By Tony Attwood
Dan Lewis has been mentioned on this site quite a few times, but hasn’t had his own article thus far.
The reason for this is that prior to Herbert Chapman’s arrival at the club, Knighton (our previous manager) had been using Jock Robson in goal with Dan Lewis as reserve keeper.
Now while we would all admit that Chapman was a great manager with an amazing ability to pick the players with the best potential and then get the very best out of them, with goalkeepers, he had a bit of a blind spot. And Dan Lewis was caught in that spot.
Dan was born in Maery, Glamorgan, and after playing for clubs in his area moved to Clapton Orient, joining Arsenal in 1924, playing from 15 November to 14 February 1925, when he was dropped.
Meanwhile Jock Robson had joined Arsenal in 1921 and made 101 appearances for Arsenal. He did play nine times early in the 1925/6 season but Chapman did not rate him (not least because he was only 5 feet 8 inches tall, and Chapman transferred Robson to Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic in August 1926.
Dan’s biggest moment was the 1927 FA Cup final against Cardiff – our first final and we lost it 1-0. Ferguson hit an easy-to-save shot in the 74th minute, Lewis failed to collect it, tried to recover and knocked it into the net giving Cardiff the Cup 1-0. Lewis blamed his new goal keeper jersey.
Despite the failure, Dan Lewis continued to play as Arsenal’s regular goalkeeper for the next three seasons but then along came Bill Harper, for a goal keeper record fee of £4000.
Meanwhile the emerging Lewis played on for six seasons, with over 30 appearances in each of the last three – all despite being blamed for the cup defeat.
Here is a chart of Arsenal’s keepers during this era
Clearly when Arsenal broke the goalkeeper record by paying £4000 to bring in Harper it looked as if Chapman had no faith in the existing goalkeepers. For the first games of the season Robson played nine times and Dan Lewis five. Harper took over but lost his place after a bad defeat at Aston Villa on April 2 1926. (The story on Wikipedia about Harper at this point is not quite right).
A further insight into Chapman and goal keepers comes from the transfer details of each player
|1928/9||Moody||Bradford PA||Bradford PA|
|1930/1||Preedy||Wigan Borough||Bristol Rovers|
The conclusion we might draw from this was that part of Chapman’s keeper problems was that he was not buying players from top clubs but rather from lesser clubs.
We can see from the first table above that Harper was dropped and Dan Lewis kept on popping back up. When Harper left and went to play in the American Soccer League Lewis went back in goal until Keyser came in in 1930 (which is another full story in itself).
In fact Lewis’ entire history at Arsenal was one of coming in and out of the team although he was not selected for the second final in which Preedy did the goalkeeping honours. Interestingly Preedy only played 12 games that season but got his cup winner’s medal.
And so Dan Lewis’ time at Arsenal was one of being in and out of the team, but surviving as other keepers came and went. Meanwhile he won his first cap for Wales against England on 12 February 1927 and won three caps in all – the last being on 20 November 1929.
In the end he was transferred to Gillingham in May 1931 having played 169 games for Arsenal in one of the strangest careers of all Arsenal players. Sadly, he played only six times for Gillingham and retired from professional football soon after.
He died in 1965, at the age of 62.
If you have any knowledge of why he only played a few times for Gillingham and what he did after his retirement, please do help us fill in the gaps.
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