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James (Jimmy) Sharp: 100+ for Arsenal, and a strange affair at Fulham.

This article is one of a series on the players who played 100 or more times for Woolwich Arsenal FC.   There’s now an index of all the articles in this continuing series here.

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James “Jimmy” Sharp played for Arsenal at left back between 1905 and 1908.  He played 116 times and scored 5 goals (103 games and 4 goals in the league).

He was born in Perthshire on October 11, 1880 and started playing football with either East Craigs or East Craigie (depending on which source you use) – a junior side in Scotland that is still in existence although in a very low league.

Jimmy joined Dundee (who were formed in 1893 and seemingly went straight into the ten team Scottish First Division) in 1899 where he was a regular player for five years.  He must have experienced the highs and lows of football there since in 1898/9 season the club came bottom of the league with one win and two draws, while just a couple of years later in 1902/3 the club came second in the expanded 12 team league.

During this time he played for Scotland for the first time (against Wales in March 1904) before moving to Fulham of the Southern League.  What made him make such a dramatic move is  hard to know.  Henry Norris was running the club at the time, and there’s no clear evidence of his Scottish connections except through the football stadia architect Archie Leitch who had worked for and continued to work for Norris.  Leitch worked on the Ibrox stadium, and moved south after its collapse, but maybe he kept tabs on Scottish football.  But connections there must have been – as the rest of the story reveals.

A year later, Woolwich Arsenal signed Jimmy and in his three league seasons he played 35, 26 and 32 league games consecutively, after playing against Liverpool in the opening match of the season.  (a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in front of 20,000).  He also played in all but one of the cup games that year, and all of the run to the semi-final the following year.

In April 1908, with Woolwich Arsenal following their new ill-starred policy of being a selling club in order to reduce losses, he was sold to Rangers in Scotland for £400.

However something went wrong with that transfer because then, remarkably, he went to Fulham again for £1000 – something that seems very un-Norris – but he stayed there for four seasons before moving across the road to Chelsea.

He then retired in 1915 at the cessation of professional football.

After the war he signed up again with Fulham as a coach (usually called trainers in much of the early 20th century) but (according to the story) when one of Fulham’s players missed the bus for an away trip to Bury in April 1920 he played for the club (obviously no subs on the coach in those days) and actually scored in a 2-2 draw.

He stayed in football and coached Walsall of the Third Division North, and the N Ireland (then amateur) side Cliftonville who claim to have founded football in Ireland in 1879.  He died in 1949, aged 69.

Untold Arsenal

The History of Arsenal

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

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