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GCR Books

Jackie Chalmers: the man who rescued Arsenal, but then rode back to the north.

By Tony Attwood

John Chalmers was born in Beith in 1885 or 1886 (sources differ), and played initially for Rutherglen Glencairn.

Rutherglen Glencairn FC were formed in 1895 at the wonderfully named ‘Old Jail’ office in Rutherglen, and they are still in existence.  The club played at Southcroft Park – a stadium that lasted 110 years and was the oldest ground in “junior football” (ie non-league) in Scotland.  It was demolished in 2007 to make way for the M74 motorway extension and a new ground was opened in July 2008.

After that Jackie Chalmers turned professional and played for Rangers before moving on to Stoke City in January 1906 where he became the club’s top scorer in 1906/7 with the club then in the first division.

He scored 19 goals in 40 games for what was a struggling Stoke side at the time and was released in the summer of 1907 upon which he moved to Southern League Bristol Rovers as the club finished mid-table in the first division of that League.

He then moved back to his original home playing for Rutherglen Glencairn’s near neighbours Clyde in November 1908, and so was at the club when they reached the Scottish Cup Final in 1910, losing in the second replay to Dundee.

What brought him away from his home territory for a second time in October 1910 it is hard to say, but Arsenal’s connections with Scotland were strong, and it may have been a recommendation from a friend that took him south, or an Arsenal scout living in Glasgow.  Either way he was signed on 6 October and made his debut just two days later on the 8th for the away game with Bradford City.

In the previous six games Arsenal had scored two goals, and this run continued with his first match – a 0-3 defeat.  However he got his first goal in his second game as Arsenal got their first win of the season – a 4-1 victory over Blackburn.  Better Arsenal followed this immediately with their second win of the season, away to Nottingham, and Chalmers got two.

In all he played 29 games in the season and scored 15 league goals.  The second highest scorer was G R Hoare with six.

However although he started the season as the selected number 9, the goalscoring touch eased off a little and Jackie only scored 6 in 19.  As a result Alf Common was moved from inside right to centre forward and Chalmers left the club (which was engaged in cost cutting by then) and moved to Morton on 29 February 1912, having played his last game on 6 January.

Here is his record…

Club Season League FA Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Stoke 1905–06 5 5 0 0 5 5
1906–07 26 11 3 0 29 11
1907–08 9 3 0 0 9 3
Total 40 19 3 0 43 19
Woolwich Arsenal 1910–11 29 15 2 1 31 16
1911–12 19 6 1 0 20 6
Total 48 21 3 1 51 22
Football League Total 88 40 6 1 94 41

Finally if we look at the games he played with Arsenal at the end of his career we see there were only eight wins in 12 matches – which to a degree must reflect on the forward line

Date Match Result Competition
28 Oct 1911 Manchester City v Woolwich Arsenal D 3-3 League Division One
04 Nov 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Everton L 0-1 League Division One
18 Nov 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Sunderland W 3-0 League Division One
25 Nov 1911 Blackburn Rovers v Woolwich Arsenal L 4-0 League Division One
09 Dec 1911 Bury v Woolwich Arsenal L 3-1 League Division One
16 Dec 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Middlesbrough W 3-1 League Division One
25 Dec 1911 Tottenham Hotspur v Woolwich Arsenal L 5-0 League Division One
26 Dec 1911 Woolwich Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur W 3-1 League Division One
30 Dec 1911 Liverpool v Woolwich Arsenal L 4-1 League Division One
01 Jan 1912 Manchester United v Woolwich Arsenal L 2-0 League Division One
06 Jan 1912 Woolwich Arsenal v Aston Villa D 2-2 League Division One
13 Jan 1912 Bolton Wanderers v Woolwich Arsenal L 1-0 FA Cup

After his return to Morton I regret we lose sight of him, and no further information is available.

This article is part of the series on Arsenal under Henry Norris.  We’ve already covered quite a few of the players from this era and you will find links to all their articles on the piece Two of Arsenal’s most mysterious players.   There is an index to all our series on the home page.

The Henry Norris Files

Section 1 – 1910.

Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.

Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere

Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens

Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.

Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.

Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years

Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season

Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.

Section 2 – 1911

Henry Norris at the Arsenal part 9: 1911 – Arsenal escape relegation.

Two of Arsenal’s most mysterious players: missing from the official list, but they certainly played

Arsenal’s team in Norris’ first season overseeing the club: George Burdett

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