4 August. David Danskin: Arsenal friend or Arsenal enemy?

by Tony Attwood

as a founding father of Arsenal.  And yet he was at the club only a very short while, for although he stood for election to the Committee that ran the club, in 1892, he was not elected because his views on the future of the club did not coincide with the vast majority of members.  Danskin wanted an amateur club, while the majority of the committee favoured paying the men who gave up their time to play for the club.

As a result of this difference of opinion over the future of the club,  Danskin was voted off the committee – which of course is the democratic way in which things can happen.  Danskin made his views clear, he was in a minority, he was voted out.  Nothing wrong with that.

Except after that Danskin went so far as to work with others to create another club whose main aim was not only to rival Arsenal but actually to bring about the demise of Woolwich Arsenal FC..

This rival club was Royal Ordnance Factories FC, the club whose committee members included men who had sought to bankrupt Royal Arsenal’s members by bribing the owner of the Manor Ground (which Royal Arsenal were moving into) to up the rent of the ground dramatically, after the directors of Arsenal had personally guaranteed the loans that were necessary to pay for converting the field into a football ground.

Fortunately for Arsenal, while the likes of Danskin were either happy to go along with the scheme, or did not enquire too closely into the activities of the rival club that they supported, the landlord of the Manor Ground was made of more honourable stuff.  For he refused to be part of such an underhand trick, and so Arsenal moved grounds while Danskin helped form the rival amateur team: Royal Ordnance Factories FC which played in the ground on the opposite side of the road.

And certainly, ROF FC damaged Woolwich Arsenal FC as ROF took a number of Royal Arsenal players with it while Royal Arsenal were converting into Woolwich Arsenal.  These included Peter Connolly, William George, Jack McBean, Jimmy Meggs and Mr McKenzie (whose first name is now lost).  Bobby Buist and William Stewart of Woolwich Arsenal joined a little later – probably around 1895.

However Royal Ordinance Factories FC never really thrived and there were financial problems throughout – which is rather extraordinary given that the players were never paid.   Peter Connolly, one of the leading lights in the club, died in 1895, and the club left the Southern League after playing just the first seven games of the 1896/97 season.  All the games were lost and apparently, the side let in 46 goals.

ROF’s final game was a final desperate fund-raising friendly against an actors’ XI.  When it failed to bring in a decent crowd, the club threw in the towel.

Quite how Danskin’s reputation was retrieved after such a shameful association with the group whose prime raison d’etre was to destroy not only Woolwich Arsenal FC but also the lives of the men who guaranteed its loans, I can’t say.  But one way or another it was achieved, and Danskin is now seen as one of the honourable founding fathers of Arsenal.

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