John “Pat” Flanagan: a name besmirched by a false story

By Tony Attwood

John Patrick “Pat” Flanagan was born in 1891 in Preston, Lancashire.

In football Pat Flanagan is a man who has had his name besmirched by the placing on the internet of a wholly false story about him which suggests that in the relegation year of 1912/13 he scored only two goals and was then the joint top scorer.

I quote from Wikipedia on November 6, 2010 (although someone may have changed it by the time you read it).

“At the time Arsenal were struggling in the First Division, finishing 18th in 1909-10 and then 20th in 1912-13, which resulted in the club’s relegation; that season Flanagan finished joint-top league goalscorer (with Charles Lewis), with a paltry two goals in the First Division.”

As is the nature of such stories, they are picked up and repeated and repeated, and yet the story has just been made up.  It was indeed an awful season for Arsenal – the worst ever in fact, and we did end up bottom of the league scoring just 26 goals in 38 games.  Because of the poverty of the team there were endless changes that season in the squad with only three players who played in the first game, also playing in the last game (and all three were defenders).  In all we used a club record of 30 players in league games that year.

And yes, 26 goals was the lowest ever number scored in the 20 team First Division (although the second worst of the era was the same year – Notts County, also relegated got 28).

In fact CE Randall played 15 games and scored four – hardly wonderful, but not two.

One other footnote: fourteen different players scored for Woolwich that season.

But now, moving on from what is not true onto the man himself…

His first club was Stourbridge – formed in 1876 as Stourbridge Standard and still going today.  They played in the Birmingham and District League, and won the Worcestershire Senior Cup a few times as well.

After that it was Norwich City (1908) and then Fulham(1909) before Woolwich Arsenal in 1910.  As you will know if you have studiously read “Making the Arsenal” by yours truly (and if not why not) Fulham and Arsenal were both owned by Henry Norris at the time of the transfer – although when I researched Making the Arsenal I couldn’t find any sense of collusion in the transfers.  It was more that Norris bought Woolwich Arsenal and then left them to rot after having permission to merge the clubs turned down.

But of course he may have had words behind the scenes.  He left no diary, so we don’t know.

    So Flanagan joined in December 1910 and played ten games (at inside left and inside right) getting one goal.

    His record did improve slightly – 33 games and 7 goals in 1911/12, 22 games and 2 goals in 1912/13, 24 games and 12 goals in 1913/14 at Higbury in the second division, and the 26 games and 6 goals in the final season before the war.

    He played a number of games in the London Combination during the war but picked up and injury, and did not return to club football after the resumption in 1919.

    The team that played in the last ever match for Woolwich Arsenal

    1: Goal J Lievesley

    2: Right back: J Shaw

    3: Left Back: R W Benson

    4: Right Half: GM Grant

    5: Centre half – P R Sands The first captain of The Arsenal at Highbury

    6: Left half: A Graham

    7: Outside Right: J Rutherford – the oldest man to play for Arsenal

    8: Inside right: J Flanagan (this article)

    9: S J Stonley

    10: D Slade

    11: Outside Right: C H Lewis

    One Reply to “John “Pat” Flanagan: a name besmirched by a false story”

    1. He didn’t return in 1919 because the poor sod was dead… I quote from Wikipedia:Flanagan was dropped by Arsenal at the end of 1914–15 and spent the next two seasons as a bit-part player during the First World War. He retired after an injury in 1917.[3] Flanagan enlisted in the British Army under the Derby Scheme in December 1915, before returning to his reserved occupation as an artillery shell machinist at the Royal Arsenal.[2] He was later mobilised into the Army Service Corps in February 1917 and posted to 816th M.T. Company in German East Africa.[2] Flanagan died of dysentery at the 52nd (Lowland) Casualty Clearing Station in Mingoyo on 31 August 1917.

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