The Allison Years: Frank Moss in goal

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There’s no article about George Allison on the Arsenal official web site, other than a 70 word summary in the “Managers” section and yet even if he is judged simply by his record as a manager he is surely worth of more.

He game us two league trophies and the FA Cup.

Year League Position FA Cup
1934/5 1st 6th round
1935/6 6th Won
1936/7 3rd 6th round
1937/8 1st 5th round
1938/9 5th 3rd round
1946/7 13th 3rd round

Of course the argument will always be that the 1934/5 – the third in our run of three consecutives – was not his doing so much as Herbert Chapman’s.   Chapman had died suddenly half way through the previous season and Joe Shaw had taken over, to complete the league victory.  Shaw then stepped back down, and Allison became the figurehead manager.

To see if he really was anything other than an inheritor of a great team we might look at the leading players in his 1934/5 team and the 1937/8 team.

1934/5 – the players who played 30 plus games

  • F Moss – 33
  • CG Male – 39
  • H Roberts – 36
  • W Copping – 31
  • E J Drakee – 41
  • A James – 30
  • C S Bastin – 36
  • E A Hapgood – 34
  • W J Crayston – 37

And for 1937/38

  • C G Male – 34
  • E A Hapgood – 41
  • W J Crayston – 31
  • W Copping – 36
  • C S Bastin – 38

It shows that yes, it is true, what George Allison did was to take the successful team of Herbert Chapman and keep it running as long as he could.  (Incidentally Ted Drake only misses out in the second list by a few – he made 27 appearances in 1937/8

Anyway, here’s the team that George Allison put out in his first ever match as manager (I’m using the standard notation of the time, although as we know, Chapman had changed this in terms of the way the team played).


Male John

Hill Roberts Copping

Hulme Bowden Drake James Bastin

The game was away to Portsmouth, it ended 3-3 in front of a crowd of 37910.  Bowden, Drake and Bastin scored.

Frank Moss was our keeper from 1931 to 1937, making 161 appearances for the club in senior matches.

Frank Moss (5 November 1909 – 7 February 1970)

Frank, one of our key goalkeepers in the history of the club, was born in Leyland, in Lancashire, and is recorded as being registered first for Leyland Motors FC – although according to other records the club did not join the Lancashire Combination until 1933 – so they were presumably a side just playing friendlies, or in a very minor league of which I can find no detail.  (The club no longer exists).

He joined Preston NE in 1928 before moving on to Oldham of the second division in 1929 where he played largely in the reserves, before signing for Arsenal in November 1931 for £3000.

This transfer – a reserve goalkeeper in the second division becoming our keeper in title winning teams – is something we might almost associate with Arsene Wenger!

Frank Moss took over from Charlie Preedy and was nearly ever present for four years playing in the title winning teams of the triple years (1932/3, 1933/4, 1934/5).   He also played in the Cup Final defeat to Newcastle in 1932, where the complete lack of goal line technology (ok it was the 1930s) failed to spot that the ball went out of play before coming back into play for Newcastle to score.

Frank Moss got five caps for England (starting in the Scotland match in April 1934) and incorporating as his final England game in which seven of the team playing against Italy were from Arsenal.   Italy were World Champions, and Arsenal, sorry England, beat them 3-2.

It was said that what Herbert Chapman saw in Frank was huge physical courage, and this was ultimately his undoing.  On 16 March 1935, in a league match with Everton, Frank Moss suffered a double dislocation of his left shoulder and collar bone, and so played on the wing (something that tended to happen in the days before subs were allowed).  He scored the first goal (we won 2-0) but Frank never fully recovered from the injury which undoubtedly got worse by playing the rest of the game, and he retired from playing after the 1936-7 season at the age of 27.

However the win was vital – it was Arsenal’s game in hand at the time, and through beating Everton, they went to the top of the league and on to win the championship for the 3rd consecutive season and the fourth in five years.

He was then appointed manager of Heart of Midloathian taking the club to second in the league in 1938-9.   Football was then abandoned for the duration and Frank left Hearts and returned to London.

He died in 1970 at the age of 60.

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7 Replies to “The Allison Years: Frank Moss in goal”

  1. Hi Tony

    Pleased to see the 2-3-5 formation.

    Nobody believes me when I tell them that was how it used to be!

    I know that is where the standard numbering (before squad numbers) came from



  2. As you would expect, he worked for Leyland Motors. He also played for Lostock Hall before joining Preston.

    At Oldham he was reserve to the England goalkeeper, Jack Hacking.

    After dislocating his shoulder in the game against Everton, he didn’t play in the first team again until 28 December 1935 against Sunderland. A run of 7 consecutive games ended against Blackburn on 8 February 1936 when, again, he dislocated his shoulder after 30 minutes. Eddie Hapgood wasn’t playing so his deputy, Leslie Compton, took over in goal. Arsenal won 1-0.

    That was Frank’s last 1st team game for Arsenal. His last ever game was on 19 November 1936 in a reserve team friendly against Cambridge University. It appears that his shoulder must have been causing him problems as he played on the left wing for this game.

    He was appointed manager of Hearts on 1 March 1937.

  3. Paul – I believe the 2-3-5 formation was still shown on football programmes as the team layout into the 1950s, if not later. But of course it changed with Chapman, who ultimately introduced the WM formation which I guess would be expressed as 3-2-2-3 (two wide defenders and the centre half playing between them; two defensive midfield, two attacking midfield, three forwards, retaining the classic number 9 and the two wingers).

  4. The Allison team I remember was


    Male Hapgood

    Crayston Joy Copping

    Kirchen Jones (L) Drake Jones (B) Bastin

    Of those 11, no less than 7 still turned out for Arsenal during WW2.

  5. I remember seeing a Football League teamsheet template that teams had to fill in for the referee as late as 1975!

  6. Just done a final bit of checking and found that Moss scored in two reserve team friendlies where he played in the right wing:

    29 Sep 1936 v Southend United (A) 3-2
    12 Nov 1936 v Oxford University (H) 8-4

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