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They played for Arsenal during the dark days: Dennis Evans

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By Tony Attwood

 

Dennis Evans was a stalwart for Arsenal, playing 207 games (189 in the league) and scoring 12 goals (10 in the league). He was a left back who only played left back – during an era when swapping sides was not uncommon.

He was born in Liverpool on 18 May 1930 and initially played for Ellesmere Port Town, the club originally known as Ellesmere Port FC, reforming with the new name in 1948.  Their greatest era came however after Dennis left, as from 1957/8 until 1961/2 they won the Cheshire County League four times and were runners up once, going on later to join the Northern Premier League, before leaving that in 1973.

Dennis had a trial with Wolverhampton, but failed to get accepted before moving on the Arsenal in January 1951, playing initially for the A team and the reserves.  He made his debut on 22 August 1953 against Huddersfield.

After getting injured in the Cup Final against Newcastle which we lost, Wally Barnes (who played left and right back on occasion) was out for the 1952/3 season, that left a vacancy which was taken by  Joe Wade and JC Chenhall both of whom could swap sides.  Contrary to reports elsewhere Dennis Evans did not get a game, thus leaving him effectively fourth choice left back.

Dennis Evans gradually secured a spot in the team and played 10 games in 1953/4, and by 1955/6 he was an ever present.  He also wrote himself into history, with the story that just before the final whistle in the game against Blackpool on 17 December 1955, with Arsenal winning 4-0 Dennis is said to have heard a whistle from the crowd, thought it was the final whistle, and kicked the ball up into the air, and it flew into his own net.  Maybe it is true – it is hard to find authoritative evidence, but the story turns up everywhere.

In 1956 Dennis also became the club’s regular penalty taker and scored 12 goals.  He also once went in goal when Jack Kelsey was injured in a cup match in 1959.  I can’t see when this was, but it looks like it was probably on February 18 in a 5th round replay against Sheffield United, which we lost 0-3.

He was captain for a while, and played for London in one of the early editions of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.  (This was a most curious competition in that it took three years to complete eight games – four group round games, plus the semi-final and final home and away – and for the one and only time had a London team with players selected from all the clubs.   Arsenal players involved at different times were Jack Kelsey, Derek Tapscott, Cliff Holton, David Herd, Stan Charlton, Dennis Evans, Joe Haverty, Bill Dodgin, Vic Groves, and Jimmy bloomfield and Dave Bowen. London lost the final 8-2 to Barcelona.

On 29 August 1959, playing against Wolverhampton, the team that had rejected him, he broke his ankle, and was out until December, but he only played four more games in that spell.  His final game was in a 0-3 defeat to Tottenham.  He was replaced in the team by Billy McCullough.

Dennis stayed on at Arsenal however as a youth and reserve coach, and then moved to Luton Town in a similar position, before leaving football to become a chauffeur.  Unfortunately I have no further details of his later life.

He died on 23 February 2000.

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8 comments to They played for Arsenal during the dark days: Dennis Evans

  • Report from The Times of the Blackpool incident:

    UNOFFICIAL WHISTLE STOP

    Evans, the Arsenal left back, scored one of the most remarkable “own goals” in the history of the game against Blackpool at Highbury on Saturday. Just before the end someone in the crowd blew a long blast on a whistle, and this deceived not only the vast majority of the 45,000 spectators but also the players.

    The ball was near the touchline mid-way in the Arsenal half at the time of the unauthorized whistle, and Evans swung round and kicked it towards his own goal. Sullivan then had his back to the play, and was stooping to pick up his cap from the back of the net when the ball went past him into the goal. At the time that the ball entered the net a number of youngsters were on the field in search of autographs, they, too, believing that the final whistle had gone.

    ———————————————————

    You are right about the game where Dennis went in goal. An injury to Kelsey’s left arm in the twelfth minute resulted in him having to leave the pitch with the score at 0-0. Evans deputised in goal. Kelsey returned to the pitch five minutes later with his arm “swathed in tape”, playing on the left wing (shades of Frank Moss in the 1930s).

  • Gf60

    An important side effect of that goal…I was there on the North Bank and it’s 100% true…was that it moved Blackpool up one position and thus increased their talent money at the end of the season.

    The game was also memorable for Dennis playing Stan Matthews almost out of the game.

  • Steve Evans

    I am his youngest son and give you details of his later life if you wish

  • Tony Attwood

    Steve- wonderful to hear from you – I’ll write to you directly.

    Tony

  • Matt Evans

    Hi Steve

    Dennis was my Dad’s Uncle (Tony Evans) from the Old Swan area of Liverpool.

  • Hi matt

    Hi Matt you must be named after your grandfather who was my uncle. He was an amazing man. It’s a shame that has always bothered my brother and I that we have never met your Dad tony , his siblings , their children grandchildren etc. my Dad Dennis sadly died in 20000

  • Hi matt

    Oops. 2000 rather

  • Nikki Doré

    After Dennis retired from football he was my Father, Bernard Doré’s, chauffeur from approx. 1979 to 1981 when my Father died at 49!
    Dennis was such a lovely man, I was very fond of him.
    In fact I’ve just remembered that because he was someone special to my family I asked Dennis to drive my Mother and my brother and myself to my Dad’s funeral in his car!

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