By: Mark Andrews @royalarsenalmra
H Simmons – The one armed reserve
As part of the research into the new book we have uncovered previously unknown, unheard of and some strange events and people. Here is the first player’s story.
We have included H Simmons for one major and quite incredible reason, despite him never playing for the first team. He played as a centre forward from September 1890 for one season for the reserves and was spoken highly in terms of breaking into the first team. He was a Paralympian before the name was invented, in that he played for Royal Arsenal reserves despite having only one arm.
He came from Grove Park who in 1889-90 were called Star and won the London Junior Cup that season. Royal Arsenal reserves played Star twice at the end of that season and it is very likely that they requested his services from his performances in the second game, as he scored on 12th April 1890.
He played 24 times in the 1890-91 season for the reserves scoring 16 times. His first match was against Millwall Athletic on 13 September 1890. His entrance described in the South Eastern Herald as follows:
On 27th September 1890 the Reserves played Grove Park winning 15-0, with Simmons scoring six. Simmons also scored in the 2nd round of the Kent Senior Cup against Maxim-Nordenfeldt on 8th November 1890. Royal Arsenal chose to play their reserve team in the Kent Senior Cup that season, despite being holders of the cup.
His performance against Cray Wanderers was described 11th Oct 1890 in the Kentish Independent as:
“Nothing however has been seen on the ground so remarkable as the play of Simmons, the one-armed youth who played centre forward…and did constant feats of skill and valour, which brought him rounds of applause”.
Most of his goals came early in the season and there are a number of later reports of him being too slight and prone to being knocked off the ball, and having a balance issue would not have helped when going into a tussle for the ball with a burly centre back. However he was still well thought of and was a travelling reserve for the first team in the London Senior Cup final on 7th March 1891. He was Captain of the reserves versus City Ramblers on Good Friday, 3rd April 1891
He played one game for the reserves the next season, which happened to be the first reserve game against Upton Park on 12th September 1891. As Royal Arsenal only played with 10 men it is a distinct possibility that Simmons only played to help out old friends as he more than likely had left the club at the end of the 1890-91 season.
You will notice that we have not been able to find his first name, it is a sad fact that he was never referred to by his first name in any local newspaper, only either as Simmons or H Simmons. He was not alone as many players who were on the fringes of the first team never had their full names revealed. There was a Scot called McQuilkie who never in any paper even had his initials revealed and he played on and off for about 6 months in the first team.
So H Simmons was very lucky to get his initials mentioned, not surprisingly his port of call after Arsenal is not stated anywhere. Hopefully by the time we manage to publish the “Royal Arsenal 1886-1893: From the Common to the Manor” we may have found more about this amazing athlete.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches