Arsenal’s manager goes missing – but we’ve found him

“Duncan McNichol the man no manager signed”

According to those record books and Arsenal histories that bother with such details on 20 February 1899 William Robson Elcoat left Arsenal as manager.

He had been manager for less than a year and he left saying that he could not get on with the board.  Unable to find an immediate replacement, finance secretary Arthur Kennedy was put in charge of the team for the remainder of the season.

Now you will have noticed, if you have looked at our manager list,  that later in Arsenal’s life we record even those temporary managers who stayed for just a few games.  Pat Rice was the last example of these – standing in while Mr Wenger was finishing his duties in Japan.

But no one has ever done that with this early transition, and a gap has been left between the Elcoat departure and Harry Bradshaw’s arrival in August 1899.  At least until now – because I am just about to change that.

But there is clear evidence in the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts that Arthur Edwin Kennedy (who was Finance Secretary) became Secretary and Manager of Woolwich Arsenal FAC in June 1899 before later becoming club chairman, so he should be listed.

Under Kennedy, Arsenal won five, drew three and lost three of their remaining games to finish in 7th position.

So it that it?  No not quite.  Firstly Kennedy was a writer among other things, and left us some interesting documents.    He was also Vice‑President of the London FA, and during an experiment with baseball in 1906-7, when Woolwich Arsenal played unsuccessfully in the baseball league, he was the first Chairman of the British Baseball league.

And second, Arthur Kennedy made at least one signing of note during his time as manager.  And it is this which gives the reason for my raising this today, 8 June.   For on 8 June (clearly during his tenure) Kennedy signed  Duncan McNichol signed from St Bernards.

Ducan McNichol played in the original regular back two of Woolwich Arsenal – there are full details of them in our earlier article on the player.  After playing for Arsenal he went on to be captain of Aberdeen, and their official web site says of him, he arrived with a proven track record from Woolwich Arsenal. He was a classy full back who went on to be widely accepted as the best player at the club in those days. After a long-term injury forced McNicol to give up the professional game he went on to take up hockey in the Aberdeen area.”

So there we are.  That is the man who fills the gap – and also the player he sign on 8 June 1899.

There are more details on Arthur Kennedy in the book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” which will be published shortly.


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2 Replies to “Arsenal’s manager goes missing – but we’ve found him”

  1. 3/10/10 Athletic News says John Humble pioneer has come back to Woolwich Arsenal – where had he been?


  2. He retired from the board a couple of years earlier and was given a gift by the other directors. Henry Norris sought him out in 1910 after taking over the club and persuaded him to come back to the board to act as part of the liaison between Norris and the supporters.

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