By Tony Attwood
Another player of whom we know precious little, but nevertheless we can unravel a few of the comments made where sites to mention Thomas Bryan, simply by looking at the logic of the timescale.
We are told he was born in London in 1873, and there is a suggestion that his first club was Woolwich Ordnance Factory. Arsenal.com doesn’t go quite so far but says “having previously played for the Ordnance Factory.”
However we do know that the one Ordnance Factory club we have historic records of, “Royal Ordnance Factories FC” was formed in 1893 when the landlord of the Invicta Stadium doubled the price of the rent for Royal Arsenal. Royal Arsenal became Woolwich Arsenal in the Football League, and a new club – ROF FC was formed to play in the Invicta which Royal Arsenal vacated.
These references are therefore either inaccurate (one inaccuracy copied from another) or refer to a team called Woolwich Ordnance Factory or “Ordnance Factory”, neither of which do we have any record.
But there are reasons to doubt these references. First neither of them give any source for the information, and second we do know for sure (because we have records of games showing him playing) that Bryan was with Woolwich Arsenal in 1894 and from the proclaimed date of birth that would make him 18 or 19.
So if Bryan did have a club prior to Woolwich Arsenal he would have been maybe 17, almost certainly too young to be playing in the first team of a serious club.
Moving on to Arsenal: Tommy Bryan (as Arsenal.com call him) joined Woolwich Arsenal as an amateur in January 1894 and played primarily as an outside left, but also as an inside left.
He made his league début against Rotherham Town on 6 February 1895 and then played 11 consecutive games in the League and in friendly games up to 2 April for the match against Nottingham Forest. These were all at outside left except one that was inside left. He also gained his two goals (one in the league one in a friendly) in this run.
Then he missed two games, but then played three in a row (through the end of March and into early April), missed two, and then played two more: a 6-3 friendly win against Westerham and District in which he scored playing inside right, and the last league game of the season on 14 April against Burton Swifts a 0-2 home defeat.
After that there were five more friendly games in which O’Brian and Mortimer alternated their roles as outside left and inside left – neither having played for the club before in the season.
Bryant left at the end of the season and reports show that he later played for New Brompton and Dartford. There is also evidence that after this he moved on to play for Royal Ordnance Factory
There is a Wiki article detailing all the players and games of New Brompton in 1894/5 and Bryant is not listed so he went somewhere. However he is listed in 1895/6 as having played 6 and scored 1.
Other than this we have nothing – the stories about Royal Ordnance Factory FC either before he joined Woolwich Arsenal, or after, and of Dartford, are impossible to verify. However I would suspect that the Dartford story is more likely to be true.
The players in the first match
- Charlie Williams: went on to manage Denmark and in Brazil
- Joseph Powell: Our first captain who died of injuries on the pitch
- William Wallace Jeffrey: The right back who was a keeper
- Daniel Devine: Lost to history
- Rorbert Buist: I thought he caused us to go pro, but I was wrong.
- David Howat: The mystery man
- Duncan Gemmell: Even more of a mystery man
- James Henderson: Rifleman, champions medal, Arsenal, and then…
- Walter Shaw: scored our first ever league goal
- Arthur Elliott: Arsenal’s untraceable record holder
- Charles Booth: the first man to play for Arsenal and Tottenham?
The players who played later in the season
- John Storrs who played in our first season, but then vanished.
- Patrick O’Brien: more info than previously put together, but still not much on this Arsenal man.
- John Hawley: a life saver who played for Arsenal at a most difficult time
- Robert Buchanan; an Arsenal man for two seasons who died tragically young
- Frederick Davis: 150 games for Arsenal
- Joseph Frederick (“Billy”) Heath; the man who scored the very first penalty
- Gavin Crawford: one of the first 100+ games men
- Joseph Cooper: the most mysterious of all the mysterious Arsenal players
- Stanley Briggs; from Tottenham to Arsenal to Tottenham. But is the tale all it seems?
- James Boyle: played centre half and in goal
- Frank V Kirk: a man who moved from Royal Arsenal to Royal Ordnance Factories.
- Arthur George Worrall: a much travelled man who played 10 games in 32 days.