Tom Parker: 172 consecutive matches for Arsenal, and the first Arsenal man to lift the Cup.

By Tony Attwood

Tom Parker was born in a suburb of Southampton, and he joined his local club playing his first season in the war leagues that carried on until 1919, then one season with the Saints in the Southern League.   In this third season (1920/21) Southampton moved into the Football League for the newly created third division.

In their first season in the Third, Southampton were runners up, but that year only the champions went up.  However in 1921/2 the league was renamed Third Division (South) and Southampton won it on goal average and so moved into the Second division for the first time.

In 1925 Tom played in the cup semi-final with Southampton (who had quite a tradition in the FA Cup, having reached the final in 1902), and Tom won a cap for England playing against France.

During his time at Southampton, Parker also won a solitary cap for England, against France on 21 May 1925.

In March 1926 Tom signed for Arsenal, having made 275 appearances for Southampton, and played on April 3 against Blackburn in front of 31,000 at Highbury. Tom took over from Alec Mackie who had suffered a serious injury in the previous season and missed most of it.  Mackie however had played 35 times in the league in 1925/6 but Tom took over the number 2 shirt, and held it for the all time record of 172 consecutive games.  Mackie held on in the reserves for two seasons before retrieving his career at Portsmouth who had just reached the 1st Division for the first time.

Tom Parker was captain of Arsenal in the first cup final (against Cardiff) and again in 1930, when he was the first ever Arsenal player to lift the FA Cup.

He was captain again as Arsenal won the league in 1931, and in the 1932 cup final.  Amazingly he missed only six league games in seven seasons.

By the start of the 1932/3 season Tom was 34 and he was initially replaced by Leslie Compton who was just starting out on his career and Tom regained his place after four games.  But after five more games Tom was George Male.  His final game was the last of that run of five games – a 3-3 draw with Derby on October 8 and after seeing out the rest of 1932/3 in the reserves he became player manager of Norwich City.  Norwich came third in 1933/4, so were clearly a decent third division team – but Tom took them to the championship in 1933/4 – seven points clear of second placed Coventry.

In March 1937 he returned to Southampton as manager and helped the club avoid relegation by four points.    He then used Chapman techniques to buy in good players – most notably Bill Dodgin and Ted Bates.  However by the time war broke out Southampton were still resolutely stuck in the lower reaches of the second division.

When football was abandoned in 1939 Tom worked for the Ministry of Transport, managing Southampton part-time, until June 1943, when he resigned.  After the war he worked as a ship’s surveyor for Lloyd’s in Southampton Docks.

In 1955 he returned to Norwich for a second spell.  The club were back in the Third Division South by then, and the return finished badly with Norwich ending 1956/7 bottom of the league and having to seek re-election.

Tom then retired but was then asked by Ted Bates (whom Tom had signed for Southampton but who was now Southampton’s manager) to become a scout.  He eventually became chief scout, and finally retired in 1975. He died aged 89 in 1987.

Arsenal History

10 Replies to “Tom Parker: 172 consecutive matches for Arsenal, and the first Arsenal man to lift the Cup.”

  1. Only missed 6 games in 7 seasons? Doesn’t sound “Arsenal through and through” to me.

    And yet, this is the first Arsenal captain to win the FA Cup and the first to win the League, and he’s all but forgotten. He’s not on the Heroes Together mural, begging the question, “What does a man have to do to be remembered?”

  2. Did he captain Arsenal in the 27 cup final? I always thought it was Charlie Buchan.I looked into this and found in the Arsenal encyclopedia that they have stated that Buchan,Parker and Baker captained the club in the 27 final! Whilst in the Who’s Who,they claim that Billy Blyth is the skipper!!!

    I need to know the definitive answer,anyone?

  3. Wow!!
    That is an awesome picture.As Del Boy would say,what can’t speak,can’t lie.
    I always thought it was Buchan because he is at the head of the team with the ball when they sing the All Good Pals song.(why dont we just play that pre match,instead of that dreary wrist slitting dreary lament by Elvis,AWFUL!)

    Fantastic work Andy. Thank you.

  4. I don’t suppose you would know the chronology of the full time Arsenal skippers?
    They have the sequential list in the handbook,but don’t list the years of captaincy,only the years spent at the club.

  5. I’m about 95% complete with the list of captains. Unfortunately the list in the handbook is incomplete and contains at least one player that wasn’t a full-time captain.

    I aim to do a series on the captains once I have a full list.

    It’s also disappointing to see that they still haven’t got the managers right as well. Our book, which is on sale in the club shops, shows that the second manager was William Elcoat, not George Elcoat.

  6. Thanks Andy,
    I shall look forward to that.
    Don’t get me started on club publications.Full of mis-information.I stopped buying the programme for that reason and the fact that the JG page was taken up by messages for the staff and their families,not the genuine supporters who actually pay.Also this seasons handbook is smaller than last and the quality of paper is awful compared to last season.The price stayed the same though! And my hot chocolate tasted of hot water at the last home game!!(Yes,I did stir it thoroughly)……Rant over,sorry.

  7. Who captained Arsenal in each of our pre-war Charity Shield matches,do you know? And who is the listed captain in the handbook that wasn’t?

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