8 August 1923: The wonderful Jimmy Brain was signed.



On Saturday 4 August 1923 the directors gave a dinner at the Hotel Cecil in central London, for the players.  The occasion, “was the (supposed) retirement from playing of Jock Rutherford…  The directors of the club were present; on their behalf, Henry Norris presented Rutherford with a silver tea and coffee set.”

On 6 August the club published its annual report showing a profit for the year of £5000.  That would be over a quarter of a million pounds in today’s money just based on inflation.  But we must remember football inflation is way above general inflation.

£5000 in 1923 was about the world record for a transfer and this profit for a football club was exceptional.  It meant that the long-running debt to Humphreys Limited (who had built Archibald Leitch’s grandstand at Highbury) after the club moved in 1913, had finally been paid off.

But the club was still not debt free, for the accounts show loans of £8510 from Sir Henry Norris and William Hall still on the books, and a further list of other creditors with claims totalling £4344, presumably including the bank.  But one huge debt was out of the way at last and the gamble of moving to Highbury was working financially.

Then on 8 August, Arsenal’s manager Leslie Knighton showed that he could find and sign talented players.  If he had a problem it was that he simply couldn’t do it often enough.   This player was Jimmy Brain from Ton Pentre, a team that still plays in the Welsh League.

Jimmy was born in Bristol, had an unsuccessful trial with Cardiff, before becoming a miner in the Rhonda Valley at which time he joined Ton Pentre as a part time player.  The signing suggests that the network of scouts that Knighton made so much of in his autobiography had not been wound up by Sir Henry Norris as Knighton alleged, as this really does look like a signing based on what a player might do, rather than what he had done.

In 1931 Jimmy was sold to Tottenham where he was not a success and after 45 games moved on to Swansea, then Britsol City and finally Cheltenham Town.

As a PS perhaps I might also add that on 8 August 2009 at the AISA AGM held at Highbury House, the Arsenal History Society was established as a body in its own right within AISA.

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