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By Tony Attwood
Dennis Evans was a stalwart for Arsenal, playing 207 games (189 in the league) and scoring 12 goals (10 in the league). He was a left back who only played left back – during an era when swapping sides was not uncommon.
He was born in Liverpool on 18 May 1930 and initially played for Ellesmere Port Town, the club originally known as Ellesmere Port FC, reforming with the new name in 1948. Their greatest era came however after Dennis left, as from 1957/8 until 1961/2 they won the Cheshire County League four times and were runners up once, going on later to join the Northern Premier League, before leaving that in 1973.
Dennis had a trial with Wolverhampton, but failed to get accepted before moving on the Arsenal in January 1951, playing initially for the A team and the reserves. He made his debut on 22 August 1953 against Huddersfield.
After getting injured in the Cup Final against Newcastle which we lost, Wally Barnes (who played left and right back on occasion) was out for the 1952/3 season, that left a vacancy which was taken by Joe Wade and JC Chenhall both of whom could swap sides. Contrary to reports elsewhere Dennis Evans did not get a game, thus leaving him effectively fourth choice left back.
Dennis Evans gradually secured a spot in the team and played 10 games in 1953/4, and by 1955/6 he was an ever present. He also wrote himself into history, with the story that just before the final whistle in the game against Blackpool on 17 December 1955, with Arsenal winning 4-0 Dennis is said to have heard a whistle from the crowd, thought it was the final whistle, and kicked the ball up into the air, and it flew into his own net. Maybe it is true – it is hard to find authoritative evidence, but the story turns up everywhere.
In 1956 Dennis also became the club’s regular penalty taker and scored 12 goals. He also once went in goal when Jack Kelsey was injured in a cup match in 1959. I can’t see when this was, but it looks like it was probably on February 18 in a 5th round replay against Sheffield United, which we lost 0-3.
He was captain for a while, and played for London in one of the early editions of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup. (This was a most curious competition in that it took three years to complete eight games – four group round games, plus the semi-final and final home and away – and for the one and only time had a London team with players selected from all the clubs. Arsenal players involved at different times were Jack Kelsey, Derek Tapscott, Cliff Holton, David Herd, Stan Charlton, Dennis Evans, Joe Haverty, Bill Dodgin, Vic Groves, and Jimmy bloomfield and Dave Bowen. London lost the final 8-2 to Barcelona.
On 29 August 1959, playing against Wolverhampton, the team that had rejected him, he broke his ankle, and was out until December, but he only played four more games in that spell. His final game was in a 0-3 defeat to Tottenham. He was replaced in the team by Billy McCullough.
Dennis stayed on at Arsenal however as a youth and reserve coach, and then moved to Luton Town in a similar position, before leaving football to become a chauffeur. Unfortunately I have no further details of his later life.
He died on 23 February 2000.