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Tommy Rudkin; Arsenal in total desperation.

By Tony Attwood

In the first post-war season Arsenal, still managed by George Allison, came 13th in the league and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the Third Round.  It started badly with three defeats and a draw in the first four and then carried on just as badly.  By the 9th league game Arsenal had won just two. and the club that had dominated the 1930s were in the relegation zone…

    P W D L F A Pts
1 Blackpool 10 8 0 2 22 13 16
2 Manchester United 9 6 2 1 23 9 14
3 Liverpool 9 5 2 2 21 14 12
4 Sunderland 9 5 2 2 16 15 12
5 Wolverhampton W 10 5 1 4 17 12 11
6 Stoke City 9 5 1 3 26 19 11
7 Middlesbrough 8 5 1 2 15 11 11
8 Charlton Athletic 9 4 2 3 21 14 10
9 Aston Villa 9 5 0 4 13 9 10
10 Sheffield United 8 3 3 2 11 12 9
11 Bolton Wanderers 9 4 0 5 15 18 8
12 Brentford 8 4 0 4 12 17 8
13 Chelsea 9 2 3 4 19 23 7
14 Preston North End 8 3 1 4 14 17 7
15 Everton 8 3 1 4 6 11 7
16 Blackburn Rovers 8 3 0 5 11 11 6
17 Derby County 8 3 0 5 14 15 6
17 Portsmouth 9 3 0 6 14 15 6
19 Grimsby Town 8 2 2 4 9 16 6
20 Leeds United 9 2 1 6 15 22 5
21 Arsenal 9 2 1 6 13 23 5
22 Huddersfield Town 9 2 1 6 8 19 5

At least we were still above Tottenham, who were in the second division at the time.

Of course we didn’t go down, but it was a fairly awful time throughout.

During the season Arsenal used 31 players, of whom 14 played less than 10 games.   Perhaps even more revealingly, 18 of these players were new to the club in the 1946/7 season – and no club can ever use 18 new players in one season and expect success.

The only salvation we had was Reg Lewis.  He himself was one of the new boys, but he played 28 games and scored 29 goals.  He scored in each of the first six games, and actually totalled nine goals in that run.  The only other player to score during the first seven games was Dr O’Flanagan.

Thus it was a time of looking, searching, desperately hoping to find someone, anyone, to bring Arsenal back to its 1930s standing.

And among the many found – but soon discarded, was Tommy Rudkin.

Thomas William Rudkin was born on 17 June 1919 in Peterborough, and he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers first before moving to Lincoln City in May 1938.  However the outbreak of war stopped football a year later, and Tommy served his country initially making ship pumps for the admiralty and later in Germany in a tank regiment.

After the war Rudkin returned to play for Peterborough United who although then a non-league team, were considered one of the best of such clubs in the country.  And then he went straight from non-league to Arsenal in January 1947 – and straight into the first team.

Straight from non-league into the Arsenal first team – another sign of the desperation of the club.

His first match was on 18 January 1947 – a 2-0 home defeat against Aston Villa in front of a crowd of 61,000, playing at outside left – one of many positions for which Arsenal could not find a regular player.  He was the sixth outside left so far that season – and there were two more to come after him.

Tommy Rudkin then played five consecutive matches, but only one of these was won – an extraordinary 6-2 home victory over Man U on 1 February 1947 in which he scored his first goal for Arsenal.

His final match was on 1 March 1947 – a home defeat to Chelsea in front of 57,000 in which Rudkin scored the second of his two Arsenal goals.  He was then replaced by Alf Calverley who at least for the moment gave Arsenal a degree of stability on the wing, but who like Rudkin, was signed in this season of turmoil, and then left at the end of his one and only season at the club.

Tommy Rudkin and George Curtis (who had played 11 games in this disastrous season) left Arsenal for Southampton, and in return Arsenal got Don Roper, who was one of the key elements in turning the disaster of 1946/7 into the league winning triumph of 1947/8.   Rudkin’s value in the deal was £3000, but he made just nine appearances for Southampton before moving on again.

Years Team League games Goals
1938–1938 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0  0
1938–1939 Lincoln City 2  1
1939–1946 Peterborough United 44  0
1947–1947 Arsenal 5  2
1947–1949 Southampton 9  0
1949–1951 Bristol City 34  4
1951–1952 Hastings United
1952–1953 Weston-super-Mare
1953 Peterborough United 2  0

He was player-manager of Weston-super-Mare but we have no details of how often he played.

Wiki states that after this he worked for the Sunday Pictorial, and as a steward for a Peterborough nightclub after which he became the licencee of the Angel Hotel, in Wisbech near Peterborough, where he collapsed suddenly and died in May 1969, six weeks before his 50th birthday.

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1 comment to Tommy Rudkin; Arsenal in total desperation.

  • Bob Read

    The marvellous Reg Lewis was not a “new boy” in 1946 – he had played several first team games in 1937,1938.

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