30 August: Gerrit Keyser makes his debut – but what happened to him?


30 August 1930: Gerrit Keyser made his debut in a 4-1 away win at Blackpool.

Despite only playing in one defeat in the first 12 games of the season, Keyser was then dropped and never played for Arsenal again.  This game was the first of five consecutive wins and a nine-game unbeaten sequence. 

But behind that bald statistic is a really odd story – and one that certainly should not be forgotten.   For Gerard Keizer was a player who clearly must have been quite extraordinary, because in the summer of 1930 Herbert Chapman signed him from non-league Margate, and immediately thrust him into the first division side.

In fact Keizer’s 12 games were the first 12 games of the title winning 1930/1; Arsenal’s first ever championship-winning season.  Of those 12 we won 8, drew 3 and lost 1.  So again, he wasn’t bad.

Keizer was brought in after Dan Lewis, our regular keeper until that point, had suffered a crisis of confidence.  Lewis had made the error that cost Arsenal the 1927 cup final, and when he was dropped by Chapman for the 1930 final it is said that his confidence took such a battering he felt unable to start the new season.   Meanwhile, Charlie Preedy who played in goal in the 1930 final was not seen as a permanent replacement and so Keizer was brought in.

But to find why Keizer was then dropped after such a successful start, we have to dig a little deeper.

Keizer was Dutch.  He had joined Ajax aged 16 and by the time he was 20 he was their reserve keeper.  In fact Keizer was registered with two clubs (allowable since he was an amateur and the clubs were in different countries).  Apparently, he would fly back to the Netherlands on Saturday nights to play for Ajax on Sundays.

Maybe it was this that made Chapman drop him as suddenly as he had picked him.  Or maybe it was the fact that Keizer never kept a clean sheet during his 12 game spell – although to be fair, Arsenal only kept three clean sheets all season.  They won the league not because of their defence but because they scored 127 goals in 42 games.

Whatever the cause, Keyser left at the end of the season, moving to Queens Park Rangers, before dropping his London connection to become Ajax’s first choice keeper in 1933.  He then played 302 games for the club as they became the dominant force in Dutch football, as well as gaining two Netherlands caps.

In 1945 Keizer flew to London once again to ask Arsenal for help in rebuilding Ajax after the war.   Arsenal (themselves seriously affected financially by the war) generously donated a set of kit and some footballs.

This was the start of another period of regular trips between Amsterdam and London for Keizer but in 1947 he was caught with a rather fine collection of five pound notes among the football kits he was carrying, and he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for smuggling.  Whether this secondary business activity had been going on in 1931 and was the cause of Keizer’s sudden removal from the club we shall never know.

After his release from prison, Keizer went into business and became one of Amsterdam’s leading greengrocers and in 1955 he returned to Ajax as a member of the club’s board. He died in 1980 aged 70 – one of the most colourful characters in Arsenal’s history.

The club’s early history in photographs


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