Joe Toner – one of the Knighton occasionals

Joseph Samuel Toner was born on 30 March 1894 in County Down in what is now Northern Ireland, and played for Belfast United before joining Arsenal in August 1919.  He also played for the Ireland national team.

His first Arsenal match was on 11 October 1919 against Everton which Arsenal won 3-2 where he appeared at number 11, replacing FW Groves who moved to inside right.

He got a run of 10 games at outside left before losing his place to CH Lewis, and then made four more appearances in the second half of the season.  (Wiki claims that Joe lost his place to Paterson, but that isn’t really true.  In 1920/21 it was WN Blyth who took over the number 11 shirt, Dr Paterson came in later.  Blyth also did some duty at number 11 in 1921/2 before Joe got the shirt back.  In all, the Arsenal side was in constant flux – a feature of the Knighton years in general, and a specific problem for most clubs in this first post-war season as they sought to build new teams.

In his second season he didn’t play until December and it was not until the very end of the season that he got a run of six consecutive games as Arsenal came a respectable ninth in the league.

For the third season he again did not feature at the start, but this time only had to wait until November before playing, in the end getting 24 games and scoring one goal.  But by now the warning signs for the side were on the horizon as Arsenal finished 17th  He did however play in all six Arsenal cup matches as the club reached the quarter finals.

He won his first Ireland cap on 4 April 1922 against Wales but the in and out progress (which was in fact what happened to almost everyone in the side under Knighton, continued.  Even in 1923/4 when he played in the first game he only managed three league matches, but that season Arsenal only just missed relegation.

Perversely the following year he played 24 times before being injured in February, and by then the club was in serious trouble, ending up 20th in the league.

1925 saw the arrival of Chapman.  Chapman gave Toner two games at the start of the 1925/6 season and that was that.  His last game was on August 31 1925 – a 2-2 draw with Leicester.   He had played 100 times for Arsenal (89 in the league 11 in the FA Cup) and six for Ireland during his Arsenal years.

Joe moved to St Johnstone in January 1926 but broke his leg in the 1926/7 season and forced him out of the club after 29 games.  He then coached Coleraine in Northern Ireland for whom he did turn out once owning to injuries to other players.  He also played hurling and Gaelic football for Castlewellan GAC.

He died on 18 November 1954.

The books…


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