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GCR Books

Alex Graham: a hero of the early years at Highbury

By Tony Attwood

This is part of a series of articles about the players who played in the very last Woolwich Arsenal FC game in 1913 at Highbury.  A full list of the team is at the end.

Alex Graham was born in Hurlford, Ayrshire on 11 July 1890 and started playing for local his local village team, which still seems to exist, and has its own web site.

After that he moved to Hamilton Academical, and was probably playing for them (although not necessarily in the team) when they played in the 1911 Scottish Cup Final against Celtic.

After that he moved to Larkhall United – another team that has a web site but sadly has no entry in the section of the site marked “history”.

In December 1911 he moved to Woolwich Arsenal and signed in January 1912.  He played his first match on 25 December 1912 against Notts County at home (a 0-0 draw with a crowd of 7000,  playing at centre forward).  He continued for a run of 9 games, moving to the number 8 and then back to left midfield (6 – known as left half at the time) for occasional matches to the end of the season.

In league matches he played 12 games and scored 2 in 1912/13, 13 games in 1913/14 and 26 in 1914/15 when football ceased.  In this final season he was playing left half or right half, and on a couple of occasions even centre half.

During the war Alex Graham returned to Scotland to find work, but in 1919 he re-signed for Arsenal (all players had to re-sign since all contracts were cancelled).

In 1919-20 he played right half (not centre half as some reports suggest)  occasionally playing left half or inside right.  He did again play twice at number five, but not “regularly” at this time as again is suggested in some places.

He won one single cap for Scotland, in a 2-0 win against Northern Ireland on 26 February 1920.

In the league between 1919 and 1923 he varied between being a squad player and a regular, getting between 17 and 30 league games each season.  But then for the 1920/21 season he did indeed transfer to centre half but still occasionally played at left half and right half.

Alex Graham played 25 league games in 1923/4, but none the following season, in which the half back line had a relatively settled injury free run, allowing Graham no chance of getting a game.  He transferred to Brentford (who were one of the founder members of Division III in 1920) in December 1924 having played 179 times, scoring 20 goals.

He remained at Brentford until the end of the 1924/5 season, playing 47 times and scoring 10 goals and became their assistant manager in December 1925.  But he did not stay on in football management, and ended his career playing for Folkestone FC who at the time were playing in the Southern League.  References elsewhere say that he died in 1943, at the age of 52 however as you can see from the comment section we have it from a member of the family that he died on 9 August 1972, making him 82.

I have corrected the master file of the Arsenal Anniversaries and it will appear updated in the monthly files shortly.

The full team for the final Woolwich Arsenal game was

1: Goal J Lievesley

2: Right back: J Shaw

3: Left Back: R W Benson

4: Right Half: GM Grant

5: Centre half – P R Sands The first captain of The Arsenal at Highbury

6: A Graham (this article)

7: J Rutherford

8: J Flanagan

9: S J Stonley

10: D Slade

11: Outside Right: C H Lewis

3 comments to Alex Graham: a hero of the early years at Highbury

  • Andy Kelly

    During the first world war, Graham returned to Scotland and played for Vale of Leven (1915/16) and Hamilton Academicals (1916/17 to 1918/19). Football in Scotland was not abandoned during the first world war as it was in England.

    This wasn’t a one-off, I’ve found other players that did the same. Most seem to be Scots who, I can only presume, considered it to be an English war.

    He returned to Arsenal in time for the start of the 1919/20 season.

  • Diane Plowman- Moss

    Alexander Graham married my Great Aunt on 20 November 1923, giving his occupation as Professional Footballer. After he left Brentford he became a Security Guard and did not die in 1943, he did not die until the 9th of August 1972 in the Whittingdon Hospital

  • Very many thanks for the update and correct Diane

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