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David Nelson, an Arsenal career interrupted by war

David Nelson: the vital dates…

  • 3 February 1918 David Nelson born, Douglas Water, Scotland
  • ?May 1936: David Nelson joins Arsenal (exact date unknown)
  • 28 December 1936: David Nelson’s first game, a 3-1 win over Preston
  • 9 November 1946: David Nelson last match Preston 2 Arsenal 0
  • 12 December 1946: David Nelson and Cyril Grant to Fulham

Although listed in Wikipedia as a wing half David Nelson played mostly for Arsenal on the left and right wings at number 7 and 11, although he did occasionally play in the half back line.

His clubs before Arsenal are shown as Douglas Water Thistle (his hometown club), and St Bernards, from whom he joined Arsenal for £200 in May 1936 at the age of 18

He made his debut in a 3-1 win over Preston North End in December 1936, the first of eight appearances and three goals that season all save one on the wing – his run including playing in the last six games of the season.  However he dropped out of the side for the following season, only to come back in with nine games in the last season before the war. (during which he served as a sergeant in the Army).

When not playing in the first team he was a regular member of the the London Combination reserve side however, where he made 95 appearances and won league honours three seasons running from 1937 to 1939. In addition, he played 161 times for the club during wartime, suggesting he was based in London, rather than being posted overseas.

In 1946/7 he was in the line up for the opening match playing at right half, but after three games in that position played outside left and outside right until his departure to Fulham in December 1946 as part of the deal in which Fulham got David and Cyril Grant and Arsenal got Ronnie Rooke.

Here is his Arsenal record

Season League games Goals
1936/7 8 3
1937/8 0
1938/9 9 1
1946/7 10 0
27 4

And his overall record in football

Season Club League games Goals
1936–1946 Arsenal 27 4
1946–1947 Fulham 23 2
1947–1950 Brentford 106 5
1950–1951 Queens Park Rangers 31 0
1951–1953 Crystal Palace 12 0
1954 Ashford Town
Total 199 11


I very much regret I don’t have any details of his life after football, nor the date of his passing.  If you have any further information please do write in.

The Christmas books

Some other sites from the Untold team (there is a full list on the home page)

4 comments to David Nelson, an Arsenal career interrupted by war

  • GoonerEd25

    From the official match day programme of Arsenal v. Coventry City, 29.10.88 :

    ‘We were sad to hear of the death last month of David Nelson, who played for us between 1935 and 1947. David, who was 70, died in Greenwich, Connecticut. He and his wife Eileen had moved to America after David retired from Football, in 1955.
    David was born in Lanark, Scotland. He joined Arsenal as a 17 year-old and made his first team debut in 1938.
    He made 19 appearances for us in all, but the war curtailed his Highbury career.
    We send our condolences to his family.’

    I quote that verbatim, so the inconsistencies regarding his dates and appearances as listed in your piece above as against what is stated in that brief obituary, are worth further investigation…

  • jb

    fyi:
    during the war he played for Celtic on loan (briefly)

    http://www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Nelson%2C+David

  • jb

    wrt post football, one source I can find and provide the info says he moved to the US and died there

    “David later moved to the US to St Louis to work in a car plant.

    He passed away in the US in 1988.”

    http://www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Nelson%2C+David

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