Arsenal’s greatest forgotten hero: the man who saved our club

Charles Edward McGibbon was a sergeant with the Royal Engineers who played football for Royal Artillery, and then signed for Woolwich Arsenal.  However he couldn’t get into the first team so went on loan to Eltham  and then to New Brompton (now Gillingham) of the Southern League where he became their top scorer.

McGibbon then moved to Crystal Palace and then on to Southampton where he scored 19 goals in 28 games.

Then in March 1910 his military career sent him back to Woolwich and he rejoined Woolwich Arsenal playing for the club for the first time in March 1910 against Chelsea.

McGibbon came in at a time when Woolwich had a major problem in goal scoring.  They were in the bottom two, and were the lowest scorers in the league.   McGibbon was the seventh player to wear the number 9 shirt for Woolwich Arsenal this season – and the fact that Arsenal would finally use a player who had no league experience at this moment in their history showed just how desperate they were.

Amazingly McGibbon scored in his first match on 28 March 1910 in front of 40,0o0 people at Chelsea to give Arsenal the victory and hope for the rest of the season.

But that was not all. McGibbon missed the next two games before returning for the last three matches of the season in which he scored twice more.  A total of four games and three goals.

You would imagine that a man who could come into a team with such a goal scoring problem, and knock up goals as McGibbon did, would have been made captain, given a house and begged to stay.  But he didn’t – he went on to Leyton.

Why was this?

I wish I knew.  Certainly whatever the reason was, he didn’t play for Woolwich Arsenal again, and they could have done with him.   Maybe he just didn’t get on with Norris.

The war put an end to his footballing career and he moved on to work in Southampton, the club where his footballing career had ended.  He even played first class cricket for Hampshire on one occasion.

According to Wiki, his son Douglas also played for Southampton, and for Fulham and Bournemouth.

There is no doubt that Charles McGibbon was a saviour for Arsenal.  Having tried everyone else that season in the number 9 shirt, here was a man who could turn up in a failing team, and score winning goals not just once, but in three of the games he played.   How could the club not have recognised such a talent?  It beggar’s belief.

It would be nice to think that somewhere there is a relative of Charles McGibbon who knows of their ancestry, and who can know now that 100 years on, their ancestor’s achievement in just those few weeks in March and April 1910, did so much for our club.

Tony Attwood

You can read the whole story of 1910 in Making the Arsenal

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