By Tony Attwood
John Alexander “Alex” Graham (11 July 1890 – April 1943) was another of Arsenal’s Scottish players, who was with the club as football resumed after the first world war.
He was born in Ayrshire and played for clubs in Lanarkshire, including Hurlford (but not the present Hurlford United, which is in the same town but not formed until the 1930s), Hamilton Academical, and Larkhall United (which now only exists as a youth side). The existence of Larkhall only as a youth side suggests that all these Scottish clubs had Alex on their books as a junior player.
Alex finally got a trial with Woolwich Arsenal in December 1911, by when he was 21, a period when the club was cutting costs and looking for players who would command lower wages. That in turn suggests he was unattached by that time.
He signed for the club in January 1912 and played most of that year in the reserves before getting a game on Christmas Day with the first team against Notts County. He played left half or centre half most of the matches, being a back up for other players who were out injured.
Alex went to Scotland during the first world war. League football continued in Scotland at that time but we don’t have details of who he played for, if anyone, but he returned in 1919 to take up the number five shirt at Highbury, and was a regular player for three seasons before starting to lose his place to younger players. He won one cap for Scotland, in 1920, in a 2-0 win against Ireland.
He was transferred to Brentford in December 1924, having played 179 games for Arsenal, scoring 20 goals – a number enhanced from the usual total for a half back as he took penalties during his regular seasons with the club.
He played 47 league matches and scored 10 goals for Brentford and became the clubs assistant manager in December 1925. He did not take to the role, and then played briefly for Folkestone before leaving football – at which point we lose sight of him. He died in 1943, at the age of 52.
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