Walter Williams: could he really have played 58 friendlies for Arsenal?

By Tony Attwood

Walter Williams comes into that group of players who are almost impossible to track down.  And then, just when one has got something on him, totally contradictory information appears.

What I think is the case is that Walter Williams played just once in the league for Arsenal and once in a friendly, and he never played for any other league club.  Indeed his only other team was Bostall Rovers – from whom he apparently came.

Of Bostall Rovers I have no trace but I am going to presume that they played on or near Bostall Heath and Woods – a rural area within the Royal Borough of Greenwich.  There is now a Bostall Old Boys club who play in the Woolwich & Eltham Sunday Football Alliance, wherein Bostall Rangers also play.

In this regard Walter Williams has a connection with Charles Ambler who also played for Arsenal, and also cited Bostall Rovers as his previous club joining Arsenal in 1891.

Walter Williams arrived at Arsenal a little later – signing up as an amateur in November 1893, before turning professional in 1894.

He played on 29 January 1894 in a 5-2 friendly win over Blackpool playing at number 10 and scoring two goals.   His one league game was a 3-2 win over Crewe Alexandra 10 February 1894.

And that is the sum total of what I can find.  But have this comment on him…

“He was regularly on the scoresheet in friendly fixtures, hitting 28 goals in 58 non-competitive outings.”

Now Andy Kelly’s resource, which lists all of Arsenal’s games from the earliest days, doesn’t have this at all – it has one friendly and one league game in his entire career.   So the most likely answer is that our man played in the reserves, and are not distinguishing reserve friendlies from first team friendlies.   It is not something I have noted before, but it seems the only explanation.

Of course there was another Williams in the team – Charlie Williams – who played in goal in the very first match.  As a goalkeeper you would not expect him to score any goals, and indeed that is what the record shows.  Played 19 games in that first season, scoring nil.  Andy does show 37* in the “goals” column, but I believe that means “goals conceded”.  That season he conceded 40 goals in friendly games.

So I can’t even get the numbers to match at all with the number of goals Charlie Williams let in, however although they are in the right vicinity.

There was however one other Williams in this early era – Edward Williams who joined the club on 7 December 1889.  He only played for the club through the rest of that season and made it to five games scoring three goals.

So reserve matches I reckon it must be.  Which suggests to me that have access to the reserve team fixtures, teams and results… something I have never been able to see.  If that is the case, I wonder if we could come to some arrangement…

The players in the first match

The players who played later in the season



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