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The man who scored the first Arsenal goal in the first division

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by Tony Attwood

Charles Oliver Satterthwaite (known as Charlie) was born in 1877 and played for Arsenal from 1904/5 until the 1909/10 season.  He made 141 appearances for the club of which 129 were in the league, and scored 48 goals (45 in the league).

His brother Joe also played from 1906-8 for the club, making five appearances and scoring one goal.

Charlie was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland and played for Black Diamonds (or Black Diamond depending on which reference book you are using) before moving to Workington.   Black Diamond(s) were a junior side and I’ve no details on them at all, but Workington are easier to trace.  At the time Charlie played there they would have been in the Cumberland Senior League.  This club lasted until 1911 when it ceased to exist – it was reformed in 1921 and eventually made it into the Football League in 1951.

After that Charlie went to Bury in 1896 – they had just been promoted to the first division, and then Burton Swifts of the second division (1897) before going to Liverpool in 1899.

Liverpool were having a successful run in the first division at the time, having been runners up the previous season. Charlie played his first match in December 1899 for the club and was in the team that won the league title in 1901, but fell out of favour the following season and moved to New Brompton.

At this time New Brompton were a middle of the first division Southern League side – which looks like a major climb down for a man with a Football League winners’ medal, but as before we have to remember that the Southern League was a force in its own right, and the list of teams in the 1902/3 Southern League first division has a familiar ring to it over 100 years later.  Working from the top down for that season we see Southampton, Reading, Portsmouth, Tottenham H, Bristol Rovers…

Even so, these transfers around the country are fascinating.  How did players find a new club?  How did clubs find players.    No agents (as far as I know), just a handful of scouts.  Did the players go knocking on the door, or did they go for trials after they had been released?   If you know, please do tell.

In the summer of 1903 Charlie went to West Ham United (not Thames Ironworks as reported in some quarters) and his goalscoring continued (18 in 36 games) before joining Woolwich Arsenal in the following summer.

We had just been promoted after a 34 match season in which we scored 91 goals, but despite that success Charlie Satterthwaite went straight into the team for the first ever game in the first division (3 September 1904 – we lost 3-0 away to Newcastle.)

In fact although the season was very satisfactory in the end (we came 10th) we didn’t get a single goal in the first three games (two defeats and a 0-0 draw).  But on September 24, 1904, in front of a crowd of 20,000 Charlie scored Arsenal’s very first ever goal in the first division, as we beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at home.

At this point it is best to be cautious about other histories of Charlie Satterthwaite since there are some inaccuracies.   He played 30 games in 1904/5, but only 18 the following season – which was (if one looks at the pattern of players coming in and out of the team) almost certainly due to an injury.

1906/7 was his top year with 38 games in the league (a complete season) and 17 goals plus six cup appearances and two goals.  He appeared in the cup semi-final against The Wednesday, but didn’t score.  Despite playing at number 10, with occasional games on the wings (he played both sides) Charlie was the leading scoring in the 1906/7 season, when the club came a very creditable 7th.

Charlie played 21 games in 1907/8, 18 the following year and four in 1909/10, ending his career on November 6th in a home defeat to Bradford.  He did not join another club and retired from football aged 32 (one might assume again that it was as much due to an injury as a loss of form).   What happened after that unfortunately I don’t know.

Charlie Satterthwaite died on 5 May 1948.

Next on our list of players who played over 100 games for Woolwich Arsenal will be David Neave.

Untold Arsenal: the index to the club today

An index of the players who played 100 or more times for Woolwich Arsenal

Making the Arsenal – the story of 1910.  Now available post free.

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