Olympics football – Arsenal’s amateur heroes

July 24, 2014

The past few weeks have been partly about celebration. Celebrating the gold winning exploits in the World Cup of our three proud German Gooners, and who knows, by the end of the transfer window this may yet turn out to be four German Gooners. Hush, hush!

Along the way, the Germans overcame the French team that included three Gooners, one of whom has since left Arsenal to be promptly replaced by another one at the same position.

Together, we were enthralled by the fantastic performances by our new Chilean Gooner, our as-good-as-new Costa Rican superstar, and maybe even the Colombian Gooner. Hush, hush! The singleton Gooners on the Belgian and Swiss squads had decent campaigns. Overall, quite a lot to celebrate then! No wonder Gooners around the world are going around with their grins spreading ear to ear.

At the same time, there were sombre thoughts as well, not least in the poor returns for the England team. Our two good guys in the England team had mostly futile excursions, and so did our Spanish Gooner. It seems World Cup glory requires years of preparation, and a thorough system through which young players can emerge. Surprise, surprise!

Understandably, youth development has been in the air. As I have argued in Part I of this series, in most leading footballing countries, Olympics men’s football plays an important role in the development of young players.

This then brings us to the questions of today’s post. In its long history, have Arsenal had many significant heroes who shone at the national level in the Olympics men’s football tournament? And if so, who were these heroes?

At the outset, there is a confession to make. We do not expect many such players. Why? First, because Great Britain does not usually qualify for the Olympics football competition and even when they do, they usually do not enter a team. The reasons for this are complex, and I will go into that later in the series. But just to set the perspective, a Great Britain football team has participated only in 9 Olympic Games since inception of national Olympics football: 1908 (prior games in 1900 and 1904 used club teams), 1912, 1920, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, and finally after a long break in the 2012 Games.

Second, until 1992, only amateur players competed in the Olympic Games, at least officially, and since then Olympics football has been officially designated as largely an under-23 tournament, with only three over-age players allowed per nation. Hence, Olympics football players would not normally be expected to play for Arsenal. However, Olympics may be a good place to scout for players, and some such players may have come to play for Arsenal when they turned professional, or more lately, when they emerged from the academy.

Today, I focus on the amateur Olympics football era. Only 5 Olympian amateur footballers for Great Britain were signed by Arsenal after turning professional, all of them British. They are Harold Adrian Walden and Gordon Rahere Hoare (1912, both Gold medallists), Bernard Joy (1936 Games), Stanley Charlton (1952) and Laurie Brown (1960). In addition, Maurice Edelston, who played for team GB in the 1936 Games was a wartime guest footballer for Arsenal. Let us find out a bit more about these 5 players, and a sixth as well.

Olympics 1912 team (1)The Football Association entered a Great Britain national amateur team in the 1912 Olympic Games. The team won the gold medal, though the IOC accredits Great Britain and Ireland with the medal. Walden and Hoare were key members of this team.

1912 British Olympic Football Team – Harold Walden back row, 4th from left, Gordon Hoare back row, 3rd from right

Harold Adrian Walden (10 October 1887 – 2 December 1955) played in all three matches and scored eleven goals: 6 goals in the 7-0 decimation of Hungary, all 4 goals in the 4-0 semi-final victory over Finland, and one goal in the 4-2 victory over Denmark in the final. Hoare scored 2 of the other 3 goals in the final. Walden holds the record of being the ‘Highest British goal scorer within the Olympics’ and is still the fourth highest goal scorer overall within the Olympics.

Walden was born in Umballa, India, where his dad was serving with the 2nd Cheshire Regiment. His family returned to live in Manchester in 1889. He joined the army in 1902 and served in India and Ireland. He played for the Army against the Navy in 1910 and 1911, and also served in World War I, rising to the rank of captain. After the war ended he joined Arsenal and played six times for the Gunners, scoring a single goal and in four friendlies, with his debut coming on 12 February 1921.

On retirement from football, Walden carved out a second career as actor in theatre and films. He played the lead role of ‘Jack Metherill’ in the 1920 film ‘The Winning Goal’, and also played himself on stage in his football shirt in the 1948 film ‘Cup Tie Wedding’. He became part of the famous Ernest Binns Arcadian Follies in the 1940’s. He fell on hard times and in the early 1950’s his Gold Medal was sold.

Olympics 1912 - GB vs Hungary - Walden

Walden – extreme right, with the ball

Gordon Rahere Hoare (18 April 1884 – 27 October 1973) scored two goals in the final. He joined Woolwich Arsenal in 1907, making his League debut in a First Division match against Sheffield Wednesday on 20 April 1908, the last day of the 1907-08 season. Although he played 11 League matches in 1908-09, scoring five goals, unhappy at the lack of regular first team football and moved to Glossop North End in December 1909.

Hoare returned to Woolwich Arsenal in December 1910. He scored six times in fourteen games for Arsenal in the 1910-11 season but was once again dropped at the start of the following season, unable to oust John Chalmers and Charles Randall from the front line. He rejoined Glossop in February 1912. In total, Hoare played 34 times for Arsenal, scoring 13 goals.

