By Tony Attwood
George Hunt was born on 22 February 1910 and died on 19 September 1996. For Arsenal supporters he will be remembered as one of the team that won the league in 1938 and also as the first ever player to move from Tottenham (then of the second division) to Arsenal (about to become champions). The fee was £7500.
For clarity at the start of this little piece like me make it clear I am writing here about George Samuel Hunt, not about Reginald George Hunt, also a footballer, who played for Swindon Town as a full back. Right, glad we got that sorted.
Our George Hunt was a forward, who had scored a lot of goals for Tottenham, and had actually played for England, before joining Arsenal, who were at that moment seeking their fifth league title since 1930. There is a complete review of Arsenal in the 30s on this website – the index to the articles is here.
The 1930s was Arsenal’s great decade…
- 1930: Cup winners (club’s first ever major trophy)
- 1931: League winners (record points total)
- 1932: Cup and league runners’ up
- 1933: League winners
- 1934: League winners (Chapman died part way through the season, Joe Shaw took over)
- 1935: League winners (Allison appointed manager, league winners for 3rd time in a row)
- 1936: FA Cup Winners
- 1937: 3rd in first division (the sequence of winning or being runners up in one of the two major trophies every season since 1930 ends)
- 1938: League winners (Allison matches Chapman’s total of two league wins and one FA Cup win).
But the league win in 1938 was not a runaway – it was achieved in the last match of the season, and part way through the season Arsenal looked like a modest middle-of-the-table team, not Champions. Allison was rebuilding the squad, and in particular trying to compensate for the increasing injuries to Ted Drake at centre forward, and find a way to play Bastin back on the wing (his natural position) rather than as a deep lying inside left (where he had been moved to in recent years).
In the end he played 21 games in the amazing 1937/38 title winning season scoring three goals. But he was not the only new player at the time – and ultimately Allison had to decide which of the many players on his books he wanted to keep. Drury, Carr and Jones had all entered the team, and lurking in the reserves was the new wonder-boy centre forward Reg Lewis, who although still very young came in and played 15 games in the 1938/9 season, scoring seven goals.
In some commentaries it is said that the move of Hunt to Arsenal was not a success, but this comment is just based on his scoring form with Tottenham where Hunt was played as an out and out striker – mostly in the second division. With Arsenal only five of his games were played as centre forward – the rest he was used as a deep lying inside forward while Ted Drake, and occasionally Carr or Lewis were used in the number 9 role. And it should be noted that the process worked since the change coincided with the upturn in Arsenal’s fortunes that season.
But by the end of the season Arsenal had extended their rebuilding of the team and so Hunt moved to Bolton Wanderers for £4,000 in March 1938. Bolton finished in 7th place in first division that season with Hunt, once more a centre forward, top scorer with 23 goals in 37 league games.
Now let’s go back to the start.
George was born in Mexborough, Yorkshire, a town also known as the birth place of Eric Brook Manchester City’s all time top scorer, Steve Goulding who played for Sheffield United and Ted Hughes the poet laureate.
He started his football career playing locally while having trials with Barnsley and Sheffield United, clubs which both turned the future England international down. Eventually Chesterfield gave him a chance, where he played 14 games scoring nine goals – not bad for a teenager in his first season, and after all those rejections.
It was this form that moved him on to Tottenham in June 1930, and over a period of seven seasons he scored 138 goals in 198 games. During this spell he was part of the team that rose up and declined in extraordinary fashion.
He was top scorer for three seasons (1932, 1933, 1934), during which time Tottenham got promoted (coming second in the second division in 1933) and came third in the first division in 1934). Then however it all went very wrong as Tottenham were relegated back to the second, and the goals dried up.
Wiki’s report on the player has him as the club’s top scorer for five consecutive seasons up to 1936 but other records show Willie Evans and Johnny Morrison being the top scorers in the last two of those seasons. I don’t have enough definitive information on Tottenham to know which is right. But George also played three times for England in this era scoring one goal.
Whatever his current form, Arsenal signed him in 1937. He played in a Tottenham reserve game at Highbury at the end of September through agreement between the clubs so that Arsenal could watch him, and then signed, and immediately made his debut for Arsenal against Manchester City on 2 October 1937.
Thus playing for Arsenal George Hunt was able to get a league winners’ medal – something of course he could never have achieved with Tottenham, before moving on to Bolton for £4000.
Bolton were a mid-table 1st division team at the time and Hunt gained 23 goals in his one season with them before the outbreak of war. He played one full league season after the war leagues ended, with Sheffield Wednesday.
There are two contradictory reports I have found for what happened thereafter. One says, “Upon retirement he moved immediately into being a coach, staying with Wednesday and was with them when they won the FA Cup in 1957/58,” and the other says George worked as a coach for Bolton for nearly 20 years.
Here are his figures…