Continuing our search for the goalkeeper of our Greatest Ever Arsenal team ……………………
5. Jack Kelsey: 1949 – 1962
Jack played for 13 years appearing in 352 games.
He was born in the Llansamlet area of Swansea. Les Morris, an ex-Arsenal player, spotted Kelsey whilst he was playing for his local side, Winch Wen. Morris recommended Kelsey to Arsenal, who upon watching the goalkeeper for a few games decided to sign him. Arsenal already had an established first-choice goalkeeper at this time, in Geroge Swindin, so Kelsey could do nothing but wait for his chance to play for the first team.
The legendary shot-stopper made his Arsenal debut in a 5-2 home defeat to Charlton Athletic in 1951 and was a world-class goalkeeper during the Gunners’ barren spell in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
With a rugged build and consistently solid catching, Kelsey managed to fully oust Swindin from the side (Swindin making only two appearances in 1953-54) and went on to be Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper for the next eight seasons; only a broken arm sustained in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United in 1959 put him out of the Arsenal side for any considerable amount of time, with Jim Standen taking over in the meantime.
Jack was a true one-club man. He began and finished his career at Highbury after eventually ousting George Swindin as Arsenal’s No 1 in the 1952/53 campaign.
Dubbed “the cat with magnetic paws” by the Brazilian national side, he won 41 caps for Wales – then a British record for a keeper. He was their goalkeeper at the 1958 World Cup, which remains their only appearance at the finals to date.
He also played for Great Britain v Rest of Europe in 1955.
Jack displaced two vertebrae at the base of his spine while playing for Wales in 1962 and was forced to retire. He later took up the post of commercial manager at Arsenal, retiring in 1989.
He passed away in London in March 1992.
In September 2010 Jack was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.
6. Jim Furnell: 1963-1968
Jim played for 5 years and made 167 appearances.
Born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, Jim started his career at his local club Burnley, signing at the age of 17. As third-choice keeper he only played twice in eight seasons at Turf Moor, before being signed by Liverpool in 1962 where he immediately took the No. 1 jersey, playing all the club’s remaining matches that season, as they won the Second Division title and promotion to the First Division. Due to an accident early in the 1962-63 season, he lost his place and only played two matches in 1963-64.
Billy Wright brought Jim to Arsenal in 1963 paying £15,000. The manager was vindicated as Jim slotted straight in to the Gunners’ first XI, making his debut the day after he signed against Blackpool; the match finished 5-3 to Arsenal. He went on to become the long-term successor to Jack Kelsey playing as Arsenal’s No. 1 for the majority of the next five seasons. He was in goal for the Gunners’ League Cup Final defeat against Leeds United in 1968. But in the very next match, an FA Cup tie against Birmingham City, Jim’s mistake led to an unlikely Blues’ equaliser. He was duly dropped and never played for Arsenal’s first team again with young understudy Bob Wilson taking over the mantle.
He was sold in September 1968 for £8,000 to Rotherham United, after two years with Rotherham he moved to Plymouth Argyle and became a fans’ favourite at the club, playing there for five and a half years before his retirement in the summer of 1976. As part of the club’s centenary in 2003, he was named as goalkeeper in the Pilgrims’ all-time greatest XI by the club’s fans.
After retiring as a player, he was a coach at Plymouth before joining Blackburn Rovers in 1981; he served as a coach there until his retirement in 1998.
In a 2007 web poll, Jim was named Plymouth’s best goalkeeper of all time.
7. Bob Wilson: 1963 – 1974
Bob played for 11 years appearing in 308 games.
Bob was born in Chesterfield, he was the youngest child of six and had much older brothers (and an elder sister); two of his brothers were killed in the Second World War, one as a Spitfire pilot and the other as a rear- gunner in a Lancaster.
He was a late starter as a professional player, as his father would not let him sign papers with Manchester United as he thought it wasn’t a reasonable job whilst he was a youth. He played in reserve games for Wolves as an amateur and made his debut for Arsenal as an amateur, and was the first amateur to have a transfer fee paid (around £6,500).
Bob was forced to bide his time as understudy to Jim Furnell, and his early appearances for the Club did little to suggest he would make the grade. But a combination of intelligence and sheer hard graft ensured that he seized his chance when it came in March 1968.
He gained his first honour in 1970, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. The following year Bob was an ever-present in Bertie Mee’s Double-winning side, gaining the Player of the Year honour. Two years later injury forced Wilson out of the Arsenal side but he recovered to claim back his No 1 jersey. He held it until his retirement at the age of 32.
Wilson was goalkeeping coach for 28 years, working with Pat Jennings, John Lukic and David Seaman. He also forged a successful broadcasting career with the BBC and later ITV. In 2007 Bob received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) as recognition for his work in the Willow Foundation which was set up in memory of his daughter Anna who passed away in 1968.
He made no bones about the deep-seated passion for the Arsenal having the N5 postcode on his car number plate.
8. Jimmy Rimmer: 1974 – 1977
Jimmy played for 3 seasons and appeared in 146 games.
Born in Southport Rimmer joined Manchester United as a schoolboy, turning professional two years later, he played 46 times for United. In October 1973 he was loaned to Swansea City where he impressed as first-team goalkeeper. Arsenal manager Bertie Mee brought him in April 1974 for £40,000 and gave him his first-team debut against Liverpool shortly afterwards.
He made only one appearance in 1973-74 (keeping a clean sheet on his debut against Liverpool). After Bob Wilson announced his retirement at the end of that season, Jimmy became Arsenal’s No. 1 for the next three seasons, and was a near ever-present for the Gunners. During his time at Arsenal he also won his one and only England Cap
After Tottenham Hotspur manager Terry Neill took over at Arsenal, he signed Pat Jennings from his old club and he was sold to Aston Villa. At Villa, Jimmy was No. 1 for the next six seasons, winning a First Division winners’ medal in 1981. The following year Villa reached the European Cup Final, but he was injured after only nine minutes, Villa nevertheless beat Bayern Munich 1-0 they then went on to win the European Super Cup.
Jimmy left Villa in 1983 to rejoin old club Swansea City. After retiring from playing, he became Swansea’s goalkeeping coach, having a brief spell as manager. He then spent several years in China working as the goalkeeping coach for the Chinese National team.
Written by Gunner N5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile