Bill Johnstone: a goalscorer but in a team awash with goalscorers

By Tony Attwood

Bill Johnstone is one of the Arsenal players of whom I have been able to discover so very little, and I would love to know more.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

He was born in Fife 18 May 1900 and started out with Rosyth Juniors before moving on to Kings Park FC in Stirling in their inaugural season in the newly re-introduced Second Division of the Scottish league – they were one of 11 teams that joined the league that year.

In 1922 he moved onto Clyde for whom he played 24 games and scored 9 goals before movin g south to join Reading in 1926 playing 78 and scored 34.   He played in the side that beat Swansea 3-1 away to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1927.

It was this form that attracted the attention of Arsenal whom he joined in May 1929.  Ultimately he played just nine games and scored four through 1929/30 season and the first few weeks of the 1930/31 campaign.

Johnstone made his league debut in a 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in September 1929, but after two games lost his place to the newly emergent Jack Lambert.   He did not take part in Arsenal’s cup run which saw the winning of the first major trophy, the FA Cup in 1930 with Lambert taking the number 9 shirt throughout although he was never once on the losing side with Arsenal.

Although he played both inside left and inside right, again he found the competition for places impossible to bypass with David Jack and Alex James occupying those places for most of the season.

Having played seven games in his first season but only two in his second (all at centre forward or inside left) he played his last on September 13 1930 – a 4-1 away win against Sunderland.  James played every single league game thereafter at inside left and Lambert and Jack shared the centre forward spot, leaving Johnstone nowhere to gain a foothold in the team.

He was transferred to Oldham Athletic for £2,130 in January 1931 as Arsenal headed for their first ever league title, and with Oldham played 68 scored 28.  Finally he headed back to Scotland and played for Clyde.

Other than that I regret we know nothing.   If you know something more please do write to

Arsenal in the 1930s: The complete story

Arsenal players Part 1: A to K.

Arsenal players Part 2: L to Z

3 Replies to “Bill Johnstone: a goalscorer but in a team awash with goalscorers”

  1. Hi
    Just looking at your blog this was my Grandfather William Johnstone. My mother, his daughter, is still alive living in East Kilbride, Glasgow.

  2. Willie Johnstone, My father-in-law, became a Physiotherapist he served on the hospital ship during the second world war, after that he trained Clyde-Celtic-Hamilton and Scotland football team.He passed away after a short illness in a Wakefield hospital. He is buried in Cemetery at Sugar Lane Wakefield.

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