Ernest Coleman: the one season wonder

Ernest Coleman was seemingly known both as Ernie (for obvious reasons) and also Tim (for reasons I can’t fathom).  The latter I mention because there was another Tim Coleman who played for Woolwich Arsenal.   This article is about the the player who won a league winner’s medal in 1932/3.

He was born in Blidworth Nottinghamshire on 4 January 1908 and first played for Hucknall Colliery.   He had a trial at Nottingham Forest, got signed, but didn’t get a game and so moved onto Halifax Town in 1927, who were then in the 3rd Division North.  From here he moved up a division to Grimsby Town in 1928 and helped them gain promotion.

Bernard Joy in “Forward, Arsenal!” suggests that Coleman scored “hatfuls of goals” at Grimsby and indeed that is what it most certainly looks like with 57 goals in 85 games – most of those games being in the first division.

In March 1932 he was signed by Herbert Chapman for £7,500 to join Arsenal.  Coleman played his first game on March 19 at number 9, against Newcastle United at Highbury.  He played six times that season, twice at centre forward, twice at inside right and twice at outside right, as Arsenal ended the season second in Division 1.  Being signed so late he did not play in the FA Cup the final of which Arsenal reached that year.

Reg Stockill (who had been signed in 1931) started the 1932/3 season at centre forward but was dropped after two games, and indeed only got four games all season. Instead in his place came Coleman.

Coleman played 27 games all at centre forward, scoring an amazing 24 goals.    However when Coleman dropped out of the team he was replaced by Jack Lambert, the player Coleman himself was supposed to be replacing.   Lambert played 12 games at centre forward and scored 14 goals.  This might suggest that Arsenal, in winning the league, really could score no matter who wore the number 9 shirt.

However despite his success for 1933/4 Coleman was himself dropped as centre forward after just two games, and moved to outside right.  He played only 12 league games in all that season, mostly at inside forward, and scored 1 goal.   His last game was on February 3 1934, a home defeat to Everton.

By this time Joe Shaw was manager at Arsenal, and after continuing with Chapman’s approach of using Jimmy Dunne (who had been signed from Sheffield U in September 1933) as centre forward, until he brought in Ted Drake as number 9 with stunning results.  In his first season Drake played the last ten games of the season, and scored seven goals.  A stunning achievement, as Arsenal won the league.

Coleman’s days were up and he left to join Middlesbrough for £2,500 in August 1934 – but the tale shows the ruthless streak that Chapman had introduced into Arsenal.  If a player was not performing at the highest level he went out, and another was bought, and then another, until the perfect player for each position was found.  Coleman had his one glorious season with Arsenal, but his form slipped, and the Arsenal ruthless streak showed – there was no time to recover that form.  Success was needed – all the time.

Years Team Lge games Goals
1927-1929 Halifax Town 19 5
1929-1932 Grimsby Town 85 57
1932-1934 Arsenal 45 26
1934-1937 Middlesbrough 85 21
1937-1939 Norwich City 63 25
Total 297 134

Coleman lasted three seasons at Middlesbrough, and ended his playing career, still scoring goals, with Norwich City.  After the resumption of football in 1946 Coleman tried his hand at management with Linby Colliery and then Notts County.  After that we lose touch with him – but if you know more please do write in.

Ernest Coleman, first division title winner with Arsenal, died– 20 January 1984, aged 76.

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3 Replies to “Ernest Coleman: the one season wonder”

  1. Happy to be a gunner.arsenal has a great history witch makes me any time proud a fan wen am reading it,Great club witch great players played for.
    for our late legend Ernest coleman witch’s now were he belong to,we wish him the best.may he rest in peace.

  2. Thanks for the above write up about my grandfather, Ernest ‘Tim’ Coleman. He was a great character and such a pity he lost form due to problems at home and then the war years interrupted his career. We are very proud of his achievements and he had a fabulous career, winning an FA cup medal with the Gunners and loving the game all his life. If you would like to know more please feel free to email me. Anita

  3. Hi Anita, I’d love to hear what you have to say about your grandfather. I’m writing a history of Grimsby Town between the wars, and he was a very important player for us, well-remembered to this day. I’m hoping the site administrators can give you my email address so you can get in touch if you’d like to.

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