Jack Crayston: Arsenal player and Arsenal manager

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Jack Crayston was born in Lancashire and played for his local school sides.  It is also said that he played for Ulverston Town but I can’t find any details of that club (although the town is in the right area for this to make sense).

In 1928 he moved into the Football League playing for Barrow in the Third Division North, and then after playing 77 games for them in two years onto Bradford (Park Avenue), who were then in the second division.  It was at this time that Jack became recognised as a defender of note.

In the 1933-4 season Jack broke his wrist and leg, but that did not him being signed by George Allison, for £5250.  That’s about £1m in today’s money.  (I should add that calculations of money across time is a subject fraught with difficulty.  I use average earnings simply because that is how people tend to see player values – in relation to their own personal earnings.  In other words Arsenal paid about 40 years average salary for Jack Crayston).  Jack was very much a George Allison man – he didn’t smoke and didn’t consume alcohol, in an era where large scale consumption of both was even more commonplace than today.  Allison liked his players to lead healthy lives.

He scored in his first game at the start of the following season.  Mind you quite a few players scored on 1 September 1934 as we beat Liverpool 8-1.  Not surprisingly we won the league that year, and again in 1937-8 and in between, the FA Cup in 1936.

Jack Crayston started playing for England in December 1935, and between then an December 1937 he won eight caps.

In one of the first bits of homely gossip to emerge about Arsenal players we find that Jack Crayston became a great friend of Wilf Copping, and according to the Tim Whittaker autobiography they always trained together, and played their own odd card game when they travelled together.

By the 1937-8 season a new Arsenal team, signed by George Allison (as opposed to being inherited from that built by Herbert Chapman) was almost complete, with only Cliff Bastin, Eddie Hapgood and George Male remaining from the great side left by Chapman.

Although we are all familiar with winning the league in the final seconds of the season at Anfield, such end-of-season nail-biting finishes were around in the pre-war era.  On the final day of the 1937/8 season Wolverhampton had to win at Sunderland to get the championship.  Arsenal had been without Ted Drake for much of the season and so struggled to maintain their form of previous years, but still beat Bolton in their final game.   You’ll appreciate that even telephone communications were fairly ramshackle in the 30s, so there was the long wait to find the Sunderland result.  It was a draw – and Arsenal won the league – several minutes after the league season had ended.

Jack Crayston played in 31 league games that season and so got his second league championship medal.

Like so many great players the war curtailed Jack’s career.  He joined the RAF but also played in around 100 war-time friendlies.  After the war he joined the coaching staff of the club and in the close season in 1947 became assistant manager to Tom Whittaker.   Tom Whittaker died in November 1956 and Jack Crayston became the manager.  In his first season Arsenal came in 5th and in the following season 12th – which was the lowest position for 38 years.  The glorious days of the first great Arsenal period were over.

Jack resigned at the end of the 1958 season after 24 years with the club, and moved on to Doncaster Rovers, but they were relegated at the end of his first season there and he finally resigned from football in March 1961.  He died aged 82 in December 1992.

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One Reply to “Jack Crayston: Arsenal player and Arsenal manager”

  1. I don’t know how or why but in about 1948/9, Jack Crayston visited Guernsey in the Channel Islands. All I can remember is a press notice inviting football fans to a gathering in which Jack would talk about his football life. My father (an Arsenal fan since 1916 or so) and I attended and were enthralled at the stories Jack told. Truly a memorable evening.

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