Sam Hollis – Arsenal’s first Manager

June 27, 2014

Sam Hollis 1893(ish) to 1897

sam hollisAccording to Sam Hollis was appointed ‘secretary-manager’ of Arsenal in 1894. He was the first individual to be placed in charge of team affairs. Prior to his appointment, the team had been managed by a committee of players and club members. Hollis spent three years at the club during which time the Club remained mid-table in the Second Division. He moved on to Bristol City in the summer of 1897.

There has always been some debate over who managed Arsenal in their first year in the old Second Division.  One of the names mentioned has been that of Bill Parr it was rumoured that two years before the formation of Woolwich Arsenal, a group of Nottingham Forest players, including Bill Parr joined Dial Square FC and brought their old kits along. The early Woolwich Arsenal records do not mention him as having played for the team so it is difficult to add any credence to the rumour. However he was recorded as having arrived with two other Nottingham Forest players, Fred Beardsley and Charlie Bates – so it’s quite possible that these players were part of the committee mentioned, in, as having managed the team prior to the arrival of Sam Hollis.


Sam Hollis was born in Nottingham at some time during 1866 and passed away in Bristol on 17 April 1942. His early work life appears to have made him more suitable for the “secretary” part of his title as he had worked for the government in the Probate Office and then the Post Office, hardly the type of background that would indicate that he would become the club’s first Manager. So maybe he only acted as the clubs top administrative person making his early work for the government a plus – and if that was in fact true then it would make the Bill Parr rumour a little more credible.

He left Woolwich Arsenal in April 1897 and went to Bristol City which had just been formed to become their manager. In March 1899 he left Bristol to become secretary-manager of Bedminster FC, a club which then merged with Bristol City the following year with Hollis leaving to run a pub.  He returned one year later as manager of the combined club. He took Bristol to the top of the Southern League and into the Football League. In March 1905 he left football and managed a hotel, until 1911, when he became Bristol City manager again, only this time relegating the club to the second division.  He finally left in 1913 and moved on to Newport County, eventually returning to Bristol as chairman of the shareholders.

It is very difficult to find any definitive information about the early years at Woolwich Arsenal so we have to take this into account and recognise that some details are blurred.

In my own personal records I’ve shown Sam Hollis as our manager during our first years in the Second Division as it seemed wrong to have only a question mark as the manager in 1893.

According to a variety of sources this is the league record attributed to Woolwich Arsenal from 1893 to 1897.

1893/94 – P28, W12, D4, L12, GF52, GA55, Pts28, Pos 9th.

1894/95 – P30, W14, D6, L10, GF75, GA55, Pts34, Pos 8th.

1895/96 – P30, W14, D4, L12, GF58, GA42, Pts32, Pos 7th.

1896/97 – P30, W13, D4, L13, GF68, GA70, Pts30, Pos 10th.


Total: – P118, W53, D18, L47, GF253, GA225, Pts124, Pos 8.5