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In darkness – the players who played for Swindin. Vic Groves

AISA Arsenal History and Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

The Christmas gift for the fan with (almost) everything

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By Tony Attwood

Victor George Groves  commonly known as Vic was born on November 5th, 1932 in Stepney.  He started out at Leytonstone, and those two points might make you think, “haven’t I read this before?”  In fact you have, because that is exactly the same as the subject of our last commentary – Danny Clapton.

There was in fact just 18 months between the birth of the two men.  Leytonstone must have been staggered by their luck.  And since as I write this we are thinking about statues, it would be nice if Stepney had a double statue up to commemorate these two great players.

Vic then moved on to Walthamstow Avenue, a club that had a number of links with Arsenal.  In fact on the site http://walthamstowavenue.wordpress.com/ there is a copy of a programme for Arsenal v Walthamstow Avenue, which is certainly worth reading.

Walthamstow Avenue were formed in 1900 and played first in the Athenian League and then the Isthmian League, and were champions of both before merging with Leytonstone and Ilford to form Redbridge Forest, which then became Dagenham and Redbridge who currently play in League Two (division 4).

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Walthamstow Avenue a new club with the old name was formed and they survived for four years before merging.

Vic Groves played for Tottenham for a short while as an amateur and then moved to Leyton Orient in 1954.  He signed for Arsenal in November 1955, for £23,000 and played his first match on November 12 that year scoring in the game against Sheffield United.

He played 15 games that season (getting injured in March) and scored 8 goals, a terrific return for a newly appointed number 9 (Lawton and Roper also took the shirt that season).

Injury restricted him in 1956/7 to five games, but he still got two goals, but 1957/8 saw him overcome the problems and for this and the next three seasons he played over 30 games each year.

During 57/58 David Herd moved into the centre forward position and Vic played much of the season at number 8 (inside right).  For 58/9 he was centre forward again, but was unable to improve on his 10 goals in a season of the previous year and it was clear that Herd with 15 goals in 26 games was more of a central striker.

By 1959/60 the manager George Swindin was into his full-bloodied swapping mode, of which we have spoken before, and during that season Vic played at left half, right half, inside left, insight right and centre forward.  But in 1960/1 he made 32 appearances, all at left half.

He still got a few games in that position when Billy Wright took over the management of the club, but he did make it into the London team that played Barcelona in the first ever Inter Cities Fairs Cup final.

Vic Groves finally left Arsenal in 1964 having played 201 times, scoring 37 goals.  He played for England as an amateur, but not at full international level.   He then signed for Canterbury City of the 1st Division of the Southern League (which was actually the second division at that point – the top division being the Premier Division).  Although the club folded in 2001, it reformed later and now plays in the Kent League.   There is a club web site, but sadly it is lacking in details of its performance in the period when Vic Groves played there, and I have no information on how often he played for them.

After Canterbury City Vic moved on to the traditional work for ex-footballers in the 1960s, running a pub and selling insurance – and ultimately (I imagine) supporting his nephew, a certain Perry Groves.g

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This article is part of the series Into the Darkness.  Arsenal 1958-1967.  Other articles.

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1 comment to In darkness – the players who played for Swindin. Vic Groves

  • Nigel

    Having just giving tributes to Mel Charles and David Herd who have died so recently I feel Vic Groves, who passed away last January, is also due one.

    As a boy of nine I still remember his signing from Leyton Orient along with full back Stan Charlton very well. £30,000 was the reported fee with the Groves value at 23,000, a big transfer those days. Tom Whittaker in his posthumously published autobiography ‘Tom Whittaker’s Arsenal Story’ starts the first chapter about him as he would not re-sign in the summer of 1956 as no one would accept he had a knee injury. After visiting Whittaker on his sick bed he was persuaded to sign and then it was confirmed that he had to have both cartilages out of his right knee. Whittaker describes him as “one of the most dynamic players in the game.” Unfortunately Whittaker died soon afterwards and his plans to build a young team around Groves died with him.

    I have to admit of the team from the late ‘fifties and start of the ‘sixties Vic Groves was my favourite player, along with Jack Kelsey. Against Spurs at White Hart Lane in 1959 I watched him score a typical opportunist goal in the 4-1 win and can still picture it now. It has been suggested that he was close to a full England cap several times but injuries probably denied him as he had many.

    Interestingly as he aged and the injuries took their toll he moved from being the dashing leader of the attack, and sometimes on the wing, to inside forward and then wing half in midfield. This has become a pattern with several Arsenal players starting with Pete Goring and Cliff Holton earlier and then Geoff Strong and Ray Kennedy who both succeeded in this midfield position with Liverpool, the latter with England as well, after being successful strikers. David Court and Ian Allison were later strikers of Arsenal who also reverted to midfield. It has been said that a good forward can always move back in the team as they get older and slower and this perhaps proves the point.

    So this is a sad year with three former Arsenal stars from that era departing but as they say ‘Thanks for the memories.’

    .RIP

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