They played 100+ games for Woolwich Arsenal

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One of the factors that I have reported on many times while looking into the history of the Woolwich Arsenal players is how quickly many of the players moved on.  As far as I can see only one of the players who started the very first season in Division II in 1893 was actually at the club and playing two years on.

That player was David Howat, and he played one game in 1895-6 – and that was it.  Players at that time (at Arsenal at least) lasted one year – two at the most.

So as I start this latest little adventure – everyone who played more than 100 games for the club, I am not expecting that many players to turn up with 100+ games under their belts.

But as with everything on this site while I wouldn’t like it said that I’m making it up as I go along, I would fully admit to discovering it as I go along.  As with the last series on Woolwich Arsenal in the Cup, I started it, thinking it might tell me something – and I finished it with a much deeper awareness of how the decline in cup performances affected the club’s finances.  Plus the knowledge that Woolwich Arsenal did once play at the cup final ground.

So he we go: players who turned out 100 or more times for Woolwich Arsenal.

The very first one I can find is Frederick William Davis, who played at wing half, and made 137 league appearances between 1893 and 1899, scoring 8 goals along the way.  He also played in 13 cup games and got two more goals there.

Fred Davis was born in Smethwick in 1871 and started with Soho Villa (a club of which I can find no detail) and Birmingham St Georges, who were one of the founders of the Combination – one of the many leagues that were launched and then fell away.   (The original Combination did not actually complete its first season, although it was restarted later).

Failing (just) to get into the Football League (but getting more votes than Notts County) they joined the Football Alliance, and got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup in 1889.  But the success didn’t last and the club disbanded in 1893 and Fred moved to Woolwich, playing in the second league game – one of 26 starts that season.

On leaving Woolwich he moved to Forest but never played for them and left football in 1900.  What happened next is not known.

Gavin Crawford was a right half and outside right born in Kilmarnock in 1867 (he died on 2 March 1955).  He is recorded as starting out with Fairfield Rangers of Glasgow, before going to Sheffield United of the Midland League in 1890.

In 1891 he joined Woolwich Arsenal (at the moment the side became professional) and is (according to one site) the first professional player Arsenal ever had.  It would be good if that could be officially verified somehow.

In all he made 138 appearances and scored 17 goals.  Of these 122 games were in the league as were 13 of the goals.   Among the highlights was scoring on his league debut against Walsall Town Swifts at home on 11 September 1893 in front of 4000 spectators.

He was captain from 1896 but in the 1897/8 season after playing the first ten games he was in and out of the side and made 19 league starts, although he played in all four cup games.

According to the Official Illustrated History, he appeared with other colleagues from the early team at the game against Chelsea on March 20 1948.

After Arsenal he moved to Millwall, and QPR, before ultimately becoming head groundsman at Charlton.  Wiki has it that he retired from that game in the late 1940s by which time he would have been around 80, which is possible, but seems a little unlikely.

After this we have to move some way forward to John William Anderson who played 153 games and scored 11 goals (144 games in the league with 10 goals) between 1896 and 1903.

Wiki says he was “Most likely born in County Durham” and I have no evidence to contradict that.  He first played for Crook Town from the Northern League, a team that later became famous for a series of games against Barcelona, arranged by Jack Greenwell, who played for both clubs and then managed Barca.

Anderson joined Arsenal midway through the 1896/7 season, and played in right, central and left midfield.  He regularly knocked up 20+ games, and played in 32 out of 34 league games in 1900/1.

However in 1902/3 he only played eight times and at the end of the season he joined Portsmouth who were then in the Southern League.

Next in the 100+ list is John Dick, the first of our players to get over 250 games for the club.  I’ll come on to him next time.

Tony Attwood

Untold Indexes index the index behind the index and then supply the contents

Arsenal history takes the official version, tears it up and starts again.

Making the Arsenal is, well, just so different from everything else in the history of history that really words fail most people who have ever read it.

4 Replies to “They played 100+ games for Woolwich Arsenal”

  1. A couple of snippets about these players that I have dug up recently.

    In March 1898, Gavin Crawford was suspended by the club for one week. At the same time John Caldwell and Frank McAvoy were suspended sine die (i.e. indefinitely). As yet, I haven’t found out why. McAvoy didn’t play for the club again but Caldwell and Crawford did.

    In the same week, John Anderson was given a two week ban by the Kent FA. This was the result of being sent off against Blackpool on New Year’s Day for insulting the referee.

    And to cap an eventful week, manager Thomas Mitchell resigned.

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