Reg and Ronnie: Two of Arsenal’s most remarkable goal scorers

Two of Arsenal’s most remarkable goal scorers

Arsenal’s record during the 1930s was something to behold: League Champions five times, Runners Up once, Cup Winners once, losing finalists once.  The question was asked more than once, could anything stop Arsenal?

The answer of course was yes, but it wasn’t a football club.  It was the second world war.

Arsenal came fifth in the final pre-war season and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Chelsea.  By a curious coincidence in the first season after the war, Arsenal were once again  drawn against Chelsea in the third round, and once again we were knocked out, this time after two replays.

But by the time of the FA Cup in 1946/7 the chance of even a top half finish were looking remote.   We had lost the opening game away to Wolverhampton 6-1.  Our goal was scored by Reg Lewis.

The second match gave no relief to Arsenal fans – a 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn.  Reg Lewis scored.  The third match was a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland in front of 60,000 people.  Reg Lewis got both.  In the fourth match we lost away from home to Everton 2-3.  Reg Lewis scored.  Twice.

You’ll have started to see a pattern here.  Arsenal, despite clearly being way off the form that had led the club to dominate the 30s had in their midst a scoring machine called Reg Lewis.

Although many players were unable to continue after the war, Reg was still only 26, and he came back to professional football with a bang.  Arsenal never recovered from their poor start in the first post-war season, but in the second half of the campaign, Reg found he had a fellow goalscorer in the team: Ronnie Rooke.  He took up Reg’s position on December 14 1946, with Reg injured, and scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Charlton.

By the end of the season the power of the Arsenal team was clear for alongside Reg’s 29 goals from 28 games Ronnie had 21 goals from 24 games.

The following season Reg and Ronnie scored 47 goals between them as Arsenal won the First Division title in 1947/48.

We’ve covered Reg Lewis before – particularly within this article.  But not Ronnie.

So where, one may ask, did Ronnie Rooke come from?

In answering this question, we have perhaps the strangest part of the story of all.  Ronnie played for Fulham before the war, but was 35 years old when football resumed in 1946.  And yet despite this was still signed by Arsenal.

Amazingly the plan worked and not only did Ronnie get his 21 goals in 24 League matches in his first season, in the championship season of 1947-8 he scored an unbelievable 33 League goals.

Ronnie was born on 7 December 1911 in Guildford and started out with Crystal Palace in the Third Division South, playing 18 games and scoring four times.

Then he went on to Fulham in the Second Division in November 1936 scoring   57 goals in 87 league games, including all the goals in Fulham 6 Bury 0 in the FA Cup.

During the war he was in the RAF and upon being demobbed he joined Arsenal. Perhaps even more amazingly Ronnie kept going for one more year, getting 14 goals in 1948-9 before moving to Crystal Palace, as player-manager on 20 June 1949. He scored 70 goals in just 94 matches for Arsenal.

After Palace Ronnie went on to be player manager of Bedford Town in November 1950, and later worked as a porter at Luton Airport, dying of lung cancer in 1985 aged 73.

It is to Ronnie Rooke and Reg Lewis that we owe the 1947/8 Championship.


Other 20 June anniversaries

20 June 1987: Ian Allinson released

20 June 1989: Andrew Marriott sold to Nottingham Forest

20 June 1998: Marc Overmars becomes first Arsenal player to score in world cup final stages.  And later…

20 June 1966: Bertie Mee becomes manager

The books…

See also…

Other sites from the same team…


9 Replies to “Reg and Ronnie: Two of Arsenal’s most remarkable goal scorers”

  1. A couple of other things about Ronnie.

    Before signing for Arsenal he never played in the top division of English football. Therefore he made his First Division debut at the age of 35, probably the oldest player to do so.

    One thing I can be certain of is that he is the oldest player to make his Arsenal first team debut.

  2. I remember with pleasure…
    Reg’s 4 goals against Charlton Athletic in a wartime Cup Final at Wembley and
    Ronnie’s two blockbusters against Burnley on the way to Arsenal winning the Div 1 Championship in 1948.
    Unhappily, neither man was able to retire comfortably on the money made during a top-class sporting career and I only hope the present day top earners appreciate how fortunate they are.

  3. I saw Ronnie Rooke play on any occasions and saw him on two occasions hit the ball through the net.he is my all time favourite player and am very proud to have his autograph which he signed on the back page of my Dads Season ticket. And I cant imagine anybody on the pitch trying to give him a kiss when he scored a Goal. B.B

  4. ii was thirteen at the time Ronnie Rooke signed for Arsenal in 1946 and remember reading the Evening Star that Arsenal had signed a. Thirty five year old center foreward from Fulham I can. Re beer saying to my Dad I could not believe they would signe an old man. How wrong I was. Harry

  5. Who ever made the final decision to sign Ronnie Rooke deserves a mention.It came off brilliantly but could just have easily gone the other way.A bloke who’d spent his entire career in the lower leagues a journeyman most thought well past his sell by date makes the move to Highbury and the rest is history.An inspired signing.

  6. Ronnie did not sign for Arsenal on his demob, as stated in the article, but returned to Fulham where he was loved by all. In 1946/7 season when Arsenal were facing relegation they purchased Ronnie for £1,000 although some say it was £5,000 plus two reserve players, Grant and Taylor if my memory is correct, and neither of them could command a first team place and eventually left.
    Ronnie continued his wonderful ability to score goals and was the prime reason that Arsenal stave off relegation and then won the League the following season.
    A great player and a gentleman

  7. To secure the transfer of Ronnie Rooke to Arsenal a fee of £1,000 was paid plus winger/wing half Dave Nelson and centre forward Cyril Grant. Information from ‘Tom Whittaker’s Arsenal Story’, Bernard Joy’s ‘Forward Arsenal’ and Bob Wall’s ‘Arsenal From the Heart’. Also all stats are in Fred Ollier’s ‘Arsenal A Complete Record 1886-1990’.

    Interestingly it was trainer Tom Whittaker who persuaded Rooke to join Arsenal and manager George Allison was furious that the news was leaked to the press by no other than Alex James who had been told of the imminent deal by Nelson. The reporter by the way was Roy Peskett who later edited Whittaker’s autobiography from which this story came.

    It has to be in my opinion one of the best transfers, along with the Joe Mercer deal a month before, ever completed by Arsenal as it almost certainly saved our first division status and then winning the league championship the following season.

  8. I knew RegLEWIS in 1955/96. I was the resident bar-man at that time when they ran the Old Queen’s Head on Stockwell Road. The Family of four Reg, Meg. Ann and Carol treated me like one of the family. It was with mixed feelings that I left their employ and shipped out from Southampton to CANADA on July 9th. 1956. I attempted to contact them without success over the years but never forgot my good time with them. If anyone has contact with their Family I would like to make my Email available to them and hoping for Email address: John BOWERS 604-946-6396

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