Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
Victory Through Harmony
In an era when people stay at clubs for just a few years it is wonderful to look back at George Male – a man who spent more than half of his life at Arsenal. As a player he joined us in 1929 and left in 1948 making 318 appearances – which would have been many more had it not been for the intervention of Germany. But he didn’t actually leave the club until 1975.
His first attempt at senior football was a trial with West Ham, who amazingly (in the light of what happened later) turned him down, thus ensuring that his first club was Clapton – whom Woolwich Arsenal had played in the cup years before – hence the article on this site.
He joined us as an amateur in November 1929, turning pro in May 1930 and played his first match in the 7-1 victory over Blackpoolon December 27, 1930. He started out on the left wing as a deputy for Bob John and he played just three times in our first championship winning season, and nine the following season, including in the 1932 cup final (which was a surprise, caused by an injury to Alex James. This was the cup final that had the infamous Newcastle goal where the ball was way over the line before being crossed. . But he was still a minor player getting only two games that season and nine in 1931/2.
But then Herbert Chapman moved him to right back (shades of Arsene Wenger here I think – seeing a player in one position and thinking he can play in another), he became a regular and between October 1932 and December 1934 did the seemingly impossible of playing 100 consecutive games. He is later said to have recounted to a journalist how he went into Chapman’s office thinking he was going to be transferred, only to find that the manager was wanting to convince him that he was about to become the best right back in the country.
That might seem something and a half but it was only the start. This player, plucked from the obscurity of Clapton, became Arsenal captain and England captain from the mid 30s until the outbreak of war when he was just 29. By then he had played in a side that had won four championships and the FA Cup. He had also won 19 caps for his country and was captain six times.
During the war years he played nearly 200 matches for Arsenal, as well as serving in Palestine with the RAF. Even after the war he still kept playing and at the age of 36 and won the league yet again in the 1947-8 season, playing in 15 games. He therefore became the first ever player in the League to win the championship six times. Fittingly his final game was an 8-0 win over Grimsby in May 1948. The one thing he never did however was score a goal.
If you have read some of the earlier articles here you will know that there was a little celebration when we came across a player who played for Woolwich Arsenal and also played in the Cup winning team for us. It was, as I noted, a connection with a much later era. Here we have another link between generations, because George Male became a coach at Arsenal who worked with the youth and reserve teams, as well as being a scout, and he in turn discovered Charlie George. He was also present to watch the double victories in 1971, before retiring in 1975.
After that he went to Canada where he had family, and died in February 1998, aged 87. He was not however the last of the Chapman players to pass away, because Ray Bowden lived a few months beyond George Male and died aged 89 – that was truly the end of the era.