Jimmy Brain, Arsenal’s brilliant centre forward, signed by Knighton, a triumph for Chapman

This article by Tony Attwood was updated 26 January 2017 with pictures kindly supplied by Martin Levy.


Jimmy Brain was born on 11 September 1900 in Bristol, and played for Ton Pentre having worked previously as a coal miner.

In 1923 he was sold to Arsenal.   The table below shows his league record, and reminds us that although Jimmy played mostly under Chapman he was signed by the previous manager – Leslie Knighton.

Undated picture seemingly taken at Wolverhampton


Season League games Goals Manager
1924/5 28 12 Knighton
1925/6 41 34 Chapman
1926/7 37 31 Chapman
1927/8 39 25 Chapman
1928/9 37 19 Chapman
1929/30 6 0 Chapman
1930/1 16 4 Chapman
204 125

His first year at Arsenal saw him playing in the reserves – and it is worth remembering that while reserve games are these days largely ignored, they could get significant crowds in the 1920s, with often 5,000 or 10,000 turning up for a game.

His first game in the first team was on 25 October 1924 and was a 1-0 win over Tottenham (who had also tried to sign him from Ton Petre).  Jimmy Brain scored the goal in front of 51,000 at Highbury.


Looking at the figures above it is not surprising that from the 1924/5 season to 1928/29 he was the top scorer and became (on 7 March 1928) the first player to score 100 goals for Arsenal.   The 1925/6 tally was only overtaken in 1934/5 by Ted Drake.

Jimmy Brain played in Arsenal’s first cup final in 1927.

Being introduced to the King George VI at the 1927 Cup Final.

However by the 1929/30 the Chapman revolution was well under way and David Jack took over the centre forward slot, with Brain getting a few games as inside right.   The following season Lambert and Jack were the first choice players for the 8 and 9 shirts and Brain was gradually squeezed out.

However he played in Arsenal’s 2–1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the Charity Shield at Stamford Bridge in October 1930 and did get a league winner’s medal for the 1930/31 season.  His last appearance was on 21 March 1931.


Playing against Manchester City



In September 1931 he moved to Tottenham for a transfer fee of £2,500.  He played 47 games for Tottenham and scored 10.

What happened after that is slightly unclear as sources vary, Dean Hayes in Arsenal the Football Facts having him transferred as a player to Kings Lynn while Wikipedia has him playing until the first world war, for Swansea Town and Bristol City (51 and 32 games respectably).

It is also interesting that Hayes has Brain signing for Cardiff City before Ton Pentre, but Wiki has him as being rejected by Cardiff.

Wiki has Brain as a manager of Kings Lynn and Cheltenham Town during the war years until 1948 when he retired from football.

He died in 1971 in Barnet, but no exact date is given.

Seasons Team Lge games Lge goals
–1923 Ton Pentre
1923–1931 Arsenal 204 125
1931–1934 Tottenham Hotspur 45 10
1934–1937 Swansea Town 51 25
1937–1939 Bristol City 32 9
1939–1940 Cheltenham Town

There are more details of Jimmy’s time at Arsenal in our series Arsenal in the 30s

Details of all our series can be found on the Arsenal History Society website home page


7 Replies to “Jimmy Brain, Arsenal’s brilliant centre forward, signed by Knighton, a triumph for Chapman”

  1. I am a distant relative of Jimmy brain, think he was my nans uncle or something. Looking for find more information on him soon will share

  2. He was my nan’s uncle as well he was my great grandma John’s brother (married) name

  3. I’ve hot family photos of hom playing and meeting king George at the FA cup 1927 lost to Huddersfield 1-0

  4. Any chance of you scanning the pics in and letting us publish them?

    I would be thrilled to have a chance to do this – with of course full acknowledgement to you.

  5. Hi Tony (& Martin)
    Would you allow me to include some of your pictures and info (with acknowledgement) on our Pittville History website ? Jimmy lived here when he was Cheltenham manager and we’d like to include a short piece on him. Many thanks

  6. I beleive the picture of Brain above is with Fred Keenor of Cardiff City NOT Manchester City.. it is possibly taken at the 1927 cup final which Arsenal lost 1- 0 to Cardiff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *