When the Arsenal team was selected by a committee!

By Tony Attwood

Woolwich Arsenal FC was created in 1893 and for the first four years of its existence (during which time it was in the Football League Division 2), it was managed by a Committee of the Directors – or indeed the whole board of directors (I’m not sure which).  The selection meetings must have been fun.

In our book “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” we examine the case that has been made for Sam Hollis to be considered the manager and we have rejected the idea.  On this site we not only examine the claim of Sam Hollis, but also Charlie Bates for the manager’s chair during part of this period.  It is an article written in the early days of this site, and my views have changed since then – but I’ve left the piece up, just for completeness.

The claims for there being a manager during the first four years are tenuous, and indeed as we point out in the book, the notion of Hollis as manager only arose because suddenly, without any source or evidence, the Rothman’s Football Yearbook for 1984 quoted his managership as fact.

So, I’m going for “The Committee” as the manager for the first four years of the existence of Woolwich Arsenal FC – which would have been a continuation of the practice that held sway during the days of Royal Arsenal FC, prior to Woolwich Arsenal.

And thus, in order to have a sense of completeness, it is time for The Committee to be put under some scrutiny for their four years in running the club as manager.

Season League position Points FA Cup exit Knocked out by…
1893/4 9th 28 1st round Sheffield Wed
1894/5 8th 34 1st round Bolton W
1895/6 7th 32 1st round Burnley
1896/7 10th 30 Supplementary* Millwall

* Arsenal entered in the fourth qualifying round, played a fifth qualifying round and then a Supplementary round where they were defeated.  In 1893 Arsenal entered in the 1st qualifying round, and in the next two seasons in the 1st round.

Here is the year by year break down…




1893 1894 28 9 1 4 33 19 3 3 8 19 36
1894 1895 30 11 3 1 54 20 3 3 9 21 38
1895 1896 30 11 1 3 42 11 3 3 9 16 31
1896 1897 30 10 1 4 42 20 3 3 9 26 50
Total 118 41 6 12 171 70 12 12 35 82 155


In total then Woolwich Arsenal played 118 league games under the Committee and won 53 which is a percentage

If we compare this with the other Woolwich Arsenal managers we get

Name From To P Win% Top 4 League
Committee 1893 1897 118 44.92 Division II
Thomas Mitchell August 1897 March 1898 26 53.85 Division II
William Elcoat April 1898 20 Feb 1899 43 53.49 Division II
Arthur Kennedy 21 Feb 1899 August 1899 11 45.45 Division II
Harry Bradshaw August 1899 May 1904 189 50.79  3* Promoted
Phil Kelso July 1904 Feb 1908[ 152 41.45 Division 1
George Morrell Feb  1908 April 1915 292 35.27  1* Relegated 1913
Punch McEwen April 1915 April 1919 2 50.00

As you can see from this chart after the committee Arsenal had three short term managers and then three long term managers.  (Punch McEwan took over the club as the wartime manager, and agreed to manage the last two matches of the season prior to the cessation of the league for the duration.)

If we compare the Committee with the three managers who took Woolwich Arsenal through over 100 games we get an honours list for the management of Woolwich Arsenal that puts the Committee  in second place, behind Harry Bradshaw, who got the club promoted, and ahead of Kelso and Morrel (the latter of whom took the club back down again).

Of course the situation was different with each individual, and Morrell had to manage the club through the big financial downturn, but even so, the Committee didn’t do as badly as we might have assumed.

There is more on Arsenal’s managers and the club during these early years in our new book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football”

There is a complete index to all the articles on the Committee’s period of management and the players they used on the index page for the Committee.


The Managers index

Arsenal’s Anniversaries

Arsenal History blog home page

Untold Arsenal








2 Replies to “When the Arsenal team was selected by a committee!”

  1. Notoverthehill – should explain that this web site is run by the Arsenal History Society, which basically means myself, Andy and Mark – the three of us who wrote “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football”. Walter is deeply involved in writing Untold Arsenal, especially at the moment with all the ref reviews, and like the rest of us he has a full time job, and a family, so the poor guy needs a bit of time off!

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