By Tony Attwood
William McNab was born in Glasgow in 1870 and played first for Burnley, and then Woolwich Arsenal. There is a suggestion he next played for Leyton Orient, but this is hotly denied by sources at that club, and the alternative suggestion is put forward that he was another player who moved “over the road” to Royal Ordnance Factories FC after leaving Woolwich Arsenal.
The records show he made 14 appearances for Burnley between 1892 and 1894 (although that probably should be 1893 in the 1893/4 season), before joining Arsenal for the rest of the 1893/4 season.
For Arsenal he played two league games at centre forward, scoring one goal, and four friendlies scoring three goals. Not a bad record, which makes one wonder why he left – or wasn’t used more.
His first league game was on 23 March 1894 – a 6-0 win against Northwich Victoria. Worrall replaced him for the next game on the following day at home to Notts County, but McNab came back for the last two games of the month – a friendly against St Mirren (a 1-3 home defeat) and league game against Small Heath (an even worse 1-4 home defeat – in which he got his Arsenal league goal.
He then scored two goals in the friendly against Westerham and District whic hArsenal won 6-3 and that ended his time as a centre forward, for in the two remaining friendlies he played inside right, scoring in the first of the two – a 3-3 draw with Luton.
The last game was two days later, a 4-2 away win over New Brompton on 18 April and that was that – he didn’t appear in the remaining three games, and by next season he was gone.
Arsenal.com tell us that McNab then reverted to amateur status and that in July 1894 joined Royal Ordnance FC – the club that was formed when Woolwich Arsenal split one year before – the landlord and his allies taking over the old Arsenal ground at the Invicta, to form ROF FC, which went on to play for a short while in the Southern League, before going into liquidation.
Arsenal.com then say that he then returned to Scotland.
And that is all I have except for this link, which may or may not be pertinent. In December 1916 Private Andrew McNab died on active service. He is recorded as having three brothers, one of whom was William who was serving at the time with the East Lancashire Regiment in Egypt.
What makes this relevant is not just the name, but the fact that at the time of the McNab family’s tragedy in losing their son the family lived in Burnley. Of course this is not proof of a connection and William would have been rather old by then to be on active service, but since William McNab started his footballing career in Burnley, and the name and age all fit, it is possibly the same family.
That’s all I have but if you have anything more, please do write in.
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.
- Thomas Bryan: he played for Woolwich Arsenal but was there really a Woolwich Ordnance Factory club?
- Walter Williams: could he really have played 58 friendlies for Arsenal?
- Lycurgus Burrows: played for Tottenham and Arsenal at the same time.