Olympics 1912 Stockholm Football Final - Hoare

Hoare – Front right

Hoare and Walden were the first Arsenal players who played football for Great Britain in the Olympics, and they both won gold medals. Arsenal then had to wait an awfully long time to find another Olympic gold medallist. More on that later. Now, let us focus on some other amateur players played in the Olympics and later signed for Arsenal.

Prior to and following the start of the World Cup, the relationship between the FA and IOC turned sour, most notably in British protests against other nations fielding professional players. As Arsenal star and Olympian Bernard Joy in Association Football (1960) wrote: “Out of pocket expenses were paid far in excess of the reimbursement for hotels and travelling. … [Payments] for time lost from work, were made for playing and training, and teams were taken off for intense preparation together. Whatever the reason or excuse, thinly-veiled professionalism was rampant.”

After some protracted negotiations, a GB football team was entered in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. They lost in the quarter-finals 4-5 to Poland, but Arsenal player and captain Bernard Joy scored 2 goals.

bernard-joy-olympianBernard Joy (29 October 1911 – 18 July 1984) joined the then First Division champions Arsenal in May 1935. Joy mainly played as a reserve, only playing two games in his first season – he didn’t make his debut for Arsenal until 1 April 1936 against Bolton Wanderers. Arsenal won the FA Cup that season but Joy played no part in the final.

Joy 2

Highbury 1939. Wilson (Arsenal) saves while Bernard Joy (centre) holds off Hunt (Bolton)


However, he did gain recognition at international level soon after, when on 9 May 1936, he played for England in their 3-2 loss against Belgium, making him the last amateur to play for the national side. Given the nature of professional and amateur games in the modern day, it is unlikely Joy’s record will ever be taken by another player. Although Joy was playing for Arsenal at the time, he was still registered as a Casuals player and he is recorded in the England history books as playing for them at the time, not Arsenal. Interesting! 😛


Joy book

Joy continued to play for Arsenal, mainly deputising for the Gunners’ established centre-half Herbie Roberts. Roberts suffered a broken leg in October 1937 and Joy took his place in the side for the remainder of the 1937-38 season, winning a First Division winners’ medal, and then, with Roberts having retired from the game, on through the 1938-39 season (earning a 1938 Charity Shield winners’ medal in the process).

With the advent of World War II, Joy joined the Royal Air Force, though he still turned out for Arsenal (playing over 200 wartime matches) and won an unofficial wartime England cap. In June 1940, he was one of five Arsenal players who guested for Southampton in a victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage. He also appeared as a guest player for West Ham United later in World War II making two appearances. He retired from top-flight football in December 1946.

In all, he played 95 first-class (that is, non-wartime) matches for Arsenal, though he never scored a goal. However, with Arsenal, he won the First Division in 1937-38, and the FA Charity Shield (now the FA Community Shield) in 1938. Finally, Bernard Joy wrote perhaps the first authoritative history of Arsenal Football Club.


The 1936 GB Olympics football team led by Bernard Joy also included Maurice Edelston (27 April 1918 – 30 January 1976) who was a wartime guest footballer for Arsenal. Later on, he became a brilliant commentator and is mostly remembered in this role.

Maurice Edelston


Next up is Stanley “Stan” Charlton (28 June 1929 – 20 December 2012) who was a stand-by player for the 1952 Olympics team. In November 1955 Charlton joined Arsenal and succeeded Len Wills as the club’s first-choice right back. He made his debut on 24 December 1955 against Chelsea and was an ever-present in the 1956–57 and 1957–58 teams. He played for the London XI in both legs of the semi-finals of the 1955–58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against Lausanne Sports. Before quitting Arsenal in December 1958, he had made 110 appearances, scoring three goals (all of them in the FA Cup).

The final Olympian who later turned professional and played for Arsenal was Laurence (“Laurie”) Brown (22 August 1937 – 30 September 1998) who played in the 1960 Olympic Games in Italy (Rome). Great Britain failed to progress to the knockout stage and came eighth overall. The British team lost 3-4 to Brazil, drew 2-2 with hosts Italy and defeated China 3-2. Brown scored 4 goals, 2 against Brazil and one each against Italy and China.

Laurie Brown

In August 1961 he signed for First Division Arsenal, and immediately became a first-team regular in the Arsenal side. Brown amassed 109 appearances for the Gunners in two-and-a-half seasons, scoring two goals. At the time, Arsenal were the less successful of the two north London sides, and Brown made the surprising move up the Seven Sisters Road to Arsenal’s deadly rivals, Tottenham Hotspur in February 1964. 😦 Brown became one of the few players to play for both clubs.

That’s it for this time, folks. A glimpse of a mostly forgotten part of our history. 5 (and a half) Olympians and 2 gold medallists. Next time it will be the turn of our youth Olympians.

Written by Arnie