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25 February 1899: The Arsenal manager who never was

Here’s the question: who was the manager on this date?

The answer is Arthur Kennedy – but very curiously, the list of managers given on Arsenal.com he is not mentioned.  Yet 25 February was definitely the date of his first game in charge.   William Elcoat left the club on 20 February after 43 games in charge and a very decent win percentage of 53.49%.

But he objected to the way the Committee of the club kept interfering in his work, so off he went and the following day Arthur Kennedy became manager.  His first match was on this day in 1899 and he stayed in charge for the rest of the season and through the summer.

Kennedy had been the finance secretary and was probably never considered to be the permanent manager, but even so, not including him in the list seems rather churlish.

And indeed there is clear evidence in the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts that Arthur Edwin Kennedy  became Secretary and Manager of Woolwich Arsenal FAC in June 1899 before later becoming club chairman, so he should be listed.

Under Kennedy, Arsenal won five, drew three and lost three of their remaining games to finish in 7th position.

So it that it?  Well no not quite.  Firstly Kennedy was also Vice‑President of the London FA, and during his time at Arsenal the club experimented with playing baseball in 1906-7.  Arsenal joined the baseball league for one season, and Kennedy was the first Chairman of the British Baseball league.

And second, Arthur Kennedy made at least one signing of note during his time as manager.  For on 8 June (clearly during his tenure), Kennedy signed  Duncan McNichol from St Bernards.

Ducan McNichol played in the original regular back two of Woolwich Arsenal – there are full details of them in an Arsenal History Society article on the player.  After playing for Arsenal he went on to be captain of Aberdeen, and their official website says of him, he arrived with a proven track record from Woolwich Arsenal. He was a classy full-back who went on to be widely accepted as the best player at the club in those days. After a long-term injury forced McNicol to give up the professional game he went on to take up hockey in the Aberdeen area.”

So there we are.  That is the man who fills the gap – and also the player he signed.


For thoughts on Arsenal today please see Untold Arsenal


The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.


100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

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