7 14 47 66 23
19 Tottenham Hotspur 29 8 6 15 55 72 22
20 Leicester City 28 7 7 14 48 68 21
21 Aston Villa 30 8 4 18 42 69 20
22 Portsmouth 29 6 7 16 48 73 19


The reserves meanwhile were fourth in the Football Combination Division 1, the A team top of the Metropolitan League and the B team second in the South East Counties League.   Tucked away in the A team was one Geoff Strong, who had thus far played 12 and scored 15.  But it is hard to find any other names of highly promising talent – and even Strong isn’t remembered as a huge success at Arsenal after that.

Arsenal won this game 3-2 against Man U but ultimately the injuries and the lack of obvious reserves to come through immediately meant the club slipped away.  A defeat away from home to Wolverhampton 1-6 at the start of March was also the start of seven games without a win.  Arsenal won their last three games, and ended up third in the table, five points behind Man U and 11 behind Wolverhampton.

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