The dead years of Arsenal: Bill Dodgin

By Tony Atttwood

William “Bill” Dodgin was born on 4 November 1931 and died in June 2000 after suffering from Alzheimers.

He was born in County Durham, and was himself the son of a footballer (Bill Dodgin senior – 1909 to 1999) who played for Hudderfield Town, Lincoln, Charlton, Bristol Rovers, Clapton Orient and Southampton.

Because of the identical names and because father and son worked together on occasion, biographical details of the players occasionally become confused.  “Our” Bill Dodgin was, for example, born in Wardley, his father in Gateshead – although some volumes have this the other way around.  In this article Bill Dodgin refers to the Arsenal player.

Bill started as an amateur and was then signed by his father who managed Southampton at the time.  When Bill senior went to Fulham, so Bill junior followed him.

Of course playing for your father is never easy – only a handful have managed to do it without getting the fans on their backs (Clough junior I seem to recall did it, but I am not sure how many others) and Bill Dodgin certainly felt the pressure as Fulham were relegated to the second division.

And it was on this basis that he was transferred to Arsenal in  December 1952, to join Tom Whittaker’s team who were heading for yet another Arsenal title.  He didn’t however make an immediate impact, playing just one league game (April 15 1953 against Bolton which we won 4-1), replacing Ray Daniel, who until that moment had been present all season.)

When Ray Daniel moved to Sunderland after playing 87 games for Arsenal Bill Dodgin became the first choice number 5 and played 39 games in the 1953/4 season.  But he in turn was dropped in favour of Jim Fotheringham and only played 3 first team games in 1954/5.   However after Fotheringham got injured in February 1956, Bill Dodgin returned and played in a run of 15 games.

When Tom Whittaker died, Jack Crayston took over and both managers kept Bill in the side, playing 41 league games in 1956/57 until in January 1958 he was dropped at Fotheringham returned to the number 5 shirt for the last 19 games of the 57/58 season.

When George Swindin took over the team he kept Bill in the side and he played 39 league games in 1958/59 and 30 in 1959/60.

But by the end of that season his time had gone and with John Sneddon and Mel Charles in the squad he did not play again and got a free transfer in 1961.

He went back to Fulham, but broke his leg and played only a handful of games thereafter.

After retirement from playing Bill again followed his father’s profession by becoming a coach first with Millwall then QPR – with whom he won the League Cup in 1967.   However when he became manager he had less success, and after QPR’s relegation he moved to Fulham who under him suffered relegation from the first to the third division in two seasons.  He was not sacked however and took the club back to the second division in 1971.  But after a poor season back in the second, he left the club, moving on to manage Northampton Town (twice) and Brentford, winning promotion with both clubs, as well as Woking – his final club.

In all he played 191 league games for Arsenal, but did not score a league goal.

“Making the Arsenal” – the story of Arsenal in 1910.   The book for the fan who (thinks he/she) knows everything about the club.


Into the Darkness.  Arsenal 1958-1967

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