Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we begin our quest for the greatest forwards to include in our team. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite striker from an earlier era by voting in the poll at the end of the week.
1. Jimmy Brain 1923-1931.
Jimmy made 232 appearances over 8 years and scored 139 Goals.
In 1923, he moved to Arsenal, after a year in the reserve side, Jimmy started his Arsenal first-team career with a goal on his debut, a 1-0 win against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 25 October 1924.
He was a prolific striker throughout his career, and was the club’s top scorer for four seasons in a row, from 1924-25 to 1928-29; this included 39 goals in the 1925-26 season (second only to Ted Drake’s haul of 45 in 1934-35), which included four hat tricks. The next season, 1926-27, Jimmy scored 34 goals, including two four-goal tallies against Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley. His goal scoring feats helped Arsenal reach their first FA Cup final, in 1926-27.
Jimmy’s form dropped off in 1929-30, and he competed for his position with Jack Lambert, David Jack and Dave Halliday, meaning he only played six league matches in that season. He missed the Gunners’ 1930 Cup final win over Huddersfield Town; David Jack and Jack Lambert led the line that day. However, the following season, 1930-31, Jimmy finally won a medal after playing sixteen matches (scoring four goals) in Arsenal’s first Division one title-winning season. His final appearance in an Arsenal shirt was a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on 21 March 1931.
In total, he scored 139 goals in 232 appearances for Arsenal, making him the Gunners’ joint-fifth top scorer of all time, and he was the first player ever to score 100 goals for the club, a feat he achieved in a 6-3 win over Liverpool on 7 March 1928. However, he never played for England; he managed to secure a trial for the national team but was never actually selected.
Age was now catching up with him, and he had been overtaken in the goal scoring by both Lambert and Jack. He left Arsenal for Tottenham for £2,500 in September 1931, becoming one of the few players to have moved directly between the two rival clubs.
By the time Jimmy had joined Spurs he was in his thirties, and only played 47 times for them, scoring 10 goals, before leaving in 1934.
He played his final years out at Swansea Town and Bristol City. After retiring as a player, he managed first King’s Lynn and then Cheltenham Town from 1939 until 1948, after which he retired completely from football.
He died in 1971, at the age of 71.
2. Jack Lambert: 1926-1933.
Jack played in 161 games over 7 years and scored 109 goals.
Born in Greasbrough near Rotherham, Yorkshire, Lambert was turned down by Sheffield Wednesday after a trial, so started his career playing for Rotherham County in 1922. He soon made a move to Leeds United, but spent three years there with little success. He finally came to prominence after becoming a regular goal scorer for Doncaster Rovers, joining the side in January 1925. Playing in Yorkshire, he had attracted the attention of Herbert Chapman when the latter was manager of Huddersfield Town; when Chapman became Arsenal manager, needing a quality centre-forward, he signed Jack for £2,000 in June 1926.
He made 16 appearances in his first season with the club, but only scored one goal. He also made 16 appearances in the 1927–28 season, but managed to score three times. He became a regular for the club towards the end of the 1929-30 season; scoring 18 times in only 20 league appearances.
The following season (1930-31) he was even more successful, scoring 38 goals in just 34 games in the League, a club record at the time (which was later broken by Ted Drake) that included a total of seven hat-tricks; that season Arsenal won the First Division title for the first time in their history. Jack continued to play for Arsenal over the next few years, scoring regularly (including five goals in a 9-2 defeat of Sheffield United, the most ever scored by an Arsenal player in a single home match); he helped Arsenal reach a third FA Cup final, a 2-1 loss to Newcastle United in 1931-32, and won a second First Division title in 1932-33, scoring 14 goals in just 12 league appearances.
By now Jack was over 30 and only a bit-part player (Ernie Coleman having led the front line through most of 1932-33), and the signing of Jimmy Dunne in September 1933 forced him out of the side; his last game came on 13 September 1933 against West Bromwich Albion.
In all he scored 109 goals in 161 games for the Gunners, a very high ratio, but it wasn’t enough for him ever to be selected for England.
He was sold in October 1933 to Fulham where he played for two seasons before retiring from playing in 1935. The following year he became coach of Margate (who at the time were Arsenal’s “nursery” club) and returned to Arsenal in 1938 as a coach of the club’s reserve side.
Tragically, he died at the age of 38, killed in a car accident in Enfield, Middlesex, on 7 December 1940.
3. David Jack: 1923-1934.
David played in 208 games over 6 years and scored 124 goals.
Born in Bolton, Lancashire, David started his career with his father’s club, Plymouth Argyle in 1919. There he scored 15 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions. In 1920 he returned to the town of his birth, moving to Bolton Wanderers for £3,500. He spent eight seasons with the Trotters, forming a formidable partnership with Joe Smith, and between them they scored over 300 goals. While at Bolton, he made history by being the first person to score a goal at Wembley Stadium, in the 1923 FA Cup Final; Bolton won 2–0 and Jack earned his first medal.
A year later, he won his first England cap, in a 1–2 defeat against Wales on 3 March 1924. In eight years he played eight times for his country and scored three times. He continued to have success with Bolton, winning the FA Cup again in 1925–26, scoring the only goal in a 1–0 win over Manchester City. He was the club’s top scorer for five of the eight seasons he was there, scoring 144 goals in 295 league matches.
In 1928, with Bolton in financial trouble, he was signed by Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal for £10,890 (nearly double the previous record); famously, Herbert used his usual tactic of plying Bolton’s representatives with liquor, while he pretended to, so he remained sober while they got very drunk, he then haggled the fee down to a price he considered a bargain.
Intended as a replacement for retired captain Charlie Buchan, David was a success at Highbury. He made his debut against Newcastle United on 20 October 1928, and became a regular straight away. He was the club’s top scorer for the 1928–29 season. Although less prolific than centre-forward Jack Lambert, he still scored important goals, including the one in the 1929–30 FA Cup semi-final against Hull City which sent Arsenal through to the final; Arsenal beat Huddersfield Town 2–0 in the final and he became the first player to win the Cup at Wembley with two different clubs.
He continued to feature for Arsenal through the early 1930s, recording a personal best of 34 goals in Arsenal’s First Division-winning season of 1930–31. He won two more titles in 1932–33 and 1933–34; however by the time of the latter he was in his mid-30s and reaching the end of his career, with competition for his place from new signing Ray Bowden meant Jack played only 16 matches that season. He retired soon after winning his third league medal, in May 1934. In all he scored 124 times in 208 matches for Arsenal.
After retiring from playing, he went on to become manager of Southend United, and then Middlesbrough. He also managed League of Ireland side Shelbourne from the summer of 1953 to April 1955.
He died in 1958, aged 59.
Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile